The Happy Trail

The Intimacy Chase: Is Serial Monogamy Helpful or Harmful? 

Maybe it's time to delete those dating apps from your phone and learn how to break the serial monogamy cycle. Photo Credit: Juliescribbles, CC BY-SA 4.0

By Frannie Edwards-Hughes 

  Being a serial monogamist is often viewed in a negative light and carries unfavorable connotations, but is serial monogamy necessarily a bad thing? Most people hold the general understanding that a serial monogamist is someone who goes from one relationship to the next very quickly. Serial monogamy has become the norm for many young adults and college students across the world as hookup culture, dating apps, and just casual dating in general have grown in popularity. However, people’s opinions vary greatly on whether serial monogamy is harmful or not.

  Puget Sound student Lucia Prentiss (‘27) calls herself a serial monogamist, someone who moves from one relationship to the next very quickly. She feels like being a serial monogamist “has been fulfilling, but that doesn’t mean it has a positive impact in the long run.” She holds the common opinion that though the quick turnover of serial monogamy may feel right in the moment, it will likely result in a lot of guilt from hurting your partners and not giving yourself time to process breakups. Prentiss elaborates on the issues with not giving herself time to recover from relationships, saying, “what ends up happening is that once you break up with the next person, you’re going to be going back three breakups ago or two breakups ago and finally processing that. And then you’re processing two breakups at once and it’s like, whoa. And then you’re even more like, ‘oh, well I need to find somebody new because I can’t handle the stress and turmoil of two breakups.’”

  The serial monogamist lifestyle can be very emotionally demanding, and the cycle can be hard to break, but it may be worth trying to break. Maia Nelson (‘27), who does not identify as a serial monogamist, feels that “it’s really useful to learn how to just be able to live for yourself.” Having a good relationship with yourself is important when going into a relationship. You shouldn’t be searching for yourself in other people. Instead, you should be finding it and strengthening it on your own. Once you feel secure in yourself, then a relationship could be the next step. 

  The term serial monogamist has been around for decades, and its meaning and prevalence is changing immensely. Prentiss believes that “monogamy is fading out,” and, more specifically, “queer people are turning more and more away from monogamy.” Non-monogamy is becoming more normalized and even expected in today’s society. Serial monogamists still exist, but Nelson points out that they are more likely tied to “hookup culture” nowadays rather than actual long-term committed relationships. 

  While serial monogamy can offer some benefits, such as developing effective communication skills and avoiding overdependence on a single partner, its potential drawbacks tend to outweigh the positives. Though it may allow someone to feel secure for the short term, in the long run, serial monogamy does not create a sense of stability. By jumping from person to person without giving yourself enough time to recover from a breakup or find solace in yourself and your community, you are not allowing yourself to form a true emotional attachment and fully commit to another person. Unfortunately, right now, especially for teenagers and young adults, “there’s an attitude for not wanting to be single or just not wanting to be alone,” says Prentiss. 

  Even though it can be difficult to take time to focus on yourself and discover who you are outside of a relationship, it’s very necessary and helpful. As Nelson points out, “You won’t be going into a relationship with the right attitude if you can’t reflect on the things you’ve lost.” So, next time you are considering getting into a relationship, check in with yourself first. Work on building emotional vulnerability and setting goals for more lasting connections. However, if you feel that the serial monogamy lifestyle is something that works for you, even though it will likely cause emotional damage, then as Prentiss puts it, “Rock on dude, it’s awesome that you’re getting that much action.”