While apps may make it easier than ever to meet and hook-up with any and every one to find a good match, to have casual fun, or to go out for a little while and then part amicably, that isn’t always the case. If we talk enough about people who are out every weekend on dates with someone new then perhaps we don’t talk enough about people who can’t seem to be alone—who are rarely, if ever, not in a relationship. We call these kinds of people serial monogamists. (We’ll use monogamy here lightly because I’m sure the poly folks can also be serial as well). By definition, what this refers to is a person who habitually falls into a series of often long-term relationships, for better or for worse.
In some ways, I still fit this definition. Out of the small number of people I’ve dated, most of my time has been spent in long-term commitments. Until recently, like many serial monogamists, I jumped from relationship to relationship. After spending a few years on my own and building my individuality, however, I’ve found that the need for a relationship isn’t the same as it was.
But what are some of these signs?
- Most of your relationships are committed and may be long-term. If you’re uncomfortable with casual dating, hook-up culture, or prefer to have a “label” then those may be signs that you like the security of an established relationship. Additionally, if most of your past relationships have lasted longer than six months (or years) without a more serious commitment (like marriage) then you may prefer the known rather than the unknown. For example, until recently, the longest I’d dated someone without a relationship was three weeks. And I leaned more into the years-long commitments when it came to my serial habits. The key thing here is knowing the difference between when you are genuinely happy in a committed relationship and when you’re simply in a relationship to be in one.
- You can’t be alone. Now, this can stem from many things but it’s inherently a fear of being by yourself. So what happens is we jump from one relationship back into that dating pool and find someone else as quick as possible for the next commitment and rinse, repeat. This doesn’t leave much time in between to grieve the previous partner or to tap into your inner psyche. This ends up making most relationships a bit superficial. Until recently, the longest I’d been ‘alone’ was almost a year and, even then, I was going on dates and was so focused on the next relationship that it wasn’t healthy. Which lead to what can often be a pitfall of serial monogamists—codependency. If you’re afraid to be alone out of a relationship then there’s a chance you won’t want to be alone even when you’re in one and this can lead to toxic situations. So I recommend taking time to be in a relationship with yourself, and the rest will eventually come whenever it does.
- You understand relationships better than the casual daters. This is a pro of being with someone in a long-term commitment. You understand that one fight does not mean the end of a relationship. You know how to compromise and collaborate. You know how to communicate, or what works best for you. Maybe you even know your love language. These are all great qualities to bring into any relationship and, for the casual dater, maybe these are things they’re not used to in a partner. You are someone who knows how to care (and care deeply) and commit. Now, you may also know the downsides too: your boundaries, red flags, “baggage”, etc. If you have spent time with another person—even lived with them—then you’re prepared to repeat it. The experience won’t be the same, but you know the general gist and you’re more ready to negotiate or find ways to work together rather than arguing over every little thing.
Not everyone wants to date a serial monogamist—some of us find that the ultimate commitment is a step too far, and others have an idealized version of love in their heads that can never, ultimately, be met. However, for people who find that their dating habits land them in the serial and codependent territory, there are plenty of resources to learn how to be alone, to set boundaries, to work your way into a relationship that will, in the end, be a healthy commitment you’re ready for.
In the end, it’s all about breaking the cycle.