Dating in the 21st century comes with a hell of a lot of labels and stages. Between casual dating, seeing each other, getting into an exclusive relationship, and the murky waters of the situationship – it’s hard to know exactly which stage you’re at.
Of course, the likes of the situationship and casual dating are conditional stages that not everyone will go through. But exclusive dating is an inevitable step we all experience on the way to the real thing – an actual relationship.
The peak of all the dating labels – boyfriend and girlfriend, partners, significant others, whatever you prefer to call it. That warm, fuzzy feeling when you know that you have someone who cares deeply about you and has your back. The certainty that even at those dreaded family gatherings, you have your plus one by your side.
Being exclusive is a natural progression on the way to a committed, monogamous relationship. This stage takes a lot of the pressure off of fully committing to each other by letting you commit just enough to see if you two have what it takes to stay together.
Getting into a relationship can change your life, and the delicate balance of an exclusive relationship is just the test drive you need to help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.
What does exclusive dating mean?
In short, it’s a phase of your relationship where you agree to date each other and no one else. It takes the uncertainty out of dating and helps you to relax a little more as you get to know each other. An exclusive dating arrangement, however, means different things to different people.
One person’s definition of exclusivity isn’t always the same as somebody else’s. Which is why it’s useful to establish some rules so that you know where you stand with each other.
Exclusive relationship rules
The rules of dating exclusively are pretty obvious. You both only date each other. Seems pretty simple, right? Well, not always. Your new boo might think that keeping dating apps active is alright, or might even want to skip this stage and dive straight into a relationship.
Communication is absolutely key in all stages of a relationship, and an exclusive relationship is no exception. So, keeping an open dialogue will help you both feel comfortable and understand where you both are at emotionally.
How to have the exclusive relationship chat
The biggest mistake you can make with exclusive dating is not being on the same page as the person you’re dating. So having ‘the chat’ is crucial in helping your relationship to flourish as you get to know each other.
I’m afraid there’s no hack or tip on how to bring up the exclusivity chat. You just have to do it. And when you take this leap of faith, you can clear things up for the both of you and help your relationship get off to a good start.
In terms of when to bring up exclusivity as a whole, again there’s no definitive answer. You’ll have to rely on your gut here, much like with any big decision life. If things are going well and you guys have a good connection, then there’s no reason you can’t pop the age-old, “what are we?” question.
You never know, it might be just the gesture your new beau is waiting for to admit their feelings too. And if it’s not, then at least you won’t waste any more of your time or energy on someone who doesn’t feel the same way.
Why an exclusive dating arrangement is wholesome AF
There’s a lot to love about being exclusive. It’s super wholesome for starters. I mean how sweet is it to formally agree to not see other people? It’s basically like the appetiser for a full-blown relationship. You can see how things go, and treat your relationship almost like a free trial before committing to a membership.
But more importantly, you can gain a level of peace of mind and trust that you just can’t get without exclusive dating.
Situationships are so pre-covid
If we’ve learnt anything from this year’s global pandemic, it’s that uncertainty f*cking sucks. So for the rest of 2023, we’re demanding transparency wherever we can. And you guessed it, even with our relationships. Life is literally too short to not know where you stand, and being happy is much more important than seeming cool and collected.
The beauty of dating exclusively is that there’s no grey area. So, no obsessively stalking his Instagram likes list, no late-night worrying that those plans they have on Friday are a date, and definitely no second-guessing whether your feelings are reciprocated.
Exclusive dating vs a relationship
Exclusive dating can sound pretty similar to a full-blown relationship, but it’s important not to get these two phases mixed up. While there are elements of exclusivity that overlap with a full-on relationship, it is missing some key aspects of the latter.
The main difference between the two is the longevity of your relationship. In an exclusive relationship, the main time focus is short-term. So, while you go on dates, speak on the phone, and possibly even meet each other’s friends, everything in your relationship is in the short-term.
As soon as you start getting more focussed on the future – you’re getting into relationship territory. You start to make plans together, such as travelling, meeting each other’s family, or committing to events that are planned well in advance.
And with longer-term plans, come promises and pressure. Even making the plans, in itself, show that you’re in it for the long run and see each other as a part of your futures. And as lovely a gesture as that is, there is an element of pressure that could be too much for anyone. But keeping things a little more casual with an exclusive relationship helps you both to focus on the present connection.
There’s also a clear difference in the labels you use for each other. More often than not, you’ll use the oh-so millennial label of “seeing each other” whilst exclusively dating, and save “boyfriend and girlfriend” or “partners” labels for when you’re properly together.
Exclusive dating is very much an underrated dating stage, but it’s super important in confirming your connection and giving you the space to get to know each other. If this stage goes well, you can find yourself in a loving, supportive relationship in no time. So what are you waiting for?
Lisa is the editor of European Journal, and always makes time for everyone and lightens up lives with her presence.
When she finds time to write she writes about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.