Toxic monogamy places emphasis on exclusivity between romantic partners while ignoring or shunning other types of relationships in the process.

A culture of toxic monogamy occurs when society places implicit or explicit pressure on what a relationship should look like.

A person may internalize unhealthy views of what a relationship should be or look like, causing a negative impact on their overall well-being and potentially leading to issues with their relationships.

Toxic monogamy emphasizes romantic relationships above all other types of relationships.

A person feels a need to prioritize the romantic relationship, distancing themselves from or completely cutting out anything that threatens the romantic relationship itself.

Toxic monogamy emphasizes jealousy and possessiveness as the markers of what true love is. Simultaneously, it ignores or devalues more meaningful aspects of a healthy relationship, such as:

  • trust
  • independence
  • communication

It also emphasizes that everyone should strive for a romantic relationship while ignoring or shunning other types of relationships.

As a result, it can also lead to ignoring obvious signs a relationship may not work out because of notions such as love conquers all. The following can also interfere with a relationship and, when ignored, cause issues:

A healthy monogamous relationship is built on the ability to:

  • trust your partner to make the right choices and be there for you
  • communicate your needs and be ready to discuss your partner’s needs
  • engage in activities and friendships that bring you fulfillment outside of your romantic relationship

Pressures from various aspects of your life help to influence your viewpoint on romantic relationships. Religion often emphasizes monogamy. Romances and romantic comedies often stress the importance of finding “the one”, as do songs and other forms of entertainment.

The desire for coupling may help fulfill a biological need.

In a 2018 study, researchers suggested that humans, as a species, naturally gravitate toward pair-bonding or a strong affinity between mating couples. In other words, humans develop an attraction and desire to be with a sexual partner that goes beyond the act of sex.

While this may make you think the authors suggest monogamy is the biological best option, they note that humans can achieve pair-bonding through polygyny (multiple wives) or polyandry (multiple husbands) as well as short-term relationships.

Another study from 2016 suggests that male-mate guarding may have been the top predecessor that led to the development of monogamy in early humans. Mate guarding is the idea that a man would take steps to ensure continued mating with the same woman in the face of competition.

Signs of toxic monogamy can include:

Putting your relationship over everything

The relationship always comes first, leading to an understanding that you can use your relationship as an excuse to get out of anything.

Examples can include using a spouse as an excuse not to do something with friends or distancing yourself from family that does not approve of your choice in love.

Possessive and jealous behaviors

You or your partner use jealousy and possessiveness as a measure of how much you love each other.

This may lead to the belief that every need must be fulfilled through your partner. This includes social, physical, and emotional needs

Limiting love only to your partner

Love is finite. In other words, if you show affection toward a friend, it’s believed that you’re diminishing the love you give your partner.

This means you or your partner can have no other meaningful relationships with others because you believe love reduces instead of expands.

Setting unrealistic expectations despite issues

The belief is that passionate and true love will overcome any possible barriers. Most movies and stories emphasize this point.

Your love will overpower any practical issues, such as long distances, religious or political differences, or other red flags that can get in the way.

While cooperation and compromise often need to occur in a relationship, ignoring issues can lead to resentment.

Belief that attraction is limited to your partner only

Attraction can occur between casual acquaintances, colleagues at work or school, and with other people in your life.

It can be natural to become attracted to people who share your interests or whom you’re in contact with. However, feeling attraction to a person outside your relationship does not mean you’re cheating or will act on physical desires.

Despite what pop culture emphasizes, it’s possible to have a monogamous relationship without being sexually exclusive with your partner.

This type of monogamy emphasizes that you will always be there for your partner, but you may fulfill your physical needs outside of the relationship.

Of course, both you and your partner need to agree and have an understanding of this for it to work. But some people find this works well for them.

The same concept also applies to socializing as well as meeting your emotional needs.

Some ways to cope with or address toxic monogamous behaviors can include:

  • Explore your needs and desires when dating: Try not to rush to be exclusive. Consider whether you’re truly into them as a person or just like the attention from the relationship
  • Explore what monogamy is: Question whether you strive for monogamy because you want to or because it’s the only way you’ve ever known.
  • Develop healthy boundaries: Discuss and explore your boundaries with any romantic partner. Try to create boundaries that prioritize your needs and respect your partner’s personal boundaries.
  • Practice open communication: Discuss the idea of monogamy and what the other person is looking for in a relationship. If you’re comfortable, talk with them about expectations for sexual intimacy, marriage, and a family before committing to a monogamous relationship. This may help you determine whether this is the type of relationship or partner you seek.

Monogamy is not inherently toxic. Many people find fulfillment in monogamous relationships.

Any relationship, including romantic ones, should be built on concepts such as:

  • trust
  • communication
  • being your own person

Although your relationship is important, it should not overshadow and alter how you respond to everyone else around you. Several variations of relationships can exist; none are necessarily better than the other.

Before committing, it may be helpful for you to better understand your own needs and desires. Asking yourself what you want is just as important as asking a potential mate what they want.

Open communication can help regardless of what type of relationship you desire since it can help you and potential partners determine if you want and need the same things.