Chances are, you’ve given some thought to monogamy, but did you know there are several types of monogamy?
In your dating and relationship journey, you’ve likely considered the classic social and sexual structure of relationships and tried it for yourself.
Even if you were always polyamorous and never dated in a monogamous way, you’ve probably reflected on the benefits and drawbacks of both monogamy and used your conclusions to steer your own relationship and identity decisions.
What Is Monogamy?
Monogamy is a relationship where partners are sexually committed to each other, exclusively.
The word in the context of sociology or anthropology often refers to marriage—being married to a single partner rather than to multiple partners.
Monogamy can be singular or serial. Someone who dates monogamously chooses one partner at a time and is faithful to them. They may date someone else if the relationship doesn’t work. A person may marry several times if their partner dies or divorces them. Singular monogamy occurs when there is only one marriage or partnership.
10 Types of Monogamy
1. Mutual Monogamy
Mutual monogamy is a sexual and emotional relationship that is usually between two people. There are mutually monogamous throuples, polycules, and more, but whether this is the correct terminology to illustrate their choices of sexual fidelity is another issue, as “monogamy” implies one on one. (See polyfidelity below.)
Parties choose mutual monogamy with hope that the relationship will last and be sexually exclusive. The goal is usually longevity, rather than trying out a relationship and moving onto another one, but mutual monogamy can happen serially or a number of times in varied circumstances.
People choose mutual monogamy for many reasons, but the most common ones are standard social customs, desire for romantic exclusivity, desire to avoid STIs, and desire to create a desirable home environment to have a family within.
2. Serial Monogamy
Serial monogamy means “one at a time.” A person may date many people or marry more than one person in their lifetime, but the relationships do not overlap or happen at the same time. A serial monogamist dates someone exclusively and if it doesn’t work out, tries again with someone else.
“Monogamish” is a colloquially coined term, usually attributed to sex columnist Dan Savage, although it appears to have been around for longer. It’s a cute blend of “monogamous” and “ish.”
Monogamish usually means the relationship is more or less monogamous, in that the couple is romantically committed to each other, but they make have an open door for sexual extras on the side, or another agreed upon arrangement.
Polyfidelity is a form of monogamy inside polyamory. Or a non-monogamous lifestyle with sexual fidelity between all participants.
Basically, when more than two people are in a relationship together, such as a throuple, or a polycule, all members agree to sexual and/or romantic activity inside the group only.
Read: All About Polyfidelity
5. Reflexive Monogamy
Reflexive monogamy refers to a type of monogamy that isn’t really a choice, but something programmed by society and customs. Few people in monogamous societies make conscious choices for monogamy—perhaps ironically, unless they have considered polyamory.
When social mores give us messages about moral and social superiority of monogamy, we internalize those messages and desire monogamy because it is what we know, what we have been told to cling to.
6. Radical Monogamy
On the other hand, if you’ve considered monogamy and other possibilities carefully, unpacked the messages and social expectations, laid aside personal experiences of betrayal, examined the options truly and thoroughly… and you conclude that monogamy is your personal choice, it’s called radical monogamy.
7. Toxic Monogamy
Monogamy as a cultural institution or a relationship expression that involves unhealthy expectations, paradigms, or idealism is sometimes called “toxic monogamy.”
When media, religion, and healthcare all conspire to promote a particular worldview as morally just and superior, despite the numerous problems, delusions, and unrealistic expectations, this perpetuated vision of monogamy is toxic.
8. Classical Monogamy
Classical monogamy means two parties who connect and marry are both virgins, and they do not divorce or stray. When one party dies, the other remains celibate and does not find a new mate.
Classical monogamy is rare by choice, although can happen circumstantially.
9. Social Monogamy
Social monogamy is when a couple lives together, marries, raises a family, and is viewed as a couple. They may stray within the marriage. This has something in common with “monogamish,” although it may be more circumstantial than intentional.
The couple is married and committed socially but as is common to many relationships, affairs or other circumstances happen, without changing the nature of the relationship.
10. Mono-Poly Relationships
A mono-poly relationship is where one partner is monogamous and one is polyamorous.
People of perspectives and identities often fall in love or date, through various difficulties. Mono-poly relationships are not uncommon and though they may be challenging, provide an opportunity for diverse mindsets and sexualities to connect.
Mono-poly identities can cause conflict, but many couples accept their distinct preferences and needs and live true to themselves within the relationship.
Do you identify with one type of monogamy? Please share in the comments.