The phrase serial monogamist is often tossed around to jokingly describe that friend of yours who always seems to be in a relationship. It’s not just that they stay in one long relationship, it’s that they continuously bounce from one to the next. As it turns out, this is a psychological term for what Harriet Pappenheim, LCSW, BCD, and co-founder of Park Avenue Relationship Consultants describes someone who wants to be faithful to one partner but only until they move on to a new one.
What Is a Serial Monogamist?
A serial monogamist feels most comfortable in committed relationships. They have a series of monogamous relationships and don't take breaks between relationships to be single or to casually date.
But doesn’t this just describe how dating works today? Meaning, we meet someone, we commit to each other for a while, and then we move on when it stops working?
“Remember, not that long ago, a commitment to marriage meant a relationship had to last about 20 to 30 years. Now, as life expectancy has extended, that commitment is twice as long. That scares people,” says psychologist Vivian Diller, Ph.D. It might explain why some people would rather have a string of long-term relationships than invest in one.
On top of longevity, many of the cultural values that fostered monogamy such as religion and family ties are not as impactful today. And, don’t even get us started on the availability of casual dating, thanks to the myriad of dating apps now in play. So if you’re ready to settle down once and for all, what are you to do? Pappenheim and Diller share their insights to help you weed out the serial monogamists from the serious dating candidates.
Here’s how to know if you’re getting involved with a serial monogamist.
They Have a History of Long-Term Relationships
While a serial monogamist likely has never been married or engaged, they do tend to have a history of long-term relationships. “They enjoy deepening a relationship and getting close with others, rather than keeping things casual and light,” Diller explains. This doesn’t mean you should jump ship anytime you’re with someone who has had multiple previous serious relationships, but the experts recommend being wary of a pattern of temporary commitment.
They Lack Independence
Pappenheim says that living with parents or with multiple roommates may be a sign of a serial monogamist. While living with roommates is often required when living in a big city with skyrocketing rent prices, if you’re dating someone who lives at home or with too many roommates, this could be a red flag. “[It’s] as if they were still in college,” says Pappenheim. A person who is looking to settle down likely doesn’t need their parents to support them or multiple roommates to make rent and keep them entertained.
They Show No Interest in Meeting Your Family
Diller suggests that serial monogamists tend to have strong family ties of their own, but your significant other should also have an interest in your family and personal relationships. Pappenheim lists a lack of interest in meeting their partner’s family as one sign that might make you question your partner’s intentions.
They Are Unconcerned with Your Relationship History
If you’re seeing someone who has little interest in learning about your past relationships, they might be a serial monogamist. “They are on a superficial ride,” says Pappenheim. Part of being in a meaningful relationship is understanding your partner’s past and learning from it as you move toward a future together. Someone who doesn’t care to learn about what you’ve been through may not be ready for the long term.
If you’re seeing someone who has little interest in learning about your past relationships, they might be a serial monogamist.
Their Goals are Exclusively Career-Oriented
There is nothing wrong with being driven and passionate about your career. However, the issue here stems from a lack of interest in other parts of life besides work. According to Pappenheim, a serial monogamist is likely to only discuss career goals, not goals about family or more personal aspirations. “They talk about the future, but with that awareness, there are challenges ahead,” says Diller.
They Are Indifferent to Your Opinions
One sign you can look out for is if your partner is uninterested in your views. If they don’t seem to care about your opinions on politics, religion, or any topic that is of importance to you, you might question their intentions. Your values are what make you who you are, and it’s important to find a partner who engages with you in these subjects and cares about what you think.
They Get Caught up in the Moment
Pappenheim and Diller both suggest that a serial monogamist tends to bring intensity and passion for a time, but that this will not last. “Although they may be very seductive, sensual, and intimate, it goes no further than the temporary romance,” Pappenheim says. Of course, passion and intensity are essential to a relationship, but it can be problematic if this is the only grounding of your relationship when you’re looking for someone who’s in it for the long haul. “They bring an intensity to current relationships that are enjoyable while it lasts, but it is often unsustainable, so they move on,” Diller explains.
Passion and intensity are essential to a relationship, but it can be problematic if this is the only grounding of your relationship.
Jones RE, Lopez KH. The Human Sexual Response. Human Reproductive Biology (Fourth Edition). Academic Press. 2014;135-157. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-382184-3.00008-8