"Bachelor" Ben Higgins has done what no other bachelor has done before — he told two women that he loved them in one episode. After a fantasy suite date in Monday's show, Lauren Bushnell said “I love you,” and Higgins replied with, “I love you.”
Then after his date with JoJo Fletcher, she said "I love you," and he said it RIGHT BACK to her.
Whaa? Is it really possible that Higgins loves both women? Are we dealing with a "Great Gatsby"-level entanglement here — only it's the guy who can't choose?
“It is really possible; the answer is yes,” says Siggy Flicker, relationship expert and TODAY Tastemaker.
“Attraction is a biological experience. You … meet someone and your hormones are going crazy and you could meet another person and have the same reaction.”
Oh, right. Biology.
Fortunately, the biology of attraction tends to lend itself to "singular attachments", says New York psychiatrist Gail Saltz, a TODAY contributor. “Usually when someone feels a deep romantic attachment to a person it is sort of exclusive to one person,” she says.
A chemical rush
The biological underpinnings of love contribute to monogamous feelings for many. When people fall in love the hormone dopamine, which boosts mood, floods the brain, while serotonin dips, causing us to feel more anxious and ruminate more. The fluctuation of these two neurotransmitters causes people to feel infatuated: that’s why we obsess about a new paramour.
While these changes cause powerful feelings for THE ONE person, studies show that people experience love uniquely, says Saltz. “There is no hard and fast rule and no-one-size fits all love," says Saltz.
So it’s entirely possible that Higgins feels the same kind of love for both women.
“There are people who have an incredible capacity for compartmentalization,” Saltz says.
Is it love, lust or like?
Of course, we can't know what Higgins feels deep in his heart. But some people say love when they might mean lust —or really like, saysChristine Whelan, director of the Money, Relationships and Equality initiative at the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“I feel like we are using love … for just about everything. When we talk about love at first sight, that's not real love, you are talking about attraction,” says Whelan.
“The first blush of love is often associated and correlated with lust and that is not going to last.”
She agrees that people can love many people and in different ways. Take a person who realizes she still loves her ex-boyfriend. She’s likely not going to leave her current partner just because she realized she maintains a deep affection for an ex.
“You can love many people. I think you can have different levels of love,” she says. “Can you have super romantic love more than once in your life? Sure.”
Time to choose
For those torn between two loves, decide on one person and commit, Flicker says
After about three to six months, people should have a good understanding of their partners.
At that time, write a pro/con list to chose between the two.
Do you both feel the same way about kids, money, politics or values?
“Truly trust the list. It is pretty much spelled out who you are going to have heartache with” — or who you will have a strong relationship, says Flicker.