Are you a serial monogamist? Why this therapist reckons it isn't as bad as you think

You know those people who jump from relationship, to relationship, to relationship? Yeah, those.

You know those people who jump from relationship, to relationship, to relationship? Yeah, those.

Ever heard of serial monogamy? You know, the term to describe someone who goes from one sexually monogamous relationship to another, spending little or no time alone.

You'll have noticed both J Lo and Kim Kardashian hitting headlines for doing so recently - J Lo reigniting her old romance with Ben Affleck and Kim getting married shortly after the break up of their previous relationships.

So, we've spoken to therapist Tess Brigham to chat all about serial monogamy. Here, she defines the common relationship trait - while there aren't any solid stats, you all know a person who hops from partner to partner - and discusses whether it really deserves the criticism that surrounds it.

Don't miss our guides to how to write a good dating profile, what to talk about on a first date and how to be intimate, and the best lubes, best sex toys and best condoms, while you're here. Keep scrolling.

What is serial monogamy?

While someone else might have a slightly different definition, Brigham shares that she thinks a serial monogamist is someone who is perpetually in a relationship and may use a new relationship as the reason to end their current relationship.

"There are certainly some people who fall into the category of being a serial monogamist - those who have spent some time dating, but typically, the time spent alone is always very short," she explains.

Why is serial monogamy stigmatised? 

Sound familiar - slash, know that the above applies to you - and not sure why you can't shake that slightly negative feeling in the back of your brain?

Serial monogamy is often seen as taboo or stigmatised for various reasons. "Break-ups are hard - it can be really hurtful to have someone breakup with you and then immediately jump into another relationship," explains Brigham. "We all want to feel like the other person is at least a little sad and distraught because we're no longer together."

Secondly, it can be seen as taboo as jumping from relationship to relationship can make your former partner wonder or question if you were seeing someone else towards the end of the relationship, she shares.

Lastly, it's often stigmatised as spending your life with different partners rather than focusing on loving yourself can leave you with little or no time to process or reflect. "You risk repeating the same negative behaviours from your last relationship in your new relationship," shares Brigham.

Know this: there is also a lot of value in being alone. "Being alone teaches you a lot about yourself: it pushes you to learn how to sit with more difficult feelings and know that with or without another person you can manage life on your own," the expert explains.

Famous examples of serial monogamists

1. Jennifer Lopez

The most famous example of a serial monogamist is Jennifer Lopez, according to Brigham. "She seems to move from one relationship to another very quickly with little or no downtime in between."

Serial monogamy: The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion - Inside

2. Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian also has a habit of jumping from relationship to relationship - if rumours about her new relationship with Van Jones are to be believed, she's found a new partner mere months after announcing her split from ex-husband Kanye West.

Serial monogamy: The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion - Arrivals

3. Taylor Swift

Similarly, Swift has had a string of high profile romances seemingly back-to-back, from Tom Hiddleston to Harry Styles. "She's also been seen as a serial monogamist," shares Brigham.

Serial monogamy: Taylor Swift

4. Elizabeth Taylor

Before J. Lo and Kim K came was Elizabeth Taylor. "She was criticised heavily for all of her marriages and is seen as one of the original serial monogamists," explains Brigham.

"She once said, 'I've only slept with men I've been married to. How many women can make that claim?'"

Social monogamy: Wedding of Elizabeth Taylor and Conrad Hilton Jr.

5. Justin Timberlake

It's important to note that there are many high profile male serial monogamists, too. Take Justin Timberlake - first known to date Britney, then Cameron Diaz, and now Jessica Biel.

Serial monogamy: MTV Music Video Awards 2000

6. George Clooney

"George Clooney has been in many long-term relationships - the focus always being on the women he broke up with and how none could tie him down," explains Brigham. "The focus was never was on him and his behaviour."

Herein lies the problem, she reckons - that when women are serial monogamists, they can be 'viewed as uncaring and callous'. Men, on the other hand, don't quite get the same treatment. "Sadly, women are the ones who are most criticised for going from relationship to relationship," shares Brigham.

5 tips for avoiding serial monogamy 

First things first - does serial monogamy deserve the criticism it gets? In Brigham's opinion, no.

"You never know all the facts about other people's lives," she explains. "While you see these celebrities go from relationship to relationship, you really have no idea what's going on behind closed doors."

Take J. Lo and A Rod, for example - they might have been living separate lives and broken up long before they announced it to the public, shares the therapist. "J. Lo may have been processing and working through her feelings about this relationship for a long time - and by the time everything was announced, she felt ready to move on," she explains.

Bottom line: Without all the facts, the therapist doesn't think it's fair to criticise. "At the end of the day, life is about making the right decisions for you," she stresses. "If you're a serial monogamist and you feel like you have wonderful, happy, healthy relationships, then you're doing what's best for you."

However, if you're not and find that the serial monogamy is taking more than it adds to your day-to-day life, Brigham advises trying the four following steps.

1. Go to therapy

If it's causing you any unhappiness, the expert advises trying therapy, group counselling or reaching out to a relationship expert or coach.

"You have to be willing to do the work on yourself to understand why you're a serial monogamist and learn what you gain and lose by always being in a relationship," she shares. "Be prepared to examine your past relationships and work on your current relationship, too."

2. Consciously choose to improve

Feel like your current relationship isn't working for you? Then it's time for change - and not just when it comes the relationship.

"If you know it's not right, make the conscious choice to work on improving the relationship, or break-up and make the conscious choice to work on improving your relationship with yourself," advises Brigham. Foul play involved? Our guides to why people cheat and how to cope with being cheated on might help.

3. Try being single

Sounds obvious, for serial monogamists, may not be quite so much.

"Be willing to be single for at least six months after your next break-up," advises the therapist. Got that?

4. Value your own company

This one's important. "Start doing things by yourself, like going to dinner or a movie or take a trip," she recomends. Being able to be comfortable in your own company and genuinely love yourself is crucial to any happy relationship. As Ru Paul says, if you don't love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.