Relationships: Should You Assume You’re Dating Exclusively?
Find out what you need to know
Far too many women make the mistake of assuming that a man is dating them exclusively after just a few dates, or after they have sex for the first time. But this is often a false assumption, and heartache can easily ensue.
The consensus among every relationship expert is that the assumption should never be that you're dating exclusively, but instead, that you're dating non-exclusively until you have a conversation about the subject.
Read on to find out more details on how to find out if you're dating exclusively and how to broach the subject with a new guy.
Never assume you're exclusive
The number one rule of dating is to never assume that you’re exclusive with a man until it’s confirmed.
Donna Flagg, a communications expert and author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations, said, “A woman should never assume her beau is exclusive. It may look, sound and feel like it is, but that doesn't make it so. This is a conversation and one worth having if you want the relationship to advance. Asking a man where you stand is a valid question and how he handles it is a good indication if he can manage the commitment. It also provides a wonderful opportunity to see how well you communicate around a touchy subject or difficult conversation, which are skills necessary in all healthy relationships.”
Alex Greenberg, a dating coach and founder of PriceDate.com, agreed, and said there are ways to get an answer without sitting down and having a serious conversation on the topic.
“You know what they say about assumptions. No one should ever assume a relationship is exclusive unless there's a reason to believe so. Without coming out and having the dreaded ‘define the relationship’ talk, there are a few key things that point to exclusivity: meeting the family, attending social events together, exchanging gifts on holidays, talking every day, and hanging out regularly without making specific plans. If you can check these things off your list, odds are you're exclusive (or headed down that path),” Greenberg said.
If it’s your preference, rather than confirming it by asking a question, be bold and make a statement, Greenberg said. “Something as simple as, ‘I really like dating you and I don't want to date anyone else’ can work so much better than asking it in a question. It takes the pressure off the guy and gives him to time to think about what you said.”
How to handle this issue
To get more info on the pertinent questions, LadyLUX talked to several relationship experts to ask their advice. Participants included Astroglide's resident sexologist, Jess O'Reilly, a relationship counselor and a best-selling author with a PhD in sex education; Dr. Deb Castaldo, a relationship therapist, college professor, and author of the new book, Relationship REBOOT: Tech support for love; and Dr. Fran Walfish, psychotherapist, author and expert panelist on Sex Box, which will premiere on WE TV in early 2015.
LadyLUX: Should a woman assume she is dating a man exclusively?
O’Reilly: I don’t think you can ever assume that you’re dating exclusively.
Dr. Castaldo: No! A woman should not assume exclusivity! This can only lead to heartbreak.
Dr. Walfish: You should always assume that you are dating a man non-exclusively. Assume he is dating you as one of several others.
LL: If it is safe to make the assumption you’re exclusive, what are the signs?
O’Reilly: There may be signs that your new love interest sees your relationship as exclusive (e.g. he invites you to meet his family, you plan to spend the holidays together, you speak about the future in indefinite terms), but the only way to know for sure is to ask.
LL: If you can’t make this assumption, how should you handle this potentially touchy subject?
O’Reilly: Exclusivity doesn’t need to be a touchy subject. If you’re looking for an exclusive relationship, it’s perfectly okay to indicate this preference from the onset. If you’re enjoying spending time together, you can simply let him know that you’re dating him exclusively and ask him if he feels the same way.
LL: When is the right time to ask?
O’Reilly: As soon as you feel as though you’d like to be exclusive, speak up. If you’re afraid that you’ll scare him off, you’ll save yourself the trouble of investing additional time and energy into someone who doesn’t share similar relationship goals.
Dr. Castaldo: A healthy strategy is to have a conversation after about a month of dating. The woman needs to be clear on what she is looking for and not settle! I have seen far too many times where women assumed they were the only one only to find out the guy is playing the field with multiple women.
Dr. Walfish: The best time to broach the subject of exclusivity is when your guy wants to sleep with you. Tell him you want to be assured of mutual exclusivity before you give yourself sexually to him. If he bolts, so be it. If he cares for you he'll stick around either by waiting or promising exclusivity.
LL: When is it too late?
O’Reilly: Don’t wait until you’ve developed a strong emotional attachment to confirm that your partner is heading in the same direction. Your experience of
separation and rejection will only be intensified by time.
LL: How should you ask this question?
Dr. Castaldo: I suggest a very clean and honest conversation. Use what I call the “1,2,3” rule of communication:
- What you need to know.
- How you feel about exclusivity or non-exclusivity.
- What you want from the other person.
If you get a fuzzy, non-committed answer, unless you want to simply fool around with the guy, move on. Too many women make the mistake of fantasizing that the guy will change and that they can make a guy fall in love with them. Often women do this with men who have a long history of serial dating and commitment phobia.