Exclusive Dating: Meaning, Readiness, And Rules

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The Gen-Z new dating jargon is tricky but then their relationships too are far more nuanced than the previous generations’. In this age of fluid relationship dynamics, it’s easy to get confused when we hear terms such as casual dating, exclusive dating, and a committed relationship, especially since different people can interpret and define these terms differently. And trust us when we tell you there’s a difference between dating and being in a relationship. And even dating and exclusivity aren’t the same thing.

The issue is not with the labels per se but with the lack of open communication between partners that often brings in negative emotions. This confusion can give rise to an array of questions: What is exclusive dating? Are exclusive dating and being committed closely connected? Can you be in an exclusive casual relationship? What are the rules of exclusive dating? Is it cheating if you’re exclusive but not in a relationship? We’re here to answer all of these questions for you and more so that you can navigate exclusive dating like a pro.

What Is The Meaning Of Exclusive Dating?

What is exclusive dating? Is it off the market meaning in a relationship? Well, here’s how we define exclusive dating: it is when you stop dating other people, to be romantically involved with just one. It is when you have been dating for a while and feel a deep emotional connection that you consider being exclusive with them. Simply put, it’s when the people involved stop looking out for others and start seeing someone exclusively.

But here are some interesting facts about exclusive dating:

  • Exclusively dating meaning, when two people still have doubts about commitment, but wouldn’t want to miss out on dating each other
  • Exclusive dating doesn’t necessarily imply two people are in a committed relationship. That’s a key dating exclusive vs boyfriend girlfriend difference
  • An exclusive relationship implies not dating anyone else, and it is more like an experiment than a full commitment. But it’s a bit more serious than casual sex/flings and can be a stepping stone to a future commitment
  • Two people who are seeing each other exclusively still screen each other, as in they may still be looking out for flaws that may be deal-breakers
  • Not everyone who’s dating exclusively is off the market. In the exclusive dating stage, you may still have backup people or a standby lover who can be called to the forefront if your equation does not develop into a full-fledged relationship

Related Reading: Fishing Dating – The New Dating Trend

How do you reach the ‘exclusively dating but not in a relationship’ stage?

So, how exactly do you reach this phase of exclusivity? Do you just wake up one day and decide you’re now both exclusive but not official? Or do exclusive dating rules entail having a detailed conversation and laying down some ground rules? What’s the exclusive vs boyfriend girlfriend difference? Does it always lead to a long-term relationship?

Well, ideally, the second scenario is best for everyone involved. A conversation can take the ambiguity out of the equation and doesn’t leave you wondering, “So what are we?”, even if you’re exclusively dating but not in a relationship.

And then, there are other questions, too, in this exclusively dating vs relationship confusion. Does physical intimacy happen before or after you’ve decided you’re going to be dating exclusively? Or should you wait till you’re in a committed relationship? What’s normal? While all these questions may have got you worked up, the solution is a very simple one: honest and open communication.

Exclusively dating but not in a relationship
You can date exclusively and yet not be in a relationship

Adam, 24, a software engineer who’d been out with Stacey on a few dates related his story of dealing with this exclusively dating vs relationship stage, “It was too soon to ask for a commitment or even about moving in together since I wasn’t even sure I wanted it. But I really liked her and didn’t want her to think I was just wasting her time. For the longest time, I was hoping she’d get the hint. Immediately realizing that hints weren’t going to cut it, I ended up gathering all the courage I could and had a conversation with Stacey about dating exclusively. Thankfully, she was on board.”

Related Reading: How The Future Of Relationships And Dating Is Expected To Change In The Next 10 Years

Casual dating vs exclusive dating

So, can you be dating but not exclusive? You sure can, as dating and exclusivity aren’t synonymous anymore. Just in case you’re still confused about the dynamics of casual dating vs exclusive dating, let’s quickly breeze over them before we move on.

Here’s what casual dating entails:

  • It’s a no-strings-attached, no-commitment relationship between two people
  • People who are dating casually may like spending time with each other but do not want a commitment
  • There may or may not be sex involved (although there usually is)
  • They can be in the ‘dating but not exclusive’ stage. It’s usually not a monogamous relationship

The main difference between casual dating vs exclusive dating is the absence of the prospect of a commitment in the future. When we talk about being in a relationship, we are essentially seeing someone as our future spouse or partner. Exclusive dating serves as the foundation for such a relationship. But there’s also the exclusive casual relationship, where you are no longer seeing other people but have kept things casual within your relationship, without any discussion of the future or a long-term relationship.

How Is Exclusive Dating Different From A Relationship?

So, how do you know you are dating someone exclusively? What is this off the market meaning in a relationship? As similar as it sounds, exclusive dating is very different from a relationship, though it can be a stepping stone to a commitment in future. It is, therefore, necessary to understand what you are getting into before going in with other expectations. Exclusively dating meaning dating one person without serious commitment, has its own rules. In case you’re wondering what’s the difference between dating and being in a relationship, here are some we have jotted down:

Exclusive DatingRelationship
You’re not yet ready to commit, but you’re getting thereYou are in love and there is no commitment issue
Conversations still haven’t veered into the deep, vulnerable territory. You want to enjoy the present without worrying about your future together You have many late-night conversations about your emotions, your feelings, and your future
Low expectations to prevent the pain of heartbreak in the future are among the rules of exclusive datingYou go all in and there are expectations of meeting the family, moving in together, and so much more
You may or may not make the relationship official or tell other people you’re dating. This may cause insecurity to creep in The relationship is official. Your partner is always your plus-one, without any conditions

Related Reading: Situationship – Meaning And 10 Signs You Are In One

How To Know If You’re Ready For An Exclusive Relationship

So, you have that special someone in your life who you enjoy spending time with, like the way things are, and wouldn’t mind cranking up the intimacy just a notch. Does that mean that you’re ready for an exclusive relationship with them? How do you know when you’re truly ready and not moving too fast in the relationship?

The following signs that you’re ready for an exclusive relationship will help you inch closer to some clarity:

  • You have lost interest in dating other people
  • You haven’t logged in to dating apps since you began dating this person
  • Advances from others feels obnoxious and off-putting instead of charming
  • You look forward to spending time with them
  • You can’t wait to show them off to your friends
  • You call each other and can talk for hours
  • You catch yourself thinking about them several times during the day
  • You have lost interest in playing mind games to keep them hooked
  • Sex feels more intimate, and you no longer share deets of the deed with your friends
  • You share inside jokes
  • There is at least a small part of your life that you share only with them

Did you go through that list saying check, check, and check? Well, good for you, you’re certainly ready to be exclusive with the person you’re dating.

Related Reading: 13 Examples Of Mixed Signals From Guys

How To Know If Your Partner Is Ready To Be Exclusive

In the realm of exclusive dating, it does take two to tango. Not everyone you’re dating wants to be exclusive with you. The question is, how do you figure out what your partner wants? Do you think she or he wants to be exclusive but not in a relationship? Are they looking for a casual but exclusive relationship? Is their idea of exclusive dating the same as yours?

The easiest way to find answers to these questions is to have a conversation with the other half of the equation. And that becomes so much easier when you’re fairly certain that the other person is on the same page as you. It takes the inhibition and fear of rejection out of the equation and allows you to have an honest and open discussion with your partner. To get a sense of your partner’s readiness to be exclusive, pay attention to the following signs:

  • They are curious about you and make an effort to get to know you better
  • They make time for you
  • They are consistent in the effort they put into your current dynamic
  • They don’t play hot-and-cold or leave you wondering about your place in their life
  • They tell you that they’re no longer interested in seeing other people
  • Their dating profiles have been dormant for a while
  • They make plans to spend time with you and show initiative
  • They make a genuine effort to get to know you better
  • They have asked about your relationship history
  • They want to know if you’re still seeing other people
  • There is some emotional intimacy and your connection is no longer superficial
dating tips

12 Rules To Follow When You Are Dating Exclusively

Exclusive dating is a tricky affair. You know that you are not dating anyone else, so there is a certain shift in your dating life. But as far as your dynamics with your partner go, you might not feel different. Either it is exclusive but not official, or you’re in a casual but exclusive relationship and that can eventually lead to a lot of conflicted feelings.

Mixed emotions, doubts, and all kinds of relationship insecurities begin to creep in, only to ruin what you have. However, if you clearly define the rules of exclusive dating and make sure you’re on the same page about what to expect from this stage of a relationship progression, a lot of this niggling unpleasantness can be weeded out, allowing you to focus on improving the quality of your connection. Follow these 12 golden exclusive dating rules to keep it going:

1. Establish ground rules first

It is important to talk about what you are getting into. Ground rules need to be set to ensure that both of you are on the same page. Be clear on these issues:

  • What does exclusive dating mean to both of you?
  • Are you ready to be exclusive? Are they?
  • What if she or he wants to be exclusive but not in a relationship?
  • Do you want a casual but exclusive relationship?

Open communication is the key to healthy exclusive dating. My coworker Maya relates her tale, “I went on a couple of dates with this guy and I really liked him, but I decided it’d be too soon to discuss anything with him. However, I didn’t want to date anyone else. A day after our 5th date, I saw him posting a story with another woman. Needless to say, my heart sank.” While it’s not the end of the world, it’s still a situation Maya could’ve avoided had she talked to the guy she was dating.

Related Reading: 10 Must-Follow Healthy Relationship Boundaries

2. Give your partner some space

One of the most important exclusive dating rules is respecting your partner’s personal space. They’ve just let you into their life, don’t push them away by asking too many questions. Give them the space they need, and they will eventually let you in when they are comfortable enough to share a larger part of their life with you. Don’t become clingy and needy.

Stop prying into their equation with their friends and family or their relationship history if they’re not ready to open up about it just yet. You may touch a raw nerve in the process of getting to know your partner better and push them away.

3. Stop exploring dating sites

Now that you are in an exclusive relationship, you should go inactive on online dating sites, since you’d expect your partner to do the same. Here’s why:

  • These apps and sites will only tempt you into exploring more options, interfering with your ability to truly connect with the person you’ve agreed to be exclusive with
  • This could make your partner insecure because your relationship hasn’t been defined yet. And you don’t want an app to break you up
  • A friend of your partner may see your profile and that could spell disaster for something that could have been something big.

To go from dating to relationship, you must handle the stage of being exclusive with the utmost care, honesty, and transparency.

Related Reading: Fluid Relationship Is A New Thing And This Couple Is Breaking The Internet With It

4. Keep your insecurities in check

There is no reason to be insecure about someone you’re dating exclusively. There could be trust issues and the fear of him/her going behind your back and dating other people, but you have to go with your gut and trust them.

Even if she or he wants to be exclusive but not in a relationship while you are ready to go all in, don’t let this difference in your individual paces send you into an overthinking spiral and trigger relationship insecurity. Instead, take each day as it comes, and focus on enjoying the experience.

5. Don’t bring up their past just yet

Avoid bringing up their past relationships and exes in conversations, unless your partner opens up to you about their past. The past has nothing to do with your present. Everyone has past baggage and processes it in their own way. Live in the present and make the most of it.

Even though you’d want to know all about your partner’s dating history to try and grasp them better, now isn’t really the time to do so. If you do manage to get more comfortable with them, however, you can possibly think about bringing up the topic.

Related Reading:  Is Caspering Less Brutal Than Ghosting?

6. Don’t bring up the future either

You have known your partner for a while now and think that there could be a future with them. But you must keep those feelings to yourself. Try not to pressure your partner into anything, without really having a conversation with them about what your expectations are. If you’re pressuring your partner to introduce his/her friends to you, you might just end up pushing them away instead of establishing something more solid.

7. Lower your expectations

Expecting your partner to fall in love with you just like in romantic comedies will most definitely end badly. If you’re daydreaming grand gestures of love and lash out or pick fights when those expectations aren’t met, your partner will slowly begin pulling away from you. You could try to manage your expectations in the relationship in the following ways:

  • Do not compare him/her to your exes (you will only compare what was good about your ex and probably not what your current partner is good at)
  • Do not expect him/her to make plans every time. You should do it as well
  • Expect him/her to make time for you, but do not expect to be the center of his/her world

Keeping expectations low and realistic will help be content with what you have and let time work its wonders.

Related Reading: Millennial Relationship: Are the Millennials Having Less Sex?

8. Spend more time together

Now that you have both gotten comfortable with each other, spend more time together. Get to know how the person is when you both are not on a date. Carving out quality time for each other during the exclusive dating phase will help you ascertain your compatibility as partners and help you realize whether it’s a good idea for you to commit to one another.

Related Reading: Fun Weeknight Date Ideas – Creative Ideas Better Than A Dinner Date

9. Don’t go all in

If you’re the hopeless romantic kind, you may be tempted to tell this person how much you ‘love’ them just after a couple of dates. Try to calm yourself down, take a cold shower, and consider the possibility that you just might be infatuated, not in love. Or that you may be falling in love too fast and setting yourself up for an inevitable heartbreak.

Going in all the way and opening yourself up to him/her is not something your partner could be ready for. Don’t mistake exclusive dating for a relationship. Keep the deep and intense parts of your life under wraps. Bringing such things up will only hurt you in the end if things get ugly.

exclusively dating meaning
One needs to make sure it’s love and not just infatuation, before going exclusive with someone

10. Focus on the fun

Avoid establishing an emotional relationship with them just yet. Emotions and feelings do not do very well in exclusive dating, initially. The idea of dating exclusively is to establish a healthy relationship with a person in a friendly and fun way. That way, even if things end, you’ll feel that you had a good run, without ill feelings or heartbreaks.

But what if you feel like you’ve fallen head over heels for this person? Well, maybe, don’t wear your heart on your sleeve just yet. Sit with your emotions for some time to see if they’re real or transient while enjoying the good thing you’ve got going.

11. You don’t need to go public with it

You and your partner can befriend each other on social media and tag each other in memes. But posting your partner prematurely might just scare them away. Of course, you might be itching to tell your friends about this new person you found who you just can’t seem to get enough of, but try to avoid talking about them too much. If your exclusive dating relationship falls through, you don’t want your friends asking you for updates.

Related Reading: 5 Things To Consider Before Beginning A Polyamorous Relationship

12. Remember, exclusive dating is not a relationship

You need to keep reminding yourself that you are not in a relationship. This will keep you from doing any cutesy relationship stuff and expecting to be treated like you’re in the most adorable relationship already. Dating exclusively is just a step toward commitment. It may not even last that long. So, be prepared.

Key Pointers

  • Being exclusive is an important pitstop in the journey from dating casually to being in a relationship
  • It helps two people get to know each other better and assess their compatibility as romantic partners
  • Exclusive dating can prove to be confusing if you don’t have a clear conversation about it
  • Giving each other space, managing expectations realistically, and taking things forward one step at a time are the secrets to navigating this phase like a pro

So it is up to you to see whether what you want is a fun exclusive dating thing or a committed relationship. Do you want a no-drama, fun scenario, or an ongoing relationship that gives you some peace of mind? You need to decide whether you want to play by the rules or end the game. Whether you want to go about dating casually or are yet to decide on the exclusive relationship vs a committed relationship choice — the choice is yours.

FAQs

1. How long should you date exclusively before a relationship?

There’s no real set amount of time you should date before a relationship, it all depends on what the partners find comfortable. But most people agree that exclusively seeing someone for three to four months is usually a good idea before getting into a relationship.

2. How do I know if we are exclusively dating?

The best way to find out if you are in an exclusive relationship is to talk to them about it. Do they expect exclusivity? Are they not ready for a committed relationship yet? Questions like these will help you both be on the same page.

3. Is it cheating if you’re not exclusive?

So, are you often asking yourself “Is it cheating if you’re exclusive but not in a relationship?” If you’ve both discussed that you won’t be exclusive to each other, sexual relations with someone else cannot be considered cheating. Cheating can be defined as such only after you and your partner have discussed exclusivity or even decided to be exclusive but not official.

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