Empirical evidence clearly suggests that humans are capable of loving and having sex with more than one person at the same time. Indeed, most people I interviewed for the book, In the Name of Love: Romantic Ideology and its Victims, said that they can romantically love, and actually have loved, a few people at the same time. Esther, a widow who was a great advocate of Romantic Ideology, confesses: We did it openly. My husband even supported it for a while and the three of us lived together—to see if we could make it work.
During that brief period, I had sex with both of them—one upstairs and one downstairs. Thus, later on in her life, when she had three potential lovers, Iris admits that "I don't like having three men from which to choose. I liked the simplicity of one. I want the Perfect Guy But my experience has been just the opposite. There isn't just one who has been able to satisfy me. Despite such testimonies, it is not obvious how to explain this phenomenon as emotions are typically partial and exclusive.
This is especially so in romantic love which requires a lot of energy and resources. People sometimes express the difficulty in loving two people at the same time, by posing it as a logical contradiction: Another context for such polyamorous love is having two romantic relationships which are at a different stage: It seems that there is no logical contradiction in romantically loving two people at the same time, and the issue here is psychological, as it generates profound emotional dissonance.
The dissonance stems from the fact that by definition, emotions demand partiality, that is, the preference of one over another, which entails some sort of exclusivity.
Emotionally, it is extremely painful to imagine your lover in the arms of another person. Indeed, most of those who told of being romantically in love with two people at the same time and pleased with the experience also claimed that they would not like to be at the other end of the relationship; that is, they would find it enormously difficult, if not impossible, to share their beloved with someone else.
How can human society cope with such emotional dissonances? One approach may be to adapt our accepted norms concerning romantic and sexual exclusivity to reflect the occasional dissonances of our reality, a change which has indeed begun to take place in modern society. People now allow their spouses to have more freedom in their personal relationships with others, and attitude is more flexible also concerning sex.
In many societies, for example, extramarital sex is disapproved of socially; nevertheless, the transgressor is only mildly criticized for such activity. Indeed, extramarital affairs begin to be described in more neutral terms.
Instead of the highly negative terms of " adultery " and "betrayal," some people begin to use the more neutral term of "parallel relationship.