Amid the many single people I work with who are struggling to find a loving partner, I have one, Riya, 32, who has the opposite problem. She is in love with two men. Both men love her too. Let’s call them Kartik and Arjun. Kartik is 10 years older than Riya; Arjun is the same age as her.
There are certain simple metrics one can use to assess the depth of one’s romantic feelings about someone: the spike of excitement when the person calls; the sense of missing them when they’re not around. Riya says her feelings for both men, when measured thus, are equally strong. She has been honest with them both about the situation. Neither took the news well, understandably.
While Kartik agreed to give her some time to navigate her feelings, Arjun’s initial response was to end the relationship. They went a few weeks without meeting. Then his feelings got the better of him and he reconnected with her too. On one condition: that she make up her mind one way or another, soon.
It’s been six months and Riya is unable to decide. All three individuals are now increasingly uncomfortable with the situation. While this sounds like the plot of a rom-com, the predicament of having strong feelings for more than one person at a time is more common than most of us realise. Many singles go on multiple dates now without committing to one person, for instance. This often leads to them liking two people at the same time.
How is Riya to choose? There is no easy way. Both Kartik and Arjun are qualified, intelligent and ambitious. Kartik being a decade older has obviously achieved more in his career. He is also clearer about wanting to marry and raise a family with Riya. Arjun wants to take things more slowly on this front. Riya looks up to Kartik but feels she can relate to Arjun better because of their common age. Arjun, like Riya, dreams of travelling the world. Kartik is happy to tag along but does not share Riya’s enthusiasm for travel. After two sessions of this it became clear that the more we tried to peer into what a future with the two men might hold, the more confusing it became for Riya.
With some back and forth, we came up with another formula: to dig deeper into Riya’s feelings to figure out which of the two men she would feel worse about losing today.
How to do this? We have agreed that she will not meet either man for a month; as far as possible, she will not call or text either. At the end of a month, she should have a sense of whom she has missed more. Her big worry then will be dealing with the knowledge that she might later regret her choice.
Riya wishes she could be with both Kartik and Arjun. As we evolve, there might come a time when this choice will be more widely accepted. There have certainly been times in our collective past when we have lived within very different family formats. Sadly, as things stand, it is easier to explain a high body count than it is to explain a very low but overlapping one.
Then again, we can only live and love in the time we have. Riya can at least take comfort in the fact that the choice is hers to make.
(Simran Mangharam is a dating and relationship coach and can be reached on email@example.com)
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