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wundayatta's avatar

What makes it possible to have more than one lover at a time, emotionally and practically?

Asked by wundayatta (58367 points ) June 18th, 2012

There have been a number of questions about friends with benefits lately, and people keep on insisting that you can separate sex from emotions. I think some people need to do that in order to have several lovers at once. However, I imagine there are people who could actually love more than one person at once. In other words, there are probably many different ways to make it possible to have more than one lover at a time.

Whether you’ve had experience with this or not, what do you think it would take to successfully handle more than one lover at once? What would you have to do with your feelings? What would you have to do with your logistics? How would it work, practically speaking? For example, how much time would you need between meetings with each lover, do you think? What other issues to you think you would have to deal with?

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13 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

I think willingness to put up with discomfort is paramount. If you are going about the two lovers in an honest way, discomfort is inevitable. Sometimes you will feel guilty, lonely, left out, or jealous. I have noticed that often, questions about jealousy revolve around a righteous indignation that no person who loves you should ever cause you discomfort, so that person should end friendships, come home at a specific time, etc.

The logistics depend on the nature of the relationships. Maybe you have multiple casual partners that you see a few times a week each; maybe you have a primary partner you live with and other people you date on occasion; many permutations are possible.

bookish1's avatar

I’ve had multiple lovers and I have also been in love with multiple people at once. Openly and like a gentleman. I handled it better than some of them did, honestly, haha. Some people thought they could handle it but were lying to themselves and me, hoping to lure me back into monogamy. I found that out quickly enough.

I didn’t have to do anything with my feelings! I had to worry more about other people’s feelings, such as when I was in a stable long term relationship with my girlfriend and was experiencing NRE (New Relationship Energy) with someone lovely I had just started seeing. Sure, being monogamous is the easy path because it is what society lays out for us. But since I already live outside of societal prescriptions so much (and am a confirmed masochist), it wasn’t that much of a leap for me to begin with this lifestyle. (And some people think of it as a lifestyle; some people think of it as an orientation. I fall into the former camp.)

I found that living enforced unspoken default monogamy required much more controlling and channeling of my feelings than living poly does for me.

Since I am a total introvert, I really do need a full day between seeing partners/dates. This allows me the time to take care of myself and my health. And if partners could not understand that, then it was out the door for them.

Shippy's avatar

I have always believed we can love more than one person at the same time.. In very different ways. It’s not practicle because society won’t really allow it. Plus partners are programmed to feel less loved if we love another. I think every sexual experience has feelings, sometimes just warmth, they also have meaning in the context of the experience. Perhaps it is the meaning we place on the experience that leads us to exclusify it or not. Perhaps too, those experiences we commit to, are the most important, and that is the telling factor.

Coloma's avatar

Oh lord, just thinking about managing more than one lover at a time is exhausting! lol
I’m a “less is more” type in certain areas, and this is one of them. Shit..it’s hard enough to relate intimately ONE person at a time, let alone multiples. Double the communication, double the dates, double the planning, double the energy expenditure. No thanks.

Fuck….if I wanted that kind of stress in my life I’d adopt 2 large, loud, sloppy dogs. May not be having sex, but…. all the time, attention and poop scooping would be comparable to multiple lovers. lol

augustlan's avatar

You know what we used to call this? Dating.

I found it very easy to see multiple people at one time, sleeping with some of them along the way. I was always honest about it, telling each of my partners that I was seeing other people. I didn’t have to do anything with my feelings… if we were sexually attracted to one another, we slept together. If we were sexually and romantically attracted to one another, then at some point we’d have ‘the talk’ and decide to be a monogamous couple. I don’t think I could be in love with more than one person at a time, but others seem to be capable of that, too.

Logistically it was a bit more difficult, but not much. It was like having any other kind of busy social life (parties, friends, movies, etc.), but with sex sometimes.

DrBill's avatar

this is the basis for the poly lifestyle and it is very possible to love several people at the same time. Anyone who has several children also knows loving several people is very possible. It is like living in an extended family.

choreplay's avatar

It’s all about pre-negotiation.

Blackberry's avatar

You can have two people that have a deep emotional connection, but may lack in their sex life. So you can have someone you’re more compatible with mentally, then someone else physically.

Or you can have someone that is a good parent and lover, but there may be emotional chemistry lacking. So you need for them for some things, but not others.

I forget the name of the experiment, but a male rat was put in a container with multiple female rats. He had sex with all of them, so one would assume he would be tired and need rest. But when they put another new female in the cage, he somehow mustered the energy to bang the new rat as well.

I’m sure others have experienced this, but there are times when you’re tired of having sex with a particular person, but have the energy if someone else comes along. You don’t act on it of course, but the drive is there.

This is all theoretical, though. You asked how it would be possible, some I’m throwing some stuff out there. This obviously doesn’t apply to everyone.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s interesting that no one has mentioned friends with benefits yet, or compartmentalizing feelings. Is that something anyone has experience with or thinks is effective or ineffective?

@Coloma I’m sure you represent the vast majority of people in terms of feelings about having more than one love at a time. I think you are probably right that it would be complicated. But if you found yourself loving more than one person… or just wanting to have sex with more than one person, what do you think you would have to do, emotionally, in order to make that work? I gather that logistically, you think it would make you nuts with the scheduling, but is that true? Could there not be a way you could schedule things at a frequency that would work for you?

augustlan's avatar

@wundayatta I did have a few ‘friends with benefits’ over the years. It really was no problem.

bookish1's avatar

@wundayatta: Aside from having multiple romantic partners at the same time, I also have gone through periods of having a romantic partner plus an FWB on the side, or just multiple FWBs at the same time.

I did not want to let myself fall for them, because of big differences in either maturity or life situation. That does not mean that we did not share a lot of tenderness and vulnerability as well as friendship type experiences :)

jca's avatar

I find with myself that if I like someone and want to be with them, I am totally into only that one person. I crave that person, I think about that person, I get excited about seeing that one person.

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