Can you be in love with two people?








There are probably as many definitions of “love” as there are relationships.  Generally, you have romantic love, familial love, self-love, platonic love, and any number of permutations in between.  But when you talk about “in love,” as in, “being in love,” the question arises “can you be ‘in love’ with more than one person?”

The first question to ask yourself is “am I in love?”  Logically, to be in love with two people, you have to first be in love with one person.  Of course, the state of being “in love” is itself hard to define.  While there have been countless books and movies devoted to this topic, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to narrow it down to one precise and comprehensive sentence.  Perhaps the closest one could come to defining love would be to adopt something similar to the U.S. Supreme Court’s definition of obscenity: you know it when you see it?

In light of that definition, how many of you have been in love?  How do you know if you are in love?  How many of you have been in love with two people?  You don’t have to answer that, certainly not out loud (I wouldn’t want to get anyone in trouble).  But we have all been and had admirers, I am just curious about whether anyone has ever admired more than one person, in that way, at the same time.

I feel confident that some people would answer “no.”  For some, love seems to be this all-consuming exercise, and once they find that one other person, that “you complete me” yin to their yang, that’s it, they never look at or think about anyone else ever again.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Then you have people who love to love, live to love, live on love, never met anyone that they didn’t love.  Some would call these people “easy” (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

I think a majority of people probably fall somewhere between those two extremes. Although there are enough movies about being in love with people that you’d think everyone has run into it.

I have heard arguments about the capacity for love generally, and I hold with those that call it limitless.  Take children, for example.  They say once you have your first child, you love them as much as you think you possibly can.  But then you have another child, and you end up loving that child as much as you can, while still loving the first child just as much.  Your capacity to love increases with each new child.

Could this analysis apply in love of a more romantic nature? Can we just break out the love calculator and figure out the formula?

Not to say there could not be complications with being in love with more than one person at the same time, especially while in a devoted, monogamous relationship.  This is more of an academic exercise.

Can you be in love with more than one person at the same time?  And if so, does your love for one take away from your capacity to love the other?  Is there something fundamentally one-to-one about true love?

Your thoughts, Dunce One?

10 thoughts on “Can you be in love with two people?

  1. I think the only people that can’t believe that it is impossible are either Don Quixote or people from the Arthurian legends. Chivalric love was a flat-out sickness. “I can’t have her, so I’ll pine and waste away.”

    I’ve heard of the theory of quantum misery. Essentially: misery is finite stuff, so if I get happier, someone else gets more miserable. I don’t believe that and I don’t believe that there’s a finite amount of love.

    I’m going to stay away from defining love, however. I will say that introducing lust into the equation nullifies all starting premises. Tis madness.

    • But don’t you sort of admire that Quixote/chivalric love, in a way? And haven’t you ever felt that way, even if only temporarily? So consumed with love that that one other person becomes all you can think about, all you want to think about? Have you never pined?

      They say chivalry is dead, and so too may be the I-shall-have-one-particular-“her”-or-waste-away-forever attitude. I think it is relatively easy to contemplate the possibility of loving someone, and then loving someone else at a different time. But I wonder if one can maintain Quixote-love, or its modern-day equivalent, with two people simultaneously.

      Defining love is a daunting task. I don’t blame you.

      Lust complicates/confuses everything.

      • Sure, I’ve been there. I’m sure it’s possible at any age.

        The tagline for the movie Closer was “If you believe in love at first sight, you’ll never stop looking.”

        I’m not sure about that, but I can’t figure out how to quit looking.

        • I’m interested in the line you cite. What is that quote saying? If you believe in love at first sight, you’ll never stop looking…until you find love at first sight? It seems like those that believe in it would, once having found it, continue believing, but stop looking, having found it. I guess if you believed in it, but hadn’t yet found it, yes, I could see you still looking. But for those that believe in it and find it, isn’t that the end? I’m not asking rhetorically; maybe there is something there. If you believe in love at first sight and find it, do you think that if you keep looking, you will find it again, only more so? Like MORE love at first sight. Are people that believe in love at first sight hopeless romantics? Are they in love with love, or are they in love with looking for love? Because it seems like love changes with time. It is not always that breathless, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep teenage thing. Or is it? Or could it be? Is that what we’re all still looking for?

          • Well, the movie was about nasty people being cruel to each other because they were all blown about by the wind of lust. So in the context of the movie it suggests that if you believe in love at first sight, then there is a near-endless amount of people left out there that you will encounter for the first time, so the board can be reset at any time.

  2. I can see that. If you believe, not only in love at first sight, but FIRST love at first sight, that new, exciting, makes-you-go-crazy, can’t eat/can’t sleep love, you are not chasing any one particular person, but a feeling. A lover’s high. And yeah, you’re never going to stop looking.

    So what? Is that dangerous? Can you tap into that, for inspiration, or should it be avoided completely? You’re an artist; what do you think? How far should you go for inspiration?

  3. It could be viewed many different ways… that mark on that paper, looked at differently by someone else, could be the best picture in the world…

  4. I remember having a discussion on a bus one time with someone I thought I had experienced the highest form of love with, telling her my goal in life was to experience love in all its forms, to the highest degree. Ah, young, naive, teenage, angsty love. Haven’t spoken with her in years. I wonder what she has experienced in the interim.

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