Monogamy and STD Risk

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What is Monogamy?

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.

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: monagamy, monagamous

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. 

What is the Relationship Between 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 turn 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. 

Sources:

Conley, T. D., Moors, A. C., Ziegler, A. and Karathanasis, C. (2012), Unfaithful Individuals are Less Likely to Practice Safer Sex Than Openly Nonmonogamous Individuals. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 9: 1559–1565. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02712.x

Hotton AL, French AL, Hosek SG, Kendrick SR, Lemos D, Brothers J, Kincaid SL, Mehta SD. Relationship Dynamics and Sexual Risk Reduction Strategies Among Heterosexual Young Adults: A Qualitative Study of Sexually Transmitted Infection Clinic Attendees at an Urban Chicago Health Center. AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2015  Dec;29(12):668-74. doi: 10.1089/apc.2015.0146.

Warren, Jocelyn T. , Harvey, S. Marie and Agnew, Christopher R.(2010) One Love: Explicit Monogamy Agreements among Heterosexual Young Adult Couples at Increased Risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections, Journal of Sex Research,, First published on: 28 December 2010 (iFirst).

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