Question: We have been happily married for 9 years and have two wonderful children. Four months ago I ran into my high school sweetheart and my first love and now my life has been turned upside down. My feelings for her have not changed at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife very much. She is my soul mate. We have a good marriage and we’re very happy together. We’re both God-fearing (not religious). But this other woman is also my soul mate, in a different kind of way. Is it possible to be in love with two people at the same time? Please respond, I have no one to talk to who will understand what I’m going through.
Answer: Yes, it is possible to truly care about one person and be happy in and with the relationship, but have love or have strong feelings of love for someone else.
Of course this is not how most people in mainstream North America are programmed/conditioned to think when it comes to love. And unless it has happened or it happens to them, most people can’t even imagine it possible to be torn between two people you really love and are in love with at the same time. People who have never stood in these particular “pair of shoes” will tell you that you are being selfish, that the feelings you have are just infatuation or a phase (mid-life crisis), and will even accuse you of being immature or something worse. But until it happens to them, they really don’t know. They’re simply reacting to something they have no clue about or have a programmed/conditioned aversion to.
That said, there is being “in love” or “feeling love” and there is being “in a relationship”. These are two very different things. Just as you can be in a relationship and not be in love, you can also be in love but not necessarily be in a relationship with that person. And because love happens at a sub-conscious level, we do not have control over who we love or feel love for. We however, have control over who we choose to have a relationship with.
You did not ask me what to do with those strong feelings of love. I am assuming you already know, but for the sake of someone else in the same situation reading this and wondering “what do I do with these feelings for this other person?”, I’ll add this.
A strong and healthy relationship is founded on trust, honesty, attention and lots of sacrifices including putting aside our “individual good” for a “greater good” (beyond self). These “relationship foundations” are important not because it’s impossible to love two people at the same time, but because of the limitation of human nature — which has a limited power of attention (time, energy and resources). This may explain why knowing that God loves you and me, and every other single creature below and above, we don’t feel jealous that He loves all of us. We actually rejoice in that knowledge. God has infinite/unlimited power of attention He can bestow on each and everyone of us equally. Except for a few “chosen ones” who’ve achieved that God-like level of love, we’re limited by our human nature.
1. Think of what is most important — this should include respecting your partner enough to protect her dignity and shield her from emotional pain and hurt. The “respect” you have for your wife/girlfriend/partner and the courage and maturity of mind to stand up and on the side of “greater good” (beyond your individual desires, needs and wants) is the measure of the strength of your character and person — not that you love or have strong feelings of love for two women at the same time.
2. Be emotionally intelligent/mature about it. You do not always have to act on all the feelings and emotions you experience. Feelings and emotions are our access to our inner world and guide our thinking and actions. Emotionally intelligent and mature people have the ability to discriminate which information (from our emotions and feelings) to act on and which not to. In other words, it’s not “wrong” to have those emotions and feelings (and you’re not a “bad” person” for having them), it’s what you do with those feelings and emotions (if they hurt/damage another person) that makes them “wrong” or “bad”.
3. Keep a distance between you and the other woman. You cannot have daily intimate contact with someone you have feelings for — love and care about — without experiencing a growing sexual attraction and desire/need to have sex with her. Even if you manage to suppress your desires, unexpressed and unacknowledged sexual attraction eventually creates tensions, anxiety, conflict and sometimes feelings of deep sadness — some of these emotional states will create sexual intimacy problems in your relationship/marriage.