Monogamy and STDs

One of the Best Ways to Prevent or Lower the Risk of Exposure

Monogamy is defined as the state of having only one sexual or romantic partner. Monogamy may be used to refer to romantic relationships or sexual relationships where the defining characteristic is that a person has only one partner.

People of any sexual orientation can engage in monogamous relationships. The only thing implied by the term monogamy is that the relationship consists of two people who are romantically and/or sexually exclusive.

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Types of relationships that are not monogamous include open relationships, such as polyamorous relationships, where there is no expectation of fidelity. Casual dating is also a form of non-monogamy since there is no expectation of exclusivity.

Cheating is another way that people "break" monogamy. However, when a partner cheats, the other person may not realize that they are no longer in a monogamous relationship. Finally, there is a type of relationship that is known as serial monogamy.

This is when a person moves rapidly from one monogamous relationship to another. Each such relationship is technically monogamous. Still, serial monogamy has many of the disadvantages of monogamy with few of the advantages.

Unfortunately, those disadvantages are not often recognized by many people who practice serial monogamy. They often believe their sexual relationships are safer than they are. 

  • Also Known As: monogamous relationship
  • Common Misspellings: monogamy, monogamous
  • Example: The goal of many marriages is to establish a long-term monogamous relationship. However, some marriages involve open relationships or other forms of non-monogamy. One such form of non-monogamy is swinging. This type of non-monogamy involves sexual encounters outside of the marriage. Other types of non-monogamy may be more focused on emotional relationships or committed relationships involving more than two people. 

Monogamy and STDs

A mutually monogamous relationship where both people have been tested for STDs is generally considered to be one of low STD risk.

However, this situation is relatively rare. Very few monogamous relationships begin with STD screening. Because of this, often people do not know whether they have an STD before beginning the relationship.

They may assume they'd be aware if they, or their partner, had an STD, but that simply isn't true. That is why it is very difficult for even long-term married couples to use a new STD diagnosis as a clear indication of cheating

That brings up another very important point about monogamy. Many relationships in which one partner believes they are practicing monogamy turns out not to be monogamous.

This may be because the other partner does not realize the relationship is supposed to involve monogamy. It may also be because the other person is cheating and actively concealing that behavior.

Serial monogamy is not necessarily associated with low STD risk. Why? People may carry un-diagnosed infections from recent, previous partners. In fact, serial monogamy may be a particularly risky form of relationship.

People who are technically monogamous may not be as proactive about STD testing and practicing safer sex as individuals who have negotiated non-monogamous relationships with their partners. That means that their risk may not be as low as they think. 

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Conley TD, Moors AC, Ziegler A, Karathanasis C. Unfaithful individuals are less likely to practice safer sex than openly nonmonogamous individuals. J Sex Med. 2012;9(6):1559-65. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02712.x

Additional Reading

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.