Dating two men requires lots of time and energy.

How to Decide When Caught Between Two Lovers

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

When you have two lovers, you could decide to limit yourself to a single partner. In narrowing the field to one, it is important to know what you need most in a partner and how the two individuals mesh with those needs, according to marriage therapist Willard F. Harley, Jr., Ph.D., in “Choosing the Right One to Marry.”

Your Needs

Assess your needs and how each suitor meets those needs, suggests Harley. If you must receive lots of affection and one prospective partner is freely affectionate and the other is not, decide how happy you would be long-term living without affection. Assume that the suitor won’t change if you’ve discussed it in the past and nothing changed. If you haven’t discussed it, have that conversation and see how things shake out, suggests marriage and family therapist Terri Orbuch Ph.D., in “How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy.” If you don’t love him as-is, don’t expect that you will change him down the road.

His Personality and Character

Evaluate the personality and character of your lovers and determine which characteristics predominate, suggests therapist Elizabeth Lombardo in “How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy.” Characteristics have strengths and weaknesses, so be sure you can deal with both sides. If he loves being playful and spontaneous, but never wants to be serious and jumps from one thing to another without warning, are you going to feel safe and stable? If he has to lead and you want to share leadership or prefer to drive the relationship yourself, you’re not going to be happy settling for something less than what you need and want, according to social and personality psychologist Jeremy Nicholson, M.S.W., Ph.D., in “Why Women Can’t Find a Good Man.”

Your Relationship Patterns

Take a look at your past relationships and see how the two lovers fit into your pattern, suggests Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Kate White in a CBS News interview. If you have chosen unavailable partners who don’t commit to family needs, how will that meet the needs of you and your child? Look at his behavior and track his relationship patterns also. What would his past partners say about the way he treated them? Consider whether there are things he does that fill you with shame or are afraid to tell your friends and family. Don’t settle for less than you need just to have a partner in your life, advises Harley.

Setting Your Priorities

Make a list of the four or five most essential character traits in a partner, suggests Lombardo. These might include a sense of humor, honesty, loving and empathetic, and understanding and patient with children. Make a second list of characteristics it would be nice to have, such as comfortable around people, good communicator and problem-solver and sizzles in the bedroom. Judge both lovers based on their compatibility with your list.

Ensure that the lover you choose is your intellectual equal and shares a similar energy level, social comfort level, cultural background and values, suggests Harley. It’s not impossible to have a good relationship with disparity in these, but it’s much easier to do when the two of you are compatible in these areas.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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