Diary of a Serial Monogamist

What is a serial monogamist? A single man or woman who enters one love relationship at a time in a committed fashion for a limited period of time. Serial monogamists do not cheat on their lovers. Their commitment problem does not appear in that form. Their commitment issue emerges in relation to how long they will remain in each love relationship. To illustrate this type of commitment problem, I will describe to you the mind of a heterosexual male serial monogamist who went into a series of committed one to three year relationships with very similar women over approximately fifteen years from ages 21 to 36. For purposes of illustration let’s call our subject Mr. X.

Each of Mr. X’s relationships during this period went through the expected stages from meeting, to honeymoon, to escalating conflicts, to resisting long-term commitment, to a breakup phase of the relationship, with short periods of being alone between each relationship. The progression of the relationship was always the same with each woman wanting more at the end. The meeting and honeymoon phrases were usually very exciting and promising. Each time a degree of love was experienced which varied in each relationship, sometimes more and sometimes less.

Escalating conflicts occurred around issues related to formalizing some kind of engagement. Arguments leading to short separations were usually followed by periods of repair and a return to conflict. This pattern of conflict, breakup, and repair occurred at least several times during this period of the relationship. For Mr. X the experience was always the same, an initial period of excitement including high sexual attraction which over time began to feel suffocating and limiting.

Neither person in any of the relationships cheated as far as Mr. X knows. The struggle that ensued around the issue of long-term engagement and commitment continued unabated until the end of each relationship. Most of the women Mr. X found fell in love with him and were willing to commit to an engagement and eventual marriage. Their only problem, which they all shared in common, was an inability to discern Mr. X’s limited ability to commit beyond one to three years at the beginning of the relationship.

This would have saved them a considerable amount of unhappiness and effort. No doubt this pattern of serial monogamy would have continued for many more years until such time as the pain and effort involved would have dissuaded Mr. X from further involvement at a later age. In other words, he would have become a bitter old lonely man who couldn’t figure women out enough to make a relationship work.

What brought Mr. X’s serial monogamy to an end was his experience in psychoanalysis with a progressive Manhattan psychoanalyst, Dr. Y. Mr. X began to experience more difficulty managing the periods of being alone between relationships so he began a course of treatment hoping to strengthen his ability to continue his love-life pattern of serial monogamy as before. Instead with Dr. Y’s creative help he began to understand the reasons why he was stuck in this endless series of limited relationships.

Mr. X realized that he had not yet separated emotionally from his mother who still had a dominating influence in his emotional life. Their relationship was characterized by Mr. X taking care of his mother’s emotional problems ranging from depression to hysterical over-reactions. Mr. X had been in this ‘parentified’ role (‘parentified’=child is parent to the parent) in relation to his mother from a very young age.

He came to understand his father’s compliance as a work-a-holic who maintained a certain distance from his wife’s emotional storms preferring that his son occupy the care-taking role of his wife in the family. What Mr. X did not understand until his analysis with Dr. Y was how this long-term unresolved dependency with his mother negatively affected his love-life as an adult man.

Over the course of treatment Mr. X began to realize that he had ‘unconsciously’ found needy women like his mother to participate in his love-life pattern of serial monogamy. The result was a repetitive experience of attraction, dependency, and separation that both replicated his experience with his mother and was limited by the absence of separation in that parent-child relationship.

Mr. X experienced a ‘suffocating feeling’ when he tried to leave home and his mother attempted to guilt him into staying with her with her depressive illness and hysterical over-reactions. The guilt feelings he experienced compelled him to re-create the emotional conditions of this unresolved separation experience now in serial monogamy.

Mr. X began to realize how he was attracted to needy women he would attempt to ‘fix’ (like with his mother), feel frustrated when he could not, start to distance himself from his lover’s ‘needs,’ leading to a painful breakup and disappointment. Over and over again this serial pattern occurred as if somewhere in his heart he was hoping for a different and better outcome.

Then there was that fated session with Dr. Y when Mr. X realized that his mother was a ‘narcissistic person’ he could not ‘fix’ (narcissism=due to the absence of love in life he/she is focused exclusively on getting love from others). With the help of Dr. Y, he grieved the loss of love in his early life with his mother and began to give up his psychological agenda to fix her into being a more loving mother. Once the grieving abated, he felt relief.

He learned to keep at bay the guilty feelings that came when he began focusing on his own needs and his own love-life. After a period of being on his own and learning how to take better care of himself, he found a woman of substance who was able to both give and receive love. After a short engagement of eighteen months they got married and started a family. Mr. X has been married for eighteen years and counting.

Comments. Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan

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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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  1. Krakatauti on June 5, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I’m impressed!!! Really informative blog post on lovelifelearningcenter.com my friend. I just wanted to comment & say keep up the quality work.

  2. v on March 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    This is me, exactly. It was scary to read. Thank you for restoring some hope in myself.

    • Dr. Jordan on March 27, 2013 at 1:10 pm

      Thanks for your comment V. You and I have something in common. I don’t know if you know it but that post is about a period in my own love life. I think there are quite a few ‘serial monogamists’ out there. Sorry for the scare. Although sometimes the scary feeling is letting you know you are about to see yourself. I’ve grown to love that moment! Thanks again, Dr.J.

  3. steve on October 2, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Sorry to bother I have many questions. Do you have a email? This may be me.

    • Dr. Jordan on October 5, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      Hello Steve. You can send me personal or private comments through my blog. Thanks, Dr. J.

  4. steve on October 9, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    How can you fix a serial monogamist?

    • Dr. Jordan on October 9, 2013 at 10:55 pm

      Hi Steve, Thanks for your comment and visiting my blog. A serial monogamist is someone who can only take a intimate love relationship just so far. The relationship ends, and then it’s on to another. To get out of the cycle of multiple limited relationships you have to figure out what the “pattern” is that is in control of your love life. I have personal experience with this problem (as I indicated in the past). For me, I had to realize that I was trying to recreate the relationship I had with me mother by semi-consciously picking women that were needy and I would try to rehabilitate into girlfriends that could have an intimate reciprocal relationship with me. When it called and their neediness became overwhelming I left to find another. This went on for quite some time. The consciousness of the pattern helped me challenge it and do something different. What I did was start looking for a woman who could love me in a shared mutual give and take while staying away from women who couldn’t (no matter how attractive they were).It took me about a year to find someone, who is now my wife (20 years married). She was different from the other women. She’s not needy. She is able to reciprocate love. It’s not just about her. The best place to start is to think about (maybe write about in a personal journal) what it is that happens in the relationships you get into. Think about whether or not a “pattern” is be replicated in your love life, maybe something you’ve learned or experienced earlier in your life, maybe in family relationships. If the pattern doesn’t come clear to you consider getting a little counseling. Tell the counselor you have this specific thing you’d like to figure out and find someone who will cooperate with that goal. Good luck. Thanks again for using my blog. Let me know how you do. Dr. J.

  5. Rebekah on February 6, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Hello there. I guess the first step to self improvement is to first recognize that you have a problem. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m 20 years old. I have been in a relationship with someone since I was 16 years old. I dated my first boyfriend for 2 years, I loved him. He meant a lot to me. I thought he would be the one I’d one day call my husband and have adorable babies with. Come to find out he had been having sex with multiple women behind my back. And I didn’t even find out from him, but a mutual friend he worked with at the time. It broke my heart. He still couldn’t even respect me enough to look me in the eye and admit it either.
    So, I guess that’s when it all started.
    Or maybe with my parents relationship. They’ve been married for 26 years, highschool sweethearts, each other’s first everything, and still somehow more in love than ever. I guess in a way, I always thought I would have that too.
    Anyways after my first completely broke me down, I lost a lot of my confidence and hope that I’d ever truly feel that way towards anyone ever again. So, I started talking to guys… Whoever would tell me how beautiful I am and how horribly stupid my ex was for cheating on a girl like me.
    Then I met this dangerously dreamy bad boy who I fell for almost instantly. I don’t know what even made me fall so hard or so fast, but I did. We dated on and off for three years. Of course we had a completely chaotic and exhausting relationship. When we would break up, I would feel so shitty. All I wanted was for him to want me as badly as I wanted him. But whenever we would break up I would date other guys or have sex with them to make myself feel important. I pushed him. I pushed him so much. It hurts thinking about how selfishly immature I was to react the way I did.
    Since my first, I have been in a relationship with seven other men. All of these seven men and I’s relationships only lasted 3-5 months. But, I would say whatever it took for them to fall completely head over heels in love with me… And then I would push them away purposely or I would end it out of the blue.
    In between these pointless seven relationships, I would meet up/hang out with my ex (the second guy-bad boy)
    Even though I knew that it just wasn’t meant to be, I couldn’t stop myself. He and I had something real, passionate and we always just found our way back to each other. He moved away about a year ago, 4 1/2 hours away, it was so hard to see him leave. Because I knew it meant we were over. I know I pushed him to that point though. I know he moved to escape from the painful back and forth relationship we had. We even tried long distance. That didn’t last long though.. Only four months. I got sick of working fulltime, driving almost every weekend, and spending my time and gas money all on him. I loved him but didn’t feel he was willing to give up anything for me, or for us to work. So, I broke up with him.
    Then a week or so later I meant this new guy, we started hanging out and it was fun. He took my mind off of my ex and all of the other shitty relationships that still remained a part of me, deep down. New guy and I had fallen hard, fast. We didn’t go a day without seeing each other and I stayed with him every weekend. It was easy. I didn’t feel like I had to try. It was truly effortless. Until the fighting began. We lasted 4 months. Then he ended it. I begged him to stay in my life and tried to convince him it was just one big mistake he’d regret. We didn’t speak for about a week. Then he called and asked me to go eat with him. I did. And we’ve been causally seeing each other since. He says he misses me, isn’t pursuing anyone else, and it was waiting to make sure it will work. I tell him that’s what I want too…
    But secretly I have been messaging guys behind his back. I’ve kissed someone, and slept with this one guy a few times already.
    I’m so fucking lost and confused.
    I am addicted to the idea or love. Once someone gives up on me, or makes me feel replaceable… I want to hurt them. I want to do whatever will make myself feel good for the time being. And that is attention from men. I hate being alone. I hate thinking about how shitty of a person I have become over the years. This was not who I had planned to be. All I ever wanted was to find the kind of love my parents share. I guess I’m just not good enough for that. Why would anyone want me? No one would if they knew all of the things I’ve done. I am worse than a serial monogomist. I feel like a fake, useless, emotionless human. Help. I’m sorry for how ridiculously long this is. I don’t have anyone to talk to. I’m ashamed as well.

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