Monday, April 9, 2012

Confronting the Stigma of the Serial Monogamist

Most of the dating advice I've read or heard these days encourages "playing the field" and this idea is commonly passed off and believed to be better than practicing anything resembling anything close to what may be known as serial monogamy.  Is there really only one way to go about dating?

I don't think so. 

"Playing the field" is just not my style.  Maybe it's the hopeless romantic inside of me that will always draw hearts in the sand ...



Photo Credit: capturejerseyshore.com


Throughout my life, my dating experience has typically followed a pattern.

I find myself single and looking. I meet one or more interesting prospects. Some flirting ensues; a few dates. Eventually, the candidates with the least potential are weeded out and I find myself continuing to date someone I click with.  I don't like to juggle when it comes to dating and I've always openly embraced exclusivity over casually playing the field.  If it doesn't work out, there's a break-up (some worse than others) and then soon enough I find myself single and looking again.

That's my pattern.

The lengths of time where I've remained single vary from a just couple of months to just over a year. The lengths of the various relationships that I've been in vary just as much, with only four qualifying as serious.  There was the high school boyfriend that I thought I loved, the college boyfriend that I truly loved, the divorced guy that I pretended to love and then there's the STBX.

The longest I've ever been out of an exclusive relationship since I started dating in the first place was the year or so I spent mostly solo before getting serious with the STBX and, interestingly, that relationship turned out to be the longest I've ever had, not to mention the most serious, complicated and life-changing.  Six years total; soon to end in divorce.

Since the breakdown of what was thought to be forever, I've been in one brief "relationship" that abruptly ended in absolute insanity when I found out that my new beau's idea of "exclusive" meant me on the side occasionally, while he regularly went home to a wife that I didn't know about.  I'm left wondering if that mishap really even counts, hence the quotations around the label.

Regardless, I find myself single and looking for the second time since leaving my marriage.  I also find myself confronted with the social stigma of the serial monogamist.


It is a common misconception that serial monogamy is a dating behavior innate only to insecure, needy and co-dependent weaklings suffering psychological instabilities or disturbances.  People who just can't be alone. While there are some people like that, not all serial monogamists are motivated by unhealthy emotions and poor character traits.  Not all serial monogamists avoid self-reflection and personal growth while staving off loneliness by hiding in a relationship regardless if the relationship is good for them or not.

Contrarily, there's a whole different breed of serial monogamists that are not only strong, independent, self-reflective and completely capable of being alone, but that are also masters of embracing hopeless romanticism while also keeping both feet firmly planted in reality.

I am part of that breed.  

I believe in an ideal love and I am an advocate of commitment, but I'm not so hung up on the idea of there only being "one" love out there for me that I struggle with putting myself back in the game after a mistake, break-up or other romantic failure where what I thought was "ideal" turned out not to be anything of the sort.  Instead of hanging on to the devastation surrounding a break-up by throwing up walls and becoming emotionally unavailable when wounded (as is the stigma of those casual daters or perpetual singles out there that forever play the field), I pay attention and take the lessons learned with me so that I am better equipped to chose someone closer to that ideal love the next time around.

According to Psychology Today, there's research supporting this sort of dating behavior as being worthwhile and not always deserving of the bad rap it usually gets.

With that, I'll shamelessly defend my serial monogamist dating style from now on.  Not only do I know who I am and what I want out of life, but I also have enough confidence and life experience these days to know that I cultivate my own happiness, regardless if I'm in a relationship or not.

I won't just fall into any old relationship purely to achieve some sort of false sense of security and safety therein either.  I have boundaries and I practice establishing them every day.  At the same time, I don't need to stay single for any extraordinary lengths of time merely to assert my sense of independence.

I just know who I am and in knowing that, I know what works for me.

10 comments:

  1. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with knowing who you are and what you want....! That's not something to apologize for, particularly since there isn't anything wrong with being a serial monogamist, it's just your personal choice.

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    1. I do think that some people practice serial monogamy for the wrong reasons. But I also think that some people take extraordinary long "breaks" from dating and putting themselves back out there for the wrong reasons. It works both ways. There are serial monogamists out there that are hiding from their own problems by jumping into relationships one right after another, regardless of whether or not those relationships are healthy or even right for them. Then, there are the perpetual singles out there that play the field because they have issues with intimacy and/or a huge giant fear of commitment.

      The stereotypes and stigmas abound.

      As people are all different and our dating styles should reflect that. I think society as a whole needs to stop judging emotional and personal success vs. instabilities by relationship status alone.

      Thanks for reading and for the feedback. :)

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  2. I've read your blogs and your focus is so intense on relationships and figuring them out. You are still freshly divorced and have already been through a disastrous relationship. My advice is to focus on the relationship with yourself and the rest will eventually fall into place. Peace be with you and God Bless.

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    1. I appreciate your feedback. Thank you.

      Have you clicked my tab above, "Self-Reflection"? This blog is multi-faceted and my starting over wonderful has many roads and subadventures to the overall journey.

      I believe that I AM actively paying very close attention to the relationship that I have with myself. In fact, in my experience, learning how to do that was what gave me the courage and motivation to get out of my failing marriage in the first place. I work on self-reflection, self-awareness, personal growth and positive change daily. I don't particularly feel that just because I am doing that on a regular basis, I can't also focus on anyother relationships of my life at the same time.

      Like the one I have with my son. Or the ones I have with certain family members. Or my friendships. Or any possible romantic relationships of my future.

      In fact, there are opinons out there by some with expertise in psychology that it is through the exploration of relationships with other people where we most often learn the most about ourselves.

      I may not believe in playing the field as being the best dating style for myself, but that opinion doesn't necessarily apply to ALL relationships in my life. You can cultivate strong, healthy and positive relationships in many areas of your life simultaneously, no?

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    2. Just a few more thoughts.

      I also invite you to click through some of the tags in the tag cloud at the right column of this blog. In particular, posts that evidence my clear focus on myself are highlighted with tags such as "closure", "moving on" and "self-love" in addition to a few others.

      Also, I just want to point out that I had JUST started dating Mr. Handsome when I found out that he was in fact married and lying to me. The relationship wasn't "disastorous". It abruptly ended just as soon as it got started. Was I hurt that he used me? Yes. Do I forgive him? Sure. He's clearly got a ton of issues that really have nothing to do with me, so hanging onto the illusion that he created for me to believe and then the subsequent hurt that followed ... what benefit would that do? For a 2-month mishap of a relationship that was over in a flash?

      It is more like, "NEXT!!!"

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    3. I believe that we cannot grow as human beings except in the context of relationships. Not necessarily romantic relationships, but those can be very rewarding :).

      You probably don't have much time for reading, but if you have any interest in reading about personal growth & relationships my favorite is Extraordinary Relationships, by Roberta Gilbert. It's not a typical self-help book, it offers a deep description of family systems theory, and it doesn't really offer advice- just insight. I found the idea of relationship postures and how we learn them from our families growing up and then recreate them in our adult relationships fascinating. This is not beach reading, but it's accessible to people with little psych background (I took psych 101 in college and that's it).

      Anyway I digress from your original point: I agree with you, playing the field is for the dogs. I have never been interested in that. And I know that I've made some of the typical relationship mistakes that people are warned about (like, don't marry the guy you start dating right after your separation from husband #1: oopsie). But it's working out for me. After doing things that are ill-advised I tend to realize why they were ill-advised, but still I have no regrets.

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    4. I will bookmark it on my Amazon account, thank you. I have about 10-15 books listed there for myself to read "some day" already!

      I guess this post may serve as a launch pad for me for future posts on this topic.

      I feel the need to make it clear that I am happy being single. If the right person for my next relationship doesn't come along any time soon, I am perfectly okay with that. Again, because I am happy on my own and I don't need a relationship.

      I do want one and my long-term goal is to achieve long-term commitment with another in a healthy, long-lasting relationship that grows and changes as much as we do as individuals ...

      More and more it seems that admitting that you want to be in a relationship automatically labels you a needy person failing to put yourself as the most important relationship of all. Is our thinking now that wanting to be one half of a whole makes you only half of a person?

      I am whole. All by myself. I don't need to stop looking for that special someone to spend my life with in order to establish that.

      Is everybody so caught up in being independent and not getting taken advantage of that we now find people who want us threatening? Do we automatically question their motives?

      Has our fear of being labelled "co-dependent" made us turn to being excessively independent?

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  3. wow yeah I identify with a lot here. I'm not a field player either. The longest I was alone was 8 months after my husband left.

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    1. I think it is better to accept who we are and just do what makes us the most comfortable rather than force ourselves into a "one-size-fits-all" sort of dating behavior. Thanks for speaking up :)

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