The Perils of Serial Monogamy

“We stick with monogamy because it’s as far from danger as can be. Humans largely rely on it because of the certainty and security it presents.” / Published in the March 2019 YM Issue

“We stick with monogamy because it’s as far from danger as can be. Humans largely rely on it because of the certainty and security it presents.” / Published in the March 2019 YM Issue

We are leaving the season of coupling up behind and transiting to the period of literal and figurative romantic blossoming. Now it’s time to question whether our winter-era mindset of monogamy has left us ready for the potential dates to come. 

Monogamy is the practice of pursuing one relationship at a time. For those who loathe the over-glamorized period of casual dating between relationships, serial monogamy is the answer. In an effort to leave as little time as possible between being in love, serial monogamists find a new “forever” romantic partner the minute they stop crying from the last one.

We stick with monogamy because it’s as far from danger as can be. Humans largely rely on it because of the certainty and security it presents. According to Psychology Today, being in a romantic relationship allows people to devote their “resources,” like time, energy, and focus, on other things that are important. When we don’t have to dedicate hours in a day to invent witty texts to send to our Tinder matches or go on dates that sadly may amount to nothing, there’s more time to work on ourselves––our skills, our habits, and our passions. 

I’m a serial monogamist myself. On the surface, the classification seems romantic and almost noble, where the individual is committed to an endless quest to find “the one.” Though I am lovingly fulfilled in my current relationship, serial monogamy has posed an undeniable threat to my emotional stability and the strength of my romantic connections. 

Kayla Randolph, a freshman writing, literature, and publishing major, said long-term relationships can drain a person’s trust in others. “After giving so much of yourself to one person, to all of a sudden not have that anymore, it does mess with your head a little bit. They know all these things about you, and then you’re just not together anymore,” says Randolph. 

Serial monogamists rarely give themselves enough time to emotionally recover from the psychological entanglement that is ended a long-term relationship. Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a psychologist who spoke to Women’s Health Magazine, says that “without self-reflection, healing, and growth, most people continue to repeat their pattern in subsequent relationships.” People who don’t mentally remove themselves from past relationships before moving on are likely to make the same mistakes with future partners. 

Jumping from relationship to relationship doesn’t allow us to separate specific qualities from a partner. Before planning an elaborate wedding in my head with the next boy, I have to take the time to not let memories from the first hurt. Our emotional attachment to individuals linger, and this stops us from being able to determine which characteristics we dislike to begin with. As a result, serial monogamists like me never decipher what they want and need out of a significant other. 

Freshman writing, literature, and publishing major Audrey Iocca said people can only figure out what they want in a partner when they take time to figure out themselves. “There is a point in life where you need to be able to be by yourself and understand who you are as a person without being in a relationship,” says Iocca.

On top of all that, our dreams of a monogamous haven are not normal in the natural world. According to an article in the New York Times, only 9 percent of mammal species on Earth stay together for more than one breeding season and even fewer bond for life. Though it’s common knowledge people need social interaction and affection, there’s no natural law that limits us to one person. 

Dani Jean-Baptiste, a sophomore theatre and performance major, said humans have normalized themselves into a cycle of monogamy, not because they truly want or need it. 

“It’s been perpetuated by humans as a civilization for an extended period of time,” says Jean-Baptiste. “We believe we aren’t equipped for polygamy.”

In fact, this unspoken one-person-for-a-lifetime restriction has sometimes been used as a tool of gendered oppression. Society expects women of “marrying age” to be serial monogamists and often shame them if they choose to divulge in the pleasures of casual dating. This is one of the reason serial monogamy is not always a fierce, personal choice, but a subconscious discard of independence. 

It’s becoming more widely accepted that casual dating and hooking up is truly a feminist power move. An article in the Scientific American series, Feministing Friday, even proves these casual dating strategies lead to finding the one more quickly. Individuals can see more of their options early on, rather than naively believing their early loves are their forevers. And even more important than that, as a serial monogamist who has never explored the realm of quick dates, cheap dinners, and constant flirting, this lifestyle seems fun and worth pursuing––even if it’s just for a little while. 

“It’s undeniable that monogamy is not the perfect answer,” says Iocca. “We have to remember it’s not all we have.”