Attention — 02 December 2011
Can you love two people at the same time?

Some individuals in committed relationships who become intrigued by another person ask whether it is possible to love two people at the same time. This question merits closer analysis of the nature of love.

There are various forms of love for others: Love of children/ parents; Love of friends, mentors, idols or heroes; Love of people with specific talents or accomplishments, and more.

Similarly, romantic love is not a uniformed set of emotions experienced by an individual toward each of his/her love objects.

Dr. John Lee developed a Love Attitude Scale of six love styles: Eros-Romantic/Passionate Love; Ludus- Playful/Conquest Love; Storge- Friendship Love; Pragma- Intellectual/Undemonstrative Love; Mania-Possessive/Dependent Love; and; Agape- Selfless/Altruistic Love.

People who love in the Ludus style often have more than one or multiple partners at a time.

Commonly, the style that love partners establish from the start, though it may be different for each of them, is complimentary and satisfying. When marital love begins in one style and evolves into another, one or both partners may be distressed, hurt or abandoned.

Psychologist Robert Sternberg’s theory of love entails three main facets of love: 1. Passion, that includes infatuation, sexual excitement and euphoria. 2. Intimacy, that inhabits closeness, feeling loved, empathy, support and sharing, 3. Commitment. Wanting to be together, exhibiting loyalty and interest in long-term relationship. Sternberg views the third phase as the most challenging, requiring volitional commitment to keep the love alive.

Two basic tenets of committed love include:  Each individual’s belief of being the “chosen one,” and trust that this choice is permanent. When one becomes infatuated with a new person and believes that loving both is possible, he/she needs to consider the impact upon the permanent partner. Once discovered, the mate’s likely emotions often include hurt, jealousy, fear, humiliation, betrayal and abandonment.

It is clear that one can become infatuated and even love another person in the same style or a different one from the way he/she loves the spouse. Sternberg’s commitment phase is the challenge that needs to be addressed.

Where does one’s major commitment lie? There are those who state early in their new relationship that their commitment to the spouse is primary and unchangeable. If so, is the love for the second person complete? And is the loyalty to the spouse being upheld?

It boils down not to the ability to love more than one person at a time but to the nature of love, commitment and integrity with regard to both parties.

Can you love two people at the same time?

  • Yes, you can have amorous, affectionate and caring feeling for more than one person at a time.
  • Can you be committed to more than one person at a time? Ask yourself what you would do if both parties had an emergency at the same time. The one you would defer is not being truly loved.
  •  Select your definition of “love” and you will know your own truth.



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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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