Love triangles. We see them all the time in books and on the silver screen. But in real life falling in love with two guys at the same time can feel a lot less romantic, and a lot more painful.
So what do you do if you find yourself torn between two wonderful men, but know in the end, you have to make a choice? We asked psychotherapist and relationship coach Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC of Consum-mate.com. She says one of the most common scenarios is the best friend vs. lover debacle.
“The hardest situations are when someone is best friends with someone. They love them deeply and feel this person is their soul mate. However, they have no physical attraction and have tried over time to find one–but it just isn’t there,” she says. “Then along comes someone they have intense physical chemistry with. They feel all the thrills and excitement that go with this. However, there is an emotional or intellectual disconnect.”
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Unfortunately. she says, there’s no way to combine two guys to make the perfect match. And you’re left with a tough decision.
“Usually in these cases, the decision of who will be the one comes down to what they feel they most need in a relationship and what they can accept less of,” says Coleman. “It might also be that the missing component in one relationship can be worked with and a stronger connection can grow over time.”
Of course actually making that decision can be agonizing, to say the least. Should you go with your heart? Or your head?
“I have always encouraged and supported clients in following both their heads and hearts,” Coleman insists. “Making conscious choices about who is right and why facilitates an open communication about issues, concerns and differences…This being said, it is also important to follow one’s gut and instincts. If it doesn’t ‘feel’ right it isn’t- no matter how good he looks on paper.”
Sometimes that “other love” is one you know well–the one who got away. What if you find you can’t stop thinking about your ex, even though you also have feelings for your current guy? Coleman says instead of pining, it might actually be worth taking a little break from your current relationship to spend time with the ex, in order to remember why you broke up in the first place. As long as you’re upfront and honest about what you’re doing.
“[You] will now get to revisit, rehash and again experience life with the ex,” says Coleman. “All the issues that led to the end of [your] relationship will come to the surface.”
And while she says while it is possible that both of you have matured and changed and the renewed relationship is now a great fit, remember, most of the time that doesn’t happen.
“What usually happens is that one or both people come to a realization that they were romanticizing their ex and their past relationship,” she says. “They were remembering only the good times and had rationalized away the bad ones…They will also begin to compare what they have with their new love and often the realization hits that they have a good thing going and one they don’t want to lose.”
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Of course the problem becomes, whether this new love in question is willing to wait around for you to come to those conclusions. In the meantime, he may have found someone new himself.
“Asking one’s current partner to take a break may raise problems in the relationship or be something they wouldn’t do for fear of losing that person,” says Coleman. “If this is the case, they need to make sure they are being fair and upfront with their partner’s feelings and needs and use this fear of loss to motivate them to get the ex out of the picture–once and for all.”
No matter what the scenario, Coleman says, try to be considerate to both guys in question. And minimize the hurt as best you can. Because in this kind of love triangle situation? Someone always ends up hurt.
“Honesty, being upfront and clear, showing respect and concern for her partner’s feelings are all ways to minimize hurt. It’s harmful and hurtful to lie or keep someone in the dark or waiting in the wings until she figures out what she wants, then drops someone without explanation in order to get it,” she says. “When my clients ask, I suggest they always treat someone as they would want to be treated in the situation.”