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Serial monogamy is characterized by a series of long- or short-term, exclusive sexual relationships entered into consecutively over the lifespan. In common usage partners need not be married, but there is never more than one partner at a time. This behavior is a variant of monogamy, in which a given individual has only one sexual partner throughout life. This behavior is sometimes referred to as a form of,[1] or replacement for,[2] polygamy. However, this practice inherently excludes the practice of having multiple simultaneous sexual partners.


Main article: Animal sexuality

Generally, any animals that do not mate with one partner for life can be considered serially monogamous, including those who find a second mate only upon the death of the first. There are arguments that evolutionary biology has selected a four-year mating cycle for humans based on natural birth spacing,[3] as well as the belief that finding a 'fully' monogamous species is rare.[4]

Western culture

Within Western culture, serial monogamy is considered more fundamental than "full" monogamy.[5] [6] Relatively few people consciously enter a long-term relationship wanting it to eventually end so as to begin another.


Serial monogamy has always been closely linked to divorce practices. Whenever procedures for obtaining divorce have been simple and easy, serial monogamy has been found.[7] As divorce has continued to become more accessible, more individuals have availed themselves of it, and many go on to remarry.[8]

See also


  1. Mary Amir Ali, Ph.D. refers to the practice as serial polygamy
  2. Serial Monogamy, Serial Polygamy, or Worse? suggests that some rich men only practice serial monogamy because polygamy is illegal.
  3. Sex: Myths, Lies and Straight Talk, an ABC News Original Report.
  4. See Barash's (Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington) Deflating the Myth of Monogamy and references to "extra-pair copulation."
  5. Serena Petrella (Department of Sociology, Carleton University, Canada) declares serial monogamy a "norm" in her article Only with You – Maybe – If You Make Me Happy: A Genealogy of Serial Monogamy as Governance and Self- Governance.
  6. Feminism and The Moral Animal states: "We do not actually live in a society built on monogamy, but on serial monogamy."
  7. It is said to have been "rife" in ancient Rome Alternative Forms of Marriage Serial Monogamy at
  8. In Canada, 46% of divorcées will remarry according to Till death do us part? The risk of first and second marriage dissolution by Warren Clark and Susan Crompton.
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