9 Exclusive Dating Vs Relationship Differences You Did Not Know About

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Exclusive dating vs relationship are two commonly used labels when you’re with someone and it’s going really well. The labeling of any relationship is essential because it helps in managing expectations, and desires, and it gives you a proper understanding of where the relationship stands. It basically helps clear the blurry lines. 

This becomes more crucial than ever considering the fluid landscape of modern-day relationships. Unlike a few decades ago, when mutual attraction was the first step toward starting a romantic relationship, these days there are quite a few levels two people have to cross to reach the exclusive dating and relationship stages. Believe it or not, those two aren’t the same. 

To get more clarity on how exactly the two are different, we spoke to counseling psychologist Namrata Sharma (Masters in Applied Psychology), who is a mental health and SRHR advocate and specializes in offering counseling for toxic relationships, trauma, grief, relationship issues, gender-based and domestic violence.

Is Dating Exclusively The Same As A Relationship?

Exclusive dating is when two people have confessed their feelings, agreed to monogamy and formed a deep personal connection. It is the transitioning phase between dating and a relationship. 

Answering the “Is exclusive the same as relationship?” question, Namrata says, “They are a part of the same spectrum. However, there is one major exclusive dating vs relationship difference. Exclusive dating is when there is no commitment yet. Consider this as a small step to being in a relationship but without the commitment factor.”

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9 Exclusive Dating Vs Relationship Differences You Did Not Know About

Exclusive dating vs relationship can overlap in many ways. Certain characteristics of the former are:

  • You are ONLY seeing each other and no longer looking to date other people
  • You are involved personally and intimately with each other
  • People are aware of your exclusivity status
  • You haven’t given them the title of ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’

Namrata says, “Exclusive dating is a tricky phase to define. It’s the final step toward a relationship. You both reciprocate each other’s feelings and understand each other’s love languages. You have built a concrete structure where you are actively seeking to get to know the other person better. Let’s consider this phase as a trial period for what’s to come later, which is the relationship stage.” 

That brings us to the question at hand: how is exclusive dating different from being in a relationship? Read the differences listed below to find out:

1. Pausing the dating apps 

When both partners pause the dating apps to see if they are a fit for each other, they are dating exclusively. You don’t look for hookups or have a romantic liaison with anyone in this time frame. You focus on just your partner and see if you can have a fulfilling relationship with them in the future. Isn’t that also what a relationship entails? So, then how is exclusive dating different from being in a relationship? 

Well, one simple difference is that exclusive dating focuses more on the here and now whereas a relationship also factors in the future. When you’re dating someone exclusively, you may no longer be keeping your options open, but at the same time, you haven’t started using the “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” labels, or had the “where is this going” conversation. Once those milestones have been crossed, you’re officially in a relationship. 

Related Reading: Dating For 3 Months? What To Expect And Things To Know

2. Differences in boundaries 

One of the major exclusive dating vs relationship differences is boundaries. When two people are exclusively dating each other, you draw various healthy boundaries like:

  • Physical boundaries 
  • Emotional boundaries 
  • Need personal time to relax and rejuvenate 
  • Intellectual boundaries
  • Material boundaries 

Namrata says, “In exclusive dating, if you don’t want to engage sexually yet, you can tell them so. Tell them you want to wait and see where this is headed. That you want to get to know them better and develop signs of emotional connection and intellectual connection before getting physical.”

When you are in a relationship with someone, most of the boundaries get tweaked here and there. For example, material boundaries get lost once the two of you commit to each other and start living together. You use each other’s cars, money, and even clothes. 

3. The level of involvement in each other’s lives is different

One of the exclusive relationship examples is seeing each other often yet not being completely involved in each other’s lives. You might not know how things are between your partner and their siblings. You might not know a great deal about their childhood.

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As the dynamic progress into the relationship space, your partner might open up and tell you why they don’t get along with their dad’s side of the family, how many people they have had sexual relationships with, or why they have trouble trusting people – and vice versa. This is one of the subtle exclusive dating vs relationship differences. 

Related Reading: 15 Sure Fire Conversation Signs She Likes You

4. Introducing your SO to your family 

Is exclusive dating the same as a relationship? No. In exclusive dating, your friends and family members are aware of this special person in your life but your SO isn’t part of your inner circle yet. It’s one of the unwritten rules of dating that you don’t introduce your partner to your family and friends unless you are sure about them. However, when you are in a relationship with someone, you introduce them to your friends and family. You invite them to important family events like weddings and graduation parties or even Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. 

5. Seeing a future together

When you are exclusively dating someone, you don’t look at far-fetched things like how many children you’ll have or which city you would like to settle in after retirement. The only future talk here is about whether you are compatible enough to be in a relationship or whether it’s time to go away for a weekend together. Once you see all the signs you are meant to be together, you think about getting into a serious relationship with them.

Another exclusive dating vs relationship difference is that when you are in a relationship, you talk about everything. About moving in together, marriage, finances, and the possibility of having kids. 

infographic on exclusive dating vs relationship differences
Differences between exclusive dating and relationship

6. Confessing your feelings

Namrata says, “If a person wants to be exclusive but not in a relationship, then they will refrain from confessing their feelings. They won’t say they love you or that they want to be your boyfriend/girlfriend. They will let things stand as they are.”

In exclusive dating, you don’t confess your feelings right away. You take baby steps. You’ve casually dated them, now you are exclusively dating them. They know you like them and that’s why you’ve progressed from former to latter. You will find ways to tell you love them without actually saying it because when the L-word is thrown into the mix, you’re in relationship territory. 

However, it’s best to be sure about the other person’s feelings in exclusive dating before saying “I love you”. If you tell them that you love them and they aren’t on the same page, it might turn into a one-sided relationship, which is a whole other ballgame of messy emotions and complicated equations. 

Related Reading: 15 Simple Ways To Make Her Fall In Love With You

7. The level of intimacy is different in exclusive dating and relationships

Can you be exclusive but not in a relationship? Yes. However, the level of intimacy won’t be the same in exclusive dating as in relationships. All the five stages of intimacy will be present but it won’t be as deep as you would find in a relationship. The level of vulnerability and physical intimacy will be limited as well. If she or he wants to be exclusive but not a relationship, then they will ensure they don’t keep all their insecurities on the table for you to see. 

A key difference between exclusive dating and relationships is that in the latter, the level of intimacy continues to grow. You discover all of each other’s flaws, secrets, and traumas. You know how to cheer them up when they are feeling low. You know what they like in bed and what turns them off. 

on couple dynamics and more

8. A telepathic connection may be lacking in exclusive dating

Another exclusive dating vs relationship difference is that you haven’t developed powerful signs of telepathic love and connection in the former yet. You may not understand your partner’s body language or mood swings. You may not be able to differentiate between their wants and needs or tell what they need at a particular moment just by the look on their face. 

When you are in a relationship with someone, you instinctively know what they want, need, or what they’re thinking. You often communicate with your partner non-verbally and without any difficulty. 

9. In exclusive dating, you don’t know if they’re your soulmate yet 

You’ve just transformed from casual to exclusive. You don’t know if you could spend the rest of your life with them yet because, unlike movies, real life is difficult and romantic connections aren’t always about “love at first sight” and “made for each other”. It takes time to develop a true connection. When you are exclusively dating them, you are looking for signs you have found your soulmate because you need to understand and accept each other’s shortcomings. 

When you are in a relationship with someone, you will get a feeling that they could be your soulmate or that “one great love of your life”. This is what separates exclusive dating from a relationship because you know whether or not to spend the rest of your life with them in the latter.

Key Pointers

  • There are a lot more boundaries in exclusive dating than in a relationship
  • A lack of labels or commitment is a key exclusive dating vs relationship difference
  • The level of intimacy is not so deep in exclusive dating as it is in a relationship
  • Exclusive dating is often considered a precursor to a relationship

Exclusive dating is where you are falling in love with them. It’s such an untainted and gratifying feeling that you don’t want to ruin it by labeling the process yet. Enjoy this transition and make the best out of it by sharing fond memories and spending quality time with each other.

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