If you’re like most people, you figure you’ll get married once—maybe twice—in your entire life.
However, if you’re a serial monogamist (a person who engages in repeated serious relationships, one after the other), you might marry three, four, five or more times during your life.
But what drives someone to become a serial monogamist? Do they begin with psychological issues, or do they simply end up with them?
As several studies have shown, people who marry several times in rapid succession are more likely to experience psychological distress, regardless of gender, age or ethnicity.
While it’s common to see serial marriage in Hollywood—Elizabeth Taylor was married eight times to seven different men, for example, and Joan Collins, Danielle Steele and Rita Hayworth all married five times—it’s not so common among the rest of us.
Statistics show that across the United States, 5 percent of people who have been married at least once have actually been married three times or more. (That percentage is highest in Arkansas, at 10 percent, and lowest along the East Coast in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts, where it’s just 2 percent.)
Education plays an important role in serial monogamy, as well. Those with higher education levels have a lower likelihood of being married three or more times.
Unfortunately, serial marriage is also linked with earlier death.
The Psychology Behind Serial Marriage
Many people who engage in multiple marriages, either long-term or short-term, have a perception that there is an “ideal” type of love—but they often fall short of believing that people can experience only one “true love” in a lifetime.
Sometimes diving into a new relationship is a way to become distracted from loneliness. In other cases, it’s related to a misplaced self-value that’s based solely on the way other people feel about you.
Either way, it’s not necessarily healthy to become relationship-dependent. Serial marriage can have negative effects on others, including (and perhaps especially) children, grandchildren and even ex-spouses.
Serial Marriage Through the Eyes of Adult Children
When parents remarry, it’s not easy on children—even adult children.
“The parent-child bond is intensely strong. A parent’s remarriage causes a shift in that relationship, and most adult children find it unnerving,” says Susan Newman, author of Nobody’s Baby Now: Reinventing Your Adult Relationship With Your Mother and Father.