We all know someone who is always in a relationship. Whether he or she has had one serious partner after another or a flavor of the week for the past 52 weeks, this person never stays single for long. Serial monogamists, as they have come to be called, move from one relationship to another with very little time being single in between. Some serial monogamists even have their next relationships lined up before they let their current partners down gently (or not-so-gently: break-up style is one thing not consistent among serial monogamists).
We would be remiss to exclude that the notion of serial monogamy has several socio-cultural iterations. In some societies, the ‘monogamy’ part of serial monogamy deals strictly with marriages (as opposed to polygamous marriages), where as in other American societies, most notably in urban and greater metropolitan areas, this pattern starts with premarital dating and often begins as early as junior high school. This article addresses the latter example, albeit focusing on daters a bit older than thirteen- say, late teens and onward.
Regardless of how their relationships end, these daters seem committed to their partners when they are together. But how can they move from one partner to another so seamlessly? Is it the relationship they want, or is it the person? Are serial monogamists in love with the partners they have, or are they simply in love with love?
Science has often claimed the latter, with evolutionists even positing that monogamy is not a natural phenomenon among humans. If this is true, that it is not natural for us to be in love with and stay with one person for the whole of our lives, then we could assume that serial monogamists are indeed in love with being in love, however shortly that feeling lasts with one particular person.
Dr. Aaron Ben-Zeév agrees. In his article Is Serial Monogamy Worth Pursuing?, he states, “In this increasingly popular romantic pattern, people still believe in some moderate form of ideal love, but give up their basic pretense that it should last forever. The beloved is still regarded to be unique, but in many cases he is not so for the rest of our life. Serial monogamy is becoming the most popular dating pattern in the US” (Ben-Zeév, 2008).
The team of researchers behind WiseGeek supports this opinion in an article by Gary Crystal titled What is a Serial Monogamist, saying, “The serial monogamist will seemingly form what looks like a lasting commitment to one person, but the commitment is usually only superficial. Some serial monogamists are incapable of commitment for a long period of time” (Crystal, 2012). So, even though these daters know, deep down, that their current relationships will not last forever, it does not stop them from romanticizing a connection while they have it.
So what is behind a serial monogamist’s ability (or perhaps need) to go from one relationship to another, with no apparent time to breathe? Researchers have found that fear of commitment. Wait, what? On the surface, it seems odd that someone who seems to crave the shallow security that comes with having a significant other would be afraid of commitment.
The catch is that what they are really looking for may be perfection, something that they can obviously never acquire. Researchers explain, “Fear of commitment and perfectionism play a large part in the serial monogamist’s thinking. Childhood influences also a play a large part. Bad role models from parents give serial monogamists an inherent fear of commitment…If the partnership begins to show problems similar to those witnessed in childhood, then it will no longer mirror the ideal the serial monogamist has in his or her head” (Crystal, 2012). And then it is on to the next.
The danger of this dating pattern has to do not only with serial monogamists’ unrealistic expectations, but also with their experiences in these dime-a-dozen relationships. The number of options that serial monogamists see on their dating horizon fuels a need for immediate gratification that could translate into complications in other areas of their lives, like work or even child rearing.
By constantly switching out their partners for the latest models, serial monogamists are pulling the plug on their relationships at perhaps the most pivotal moment. When they are confronted with their partners’ personal pitfalls or quirks, that is the time to cooperate, learn some give and take, and accept their partners’ realistic love rather than dismiss them at the first signs of imperfection. Serial monogamists could be in danger of not learning how to let a relationship develop over time, not learning to receive the love their partner has to offer and never experiencing a deeper connection with someone whose faults they accept.
Written by Dr.Sam Von Reiche and Janel Abrahami