Mary and John are in couple’s counseling. Mary tells the therapist that she is struggling with an internal conflict because she loves two people at the same time. John expresses that he is hurt. He explains that, while he loves Mary, he doesn’t know what to do with the fact that she says she also loves someone else.
This sort of thing is pretty common at the Rye, New York offices of Relationships & More. In fact, Relationships & More therapists say the scenario plays out in couple’s counseling sessions all over the country. The problem is not unique to New York’s Westchester County.
What couples in these situations have to figure out is why they feel the way they do. And often times it boils down to truly understanding what it means to love someone. The difficulty comes into play when love means different things to the people involved in a relationship.
1. When Love Is an Emotion
The fact is that people define love in different ways. Some understand it as an emotion. And when that is the case, it is very possible for one person to experience the exact same emotions with two different people. Emotional responses are not exclusive. They are not exclusionary either. If a man can be equally passionate about two different sports, why can’t he be equally passionate about two different romantic partners?
People who express passionate emotions toward multiple people often feel guilty about it. They are under the false impression that they can control their emotions so tightly that they will never feel about one person the same way they do about another. Emotions do not work that way.
2. When Love Is an Attraction
Some people define love as an attraction to another person. In this particular case, the likelihood of loving more than one person simultaneously is actually pretty high. It is all biology.
Human biology is designed around attraction. Without it, we would not procreate. Furthermore, you know by your own experience that you can find yourself attracted to multiple people on any given day. You may not act on that attraction, but you cannot deny it’s there.
The matter of attraction becomes even more difficult when it is more sexual than anything else. The human sex drive is an enormously powerful thing and hard to suppress. As such, people who experience intense feelings of sexual attraction have no problem equating that attraction with love
3. When Love Is a Choice
There are people who do not see love as being either an emotion or an attraction. They see it as a choice. Sometimes the choice is supported by emotion and attraction, but it doesn’t have to be. Either way, it is harder to justify loving two people at the same time – at least equally – when you define love as a choice.
People who define love as a choice tend to view that choice as one of putting the other person’s needs and interests first. In a couple’s scenario, putting the other person first means exactly that. So how can one person put two other people first at the same time? Both can’t be in that first position. One has to be second.
Believing that you love two people at the same time is not unusual. It is something relationship therapists deal with all the time. The key to figuring it out is defining what love is to you. Your definition might make it entirely possible to love multiple people simultaneously. On the other hand, your definition may require exclusivity. Until you define love, you really cannot settle things.