Serial Monogamy: How to Break the Cycle

Some people frequently jump from one relationship to another, developing ties that are so fragile they don't last. Does this sound familiar to you? You can find out more here.
Serial Monogamy: How to Break the Cycle
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 12 June, 2023

Some people despair of being single, because they don’t know how to be alone. They’re people who get bored quickly with their partners and don’t tend to stay with someone for more than a year. This form of relational hyperactivity manifests itself in an increasingly common phenomenon called serial monogamy.

The biggest problem with monogamous people who go from one partner to another in a short time is that they usually lead to toxic relationships. So, what lies behind this behavior? The answer usually lies in an attachment problem or emotional immaturity. The good news is that these are treatable clinical realities.

If you identify with this type of behavior or someone close to you does, make sure you read the information in this article carefully.

Serial monogamists move really fast in their relationships. They only need to meet a person to start a life together with them.

Serial monogamy

Serial monogamy defines individuals who move from one relationship to another, leaving them no room to recover from each breakup. Their aim is to avoid loneliness at all costs. Yet, they see themselves as independent and emotionally self-sufficient individuals.

In recent years the terminologies that describe our ways of bonding have increased considerably. Polyamory has been added to serial monogamy, the only difference being that, in the latter, the bond is with one partner at a time.

Serial monogamy isn’t a new phenomenon. Moreover, it’s not only of interest to the field of psychology. In fact, sociology and anthropology view it as part of the evolution of society. Works such as those published in the journal, Evolutionary Anthropology claim that hominids opted for monogamy for raising their children.

Serial monogamy reflects multiple psychosocial and economic factors, typical of cultural changes, mentality, and social institutions.

Upset woman avoids her boyfriend
Falling in love with a monogamist or serial monogamist means facing an unexpected breakup when they’re no longer interested.

Characteristics of the serial monogamist

Being a serial monogamist has consequences. The most obvious is that they’re unable to build satisfactory and lasting relationships. Moreover, falling in love with someone who’s a serial monogamist can be extremely painful. They’re always relationships with an expiration date. And, at the very least, you’ll find yourself quickly replaced.

These are the behaviors of serial monogamists:

  • They find it impossible to be single.
  • They have low self-esteem.
  • They’re extremely emotionally immature.
  • Their relationships usually last around a year or less.
  • Some of them exhibit narcissistic traits.
  • They build relationships with little reciprocity and high selfishness.
  • Some of them may marry, but their marriages are always short-lived.
  • After a breakup, they don’t give themselves time to grieve. Instead, they seek another relationship.
  • They tell their partner they intend to have a solid relationship but this doesn’t happen.
  • They’re extremely quick to start a relationship. In fact, they’ll start a new life with someone they’ve only just met.
  • They have a great fear of abandonment. On the other hand, they’re extremely quick to break up with someone and start a new relationship.

Serial mongamists are often obsessed with experiencing the emotional rush typical of the first phases of falling in love. This prompts them to leave a relationship when they believe the passion is no longer there.

The causes

Serial monogamy encompasses many interesting psychosocial elements. A study published in The Review of Economic Studies claims that the independence of women and their greater economic status today mean they feel freer on an emotional level. As such, they can go from one relationship to another without maintaining exclusivity with one person.

Therefore, equality between genders is a basic factor in this phenomenon. There are also other aspects of interest, such as the following:

  • Serial monogamists are often insecurely attached. Their fear of abandonment drives them to leave before they’re left and to look for new relationships to make them feel safe for a while.
  • The presence of a psychological disorder shouldn’t be ruled out. In fact, clinical conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder often exhibit these characteristics.
  • The sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman, wrote in his book Liquid Love (2018) about liquid relationships. These are fragile ties in which there are no basic skills to care for the commitment and the foundations of the bond. Instead, individualism and the immediate satisfaction of needs prevail.
  • An investigation conducted by the University of Oxford (UK) reports that those who believe in romantic love often experience ‘love addiction’. They’re figures that seek the first phases of relationships when levels of passion, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin are intense. However, when they’re no longer present, they get bored and start new relationships.

Couple enjoys bike ride understanding the meaning of life
Establishing mature and stable ties over time is linked to greater psychological well-being.

Is it necessary to break the cycle of serial monogamy?

There are many types of relationships and each individual finds happiness in a particular way. For instance, some feel fulfilled with polyamory, while others prefer to be single, enjoying themselves and their independence. Any relational option is valid and permissible, as long as the individual feels good and isn’t hurting others.

But, serial monogamy doesn’t fit in with these premises. In fact, serial monogamists often leave victims behind. Moreover, they don’t always find happiness themselves.

As a matter of fact, they tend to end up in harmful relationships, often due to the need to go too fast. They’re always lonely and rarely heal after a separation which leaves them feeling tremendously empty. In these cases, certain therapy is recommended.

When treating the serial monogamist, the therapist should establish what attachment style they exhibit and if they’ve suffered any trauma.

Attachment-based psychological therapy

Serial monogamists need to address their insecurities and fear of loneliness. They must empower themselves in mature and healthy relational competencies. Attachment-based therapy is ideal for addressing these dysfunctional behaviors which lead to unhappiness and cause damage to partners. The objectives of this therapeutic approach are to:

  • Strengthen self-esteem.
  • Detect possible unhealed traumas.
  • Establish the attachment style of the individual.
  • Offer skills in emotional regulation.
  • Improve the way they relate to others.
  • Lead them toward a secure attachment style.
  • Teach them effective management of their needs and feelings.
  • Increase their awareness of rigid mental patterns and irrational beliefs.
  • Give them tools to build full and authentic relationships.

To conclude, the serial monogamist could well be a reflection of a society where ties are fragile and the fear of loneliness and addiction to romantic love is a trap. If you identify with this profile and are experiencing wear and tear and unhappiness in your relationships, don’t hesitate to seek specialized help.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.