Can one woman love two men?

Is it possible for a woman to love two men? When and why does it happen? Read on for answers

woman sitting with her husband and thinking about loveVanita had fallen head over heels in love with a participant from her course. She was married [against her parents' wishes] to a hard-working, middle-class boy from her medical college. Actually, she wanted to study literature, but ended up becoming a doctor to fulfill her parent’s wishes. After marriage, she had settled down to keep house for her husband and had two children. At the time it provided a refreshing change from the stress of fulfilling her parents’ ambitions. Slowly, her husband got busy as his medical practice flourished. Vanita claimed that he didn’t even have time for romance. She complained that in the little time that he did spend with her, he discussed medical cases or future plans for the family. He was a gentle man, but she did not feel cherished in the relationship. She met us saying, ‘I love two men, and I don’t want to choose. I am in a moral dilemma. My husband has been a gentle, caring person who works hard for the family. I value that and respect him immensely, but my lover makes me feel cherished as a woman. My body burns with passion for him.’

What went wrong?

Marriage is a package deal, and one needs to accept what comes in it. No partner can be ‘perfect’ and many marriages fall prey to the ‘utopia syndrome’ of unrealistic expectations of a ‘fairy-tale’ life. Reading too many romantic novels could make one lose touch with reality. And many marriages have suffered because of such unrealistic expectations based on fiction. Not being able to appreciate what you have in reality is the fallout of comparisons with ‘perfect’ fairy tales.

Your partner is a gift from God, and you need to appreciate and accept this gift just like you would accept and appreciate God’s gift in nature. When you see a spectacular sunset, you don’t say, ‘a little more orange around the sun please, and a little pink on the clouds. How about a little deep purple on the waves?’ You enjoy the sunset just the way it is. People are just as much gifts of nature as sunsets. So why can’t they be enjoyed as they are?

Another case in point

Raised in an orthodox family, Surabhi was not allowed the freedom every teenager craves. So, she escaped the parental prison by marrying her best friend’s brother. After marriage, she was given every freedom and she revelled in it. Her husband went to great lengths to keep her happy. The rebel child in her found instant gratification in the husband who was like a pampering parent. Now, she sought a more ‘adult’ relationship, which she found with one of her husband’s friends. This man was always upfront and assertive with her and did not give in to each of her whims and fancies. She was immensely attracted by this quality, and found herself at a crossroads when he proposed marriage. On one hand, she felt grateful to her husband to let her experience life in all its colours and loved her lifestyle with him. On the other hand, she felt like a ‘woman’ with her boyfriend and respected him for not indulging her whims.

Once again, there is a woman who ‘loved’ two men for different reasons. But is it really love?

What is love really?

Love has various levels, from merely seeking satisfaction for oneself to meeting the needs of others. Human love moves along a continuum, from the pole of self-centredness to the pole of other-centredness. There are many words for love in the Greek language: storge refers to love between a parent and child, eros refers to passionate and sexual love, philia refers to real affection between close friends, and agape refers to unconquerable benevolence and invincible goodwill—the highest and purest form of love.

Often a woman who finds herself drawn to two men, is one whose certain desires are being satisfied by one man and certain others by another. She wants both of them for what they bring to her life. For her, giving up one man means giving up some of those desires, which she is not prepared to do. More often than not, this problem arises when we look at a relationship, based purely on our own gratification [I-centric], and not as a mutually shared partnership [we-centric], where the relationship, the ‘we’, the ‘us’ is valued and where healthy negotiations take place.

A we-centric person takes the effort to communicate to the partner that certain basic valid relationship needs are not being fulfilled. Through such healthy and open communication, mutual understanding and negotiations take place. The we-centric person also knows the delicate art of when and what to negotiate and when and what to simply let go and ignore.

In giving we receive

A meaningful life can result only from the experience of love in our life, and this implies a commitment and dedication to another. Love does not ask the question, “What am I getting out of this?” as the criterion of fulfilment. Love takes time, demands a history of giving and receiving, laughing and crying, living and dying; it never promises instant gratification, only ultimate fulfilment. Love means believing in someone, in something, it supposes a willingness to struggle, to work, to suffer and to join in the rejoicing. There has not been even one recorded case of deep and lasting fulfilment by a person whose basic mind-set and only question was, “what am I getting out of this?” Satisfaction and fulfilment are the by-products of committed and dedicated love. They belong only to those who can reach beyond themselves, and to whom ‘giving’ is more important than ‘receiving’. Sometimes we are tempted to confuse ‘good times’ with a ‘good life’. A successful pursuit of endless good times is something that can never really exist, and can only result in the inevitable sadness and disappointment of unfulfilled expectations.

You obviously don’t want love, if you don’t want to:

  • Break the fixation with self and give up your self-centeredness
  • Learn how to care about and be sincerely dedicated to the satisfaction of another
  • Become a sensitive listener, who hears what is said and also what is isn’t
  • Postpone personal gratification to meet the needs of another
  • Get in touch with your deepest feelings and most hidden thoughts
  • Share your most vulnerable self as an act of love
  • Get honest feedback from someone who really knows you through your own self-disclosure
  • Work at the delicate art of communication and shared decision-making.

Man goes through life, selfishly blind to anything and anyone other than himself. ‘Poor me’, ‘I want’, ‘I need’, ‘I feel’, ‘my life’ form the sub-stratum of his life.

If we step out of our self-consumed world, we can understand for the first time, the true meaning of love. In the words of St Francis of Assisi, “It is in giving that we receive”.

We are transformed by love. What we receive in giving is so much more than we can ever give. It leaves us feeling grateful to those who allow us to love them, eternally grateful for the opportunity to experience the gift of love. Ask yourself, “Have you ever lived for someone more than you live for yourself?” If not, today is your chance.

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  • MINNU Bhonsle

    MINNU Bhonsle

    Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, is a Mumbai-based consulting psychotherapist and counsellor. She conducts training programmes in Personal Counselling [Client-centred Therapy] and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, and also workshops in Stress Management, Art of Listening, Couple Therapy, and Communication Skills.Minnu has co-authored the book, The Ultimate Sex Education Guide along with Dr Rajan Bhonsle. Check it out on her website.

  • RAJAN Bhonsle

    RAJAN Bhonsle

    Rajan Bhonsle, MD, is a consultant in sexual medicine and counsellor. Along with his wife Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, who is a consulting psychotherapist and counsellor, he runs a unique therapy centre

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5 Responses to Can one woman love two men?

  1. Love love love love love

  2. I love two men, and I dont think I am I-centric because of it. I give them both fulfillment, I am their friend and companion and I am there for them when they need me. But I have a busy life and dont want a man living with me, or interfering in my home life with my two daughters. One of the men has a very busy work schedule and spends a lot of time travelling so our arangement suits him. The other also has a small son, so he is happy to have time for him too. We are all happy, so where is the problem?

  3. Dr Minnu Bhonsle

    Dear Jim,

    You are obviously uncomfortable with the ‘family’ arrangement your wife wants vis-à-vis her male friend. Your discomfort is valid, given the fact that they have declared their affection for each other (if this affection erodes the sanctity of your couplehood with her). It is fair on your part to protect this sanctity and not want him to be a part of the life you share with your wife. What is not clear however, is the dynamics between you and your wife throughout your married life, other than this difference of opinion regarding the inclusion of her male friend in your family since a year. At this stage of your life, after being together for so many years, when the relationship should have crystallized into a harmonious and mutually respectful companionship, the opposite seems to have happened. It would be a worthwhile exercise to seek couple’s counselling, so that both of you can be sensitized to the valid needs of each other. Counselling could also help reveal the real nature of her friendship with him, the reason for her insistence and guilt, and also help address any other outstanding relationship issues between the two of you.

    Dr Minnu Bhonsle, psychotherapist & counsellor

  4. My wife has a long-time male friend who no longer lives with his wife and instead lives in his 56ft. boat which is attached to our dock. This situation has prevailed for over a year. My wife want me to accept her friend as part of our family and I refuse. She feels guilty when he is asked to go home early or stay away for a few days. He and she are 64 and I am 72. Both have admitted affection for one another. Should I bend and include him in every event of hers and my life?

  5. This article is based on a particular type of love– devotional love. Not every relationship is based on being “sincerely dedicated to the satisfaction of another” and postponing “personal gratification to meet the needs of another.” A wife does not need to give up key aspects of herself, her needs and her goals to be with her “life partner.” The very definition of a partner is challenged in this article– a partnership is a cooperative between people who agree to share responsibility for achieving some specific goals in life. Being a good partner does not mean putting yourself last in your household equation– it simply means being on the same page with your significant other. I think this article is rather biased from the culture it comes from and the opinions it is expressing are not worldwide views of marriage.

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