If it feels like you're constantly in a long-term relationship, there's a good chance you're a serial monogamist. While some people casually date many people or enjoy periods of being single, serial monogamists fall into a long-term relationship after a long-term relationship, without taking a break in between.
The stereotype of the emotionally unhealthy serial monogamist who can't stand being alone and doesn't cheat but has commitment issues—that hits home for me. Being in a relationship let me escape my fear of being alone. I spent years in a serious relationship, and as soon as it was over, immediately jumped into another one not even two weeks later.
Not taking the time to exercise emotional independence and heal in between relationships, I missed an opportunity for self-development. For me, it was easier to be with someone than to face being alone.
Over and over again
"Relationship-jumping" is a term that refers to someone jumping from one relationship to the next with little time in between. And that perfectly describes most serial monogamists.
"Relational jumping is due to both personality traits and external circumstances," said Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D., an author, researcher and philosopher who specializes in romance and emotions.
It's hard to pinpoint the exact cause of relationship jumping. Some people think it is driven by a tendency toward emotional dependence or a fear of loneliness. Ben-Zeév also noted that certain factors in modern society encourage relational jumping.
"Contemporary cyber society offers many enticing romantic experiences that have changed the nature of traditional romantic relationships," Ben-Zeév explained. "The difficulty in this society is not that of finding love, as love is always in the air. Everywhere you look around, every sight and every sound indicates that love is all around. The main difficulty is that the air is too dense to enable the development of long-term profound love."
Moving past the honeymoon phase
Deep fears of commitment may cause a person to choose serial monogamy. Relationship author Jeb Kinnison believes most serial monogamists have some form of fear of commitment. He noted that most people in serial monogamist relationships want a "forever" relationship but are scared to commit to someone who isn't their perfect match.
However, Ben-Zeév argues the reason these aren't forever relationships has more to do with how relationships evolve over time.
"A typical cause for experiencing emotions is perceiving a significant change in our personal situation," he explained. "Accordingly, many studies have consistently shown that sexual desire and intense romantic love decrease drastically over time. The findings show that the frequency of sexual activity with one's partner declines steadily, occurring half as often after one year of marriage compared with the first month, and falling off more gradually thereafter."
Serial monogamy isn't all bad
While my own experience has been negative, I know that not everyone feels the same. There are some real advantages to serial monogamy. For example, some people argue serial monogamists don't all suffer from profound emotional difficulties. However, Ben-Zeév pointed out that serial monogamists are interested in long-term exclusive relationships, but aren't convinced such relationships should or can last a lifetime.
For Psychology Today, he wrote, "In this increasingly popular romantic pattern, people still believe in some moderate form of ideal love but give up their basic pretense that it should last forever. The beloved is still regarded as unique, but in many cases, he is not so for the rest of our life."
Serial monogamy provides a pattern of stability and exclusivity, which many people, myself included, desire in a relationship.
Facing your fears
While not all serial monogamists struggle with the fear of being alone, those that do can overcome it. For me, the best way to overcome this fear was to face it head-on, by being alone. This may sound like a simple solution, but those that struggle with this know it isn't. This means pausing the pattern of serial monogamy and putting a conscious effort into spending time with yourself.
I write this knowing that it might sound boring, uncomfortable and a bit sad, but I have discovered the benefits to be immense. Being single after a period of serial monogamy allows you to take time to reflect, gain confidence and find out who you really are—as cliché as that may sound.
So far, I have been out of my last serious relationship for almost a year and am finally conquering my fear.