Can you fall in love when you're already in love?

I had a conversation with a coworker at happy hour last week. He insisted that the whole idea of falling in love with one person at a time was a Western myth, and you could have a completely happy, healthy, in-love relationship with one person and still fall for someone else.

It made me think back to my own past, how after a bad break-up it took a while to feel “emotionally available” again, and I’m not sure he’s right. To fall in love requires a certain amount of effort, in that you’d be kind of pursuing/encouraging other relationships. (Unless, I suppose, you believe in love at first sight.) Seems to me that if you were in love, you wouldn’t feel the need to pursue that feeling with other people. But as I’m typing this out, I’m wondering if I’m just a hopeless romantic and utterly wrong.

What does everyone else think?

I think you may be mistaken. Consider parents who are in love with their child, but have another child. Being parentally in love with the first child doesn’t seem to hinder loving a second child in any way. Step children/adopted children are an even better example, you don’t even have a genetic link, but still love them like your own child.

And don’t many broken marriages bear witness to people being able to fall in love with another, while engaged in a loving relationship with a spouse?

I’m unsure why you’d believe being in love with one person would keep you from feeling love for another. Your maturity, your self respect, your ethics and morality might, but simply being in love is not enough I suspect.

I disagree that love is something you seek/pursue/encourage. Even without talking about love at first sight, I find affection takes you by surprise at the best of times.

As for being able to fall twice concurrently, I don’t personally believe it for myself being as I am of the “one, only, always, for ever” romantic school, but there is such a thing as polyamory and I’m assured by people I trust that in some cases it’s not just about a bunch of people fucking a lot :). I really can’t fathom how that works, and in truth I can’t think of any time I’ve actually seen it work where feelings were involved in any real sense, but I can accept the theoretical possibility.

The marriages that immediately come to mind where this happened had other problems. They may have been in love, but they weren’t the “happy, healthy, in-love relationships” my coworker was referring to. (Of course, no relationship is perfect, but some are more imperfect than others, and these were pretty damn imperfect.) Has your experience on this been different?

I fell in love with a secretary of mine while I was still in love with my wife. I did not act on it but the feelings were there. As I got to know her better I fell right back out of love though.

Well, for me, love basically boils down to this analogy: “Why would I want to park my Ferrari to drive a Honda civic?”

At 46yo, divorced, with a child, that analogy finally makes sense to me.

I was thinking about this the other day browsing the Dope. I clicked on a thread that said something to the effect of “What famous person do you not like but would still have sex with?”

I went in that thread thinking I would drop a few names like I have so many times before. But once I got in there, it became quite apparent to me that there is no other woman I would rather be with than my GF. Fantasy or no.

In the past, I’ve heard other people say similar things to what I just said. and frankly, I thought they were full of it. Now I see that they weren’t.

It’s a shame it took me 46 year to realize that.

Sure. I unconditionally love a number of close friends, while remaining happily married to my Wife.

You may be associating love with physical intimacy too much.

I really don’t see how anyone can know someone else’s relationship well enough to conjecture if it was ‘really, actually mutually loving’.

But I think we all know persons who had a seemingly, by their own admission, healthy, loving relationship with their spouse but still found themselves falling into love with another. Sure, after it’s done they begin to say stuff like, ‘Well obviously I wasn’t as happily married as I thought!’, or, ‘I didn’t even know I was unhappy!’ But these strike me as, after the fact, rationalizations, to be honest.

You’ve never had a heart to heart with someone saying, ’ But I really do love them both! What should I do?’ I have.

It’s true people stray because they develop feelings for another. But it’s not always the case that it’s because there is anything amiss in their relationship. Hence the ever popular, “It just happened! I wasn’t looking for it!”

Was it love or infatuation?

“Loving” and “being in love” are different, “being in love” is infatuation.

I’m bisexual, demi-sexual, and poly, so yes, I very much believe it’s possible to have all flavors of love and infatuation and attachment and sexual interest with multiple people. Sometimes it’s healthy, sometimes not, but humans are not a naturally monogamous species. I think a fair number of individuals are - or at least serially so - but there’s nothing inherently impossible about loving multiple people in a sexual/romantic/intimate way at the same time.

Do you think it’s weird that you love both sets of grandparents (if you had/have them)?
What about loving all your siblings?
Close platonic friends? Lots of people have more than one friend.

I will say that when I’m in the ‘in love’ infatuation phase, I have to make sure that I’m not neglecting my husband emotionally or physically - not because I don’t love him, but because I’ve only got so much energy to go around, and the impulse is to focus on the shiny new relationship, and that neglect (not the new relationship itself) can be damaging.

It felt like love, she appeared to be everything I ever wanted in a woman. Aside from this one my first wife was the only one I had ever fallen in love with and I was married for 5 years before I really started to actually feel like I was in love. I fell for this one in just a few months.

That you’re a hopeless romantic and, also, utterly wrong.

At least, that’s how I feel.

The concept of being “in love” is a misnomer. Romantic feelings toward another person are many times attributed to lust, crushes, infatuations, obsessions, etc. and in many cases are not reciprocated at all. In that sense, yes, you can be “in love” with many people at the same time. Although, human beings generally have a hard time with multi-tasking especially when it comes to emotional involvement, so you don’t see it regularly.

True love, isn’t a feeling, but an action. It is making the conscious decision that you are going to love this other person for their welfare and benefit. This is what many do with their significant others and their children, other family members, friends, etc. In some cases this might involve passionate feelings, but not a requirement.

I “fall in love” every week. I don’t believe the heart has any capacity to fill up on love; it just grows larger and larger. Loving gives you practice for loving some more.

But I only really love one person, at the core of it. The rest are just temporary infatuations, or sometimes it’s because someone does something amazingly kind, or whatever.

Real love takes time and effort spent with the other person, it’s just not the same as the physical emotions lots of people mistake for love.

My husband and I have been in a monogamous relationship for almost 29 years. It’s way beyond merely “loving” each other, but a commitment that encompasses our entire lives. We are totally devoted to each other, both in feelings and in actions.

But we have a very close friend whom we both love very dearly. Our feelings toward him are very close to our feelings toward each other . . . and he feels the same way toward both of us. In the past, we even entertained the idea of a “three-way marriage,” but rejected this because of logistic complications. It would take so much more energy and time to make that kind of commitment work, and wouldn’t be fair to any of us.

But the feelings are there, and always will be. So yes, it’s possible to love more than one person at the same time . . . but very difficult to put that love into practice.

Complicated to discuss because we don’t really use the same words to mean exactly the same thing.

For me, “in love”, and the falling into the state thereof, is a term for the combination of loving someone and also having sexual chemistry with them, in such a way that you get this really intense emotional high; they become the center of your universe, you glow and float around sighing and your eating and sleeping patterns change and you’re deliriously happy nearly all the time and the person you feel these feelings towards is the grooviest most delicious most adorable and brilliant and fascinating person ever to walk the face of the earth and you’d do anything to make them happy.

Then there’s “love”, minus the “in” part, which is a much more enduring and deep-seated caring for another person, a cherishing of them for the wonderful individual that they are; you’d do anything to make them happy, too, but it’s different… not without a whole lot of overlap (there definitely is) but when you’re “in love” you’d do anything to make them feel happy now, you wish to pleasure them emotionally and bring them joy, whereas when you “love” someone you may occasionally find yourself making a different assessment of what will make them happy than they may make for themselves at this particular moment; also you take your own happiness as their partner into consideration to a greater extent, realizing that if you sacrifice too much of yourself you will not, in the long run, be a very pleasant partner to your loved one, who will then be less happy overall.

Thirdly, there is sexual chemistry by itself, what I think Anaamika in post #15 may be referring to as “the physical emotions”. Or perhaps not. I’m distinguishing sexual chemistry from “in love” although it seems to be a necessary component of “in love” because the sexual chemistry can definitely be present by itself without the corollary emotional intensity and devotion and floating-on-clouds ecstasy. Sexual chemistry gives you erotic obsessions and appetites and fascinations but by itself doesn’t tend to lead you to view the other person as the finest example of the species ever to trod the earth.

All this is just terminology. I haven’t even gotten to the freaking question yet. And I’m going to use quotation marks below, but not to distance myself from the ideas as if I don’t beieve in them, but to reinforce the fact that they are phrases and that I’m using them specifically as I’ve defined them above, OK?

I’m polyamorous (as I’ve said so often that some folks complain about how often I mention it). I can tell you from experience that some people (myself included) can love multiple people and maintain ongoing romantic relationships with them simultaneously.

Being “in love” —with that intense emotional high— with more than one person at the same time?? Far less certain. I’ve never had that occur.

I can tell you that feeling that feeling does not preclude being a good loving partner to your other partners with whom you have ongoing relationships. Being “in love” is temporary, it’s partly chemical (the way it afects your sleep and eating patterns is a pretty strong clue there) and it’s seriously fantastic, the bestest of feelings ever, but let’s be blunt, it’s not a direct by-product of the sheer wonderfulness of the other person, no matter how much it feels that way to you at the time. If you’re lucky enough to fall in love with someone who is indeed an incredibly wonderful person, that person will still be someone you’ll be happy to be with once the “in love” ecstasy fireworks fade back to normal emotional hue ranges. In the polyamory world, the term “in love” (as I’m using it here) is often replaced with “new relationship energy”, abbreviated NRE. NRE is wonderful, but “love”, the other form, is what keeps relationships anchored and solid.

A person can definitely love more than one person at a time, even romantically. (And platonically, it’s definitely possible) It’s just (as mentioned) very difficult to balance it properly, and mainstream society frowns on it. I’ve been romantically in love with two people at the same time, but I never acted on it precisely because I knew I couldn’t handle it and they couldn’t either. Everyone would have ended up hurt. So we all stuck with monogamy.

This seems like this is the sort of question where the answer is going to depend on how each person defines and experiences love in a particular context. The way I define love, I can and do love many people, but I’d never say that I was “in love” with any of those people. In fact, even when I have been romantically entangled with someone, whom I loved, was infatuated with, and her with me, I think that’s what most people mean by “in love”, but I still don’t really care for that term there because it seems to muddy the water.

But as I think the OP means it, along the lines of a one-way infatuation, then yes, it’s possible for people to be infatuated with more than one person. In fact, I think it’s that way for most people. Hell, it’s possible, and likely, that people who very much love each other and are committed to each other are no longer strongly infatuated, as that fades, but become infatuated with others and choose not to act on it out of commitment.

Speaking for myself, I don’t get infatuated very often, sometimes I’m not infatuated with anyone, sometimes more than one, but as a rule, I’ve been infatuated with women I was seeing (or I’d end it), and if it was longer term, I generally loved her too. Hell, I still love many of them, but I sure am not infatuated with them nor do I even want to be around them, but I certainly wish them nothing but the best.

And by that, I mean, after REALLY getting to know someone, as hopefully one does in a relationship that lasts for any decent length (romantic, friendship, coworker, family, whatever), it seems to me it’s impossible NOT to love someone, lest one is actually repulsed by them. But I gather that’s not how most people operate, making that sort of connection with people.

Either way, it seems to me that in most contexts for most people, the answer is yes.

Evidently it is possible for some. But not for me. I’m of a mind that I don’t need the aggravation.