My friend Michael was 32 years old and happily married. He had just had a baby a year earlier with his wife and although things were a little stressful and their dynamic was changing, they were great partners and best friends. He loved her with all of his heart.
This beautiful woman who we’ll call “Kate” started working in his department at work and from the moment he laid eyes on her, there was an instant connection between them. A sexual charge…and not long after, some harmless flirting.
He felt it was safe. He was married, she understood his situation and said she expected nothing from him.
Flash forward six months and the two of them found themselves in a wildly passionate affair they never saw coming. Michael had fallen deeply in love with her and found himself no longer in control of his own emotions. He felt trapped, unable to make a move in either direction.
He truly loved his wife.
But he also loved Kate.
And he didn’t want to let either of them go.
And here we are with a very common and real problem many people find themselves in today—being in love with two people. And powerless to choose.
How do we end up falling in love with two people at the same time?
It’s easier than we think. Our capacity to form deep, emotional connections with more than one person is huge. We fall in love for so many different reasons. And as we know, different people satisfy those different needs within us.
It’s always easier to fall for someone else when you’re already in a later stage of love with your present partner. The feelings are completely unique.
When we fall in love with someone new it’s exciting because it’s “illicit;” it’s typically forbidden in a way, and there is nothing more heady than falling in love with someone for the very first time. Exploring them sexually, getting to know their likes and dislikes. There’s an energy to new love that is difficult to resist.
But being with someone in the later stages of love is equally wonderful. It may feel different than the fiery passionate love you’re currently experiencing with the other person, but people find that even though they are in love with someone new they can’t seem to stay away from the person they have a long history of stable, committed and secure love with. It is not so easy to just give up and toss that aside.
Both loves give them something they desperately need.
So how do we choose?
My friend Carrie found herself many years ago in love with someone she met through a mutual friend while she was married. She was the mother of a five year old and the thought of leaving her marriage was unthinkable.
As the weeks turned into months, she was torn with indecision. She got something from the other guy that she didn’t get in her marriage, although she loved her husband fiercely. One could argue that if you really love someone, you can’t possibility fall in love with somebody else.
But I have watched more than one friend find themselves in this very situation and it simply isn’t true.
Sometimes we are searching for answers inside ourselves and new people come into our lives and hold a mirror up to us to reveal those things.
My friend Carrie was searching for something within herself, and the love she found with this other man helped answer some of those questions. It was not in vain. And although it was a confusing and tumultuous time for her, to be in love with two men at the same time, she found the answers she was looking for and ultimately chose to stay in her marriage.
So, short of staying in two relationships and hoping one doesn’t find out about the other, how do we decide which one to keep and which one to let go?
Unfortunately there are no steps, no easy answers, no shortcut to arrive at a decision. What I find myself telling friends who are in it, is that the answers will be revealed to you in time.
Sometimes you have to stay in it, feel your way through it as messy, uncomfortable and unpleasant as it is, and hold compassion for yourself until you discover your own answers.
Ultimately we can be in love with two people, but to be fair to all parties involved, we can only be committed to one.
Maybe it’s OK to let one love go, knowing that although you’ve decided to not be together, your hearts can still continue to love one another.
Because love always teaches us something about ourselves—whether we are sharing a life with that person or living apart. Love, no matter when it comes, will always reveal to us the things we need to see that were hidden beneath the surface all along.
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Travis May