[2007: Case of the rare fearful-avoidant, Nate.]
Nate’s operating mode is serial monogamy. He feels more secure with one other person and the underlying compulsion to find a source for sex and companionship compels him to try to find a monogamous LTR — over and over and over, with a breakup on average just a few months after committing.
Serial monogamy is now the dominant model for relationships in the West. Where true monogamy implies coupling for life, serial monogamy is exclusive only for a limited time, and implies that when an exclusive relationship stops working for the benefit of either partner, it should end and new partners be found. The old model of forever-after monogamy is honored mostly in the breach, still held up as an ideal though longer lives, urban surroundings, and increased wealth reduced the benefits and increased the opportunity cost of permanent commitments. Even politicians can’t conform to the permanent monogamy standard, it seems, though for the benefit of voters they continue to talk about it in glowing terms.
Younger people in the upper classes now mostly accept the more realistic expectation that they will have multiple partners in their lifetimes. An article from The Dartmouth Free Press expresses the modern view, excerpted here:
Serial monogamists are undoubtedly looking for love, admiration, and respect, but find themselves in mismatched relationships, until (they pray) one will end the series. If you are in such a situation, consider the compromises and sacrifices outlined in the tongue-in-cheek book “Does He Love Me or Am I Just Paranoid? The Serial Monogamist’s Guide to Love” by Carina Chocano: “Step 1: Lower Your Standards. Start by asking yourself the following: Does he really have to be attractive? Does he really have to be smart? Does he really have to be clean? Does he really have to be sane? Step 2: Question Your Instincts. Your gut is telling you to run far away. Pretend not to hear it….Step 3: Accentuate the Positive. Before dismissing someone as “ugly” or “crazy,” take the time to examine his positive qualities: Is he wonderfully weird? Is he thrillingly obsessive-compulsive? Is he expertly medicated?”
So Nate is not alone in this seemingly fruitless emphasis on an outcome that never happens for him over the acceptance and enjoyment of flawed partners as they are, while in the process of getting to know them. The unusual aspect of Nate’s relationship history is the number of partners he’s tried out and the speed of the breakups; otherwise he’s in the mainstream. Family and friends and society at large have told him he should try to achieve permanent partnership with someone respectable, and in pursuit of that goal he will break and leave behind any relationship that doesn’t seem to be heading in that direction, usually because he becomes aware that his prospective partner will end up boring him in time. This is a problem for all really smart people; finding someone who will be stimulating for a lifetime is very much harder than it is for more normal people.
Nate’s prospective partners have mostly been of the same mindset: seeking stability and permanence, and often devastated when such a seemingly perfect boyfriend dumps them. Nate has not helped them much by tending to go along with their plans at first; he has not learned the trick of reducing expectations and being forthcoming about the tentative nature of his interest, so until recently they have had good reason to feel let down when he exited abruptly under the pressure of their expectations. But they, too, only see one brass ring to try for, and reject a relationship that might be satisfying and worthwhile even if not leading to their ideal outcome. And so everyone who lives this dominant paradigm is set up for disappointment and loss while surrounded by interesting and attractive people who’d want to spend time with them….
More on Divorce, Marriage, and Mateseeking
Marriages Happening Late, Are Good for You
Monogamy and Relationship Failure; “Love Illuminated”
More reasons to find a good partner: lower heart disease!
“Princeton Mom” Susan Patton: “Marry Smart” not so smart
“All the Taken Men are Best” – why women poach married men….
“Marriage Rate Lowest in a Century”
Making Divorce Hard to Strengthen Marriages?
Student Loan Debt: Problems in Divorce
“The Upside of ‘Marrying Down’”
The High Cost of Divorce
Separate Beds Save Marriages?
Marital Discord Linked to Depression
Marriage Contracts: Give People More Legal Options
Older Couples Avoiding Marriage For Financial Reasons
Divorced Men 8 Times as Likely to Commit Suicide as Divorced Women
Vox Charts Millennial Marriage Depression
What’s the Matter with Marriage?
Life Is Unfair! The Great Chain of Dysfunction Ends With You.
Leftover Women: The Chinese Scene
Constant Arguing Can Be Deadly…
“If a fraught relationship significantly shortens your life, are you better off alone?
“Divorce in America: Who Really Wants Out and Why”
View Marriage as a Private Contract?
“It’s up there with ‘Men Are From Mars’ and ‘The Road Less Travelled’”
Free Love, eHarmony, Matchmaking Pseudoscience
Love Songs of the Secure Attachment Type
“The New ‘I Do’”
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Mark Manson’s “Six Healthy Relationship Habits”
“The Science of Happily Ever After” – Couples Communications
Free Dating Sites: Which Have Attachment Type Screening?
Dating Pool Danger: Harder to Find Good Partners After 30
Mate-Seeking: The Science of Finding Your Best Partner
Perfect Soulmates or Fellow Travelers: Being Happy Depends on Perspective
No Marriage, Please: Cohabiting Taking Over
“Marriage Markets” – Marriage Beyond Our Means?
Rules for Relationships: Realism and Empathy
Limerence vs. Love
The “Fairy Tale” Myth: Both False and Destructive
When to Break Up or Divorce? The Economic View
“Why Are Great Husbands Being Abandoned?”
Divorce and Alimony: State-By-State Reform, Massachusetts Edition
“Sliding” Into Marriage, Small Weddings Associated with Poor Outcomes
Subconscious Positivity Predicts Marriage Success…
Why We Are Attracted to Bad Partners (Who Resemble a Parent)