What’s the Definition of An Exclusive Relationship?

This couple kissing on a bed are the definition of an exclusive relationship.

exclusive relationship
(ik-skloo-siv  ri-ley-shuh n-ship)

noun
An exclusive relationship is a mutual agreement between two people that neither one is romantically pursuing other partners.
Ex: “Let’s stop seeing other people and make this relationship exclusive.”
synonyms: going steady, committed, monogamous.  

Hanging out. Going out. Seeing where it goes. There are many ways to describe the various stages of dating, and everyone has different definitions for these terms. But there’s one stage that’s important to be on the same page about—the definition of an exclusive relationship.

As stated above, an exclusive relationship is a mutual agreement between two people that neither one is romantically pursuing other partners. To me, the key word in this definition is mutual. It implies that both parties must do three things:

1. Acknowledge that they’re in an exclusive relationship together.

2. Commit to their partner.

3. Agree to respect those boundaries, thereby respecting each other.

It’s important to be on the same page no matter what stage your courtship is in, but once you make things exclusive, it’s even more important.

The right time to be exclusive
If you’re ready to take the next step and go exclusive, how can you achieve this? By being honest about how you feel. Once you’re ready to be exclusive with your partner, don’t be ashamed to bring it up. It’s probably not an appropriate conversation to have on the first date, and I’m not suggesting you should bring it up ASAP. But if you really enjoy someone’s company and aren’t interested in seeing anyone else, it’s not a bad time to start thinking about having the conversation. Typically the exclusive relationship conversation happens after a few weeks or months of getting to know somebody, but every situation is unique.

Why it’s important to bring up
The idea of asking someone to “define the relationship” has the unfortunate stigma of being pushy, but it’s really just being honest. Sharing your feelings and wanting to be on the same page as someone is brave, not pushy. Unless your partner has specifically told you how they feel, you shouldn’t assume to know what they’re thinking or feeling, so the best thing you can do is just ask. And if you do open up and the other person doesn’t reciprocate your feelings, try to see that as a blessing in disguise. If someone is wary of committing now, don’t try to force a future together. It’s better to learn how they feel early on.

Making sure you feel the same way 
Once you’ve mutually decided to be in an exclusive relationship, congratulations! Now the rest is up to you. If you don’t like the word relationship, you can use a different term. If you shy away from the labels boyfriend and girlfriend, then you don’t have to use them. And hey, if you want to modify the definition of exclusive, that’s also fair game. As long as you both define your situation the same way, that’s all that matters. Remember, the importance of that word mutual never goes away. If you ever change your mind about wanting to be exclusive and you want to break up, it’s important to be honest with your partner about that too.

Whether you’re looking for something casual or you’re ready to be in a committed relationship, the best thing you can do is be open and honest about your intentions. You don’t want to get hurt, or to or hurt someone else. After you confirm that your definition of an exclusive relationship matches your partner’s and that you’re both looking for the same thing, you’ll both be happy and excited to move forward together.

Elizabeth Entenman

Freelance Writer

Elizabeth is a freelance writer, editor, and advertising copywriter in Brooklyn. Right now, she’s probably somewhere Instagramming her dogs.

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