Because everyone has a different dating approach—some put all of their eggs in one basket, while others date multiple people at a time, it can be confusing which stage you’re in unless you talk about it directly. An exclusivity talk or a convo about commitment will ensure that you’re both on the same page.
Nothing feels worse than when you invest your valuable time and energy into an emotionally unavailable partner. Defining the relationship is going to be unique to each couple, because it depends on what each partner is looking for and whether having an official title is important. The only rule is to never assume exclusivity, even when you’re sexually active.
Forming a relationship requires vulnerability. Don’t let the fear of rejection hold you back. One person has to be brave and show his or her cards first in order to move forward. Keeping up your self-protective wall for too long can stunt the growth of the relationship.
When you figure out that you’re both equally invested in creating a longer-term relationship, this creates a sense of security that allows each partner to safely open up, be more expressive, and develop a stronger bond.
How can I tell if my partner is ready for a define the relationship talk?
It’s easy to know where you stand when a confident suitor tells you his or her intentions straight up. However, often times each partner is anxiously wondering how the other person feels and whether the relationship is moving forward. Plus, our emotions and level of interest do not always develop at the same speed. The whole experience can be nerve wracking.
Some signs to look for that the person you’re seeing wants to get more serious are:
- They make future plans with you a few weeks or months in advance.
- They introduce you to their friends and ask to meet yours.
- They make you a priority when life gets busy.
On the contrary, there’s a good chance your partner may not be ready for a commitment if:
- They constantly blow off plans or need to reschedule.
- They are secretive with their phone.
- They still actively log in to dating apps.
- They haven’t introduced you to their network.
- They use sex to gain intimacy instead of intimacy to gain sex.
If these ring true, then there’s a good chance he or she is not ready for a commitment. However, the best way to know is to get out of the dark and start communicating.
How should I bring up a conversation about exclusively dating?
The words exclusivity and commitment can be intimidating, especially for men. If you’ve been waiting for him to bring up a define the relationship talk for awhile, and you’re unclear about what he wants, try starting a discussion without using these “triggering” words:
- How do you think our relationship is going?
- I’m having a lot of fun and am wondering how you’re feeling. How do you see us moving forward?
- How do you feel about us only seeing each other?
Notice these questions are open ended, so they are meant to be conversation starters. Give him a chance to elaborate. Though it’s scary to be vulnerable with the possibility of rejection, it’s how you progress forward together.
What if I want to keep dating this person, but I’m not ready for an exclusive relationship?
When my husband first asked me to be his girlfriend, I actually turned him down! Though there were sparks when we first met, I had recently gotten out of a long-term relationship and was enjoying casual dating. The way I turned him down was key, because I still wanted to continue seeing him. I just wasn’t ready for an exclusive commitment.
I told him that, despite not being ready for a girlfriend title, I saw long-term potential and listed off many of his qualities that I found endearing. In fact, I was evaluating him as husband material, and so far he was checking off all of my core values and none of my deal breakers.
He understood that I needed to move a little slower, so we continued to check in with each other along the way about how our feelings were progressing. Within a few months it became very clear that he was the one for me.
Your relationship isn’t doomed if one person is not ready to commit. If you’re dating with intent and truly looking for a relationship, then it’s important to be direct with your partner and let him/her know that you’re taking this seriously, you’re invested in getting to know him/her further, and that you’ll be honest if you don’t see it going further. You both just need to communicate openly and honestly about where you are emotionally.
If your feelings are lagging behind, a great way to boost attachment and emotional intimacy is to have conversations about core values. Stop skimming the surface and dig a little deeper to talk about career aspirations and life goals, whether you want children and the lifestyle you envision living, religion, spirituality, and family values. Pay attention to things such as money management, sex drive, and complimentary or conflicting energy levels. All of these issues impact satisfaction and the success of a long-term relationship.
If you’re just having fun and don’t see a future together, this is the time to end things before the person you’re seeing puts in more effort and energy.
Should I only bring up a define the relationship talk if I know 100% that I want to get serious?
I don’t recommend bringing up an exclusivity conversation if you’re not ready to commit. An exception to this is when you think the person you’re dating is becoming too attached or moving more quickly than you’re comfortable with.
If this is the case, don’t feel pressured to rush into anything You can gently but directly tell your partner that you’re enjoying getting to know him/her, but you’re not ready to define the relationship. If your partner is willing to be patient without an exclusive BF/GF title, then it’s your duty to be honest as your feelings do or do not develop.