Serial Monogamy: Signs and How to Break the Cycle

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Serial monogamy is the practice of moving from one longer-term sexual partner to another. A serial monogamist could have lots of relationships that last only a short time or several relationships that last a year or more.

For example, some serial monogamists may date a series of people one after another, each for a few weeks or months at a time. Others may date someone for a longer period of time but find themselves struggling to stay single when they break up.

Signs of a Serial Monogamist

Monogamists are exclusively with one person at a time, but they often take time between relationships to grieve and get over the situation when it ends. On the other hand, a serial monogamist is with one person at a time, but they rarely take time to grieve and get over the situation. Instead they jump back into dating before they have time to process their break up.

Signs of a serial monogamist include:

  • Relationships progress quickly from casual to serious
  • There isn’t much of a gap between relationships
  • They get to the serious stage of a relationship before getting to know their new partner
  • They are preoccupied with love
  • Friends and family members say that a serial monogamist is never single

All serial monogamists may not be unhealthy, and many people go through periods of serial monogamy from time to time. In addition, people who are serial monogamists do marry and may have long-term relationships.

However, if you always want to start a new relationship as soon as possible instead of stopping to mourn the end of your last relationship, there may be something problematic at play.

Causes of Serial Monogamy

Serial monogamy may be due to a variety of issues, from empowering to more worrisome. While some people may consider their ability to leave and find another partner a sign of having control over their lives, others may see finding someone new as more of a necessity due to an attachment disorder or mental health issue.

Causes of serial monogamy include:

Equality Between Genders

Economists studying marriage institutions have noted that as females have become wealthier, more serial monogamy is taking place. So as women have gained more power from their ability to control their circumstances, they have found they are able to leave their relationships and find new ones.

Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues may be to blame for serial monogamy. Disorders, such as borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, which cause a person to require high levels of attention and support, are often to blame.

Attachment Disorders

Children who grow up without parents who can consistently meet their needs may become worried about being abandoned. This creates an attachment style in adulthood that is insecure and wants to keep people around as much as possible, sometimes leading to serial monogamy.

Are There Benefits to Serial Monogamy?

In the research literature about serial monogamy, there has been debate about the potential reproductive benefits. In the Unites States, men had 19% more children with three or more consecutive spouses than men who had only one partner. Other research has shown fertility benefits for women who have long-term partners.

Harmful Serial Monogamy

Despite the possible healthy consequences of serial monogamy, this pattern of relationships could also be a red flag. If the individual rushes into a relationship, doesn’t like when you recoil at their request for exclusivity very early in the relationship, or has been engaged or married multiple times but never lost their partners to death, these are red flags of a serial monogamist and they may end up causing harm.

For example, while the partner is looking forward to the future of the relationship, the serial monogamist will be looking for greener pastures once the newness fades and/or new difficulties emerge. The breakup may leave the partner emotionally devastated.

The serial monogamist is at risk too because they may find they’ve made quick decisions about their relationship that ultimately don’t help them. They may make rash choices to change locations or leave a job for a relationship, and when the relationship eventually ends they may find they have to pick up the pieces of their life.

How to Break the Cycle of Serial Monogamy

While all serial monogamy may not be a problem, if you feel bad about being single or never stay in a relationship for very long before moving to the next one, it may be a sign of an attachment disorder. To break the cycle, first think about your behavior and where it comes from. And then attempt to develop the emotional skills that can help you feel better about being alone for longer periods of time, or identify the relationship patterns that are preventing you from staying in one relationship on a more permanent basis.

You may want to consult a mental health professional to do this. Having a relationship with a good therapist may help you conquer attachment issues and develop new, healthier patterns in relationships. And if you’re not sure if you’re a serial monogamist, a therapist can help you with that issue as well. Either way, you can learn new relationship skills and set boundaries that will help you improve your romantic relationships.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Cynthia Vinney, PhD
Cynthia Vinney, PhD is an expert in media psychology and a published scholar whose work has been published in peer-reviewed psychology journals.