The hows and why of dating exclusively - for those who feel confused.

This is advice I give in my book, The Humanist Approach to Happiness: Practical Wisdom


First: You are not dating exclusively unless you have had an explicit conversation agreeing to date exclusively. At which point, you are no longer “dating,” you are in an exclusive relationship. Never assume you are dating anyone exclusively until or unless you have had this sort of explicit conversation.

My mother’s advice to me when I started dating, was to play the field. She didn’t mean for me to sleep around. She meant, until you are in an exclusive relationship, date more than one person. This will prevent you from becoming overly attached to any one person too quickly (so that you can find out if they are crazy before you commit). It will also help you when you do decide to make a relationship exclusive. Because at some point, the cream rises to the top of your dating pool and the person you are most interested in dating exclusively becomes clear.  When you do make that commitment, you are making it for all the right reasons, and not because – well – they were your only option.

When should you have this conversation?  When you want to start dating someone exclusively. When the idea of them dating someone else upsets you.  First dates, are too soon. I usually waited at least 3 months before I would have this conversation – to experience this person over time in a variety of situations to make sure they weren’t crazy before I committed myself to them. Personally, for me, I need to have the exclusivity conversation BEFORE I have sex with someone (for several reasons – involving trust, disease transmission, and support if we got pregnant accidentally).

Everyone is different and their reasons for dating are different and when they will want to have this conversation, if they have it at all will vary.

This is not and should not be considered a touchy subject.  It is a conversation mature adults have to ensure that they are on the same page regarding expectations from the relationship –however that is defined. You should not be scared to have this conversation if you are ready for the relationship to be exclusive.  If you are too scared to bring it up, then perhaps this person is not someone you should be in an exclusive relationship with anyway. After all, if you don’t trust them enough to discuss whether or not to date exclusively, then you probably don’t feel secure or safe with them.  And, in general, it’s not a good idea to get into exclusive relationships with people who make you feel scared or insecure.

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