Are humans monogamous, or is serial monogamy a practice more closely matched to our cave men instincts?

Are Humans Monogamous?

The question of whether we humans are truly monogamous is a difficult one to answer.  In scientific terms, monogamy refers to social monogamy and may last for a single season or, much more rarely, a lifetime. Even in social monogamy most species are not sexually monogamous, engaging in the occasional infidelity. Birds, for example, who are thought of as some of the most socially monogamous species, still have a 13% likelihood their offspring is conceived through sex with a different male than the one they are paired with.

When it comes to mammals, only 3-5% of species are socially monogamous. So are humans monogamous? The fact is we humans sometimes do make long-term commitments. However, social monogamy is more of reality in human society than is sexual monogamy. One study of human paternity showed that 10% of children were not genetically related to the male partner in the pair. Additionally, infidelity is quite common in committed relationships, even if no off spring results from sex.

So while there is tremendous societal pressure – especially from religious institutions – to practice sexual monogamy, it does not appear to be a natural human inclination. In the face of this, some people continue to practice serial social monogamy (and sometimes sexual monogamy) while others are opting to have long-term committed non-monogamous relationships.

How Technology Changed Monogamy

In a more practical, day-to-day sense, many couples have conflicts about what actually constitutes monogamy. Prior to the advent of the internet, two people may have had similar definitions of what’s acceptable in monogamy.

In more recent years however, the definition of monogamy is being complicated by new forms of technology and the boundaries are becoming blurry. For example, is it really cheating if you get on Skype and masturbate with someone else? Or find your ex-girlfriend /boyfriend from high-school on Facebook and start chatting with them? Is getting on a porn site and paying to watch and speak to a live women reason for divorce? What are the boundaries around Tinder or Grindr?

If you are in a committed relationship, it is important to talk with your partner about how each of you defines monogamy – and where your boundaries lie around technology and sex. It’s the only way you won’t suddenly be surprised when you find something your partner has been doing online they thought was fine – and you consider cheating.

Serial Monogamy Definition

And then there is serial monogamy. As just one option of the many lifestyle choices around relationships, serial monogamy is defined as the practice of having one exclusive sexual relationship after another. Other lifestyle choices range from lifetime monogamy to having an open relationship – including swinging, polyamory, monogamish, and more.

The length of these serial monogamous relationships can vary. For example, a serial monogamist might have a relationship that lasts 6 weeks, followed by one that lasts 5 years, then have another that lasts for two years.

Serial Monogamist Psychology

From an evolutionary stand point, the serial monogamist psychology is nothing short of fascinating. A large part of humanity holds the societal belief that relationships are supposed to be deeply romantically fulfilling. This belief system suggests that one person alone is supposed to fulfill all of your needs and, when you find “the one”, you will stay in a state of bliss forever. Many serial monogamists tap into this fairy tale as their core relationship philosophy – and abandon a relationship when it loses this romantic energy.

Other serial monogamists know the romantic fairy tale is not true, realize the romanticism will fade, and move on to the next relationship in anticipation of its faltering. They consciously choose to have multiple, short-term, highly blissful relationships instead of opting for the challenges and rewards of longer-term connections.

Serial monogamists move on from relationships for other reasons as well. A partner might want children, or find a job in another location – and the serial monogamist doesn’t want to move and or have a long-distance relationship. In these instances, serial monogamist psychology includes the belief that personal fulfillment is more important than maintaining a long-term relationship.

While the fabric of society used to be made up of people with lifetime marriages, our current society consists largely of people with short, medium, and long-term bouts of social monogamy (that are sometimes sexually monogamous). As more and more people opt for a serial monogamy approach to life – forever chasing new relationships as a gateway to personal happiness – we progressively wind up with a serial monogamy sociology. These societal changes have consequences for the shape and definition of family, with children being raised by single parents, substitute grand parents or step parents.

Benefits of Marriage

Divorce laws are quite liberal for the lion’s share of the U.S. population – making it possible for marriage to be part of a serial monogamists life. In deciding, it’s good to look at the benefits as well as disadvantages of marriage.

The benefits of marriage are both personal and societal. Companionship, help in raising children, and a greater chance of financial success due to the pooling of resources is a major personal advantage. Socially, marriage is rewarded through tax breaks, familial acceptance of the relationships, and inclusion in religious institutions who may frown on practices such as co-habitation outside of wedlock.

On a deeper level, there are also significant emotional benefits to marriage. It offers a feeling of secure attachment, a place to feel loved and accepted in all aspects of who you are. Sexually, you get to know a person’s likes and dislikes, and are able through that to give them a more highly pleasurable experience.

Disadvantages of Marriage

One of the most common disadvantages of marriage include staying in a harmful relationship due to security, financial and emotional reasons. There can be a loss of personal freedom to monogamous marriage, and an unwanted financial responsibility for another person.

Desire also often fades over time – so the sex life may become boring or non-existent. This can sometimes be solved by trying different types of marriage configurations, like monogamish marriage or open marriage.

How Can a Sex Coach Help a Serial Monogamist?

For most people, monogamy is the default approach to relationships. However, many people also choose serial monogamy to have multiple different partners over their lifetime, but still fit in with societal norms. Serial monogamists can often benefit from a sex coach who helps them maximize pleasure and interpersonal satisfaction in their relationships. Sex coaches can also talk openly about all of the different lifestyle options around relationship and help you choose the configuration that is right for you.

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Celeste Hirschman
Celeste Hirschman, MA is the Co-Creator of the Somatica® Method and Co-Founder of Somatica® Institute. She trains coaches in the Somatica® Method of Sex and Relationship Coaching. She has her own private practice in San Francisco, where she works with clients to have profoundly pleasurable and fulfilling lives. She has co-authored multiple academic articles published in peer-reviewed journals and is the co-author of two books, Cockfidence - The Definitive Guide to Being the Man You Want to Be and Driving Women Wild and Making Love Real - The Intelligent Couples Guide to Lasting Intimacy and Passion. Celeste has her MA in Human Sexuality Studies from San Francisco State University (SFSU) and her BA in Women’s Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). Celeste has taken the Hakomi Pro-Skills Training as well as multiple other trainings on sexuality and relationships. Celeste also has a Certification in Sexological Bodywork from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (IASHS).