Are you torn between lovers? A psychologist’s approach to choosing the right ‘one’
Psychologist Toby Green explains how to stop yourself from falling into the two-love trap, because it’s more common than you might think…
If you or your partner is in love with someone else, while still in a relationship, you’re not alone. Most people who are infatuated with someone else are unhappy in their relationship (not surprisingly), with one in four people declaring that their emotional needs aren’t being met by their current relationship.
More surprising is research showing that of those who are happy in a relationship, half admit that in the past, they experienced feelings for someone else.
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The long haul is hard
So the idea that we fall in love and live happily ever after is not accurate. It’s fairly easy to fall in love. Staying in love, however, takes more work and devotion. And, according to research, it seems to be more difficult than many realise. Many relationship counsellors attest to the fact that most couples, over the long term, will have varying degrees of intense, loving feelings for their partner.
The pull of the familiar
At some stages, being in love feels wonderful and strong. At other times, loving feelings may be harder to muster, especially in times of stress and conflict. The temptation to become attracted to someone else is always there, but if you’re the one in four who is currently unhappy, the chance is even greater. Research indicates that when we fall for someone, it’s likely to be a person we already know, such as a work colleague or someone in our circle of friends, or even an ex.
An emotional affair
And it may be surprising to learn that the temptation is of the heart more than anything else: when it comes to falling for someone new, the more common experience isn’t looking online to cheat sexually but is actually developing heartfelt feelings for someone you interact with often or daily. Once the feelings are established, the sexual urge can kick in. One in six of those who have fallen for another admit that they would – or did – follow it through and become involved in an affair.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the experience of falling for someone when already in a relationship usually only happens once and only six per cent say they would leave their partner for their new affair. The majority of couples can work through this difficult patch.
How to deal with infidelity
How you deal with this situation, as a couple, depends entirely on whether one of you is still in love with another or whether you are over the infatuation. And don’t assume the experience will be short-lived. In fact, when someone in a relationship develops feelings for someone else, whether they act on it or not, the feelings can last a long time, which can wreck the safety and foundation of the main relationship – especially once discovered.
Study in this area has uncovered that feelings for someone else usually last more than three years, with one in 25 people saying they had felt love for another for more than five years and one in 50 people saying they had loved another for as long as they could remember. The phenomenon of feeling “torn between two loves” is often a long-term one.
It’s time to recommit
As with any infidelity, redeveloping trust, honesty and communication are the keys to surviving as a couple. You both have to recommit to each other and to the relationship. And don’t underestimate the hurt and damage an emotional betrayal can have, even if there was never anything physical.
To have someone you love tell you they love someone else is deeply painful and takes time to recover from. It can be done, and it’s likely to only happen once. If it happens a second time, red flags should be telling you your partner’s love isn’t strong enough to resist temptations.
You deserve better. Everyone does – when you give your heart it should be reciprocated, not shared with another. And certainly not more than once.
Toby Green is a Sydney-based psychologist, specialising in relationships. You can find out more about her work here.