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Monkey Branching: What is It & How Does It Really Work?

Have you ever had an ex jump straight into a new relationship after breaking up with you? Maybe this happened to a friend of yours or perhaps you’ve done it yourself!

Either way, it’s important you know that this behavior is somewhat common. 

Welcome to the world of monkey branching! 

What Is Monkey Branching?

Monkey branching is slang to describe dating behavior when one person starts dating somebody else before ending the relationship with their current partner, like a monkey that prepares to grab the next branch before letting go of the current one.

That’s how most people define monkey branching, anyway. 

However, the definition can also include someone in a relationship testing the waters to see if another person would be willing to date them. Perhaps they flirt excessively, talk about their relationship problems to the other person, or even straight-up ask them for a relationship.

Monkey branching is most commonly associated with women trading boyfriends. This is because women are believed to be more hypergamous than men. Women also tend to have more romantic options in the modern dating market. With that said men are certainly capable of this behavior too.   

Either way, it’s widely agreed that monkey branching is selfish and deplorable behavior. It’s not fair to allow the existing partner to continue contributing to a relationship that you’re actively looking to escape.

Monkey branching isn’t technically cheating, although it’s arguably just one step behind. Once you’re sure you want to end a relationship, the right thing to do is to end it as soon as possible.  

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Do Monkey Branching Relationships Last?

In general, relationships started with monkey branching don’t last that long, because they usually lack the emotional connection of a healthier bond. These relationships tend to end before the 1-year mark.

Remember, monkey branching is usually a symptom of hypergamy - and that’s a huge factor determining how long do monkey branching relationships last.

As soon as a monkey brancher finds someone better than their existing partner, they will ruthlessly start making plans to switch to their next monkey branching relationship. Emotional intimacy often means nothing to these people. It’s all just one big game to feed their ego and access as many resources as possible.  

If a woman is trying to monkey branch from her last relationship to be with you, that’s one of the many red flags that suggest she’s not girlfriend material. After all, there’s every chance that a woman like this will eventually be looking to jump into another better relationship.

Often though, it’s the monkey brancher that gets dumped before they have a chance to swing into a new relationship. This is usually the case when a man realizes how vapid and superficial his partner is. It relies on him being brave enough to leave her in search of someone who wants a real emotional connection. 

How Can You Tell If a Girl or Guy Is Monkey Branching? 

She's spending more time on her phone

It’s difficult to tell because the culprit’s behaviors are very subtle. You’ll rarely find substantial proof of it until it’s too late. If you accused your partner of preparing to leave you, they could easily deny it and shame you for being insecure. Indeed, gaslighting is one of a monkey brancher’s strongest defensive tools.

Even so, there are behaviors that people tend to indulge in more often if they’re planning to monkey branch from one relationship to another.

Here are three to look out for.    

They’re very flirtatious

Some women are naturally friendly and flirtatious, even when they’re in a relationship.

However, a woman who respects her boyfriend will not be like that, especially after he tells her to stop.  

Flirting encompasses a wide range of behaviors. Your woman could be leaving flirty compliments on another man’s social media. She might be complimenting him in real life or touching him unnecessarily. Perhaps she’ll hint that he should ask for her contact details or find a reason to take his. If she’s monkey branching, she’ll be watching closely to see how he responds to these flirtatious moves. 

Some women may become flirtatious with only one guy, but others are happy to flirt with anyone they perceive as having higher status. The latter is harder to call out as she could say that she’s a naturally flirtatious person. The easiest occasion to spot this red flag is when her behavior around other men changes compared to the start of your relationship.  

If you catch your woman flirting with someone else, she may defend herself by saying she’s just being friendly. She might even call you insecure. 

If that happens, explain that you know how other men think and that guy will think you’re attracted to him. Ask her if that’s what she wants. She should say no - and that’s when you tell her to stop. 

A good woman will stop flirting with other men in front of you after that conversation. A determined monkey brancher will continue. 

They’re on their phone a lot 

This is another tough behavior to call out because most young women are hooked on their smartphones.

But why is that? In most cases, it’s because of the attention they’re receiving on social media.  

As a boyfriend who’s concerned about monkey branching, it’s worth monitoring what type of attention they’re seeking.

Are they still posting thirst traps on Instagram? Unless they’re a model making money from these types of photos, there’s no reason for women in relationships to do this. 

The only other reason they’d do this is to attract attention from other men, creating opportunities to monkey branch to a better relationship.

Maybe she just wants the attention - but it’s still not out of line to ask your woman to stop this. There’s no reason for her to advertise her sexuality if she’s not on the market. A woman who respects her boyfriend should have no problem with being asked to do this, provided she’s asked in a respectful way. The true gems will stop without being asked.  

If your woman still has a profile on dating apps, that is a massive red flag and one of the most obvious signs she’s looking to monkey branch.

It’s considered unreasonable to snoop on your partner while they’re using their phone or to ask to see their messages.

But it’s worth paying attention to how secretive they are with their phone. Does she willingly check her notifications in your presence or does she hide her screen from you at all times? The latter is another hint that she may be planning a monkey branch soon.    

They’re out with friends more than usual

There’s nothing wrong with a woman going out with her friends while she’s in a relationship. But if your girlfriend starts spending more time out and about without you, that could be another sign that she’s planning to monkey branch. 

The key words here are: without you. If she’s inviting you to brunch with her buddies and is on her best behavior there, that should be nothing to worry about. 

But if she’s constantly finding reasons for you not to be there, that should set the alarm bells ringing.

A constant flurry of girls’ nights out is a big warning sign. They won’t admit this, but the main reason women go to nightclubs is for male attention. If your girlfriend still craves this during your relationship, that’s a sign she’s capable of monkey branching. Indeed, it’s on these nights without you that she’s most likely to bump into someone worth branching towards.

There’s also a chance that your woman isn’t really with her girlfriends at all. A sudden rush of girls’ nights out might be a facade to hide the fact she’s going on dates with someone else. An unexpected increase in late-night work meetings could be another one.

As with the other red flags, it’s difficult to stop this from happening. Banning your girlfriend from spending time with other people definitely fits into the category of controlling behavior. What’s more, showing jealousy towards any of your girlfriend’s buddies is more likely to drive her into their arms.

The best way to gauge whether your girlfriend is out planning a monkey branch is to be enthusiastic about joining her on these nights out. Her reaction should give you useful clues about her innocence. Is she happy for you to join her or does she desperately make excuses about why you can’t?

Is Monkey Branching a Rebound?

Welcoming someone new into her life

Monkey branching isn’t the same as rebounding. The key difference is that monkey branchers line up their next partner before breaking up with their existing one. Meanwhile, a rebound relationship occurs shortly after someone has broken up with their ex.

There are different motivations for each of these behaviors too. 

A monkey brancher comes to terms with their break-up while they’re still in a relationship, lines up someone as a replacement, then branches to their new partner. A rebound occurs because someone is so hurt by a break-up that they feel the need to get together with someone else to ease the pain.

Trying rebounds often hurts more in the long run, because the rebounder hasn’t given themselves time to heal from their break-up.   

Is Monkey Branching Cheating?

If you scroll upwards and remind yourself of the monkey branching meaning, you might think that it doesn’t constitute cheating. 

Ultimately, that depends on your definition of cheating.

It could be up for debate that flirting with the overall goal of getting into a relationship with someone else could count as ‘emotional cheating’.

Also, what if you had sex outside your relationship, then left your partner to be with that person? For many people, the definition of monkey branching could encompass that behavior. 

Ultimately, in situations like this, it doesn’t matter what is monkey branching or what is cheating. Both of these behaviors are incredibly selfish and will hurt your partner. 

Getting cheated on can leave people with emotional scars that take years to heal. It can leave people with trust issues in future relationships because they’re so desperate to avoid the pain of being cheated on again.

However, monkey branching involves a similar betrayal of trust that can cause similar emotional trauma. It can make victims similarly suspicious of future partners in order to protect themselves from similar heartache. 

Ultimately, they’re both awful things to do to a romantic partner and that’s the only takeaway that truly matters. 

What if I’m Being Monkey Branched?

Here’s a sad truth about monkey branching. If it’s happening to you, there’s very little you can do to stop it.

If your partner wants to seek out a better relationship, they will.   

Ordering your partner to stop talking to a certain person - or to men in general - is only likely to push them away faster.

The only successful way to persuade your partner to stay with you is to start treating them better.

Treat them better than they can imagine anyone else doing and they’ll have no logical reason to want to branch away. If you suspect they’re setting up a monkey branch because you’ve been neglecting them, this might just work.   

Of course, the idea of fighting to keep a partner who wants to leave might disgust some people, especially if they’re trying to do it behind your back.

If you have too much self-respect to try and save a relationship with a monkey brancher, the obvious solution is to end it.

When you do this, many monkey branchers will beg you to stay. Remember, they tend to hate being single. If they have narcissistic tendencies (which many do), their ego may not be able to handle you trying to leave them.

But, it’s usually a good idea to stay strong and leave. 

Because, in most cases, if you take them back, they’ll try to monkey branch away from you again in the future.

A monkey brancher is not a good person and they certainly don’t have your best interests at heart. If you have any self-respect at all, you’re best off leaving them and searching for someone who knows what it means to be in a loving relationship.  

What’s The Difference Between Monkey Branching and Cushioning?

Cushioning is a dating term used to describe the act of entertaining one or several other romantic prospects while you’re already in a relationship. This is done to cushion the blow if their partner decides to break up with them since they’ll already have a new partner lined up. 

The behavior and telltale signs of cushioning are the same as monkey branching. However, the key difference is: cushioning is only done as insurance against getting dumped. Those engaging in cushioning might not necessarily be looking to escape their existing relationship. This arguably makes it not as deplorable as monkey branching. 

It’s certainly more common than monkey branching. In fact, it’s often said that every woman has a Plan B if their relationship doesn’t work out.

In an ideal world, your girlfriend wouldn’t be cushioning or monkey branching. But in reality, cushioning is even more difficult to stop. Women treat their ‘cushions’ as friends. They might accept free drinks and dinners from them, but there will be no implications of an impending romance.

With that said, a woman will know deep down that she could monkey branch to her ‘cushion’ if she wanted. Indeed, that’s usually what these ‘friends’ of hers are hoping will happen even if flirting is currently kept to a minimum.

It should be noted a woman could begin with intentions of cushioning, but end up monkey branching if she finds someone better than her partner. However, the monkey branching meaning remains distinct from cushioning.    

Why Do People Monkey Branch?

Difficulty getting over a breakup

You may hear excuses from monkey branchers that paint them in an innocent light. They may say they were dissatisfied with their existing relationship or that they couldn’t help but be seduced by their new boyfriend. However, these aren’t valid reasons to monkey branch. In these cases, the right thing to do is to end the existing relationship before seeking a new one. 

Here are some harsh truths about why people choose to monkey branch instead of doing that.  

They’re afraid of being alone

Some people need to be in a relationship to feel good about themselves. Being single makes them feel unloved, or as if they’re a failure. These serial monogamists often didn’t get the love they needed from their families growing up. 

This is one of the most common reasons why they choose to stay in a relationship that doesn’t fulfill them, only leaving when they have another branch to swing onto. These insecure people are the most prone to swing into a relationship that isn’t any better than the previous one. Still, to them, it’s better than being alone.

During the initial stages of dating, it’s handy to ask your girlfriend how long it has been since her last relationship. If it has only been a short time, you can dive deeper into her previous relationships to identify whether she’s a serial monogamist.

Of course, the biggest sign of a monkey brancher would come if she says she’s still in a relationship while she’s on a date with you. Remember, if a woman monkey branches once, she’s capable of doing it again.

Women who are afraid to be alone tend to make bad girlfriends regardless of their desire to monkey branch. Such people tend to be clingy, possessive, and controlling in a relationship. They’re prone to falling into toxic codependent relationships too. It could be argued that you dodged a bullet if such a woman monkey branched away from you.        

They want to soothe the pain of a break-up

Break-ups can hurt the initiators too. It’s often true that this person wanted the relationship to work out, but sees no way for that to happen. And that can be painful.

So, instead of getting over this pain by themselves, some people choose to monkey branch into a new relationship to ease their heartache. 

They say the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. Indeed, it’s easier to recover from losing a loved one when you have a brand new relationship to focus on. No matter how much you loved your ex, this helps you get over them faster

But that doesn’t make it any less selfish to monkey branch from one partner to another. 

They may feel neglected in their relationship

If a woman feels ignored or neglected by their boyfriend, they may feel more open to romantic attention from someone else.

They’re not being made to feel special in their relationship, so the advances of another man help to fill an emotional hole. 

Once they realize that this person treats them better than their partner does, it’s natural that they might want to explore if this person is interested in a relationship with them. 

Often, they resent their partners for the lack of attention given to them - and that makes them feel less guilty for their monkey branching. 

They may be a narcissist

Monkey branching has been linked to narcissism by several experts in human psychology.

It’s a tool that narcissists use to maintain the amount of attention they need to feel whole. This is often called their ‘narcissistic supply’.

For many narcissists, the attention they receive in their relationships isn’t enough to fill this supply. This inspires them to seek romantic attention elsewhere.

This attention-seeking often develops into monkey branching, simply because the narcissist feels entitled to be able to do this. They’re too selfish to care whether it’s hurtful to their existing partner.

Narcissists crave the intense romantic feelings that arrive at the start of a new relationship. Once that inevitably dies down, their narcissistic supply feels drained. A normal everyday relationship without the intensity of the honeymoon period isn’t enough to satisfy them. That’s why they’re prime suspects to bouncing from relationship to relationship, often with no gap in between. Narcissists often suffer from grass is greener syndrome and they’re the type of people who always want to have their cake and eat it too. 

An extreme case of narcissism is called narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and is classified as an official mental health disorder in the DSM-5.

This isn’t the only mental health disorder linked with monkey branching either. If you know someone who is constantly branching between relationships, it could even be a condition like bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder that’s to blame. 

What to Do After Getting Monkey Branched

If you’re the victim of a monkey branching relationship, the first thing you should do is to realize that it’s not your fault.

Sure, there may have been some things you could have done better in your relationship. You can dwell on these and pledge to do better in your next relationship, by all means.

But there’s no excusing someone who tries to monkey branch out of a relationship. That’s a them problem every time. 

You need to take the time to heal from this experience. Be on your own and enjoy a single life for a while. Take pride in the fact that this is something they’re not strong enough to do. Remember that rebound relationships tend to hurt more in the long run. 

Most importantly, do not take your monkey branching ex back if they try to reinitiate a relationship.

Monkey branchers will often come crawling back to their exes because their relationships rarely last a long time. And, as we’ve explored, they have problems staying single. 

Don’t make that your problem! 

You may have heard the phrase “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” Well, the same is true of monkey branchers. Don’t take them back unless you want them to orchestrate a break-up behind your back again.    

You deserve better than being someone else’s Plan B. Don’t ever forget that.

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