Can you be in love with two people at once? Ask for a friend

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Asking for a Friend is the series where we answer the questions you are not ashamed of.

In general, the idea of ​​loving two people at the same time, in a romantic sense, is bizarre.

After all, it’s generally accepted that you can’t love someone new without hurting the person you loved first – surely that would require emotional cheating – and how on earth can you do that to someone you love?

But time and again people find themselves in this predicament, between two lovers, with genuine feelings for both of them.

So, what gives? Does that mean you don’t really love either of them? Or is it actually possible to love more than one person at a time?

What does psychology say?

The short answer is yes, on a psychological level you can love more than one person at a time.

After all, love is nothing more than a chemical reaction – a ‘neurochemical high’ – and those reactions are not bound by social constraints or expectations.

“When we fall in love, we release certain chemicals, such as dopamine and oxytocin, that are associated with feelings of pleasure, warmth and arousal,” explains Dr Elena Touroni, a psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic.

‘There is almost a chemical explosion; they produce that strong feeling of arousal and desire for another person, as well as (potentially) a desire for sexual intimacy too.’

What does society say?

According to Elena, it’s rare that we have the space to fall in love with another person when our needs are fully met.

“When our needs are not met, it usually creates the psychological space for the development of a new romantic attachment,” she says.

But is it realistic to assume that you get all your needs from one person? In a monogamous society, you would expect the answer to be yes (although it is healthy to distance yourself from this belief), but the question of whether people are naturally monogamous or are naturally monogamous is completely up for debate.

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Is monogamy a social construct? (Photo: Getty Images)

For Dr. Eli Sheff, a sociologist and one of the few global academic experts on polyamory, monogamy as we know it is a social construct.

“Monogamy used to literally mean being with one partner for the rest of your life,” she tells

“You were a virgin married and if your partner died before you did, you were celibate for the rest of your life, especially if you were a woman.

“That’s not what people mean by monogamy anymore — now it means being with one person at a time… partly because our lifespans are so much longer.”

Our definition of monogamy has changed in line with our changing society, meaning it’s a social construct rather than an inherent human quality — and for polyamorous people, it’s certainly possible to love more than one person at a time.

What does loving two people at the same time mean?

“I see it as an extension cord, but instead of electricity, the sockets provide love,” Eli says.

“Some people have one plug and they’re at full capacity, some people have two or three and when they’re all full at once, they’re completely saturated, and others have unlimited outlets.”

For those in non-monogamous relationships, she adds, loving multiple people is similar to how parents love their children.

“You can love your child, have another child, and still love the first child.

“Maybe you love those kids differently – one of them is super cuddly and needy, and the other is really independent and just wants the keys to your car – and you have a different relationship with both, but you love neither less .’

This is something that Poppy, who is currently in a non-monogamous relationship, is repeating.

“I don’t think you can quantify how much you love someone or how much you love them,” she says.

“Just like pursuing monogamous relationships in a row, the way you feel will be different with each person.

“It’s not a matter of loving more or less, but of keeping it unique.”

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Loving more than one partner is like loving more than one child (Picture: Getty Images)

This brings us back to Elena’s comment about needs: for many people in polyamorous relationships, being able to get different things from different partners is one of the benefits.

Elise*, 25, had an open relationship when she was younger, except with the caveat that only one of her partners knew about the other.

“I loved both for very different reasons,” she tells

“They each brought out a different side of me, but I knew I didn’t love them enough to be with any of them.”

And when asked if you can really love someone if you’re willing to hurt them, Eli says, hurting the people we love is a “well-behaved human tradition.”

The verdict: Can you be in love with two people at once?

While it’s clearly possible, it’s still quite a taboo to love two people at once — and it’s more important to think about how you respond to those feelings.

Cheating, emotionally or physically, is one thing, and trying to engage in a consensually open relationship is another.

As Elise says, “One thing I wish I could have done differently was to actively choose partners who are interested in non-monogamy because there is less chance of emotional discomfort.”

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