Serial monogamy is becoming more and more popular in the modern world. Before going any further, this term needs to be defined. Serial monogamy is the pattern of engaging in a succession of monogamous sexual relationships.While you may not be familiar with the term, you certainly will be familiar with the behavior. In fact, serial monogamy has become so commonplace that you may have just thought this was how relationships have always been.
However, this is simply not the case. In the past, relationships required far more commitment. As a man, you would intentionally court maybe one to two women before getting married. And as a woman, you would wait to be pursued by a man. So, whether or not you agree with the shift a change in the pattern of romantic relationships has taken place.
What is more interesting is how many Christians participate in serial monogamy. The Bible is clear about the importance of purity, commitment, and marriage, discounting the idea of serial monogamy.
While this may be acceptable to non-Christians, it is not for followers of Jesus. And yet many young Christians continue to live into serial monogamy despite the word of God. So why exactly are so many Christians living a pattern of life that is expressly opposed by Scripture?
Why are Christians into Serial Monogamy?
When it comes to why Christians are into serial monogamy, the answers are quite varied. But some of the top reasons are lack of biblical knowledge, a general disregard for authority, and cultural pressure.
First, many Christians – young and old alike – don’t know Scripture very well. Since culture has slowly been moving away from the idea of lasting, covenantal monogamy, many Christians have as well and not all of this is volitional disobedience. Some of it truly is ignorance regarding what the Scriptures teach about keeping yourself pure before marriage and entering a covenant relationship.
Second, some Christians do know the truth of Scripture and simply choose to ignore it. Many churches are becoming more and more passive, refusing to address the issues of serial monogamy in a meaningful way. As a result, many Christians have compartmentalized their lives.
On Sunday mornings, they show up to church, sing worship, and listen to the sermon, but then go home to sleep with their girlfriend or boyfriend. If for some reason someone in their church were to confront the behavior, there is another church down the road that won’t. So, as the authority of the church has become weaker and weaker, many Christians have taken the liberty to live how they like, rather than how the Bible commands.
Third, one of the most influential factors is the cultural shift. Serial monogamy is presented as normal and healthy in TV, movies, and nearly every other form of media. This cultural normalizing of serial monogamy has put a lot of pressure on Christians to follow suit.
Fifty years ago, whether you were a Christian or not, people typically were not living together before marriage or having multiple long-standing sexual relationships. These things were less common and often frowned upon. However, in more recent years this sort of behavior has become commonplace. As a result, holding on to the belief in the sanctity of marriage and covenantal monogamy is beginning to seem more and more “outdated.”
Christian Counseling and Serial Monogamy
If you are a Christian and feel drawn to serial monogamy it may be helpful to sit down with a Christian counselor to help you sort out your thoughts and feelings.
Relationships are complicated and the fear commitment or the lack of desire to pursue commitment may be rooted in deeper life and family patterns then you at first realize. Meeting with a Christian counselor will help you sort out what is going on and give you a space to process what you believe about relationships.
What are the Dangers of Serial Monogamy?
It is Unbiblical
The first and most important reason for any Christian not to practice serial monogamy is because it is expressly prohibited in Scripture. Look no further than Genesis 2:24, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” When two things are joined together as one flesh, then you can’t tear them apart. Jesus later says, “what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:9)
So it’s expressly clear in Scripture that once two people join together in a sexual relationship, then they are together for the long-haul. This is the exact opposite of serial monogamy. Serial monogamy is predicated on the idea that sexual relationships and romantic relationships, in general, are fluid.
Nothing is permanent. The relationship serves you as long as you feel it does, but when it no longer feels good for you, then you are entitled to leave. This idea absolutely cannot be reconciled with the teachings of Scriptures.
The Risk of False Intimacy
Timothy Keller has a powerful quote about relationships: “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
This a really powerful quote about relationships because it gets straight to the heart about humanity’s greatest fears and desires. In romantic relationships, you desire to be deeply known, but being known comes with a risk.The covenant relationship of marriage creates a beautiful, sacred place for you to be real with another about who you truly are. The commitment, far from hindering your intimacy, actually creates a space to step deeper into love and connection, knowing the other person is committed to all of you.
Where marriage and covenant create a sacred space to be fully known and loved, serial monogamy does the opposite. Serial monogamy can create a cycle of being loved and not fully known or fully known and not loved. Being in and out of relationships can give you a sense of intimacy and of being known, but in the back of your head, you know you will have to leave if things don’t work out.
This doesn’t foster trust, rather it teaches you to keep part of yourself from your partner in case you need to start over. This is the experience of being loved but not fully known.
On the other hand, maybe you choose to make yourself fully known, revealing the darkest parts of yourself to another. Doing so without the promise of a covenant is frightening and potentially dangerous. Your partner very well may move on when they hear the truth of who you are. Or if you stay together, there will always be the fear that they know who you are if things don’t go well.
Money and relationships are complicated in marriage, where you vow to be committed and share your life together. Money and serial monogamy are even more complicated. Who pays for what? Do you split everything? Does one person pay for the apartment and the other pays for the groceries? Is that fair?
What happens if you split up? Who keeps the dog that you two bought together? Divorces are messy for the same reasons, but theoretically, divorces are meant to be less common. The potential of separation in serial monogamy is far more likely, making things far more complicated, far more often.
While serial monogamy might feel normal, relationships should not be this way. Commitment need not be dry or passionless. Instead, love over time deepens and strengthens throughout different seasons. Serial monogamy brings repeating cycles of joy and pain. It may seem tempting and convenient, but at the end of the day, it causes more harm than good.
“Who Gets the Cat?”, Courtesy of Hutomo Abrianto, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Walking Away”, Courtesy of Jurien Huggins, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Facing the Future Alone”, Courtesy of Jen Theodore, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Out in the Cold”, Courtesy of Marcos Paulo Prado, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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