I am increasingly meeting people who are baffled by questions like - Can I really be in love with two people at the same time? Is there something lacking in my relationship if I feel romantically attracted and to someone? Is something wrong with me that I feel this way? Does this mean I am cheating my partner? - And several other questions revolving around the topic.
Many of these people who come to me with such questions have strong moral values and deeply believe in monogamy. They believe one can’t truly love two people at the same time. Yet, find them in a situation that forces them to believe otherwise. They feel stuck, confused and miserable. They say, they love their partner, yet can’t deny or subdue how they feel for this other person.
The belief that one can’t truly love two people at the same time carries the underlying assumption that love is quantitative, and hence you cannot love a second person without taking something away from the first person. However, we all know this can’t be true as we love our parents, spouse, friends, kids and many others simultaneously without having to feel like we are being unfair to the others. So, it is not true that one cannot love two people at the same time.
However, it is different when it comes to the time, energy and attention one can offer. Since these are limited entities, this has to get split between people. And this could be a concern in a relationship, especially in a monogamous relationship where sexual and emotional exclusivity is expected.
While it is not in your hands whether you will feel love for two or more people at the same time, it is always in your control whether to choose the second love or let it go. It is always in your control to decide where you want to draw your boundary.
Feeling romantically attracted and excited about someone while being in a relationship is quite normal. The chances of this are more when you are in a long term relationship with your partner. This is because you two know most about each other’s life; you have a rhythm and familiarity. While love likes the comfort of familiarity, desire likes the excitement of venturing in the unknown. So, when you meet someone who excites you, the promise of something new could be quite alluring. This is where discipline and commitment become vital for you to make a decision which is not coloured by your momentary emotions.
You are free to choose what feels right for you. However, it is your responsibility to maintain the integrity of your relationship and commitments. It need not mean you keep all your commitments, but you at least communicate when you feel you are no more able to keep them.
If you are in the other side of the spectrum where you come to know that your partner has feelings for someone else, I will urge you to not conclude that your partner no more loves you; nor take it as you are any less than this other person, or your partner is flawed. Instead, take this up for a conversation with your partner, ask open-ended questions that help you both learn something new, and listen deeply to understand your partner’s world, express your thoughts and feelings without blaming. As long as we are open to learning, every seeming challenge is an opportunity. Be open to discover the hidden blessings.