Can someone REALLY fall in love with two people?

In a teaser for the upcoming finale of The Bachelor, leading man Locky declares he’s in love with two women. But is it really possible? We asked psychologist Briony Leo what she makes of his statement.

With a population of nearly eight billion, it’s fair to assume the way each person defines love and what they want out of a relationship is different to the next. But through literature and modern pop culture, we’re frequently told finding ‘The One’ is what we should aspire to. Is that a realistic expectation to set and can you develop strong feelings for more than one person?

It’s a question an upcoming episode of The Bachelor appears to tackle when our leading man, Locky, says in a teaser for the finale: “It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. I’m in love with both of them… It’s ripping me apart. You don’t break up with someone that you love.”

It’s certainly a first for Australia, conceded the show’s executive producer Hilary Innes to Media Week: “Locky, by his own admission, falls in love with more than one girl,” she said.

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While having loving feelings for more than one person is possible, psychologist Briony Leo believes this is more common at the beginning of a relationship, when we’re still establishing intimacy and “our hormones are going crazy”. What Locky may be experiencing instead, she thinks, is something she calls ‘relationship FOMO’.

“It sounds like what [Locky] is saying is that he wants to be with both of them equally, something quite different to the kind of love he develops over time in longer-term relationships which is forged by shared experiences, being vulnerable with each other, offering and receiving support,” she says.

The contradiction of ‘reality TV’ is that, while the people are indeed real in that they physically exist, the environment in which they forge relationships is highly unrealistic.

A person will act differently when they know cameras are watching, let alone the rigorous vetting process that goes into contestant selection and time spent filming, which is generally two to three months.

So can Locky really be in love with both women? He obviously has strong feelings for both, but more likely he’ll figure out who is better suited after more time getting to know each other away from the cameras.

“In a few weeks or months down the track when the initial stage of ‘infatuation’ has worn off, it would be much easier to see things more clearly without rose-coloured glasses,” she says.

In the “highly controlled” reality TV environment, Leo notes, “he may not have actually had the chance to learn about what they are like and they may not have been exposed to what he is like in his normal life, either.”

It doesn’t mean polyamory, which stems from the Greek ‘poly’ meaning many, and the Latin ‘amor’ meaning love, isn’t possible, nor does it mean it’s not normal because as mentioned, everyone experiences and defines love differently.

To be clear, though, polyamory is not sneaking behind closed doors, nor should it be entered into without the consent and understanding of all involved. And Leo doesn’t think that’s what Locky is getting at.

“It is really important to distinguish that Locky isn’t necessarily talking about having an open or polyamorous relationship here,” she says.

“Many relationship counsellors and coaches offer advice for couples considering open relationships or polyamory, as it can be really important to establish that both partners are willing and consenting and that everyone is aware of what this might involve.”

Love can also change over time, in the same way, you ‘never forget your first’, so too can you love someone without being in love with them.

As if life wasn’t complicated enough!