Serial Monogamist? Definition, Signs, and Breaking the Cycle

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My brother always seems to be in one relationship after the other. He falls quickly, hard, and then suddenly “hits the road.”

One of the really nice ladies he’d been in a relationship with was a psychologist, and I was desperate to find out why he left her just because the relationship hit a rough patch. She explained he was a serial monogamist

In a moment of desperation, I wondered if this was the same as a serial killer.

Thankfully, it’s not. It just boils down to him being a commitment phobe (in that he doesn’t stay around when things get rough) and not able to survive on his own and without romance

For him, the idea of being in love is more important than the reality of what love is. Do you know someone who is like this? Or do you identify as someone who enters relationship after relationship with no time to reflect?   

What Is a Serial Monogamist? 

A serial monogamist is someone who’s always in a romantic relationship. However, when the relationship doesn’t work for them anymore or it becomes too difficult to maintain, they jump ship.

They often quickly and impulsively leave their romantic partner. And soon afterward, they have a new romantic partner.  

Their relationships can be long-term ones or short-lived ones, but the determining factor that makes this person a serial monogamist is that they are rarely – if ever – truly single. 

It’s normal for people to take a break in between relationships to mend their broken heart and get over their ex. But a serial monogamist prefers to find a new partner ASAP and start a committed relationship.

They never process their breakups, and it may seem like the end of a relationship doesn’t matter to them. 

Serial monogamy, also called perpetual monogamy, is a colloquial term, so there are no fixed guidelines on when someone is actually a serial monogamist – that is, how many relationships they need to have had.

There are various famous perpetual monogamists

  • Jennifer Lopez
  • Justin Timberlake 
  • Taylor Swift 
  • George Clooney 
  • Kim Kardashian 
  • Daniel Radcliffe 
  • Elizabeth Taylor 
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor 
  • Mickey Rooney 
  • Cole Sprouse

Serial dating and serial monogamy are quite similar. However, a serial dater jumps from one date to the next without committing or they may date several people simultaneously. 

Possible Causes of Serial Monogamy 

Serial monogamy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A serial monogamist may genuinely care and love their romantic partner, but because they can’t be single, they quickly start a new relationship. 

However, it can also be non-ideal if the perpetual monogamist jumps the relationship because they don’t want to stick around and prefer the honeymoon phases of relationships over the “when it gets real and challenging” parts.   

There are a few possible causes of serial monogamy: 

  • Scared to commit 
  • Low or non-existent self-esteem 
  • Childhood trauma  
  • Self-sabotage 
  • Thinking in black and white 
  • Being a perfectionist 
  • Having a mental health disorder, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

9 Signs That Someone Is a Serial Monogamist 

Here are the signs if you suspect you may be a serial monogamist or if you think you may be dating one.  

1. Extensive History of Long-Term Relationships

While a serial monogamist is someone who loves to love. They dive in and seek to be in a long-term relationship, but while they may have been in previous relationships that stretched over years, they could struggle with temporary commitment

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Those who date continually are not so much interested in real connection with the person they are in a relationship with as they are enamored by the romance of being in one.

The perpetual monogamist is head-over-heels for their partner, but it applies to each partner. So while they are committed for the duration of the relationship, they do this for each relationship. It’s when the relationship hits rough water that they bail. 

2. They Move Quickly

My brother has had so many girlfriends that I concluded early on that he was a perpetual dater. He would move from seeing a woman for the first time to dating her seriously within the space of a heartbeat.

Instead of this being about hitting home base, it has always been about him not wanting to be alone

Serial monogamists have an insecure attachment style. While they quickly form attachments and date, they don’t really believe their partner will stay with them, which is why they “leave before being left.” They always have one foot out the door.  

Fearing being alone, the serial dater will quickly ask you to move in, and you’ll even notice there are signs of their previous partner in their homes.

These signs (a shirt, some bubble bath, or even a lipstick) indicate how short the interval between their relationships has been. There’s never alone time for the serial dater, as they don’t want to be alone.

3. No Dating Downtime

Psychologists usually advise that you take a pause to reflect and think between relationships.

It’s wise to have some dating downtime, so you can reaffirm your relationship with yourself. Jumping into the next relationship while your shoes are still in the previous one is unhealthy. 

An extreme form of a perpetual monogamist is someone who has one night stands that turn into a week-long fling, but when they end it, they’re already clearing out their partner’s bedside table for the next fling. 

These daters also have unrealistic expectations of wanting to get married within a month of meeting their next partner.

For them, the idea is always to move forward to the next relationship stage, but they end up bailing and not following through on the real side of a committed relationship. 

You’ll also hear their friends and family talk of how many partners they have had and how they are never single.

While this may not be a deal-breaker, it should be a warning that your perpetual monogamist partner has never been alone and, therefore, never really developed a sense of who they are without a partner.  

If you worry that your perpetual romance partner is into quickie-relationships, don’t be. The serial monogamist has every intention of their relationship to be long-lasting.

They hate the idea of breaking up or just doing it as a fling. But they feel that way about every relationship they’ve had.

4. Romance Is King

Those who date continually are not so much interested in real connection with the person they are in a relationship with as they are enamored by the romance of being in one. Essentially, they are in love with love

So, when they find someone new to romance, they may start neglecting their family and friends, choosing to focus all their attention and affection on the new “toy.”

If their romantic partner satisfies their needs, the perpetual monogamist may become dependent on that person to feel good. This codependent type of relationship isn’t healthy.  

While romance may feel good to both people in a relationship, the one who is obsessed with having that “in-love” feeling will not necessarily reciprocate.

Instead, they design interactions so you can meet their needs to belong, while they get to offer you scraps from the table of love. 

5. Clingy and Needy All the Time

We are individuals who come together for relationships and social exchange. But when your potential partner is constantly surrounded by people, it could indicate they are clingy and constantly need to feel loved. 

You can see this type of codependent monogamy in people who live with people around them all the time, and it indicates they can’t meet their own needs as they are clingy.

This neediness can follow them into a romantic relationship, leaving you with big shoes to fill to meet their constant need for affection. 

The result is that they depend on you for everything, from decisions to entertainment, affection, and connection.  

6. Your Family Don’t Matter

In a safe relationship, your partner will want to meet your family and get to know them as your family is likely part of who you are.

However, perpetual monogamists don’t have as much interest in understanding and embracing that side of you.

Instead, they may even seek to isolate you and manipulate you so they can thrive in the glow of your romance. 

Perpetual romantics can easily become narcissistic in their manipulations, ensuring they have a new shiny toy that can lift them up in life’s roller coaster.  

7. Your Exes Are Irrelevant

Nobody wants their past relationships to be a constant topic of discussion, but your partner should show some interest in who you dated and how this impacted you.

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Clear sign of a perpetual dater is that they’ve been engaged multiple times, perhaps even married a couple of times, and they are never single.  

Yet, a perpetual monogamist will have no interest in who came before. Instead, they are only focused on the now and your romantic relationship with them. 

Their connection is based on getting maximum love and affection and that reflects they have little interest in forming a deeper relationship and building a future that acknowledges your past.  

8. I Do, I Do, I Do

Most people will only get engaged a few times, and usually, this leads to marriage. However, a constant dater thinks each relationship they get into has to end in “I do.”

When a perpetual romantic has you on their radar, they probably already have the wedding day in mind

It’s all about the romance, big weddings, the honeymoon, and starting life together. However, they aren’t there when life gets boring or challenging.

So a clear sign of a perpetual dater is that they’ve been engaged multiple times, perhaps even married a couple of times, and they are never single.  

Their expectation that “Hi, how are you?” ends in “I do,” is often what leads to a relationship ending before they get to the altar. 

9. They’re Not Widowers or Widows

Death and dying is far from romantic, no matter what the movies say. So if your partner has been married more than once but has never lost a spouse due to death, then they are perpetual monogamists.  

Since marriage is the real goal of romance, they will leave a partner who is dying as this doesn’t fit their narrative. Remember, for them, it’s a case of “I’ll leave them before they leave me.” 

How to Break the Cycle: An Action Plan to Stop Being a Serial Monogamist 

Serial monogamy can be unhealthy because: 

  • Your relationships may not be genuine or fulfilling 
  • You can’t be alone and use the joy and honeymoon phase of new relationships to mask underlying issues 
  • You never grieve past relationships, which can cause problems – eventually  
  • You neglect your other relationships with your friends and family

It’s essential to break the serial monogamy pattern. But how? 

Use this action plan to break the cycle of perpetual monogamy: 

Step 1: Identify You Are a Serial Monogamist  

You can’t work on a problem if you don’t know it exists. So take a moment to evaluate how many of the signs of serial monogamy resonate with you and evaluate your past relationships. 

Remember to be honest; no one is judging you for admitting your truth. 

Ask yourself

  • How many relationships have you had? 
  • How truly invested were you in these relationships and romantic partners? 
  • Why did the relationship end? 
  • Did you grieve the breakup? 
  • How long after one relationship ends before you are neck deep into another relationship? And how long before the end of a relationship before you start looking for a new girlfriend or boyfriend? 
  • Have you ever been single? For how long?
  • Do you enjoy your own company?

Your answers will reveal whether you are a perpetual monogamist and whether you need to move to step 2. 

Step 2: Choose to Improve 

You’ve realized that you are a perpetual monogamist, and now it’s time to make a conscious decision to improve. To turn your life around will take a lot of hard work, and it’s something you’ll need to work on continuously.

Part of choosing to improve is also taking stock of your current relationship and deciding whether you want to foster a deeper and more meaningful connection with your current beau instead of ditching them and shacking up with someone new.  

Step 3: Be Single 

If your current relationship isn’t working out (for whatever reason but not because you are choosing to take the easy exit), make a pact with yourself to be single. Choose singlehood for at least three to six months before you get back on the horse.  

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A therapist can help you determine whether you are rushing into one romantic relationship after the after. 

Delete online dating apps, don’t say yes to blind dates, and don’t think about asking out the cute guy or lady at your local coffee shop. 

Listen to podcasts like A Single Thing and Solo: The Single Person’s Guide to a Remarkable Life to help you enjoy the single life

Step 4: Work on Yourself, Get to Know You, and Deal with Your Baggage  

Use the time you aren’t in a relationship to work on your self-development and self-awareness and heal

Figure out what unresolved feelings you have, what past traumas you have to accept and let go of, and what you really want out of life and love. Work through why you struggle to be single and begin to enjoy your own company. 

Meditate, practice mindfulness, journal, be grateful, do solo hobbies, and find your ikigai and self-worth. Make time for your family and friendships, and surround yourself with non-romantic interests who are healthy for you.   

Focus on learning healthy communication, listening, and relational skills, set and enforce boundaries, and improve your self-esteem. 

Step 5: See a Mental Health Professional 

You may not need this step, but there’s nothing wrong in seeking professional help. A therapist can help you determine whether you are rushing into one romantic relationship after the after. 

They can also help you deal with past trauma, unresolved feelings, and figure out why you don’t like spending time by yourself.

Final Thoughts about a Serial Monogamist 

After learning what a serial monogamist is, I realized my brother is into perpetual dating. He had never been single and he was so clingy, which were clear indications he was incapable of real relationship commitment.

Instead, he quickly became serious about each lady he dated, and he even got engaged to three of them but then broke it off when the wedding planning got intense. 

I considered whether I had ever dated someone who was never single, and I saw a few warning flags.

While it may sound great that a perpetual monogamist doesn’t usually cheat on their partner and is ready to jump into an “I do” partnership within a few days of meeting you, the truth is ugly.

A perpetual monogamist will woo you, romance you, and seem like the best partner you could wish for. When it gets tough or reality becomes too much, they will leave you hanging and find someone else. 

Perhaps you’re a serial monogamist? Are you ready to learn how to really invest in a relationship? Then learn how to commit to a relationship with yourself by reading our guide on remaining single.

And if you're looking for more articles on relationships, be sure to check out these blog posts:

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