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-   -   Serial Monogamy (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=24353)

MeeraReed 06-02-2012 03:46 AM

Serial Monogamy
I'm confused about what people mean when they say "serial monogamy."

I first heard the term in the context of therapy/advice columns, referring to a fairly common phenomenon: people whose only dating style is to have long-term, monogamous relationships. When one relationship ends, the "serial monogamist" starts another right away (sometimes leaving the first relationship for another, but not always). Maybe the relationships last about two years each and end just at the verge of marriage.

Sometimes people who do this for many years feel that it is making them unhappy. Often they realize they never got to know who they are when not in a relationship. If someone recognizes that this is their pattern, the advice they are given is to consider being single for longer, to learn to enjoy being single/alone, and/or to try dating more casually while "in between" relationships rather than rushing to commit.

However, lately I've been hearing people use the phrase "serial monogamy" to refer to a totally different thing: having a series of short-term relationships, for example, a pattern of dating someone for 2-3 months then dropping them to date someone else.

Some people (perhaps lots of people) do indeed do this, but I don't think that's what the term "serial monogamy" was coined to mean.

The first kind of serial monogamy is for people who genuinely like being monogamous & committed, at least for a while, and hate being alone; but the second use of the term seems to be for people who are not interested in monogamy but simply don't like their lovers to overlap, or who can't handle emotional commitment but only date one person at a time.

I'm not sure why it bothers me that the term is used for two wildly different dating habits, but it does bother me.

Also, both definitions of "serial monogamy" have negative connotations, right? Do you think that's fair? I'm sure almost everyone has been a serial monogamist at some point in their life.

And, for a related topic: in what ways could polyamory be related to either type of serial monogamy?

I could see either "type" of serial monogamists discovering polyamory and feeling that it might work better than the way they've been doing things.

Tonberry 06-02-2012 10:56 AM

Technically, serial monogamy is what most monogamous people do: being monogamous to one person at a time, but not one person their whole life. If you look at biology, they call monogamous the species that mate for life (only one parter) and serial monogamous those that pair up, but whose pairs can change along their lives.

But with what is called "serial monogamy" with other species being pretty much the norm for humans, and people calling it simply "monogamy", the term serial monogamy has been kind of re-purposed to meaning someone who has a quicker succession of partners. A way to have several partners without having them at the same time, if you will.
Depending on who you ask, "quick succession" could mean every few months, or it could mean every few years. There is really no rule.

The fact is that these people are serial monogamists, since they have several monogamous relationships over their lifetime. But it has been used a lot for people who are sometimes considered to refuse commitment, or not want to settle down, or whatever.

In truth, it doesn't really matter why people have the partners they have, provided they are honest about it. As a result, I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of "serial monogamist" ever being used as an insult.

drtalon 06-02-2012 11:08 AM

When people say 'serial monogamy' I think they mean this.


Klayton 06-02-2012 11:52 AM

I think the factor that makes a person's behaviour into "serial monogamy" rather than "what most monogamous people do" is the lack of a gap between relationships. So someone who spent very little time being single in between a series of monogamous relationships would probably be looked on as a "serial monogamist" whereas someone who spent a few months to a few years being single in between relationships would probably be looked as "normal".

I do get the sense that it's used in a negative fashion, though I don't see anything terribly negative about it. I've often (sadly) encountered the perception that if you start a relationship very soon after a previous relationship ends there's something not quite right about you. Whether that's an inability to settle down or a unacceptable desire for a relationship in your life. It's all rather judgemental, I feel.

opalescent 06-02-2012 06:52 PM

You know I expected better from Depp.

Tonberry 06-02-2012 07:03 PM

It disappoints me a little bit, but it's the kind of things I would say, too. That or "if you hesitate between two people you love, go with neither, because if you were truly in love there would be no hesitation between two people, so obviously you don't actually love either".

It's the kind of things that are drilled into us from the get go, and with the majority of people actually working that way, I can understand why he would think and say that.
It's sad, but it's not unexpected. Only more knowledge and visibility of polyamory will change things like this.

feelyunicorn 06-03-2012 12:39 PM


Originally Posted by opalescent (Post 138191)
You know I expected better from Depp.

lol! Me too, but not really. :o


Originally Posted by MeeraReed (Post 138119)
However, lately I've been hearing people use the phrase "serial monogamy" to refer to a totally different thing: having a series of short-term relationships, for example, a pattern of dating someone for 2-3 months then dropping them to date someone else.

I have never linked serial monogamy to the length of a relationship, only to boundaries. Doing so would give the nod to the length=depth of feeling equation, a view that I`m very much qualmish about.

nycindie 06-03-2012 10:27 PM

I've always been confused by the negative connotation I've heard or seen attached to the term, usually by very vocal poly people who consider themselves "relationship anarchists" or poly activists. Those polier than thou types. I used the term a few times when I first learned it, before I actually understood what it meant and then realized that people use it as a put-down. I think it's a stupid term, anyway. If you desire only in one relationship at a time, or are only comfortable with such, then your relationships are monogamous. To me, it doesn't matter how long they are or how quickly one starts another after one ends.

BrigidsDaughter 06-05-2012 01:04 AM

I've actually heard that he didn't really say that. They are just attributing it to him for publicity. But who knows?

Jericka 06-05-2012 02:19 AM

I never attached any negative connotation to the term "serial monogamy."

I just thought that that was what I did before I discovered polyamory was an option. Really. I had to have a discovery moment:"OH! I could totally do that, and I think it would be better!"

For me, serial monogamy means instead of having one pair bond for life, like my sister in law who married my brother just out of high school and looks to not be interested in ever pairing off again, I tended to have one monogamous relationship at a time, and would pair up again after that relationship ended. So, there wasn't any connection in my mind with how long or serious the relationship was, it was serial monogamy because whether I dated a guy for 6 months or married him, I only had one pair type relationship at a time.

I happen to like poly better, now, but, I really was unaware of it as an option for me for waaaaayy too long.

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