Serial Monogamy vs. Serial Dating—What's the Difference?

By Kaitlyn McInnis | | Dating
Serial Monogamy vs. Serial Dating—What's the Difference?

We all have a friend who is constantly breaking up with someone, introducing a new partner, or even moving in with a new fling. Serial monogamists always want to be in a monogamous relationship, even if it may not feel like the right fit. Serial daters, on the other hand, might date more than one person at a time while continually looking for new partners to see. That’s the biggest difference between serial monogamy and serial dating.

A textbook serial monogamist, Kyle, 29, has been hopping from one long-term relationship to the next since he started dating in high school. “After a long-term relationship in high school ended, I couldn’t imagine being alone,” he explained. “I started college and immediately fell into another long-term relationship…it wasn’t until a few years ago when that relationship ended that I realized I haven’t actually been alone in my adult life. I’m married now, so I don’t see that happening anytime soon!”

“I had three dates last week, and already have two lined up for this week,” Jordan, 26, admitted. “Honestly, as I’ve gotten older, my friends have gotten busy with work and grad school. I live by myself and, although I’m happy being single, I just don’t like being alone.”

While serial monogamy and serial dating have their advantages, despite being on the opposite ends of the spectrum, can they have similar effects?

What is serial monogamy?

“A serial monogamist is someone who has trouble being single, who jumps from relationship to relationship, and who is single-mindedly focused on being coupled with someone,” explained Anna Nicholaides, licensed clinical psychologist, couples specialist, and owner of Philadelphia Couples Therapy, LLC.

According to Nicholaides, there are a myriad of reasons some people feel they need to be in a relationship. There are people who want to have a partner to validate their worthiness, loveability, and value. Some simply have trouble being and living alone, so they’d like a warm body nearby. Others are extroverted and really love having another person around, and when they are single, they feel alone in a very coupled world.

“We all have needs as humans,” said Amanda Pasciucco, licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist. “Humans do things to get these needs met. A serial monogamist chooses to use serial monogamy as a strategy for getting their needs met.”

Signs you’re a serial monogamist

  • You’re always in a relationship: When was the last time you were single for more than a few months? If you’ve hopped from relationship to relationship with no time to breathe, you’re probably a serial monogamist.
  • You still talk about exes even if you’re in a new relationship: If you’re in a new relationship and still thinking about your recent exes, you’re probably pushing yourself to move on too quickly to avoid being alone.
  • You always book a second date: Whether you feel you’ve clicked with a date or not, you will always plan that second date to move the relationship forward as fast as possible.
  • You hate going to social events alone: Maybe you’re an introvert who doesn’t like approaching new people, or maybe you’re so extroverted that you prefer having someone to talk to at all times, either way, you would never imagine showing up to a social event without a date.

What is serial dating?

“Serial dating is when someone loves to get their needs met by dating [multiple] people,” said Pasciucco. “They are not interested in the bonding aspect of connection in the same way that a serial monogamist would.”

According to Pasciucco, serial daters often are interested in adventure, growth and meeting new people, and love the rush of endorphins, adrenaline (the fight-or-flight hormones for battling danger) and dopamine, which is triggered by the anticipation of being with a partner. Dopamine is released in serial dating when someone experiences anticipation and reward from meeting a new partner.

Signs you’re a serial dater

  • You get bored quickly: You’re constantly seeking those elusive butterflies that come with a first kiss and crave the excitement that comes with the uncertainty of a new partner.
  • You refuse to be single: Technically you’re not in a relationship, but you can’t imagine not having someone, or multiple people, to speak to in your DMs.
  • You’re afraid of commitment: A second date is about as committed as you’re comfortable with.
  • You’re afraid of getting your heart broken: Whether you’ve been hurt before or you’re keen to avoid taking the chance of it happening, you’d prefer to keep partners at arm’s length to avoid potentially hurting each other.

Are serial monogamy or serial dating bad?

“There’s really nothing wrong with serial monogamists or serial daters,” said Pasciucco. “We all have needs, and our needs are sometimes in different orders. It is just what we become genetically or nurtured into as far as the hormones we are drawn to. This usually determines our behaviors, and thus the quality of our romantic relationships.”

Monogamy isn’t better or worse than dating (or polyamory, or swinging). Serial monogamy (or serial dating to get to monogamy) is just seen in America to be the most common solution or life path. Therefore, many people choose monogamy, and then have issues with it later. It’s important to recognize your own personal needs and pursue a relationship that you’re comfortable with, whether that means dating multiple partners or locking something down when you’re ready to commit to the right partner.

Advice for serial monogamists

“Make sure you are with someone who enjoys the same amount of intimacy and certainty that you do,” said Pasciucco. “What’s more, never think you have found ‘the one’ until 18 months in when all the hormones have dissipated.”

Advice for serial daters

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to settle with one person if you prefer casual dating. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with dating multiple people, as long as you’re open and honest with those you’re seeing. “People feel pressured to settle down, then they end up in couples therapy with someone like me because the serial dater ends up not having their needs met with phenylethylamine—the feeling of being with that new person all the time,” said Pasciucco.

“Serial dating has kept me busy and helps me maintain an active social life, even when my close friend group isn’t available. I’m always open and honest about not wanting to be exclusive—as long as you attract the right kind of people, I don’t think dating multiple people at once hurts anyone.” Jordan added.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.