In my grandparents’ day—that is, two generations or about eighty years ago—monogamy was pretty black and white. A guy and a gal would meet, start to date, become engaged and get married. Dating a lot, especially for a woman, put a question mark on a person’s moral character.
In those days, it was never a question of “if” this couple would become partnered for the rest of their lives (happy or not); rather, it was more a question of “when”. Plus, it was scandalous if the couple chose to get a divorce.
Cities and attitudes grew and, by the 1950s, the trend of dating started. Smokey Robinson said it best when he sang, “My momma told me you better shop around.” Parents and teenagers came to understand that it was healthy to date, test the relationship waters and have a couple of broken hearts before settling down. Yet the single most important thing was to find a mate before turning twenty.
Then came the Baby Boomers and their rebellious free-love movement of the 1970s. Although anonymous sex certainly was not for everyone, there were enough people jumping on the sex-drugs-and-rock’n’roll bandwagon to make it more acceptable. Monogamy in the 1970s came to mean, “I’m going to have a whole lot of fun, and then I will settle down with one person for the rest of my life.”
But “the rest of my life” seemed to scare a lot of this group and there grew a different sensibility with monogamy. Living together became the popular monogamous option of, “I do not know if I can commit to you, but let’s give it a go and see how it turns out.” Or, if the couple did decide to get married and it ended up unhappy, divorce became the alternative to staying in a loveless marriage like that of their parents.
By the 1980s, this trend ended up creating what is called serial monogamy. Serial monogamy is when a person is in an exclusive monogamous relationship for a period of time, decides the relationship is not for them, ends the relationship and looks for a new relationship. In effect, it is relationship-jumping. What makes it acceptable is there is no overlap (like adultery) but a distinct start and finish to the relationship.
In my opinion serial monogamy has created a nation of very picky people. I refer to it as Seinfeld Syndrome. In the TV show “Seinfeld,” all four characters would nitpick every little thing that was wrong about the people they were dating. For example, one of Seinfeld’s girlfriends had “man-hands” and he obsessed about her inadequacies until eventually he “had to” break up with her.
Seinfeld Syndrome has created a nation of disposable dating in that if a potential partner does not make the grade, there is always someone better around the corner.
In the new millennium, I see the monogamous trend changing into open relationships. An open relationship is based on two people having a primary relationship and still able to seek sexual variety outside of that relationship.
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