How’s this for romantic?
She says: “I really like you and would like to see where this relationship could go. Do you want to be exclusive?”
He says: “Why not? I don’t really have time to date anyone else.”
Now there’s a way to make a person feel special! There’s so much advice floating around about how to get someone to be in an exclusive relationship with you, yet there’s little discussion about what it really means. Simply put, becoming exclusive with your partner is a big deal. Indeed, it’s the defining moment when that “person you’ve been seeing” becomes your partner.
You’re deciding to be in a committed relationship. You’re agreeing to stop dating others so you can focus on each other. Many experts consider “exclusivity” an important stage in a relationship during which you give each other a trial run to see if you are compatible enough to go the distance.
It’s a declaration of confidence in the future of your union. You might not be in love, but you’re well on your way. Relationship expert Rori Raye even advises women to agree to exclusivity only when “marriage is on the table,” and it’s clear you’re headed there (if that’s what you want). Otherwise, you’re unwisely restricting your options, she warns.
Yet all too often, exclusivity is considered a default status. It’s a pleasant place to hang out in because you’ve got no one else in sight. If a friend were to ask if you’re exclusive with your new sweetie and you respond “I guess,” then it’s time to rethink what the term means and what you want out of your relationship.
Here are four really bad reasons to become exclusive:
1) You don’t have time to date more than one person.
That’s awesome if you met someone special soon after you started dating, and your sweetie just happens to fit nicely into your schedule. Maybe she’s even geographically desirable. Just make sure you’ve chosen this person because she’s a good fit for you – not because you don’t want to make the effort to date more people. If you’re looking for a long-term relationship, dating should be a serious and thoughtful selection process. Don’t settle for an “okay” fit because you don’t want to spend the energy to make dating a priority.
2) You’re not good at dating multiple people.
Perhaps it’s just not part of your DNA. You don’t like keeping track of texts and phone calls, never mind trying to figure out how you should slice up your weekends. Maybe you feel guilty or dishonest if Fred texts you while you’re on a second date with Ed. It’s okay if that’s how you approach dating. Just make sure you’re dedicating your valuable time to someone who has the potential to go the distance. You don’t want to find yourself sliding into a “quasi-serious” relationship without first deciding if he’s worth it.
3) It’s convenient.
You get a Saturday night date and a Wednesday night movie companion. You have a name for the wedding invitation addressed to “You and guest.” You have a running buddy. We all want companions. Yet there’s a problem if this person fills a role in your life – not a special place in your heart.
4) You don’t want him or her dating anyone else.
It’s natural to want the object of your affection to reserve all their romantic energy for you. But that desire should come from a place of wanting to claim someone, rather than jealousy. The first is motivated by confidence, and the latter is about possessiveness and insecurity.
Here’s one really good reason to become exclusive:
You’re really excited about getting to know your sweetie better. You’re ready to publicly call this person your “girlfriend” or “boyfriend.” You want to make this person a regular part of your life and introduce him or her to your family and friends. The idea of kissing anyone else just seems yucky. You’re ready to have that talk …
Have you ever settled for someone because it was convenient?
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate, and Salon.