A lot of “I love you’s” were exchanged on last night’s episode of The Bachelor. But was there a lot of love? This week featured the highly anticipated Fantasy Suites, where Arie Luyendyk Jr. took the three remaining contestants on overnight dates for more “alone time.” If you haven’t seen the episode yet, take this as a formal warning that there are spoilers ahead.
By his third date, Luyendyk had broken the No. 1 rule: He told two women he was in love with them. Not crushing, not falling (though that is what he told Kendall Long), but in love. Long was sent home, and now Becca Kufrin and Lauren Burnham are the final two. They both think they’ve found the love of their lives. Needless to say, Bachelor Nation was reeling.
But what’s Arie thinking? We needed to know how (and if) it’s possible for a person to fall in love with two (or three) women at the same time. Thankfully, two relationship experts provided insight.
“Technically, yes, you can fall in love with more than one person,” Marissa Nelson, a marriage and family therapist, tells Health. “But to be in love with multiple people simultaneously—that’s a different story.”
Nelson says Luyendyk is in what she calls the “infatuation” stage of romance, when everything is new and exciting (a word this bachelor can’t seem to get enough of). “At the start of the infatuation phase, it is a chemically driven connection,” she says. “The brain is producing large amounts of hormones, like pleasure-inducing dopamine and testosterone.”
Sex therapist Holly Richmond, PhD, shares similar sentiments. “Polyamory is based romantically and erotically on loving more than one person at a time, and it’s absolutely possible,” Richmond says. “I’d say that Arie is experiencing either deep affection or lust for the three women, or both of those feelings simultaneously. It’s amazing how lust can be interpreted as love.”
By the three-month mark, Nelson says couples transition to the “attachment” phase, and they start feeling a sense of companionship that goes beyond physical attraction. Nelson says this is when couples begin to fall in love and exchange sincere “I love you’s.” That’s vastly different than the nine weeks it took Arie to say them.
“For most people, love is more about a deep knowing, feeling safe and understood, and having secure attachment,” Richmond says. “There is no way Arie has created secure attachment with any of the women at this point—he just hasn’t had enough time! I admire his enthusiasm, though.”
As we prepare for the two-night finale next week, we can only guess which woman Luyendyk gets down on one knee for—and if they can move into a loving (and enduring) attachment phase.