Exclusive Relationships: What Do They Mean?

How do you know if you're in an exclusive relationship?
on November 14, 2023
Read time: 10 mins

Modern dating has always been complicated, with secret levels of commitment hidden in dating contracts — with so many new terminologies to try and understand! 

So, what does being exclusive with someone really mean? If you’re in an exclusive relationship, can you call that person your boyfriend or girlfriend? Or is that considered a major dating faux pas? 

With so many steps between dating and a relationship, it’s important to understand these different stages, so you can both adhere to all the rules! If you’re looking for some dating advice in this department, we’ve got you covered. 

Key Takeaways
  • Exclusive relationships refer to an agreement between couples to see each other ‘exclusively’ — not dating or pursuing anyone else.
  • This kind of relationship isn’t quite the same as an official relationship and is usually a step or so away from calling each other boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • There is no specific timeframe involved when it comes to exclusive relationships, as every couple proceeds differently.
  • The only way to know if you’re in an exclusive relationship is to communicate with your partner, and you have to decide if you’re ready for that step on your own terms.

What is an exclusive relationship? 

An exclusive relationship means that two partners have agreed to only focus on each other and not date or see anyone else. Instead of casual dating or seeing where things go, you’re happy to take another step toward a committed relationship by opting for monogamy. 

When you’re exclusive with someone, you’re not dating anyone else, nor are you on dating apps or pursuing other people. By stepping away from the dating world, you’re solely spending time with your partner on a romantic level and working on building your emotional intimacy. 

Exclusivity can differ from couple to couple, but in modern dating, it’s generally considered as a sort of ‘soft launch’ of an actual relationship!

Is being exclusive the same as boyfriend and girlfriend?

While this level of commitment is a big deal, it doesn’t quite equate to an official relationship — even though that’s where you’re heading! Instead, exclusivity is often seen as a stepping stone towards the boyfriend/girlfriend title. 

This may seem quite laborious and not every couple feels the need to go through this stage. While many couples might choose to progress to a relationship straight away, others prefer to tick off these stops along the way. Taking things slowly certainly isn’t a bad thing, as you can take the time to get to know each other (without any other interference) before diving headfirst into a relationship. 

How long until a relationship is exclusive?

With relationships, there are no specific timeframes!

When you’re in a new relationship, it’s natural to want to take things to the next level. However, there is no specific timeframe involved for this progression, as every relationship moves at its own pace. 

While some couples might have the chat early on, others prefer to opt for a more open relationship so they can continue to date and see what’s out there. It’s important to check in on your relationship often, so you can gauge if you’re ready to move to the next level. 

How do you know if you're in an exclusive relationship?

The only way to know if you’re in an exclusive relationship is to have the dreaded ‘talk’. Playing any guessing games around your relationship status can often end in heartbreak — where one person may have misunderstood the level of commitment you’d reached. 

The only way to stop yourself from getting stuck in a situationship is to suck it up and define the relationship with your partner! This kind of honest conversation can be daunting, but it’s more intimidating to have sunk a lot of time into someone and still not know where you stand! 

Ask your partner where you stand and how they feel about the relationship overall, then take steps to define your boundaries. If they wave commitment issues around as a reason why they can’t take the step toward exclusivity, there may be some red flags in the air… 

What’s the difference between exclusive dating vs. relationship?

The difference between exclusivity and relationships is often minute, as it’s usually only the official label that’s missing!

While you might be exclusively dating someone, it does not automatically mean that you’re in a relationship with them. To progress to this stage, another conversation about commitment has to be had. 

Are you ready for an exclusive relationship? 

The different stages of dating and relationships can be very daunting, as so many little decisions often have to be made on the road to a long-term commitment!

So you’ve been dating someone for a while and you really like them, but how do you know if you’re ready to commit to exclusivity

There are a few questions that you should ask yourself before becoming exclusive with the person that you’re dating. Are you ready for that kind of commitment? Are you happy to stop seeing other people? Would you be happy if this progressed to something more serious in the future? Are you ready to come off dating apps and stop pursuing others romantically? 

While exclusivity is only a small step, it’s still a decision that you shouldn’t take lightly! If you choose to become exclusive with someone and then want to go back on that promise, people’s feelings can get hurt. In these early stages, you may not know whether you’re in it for the long haul, but taking the time to consider these questions can save you a lot of heartbreak down the line. 

Take some time to think about your decision beforehand and be honest with yourself about whether you’re in the right position to commit to someone in this way! 

How to have the exclusive conversation with your partner 

Healthy relationships are about communication, and the exclusivity chat is the first step in this dynamic! 

If you want to start moving towards a serious relationship with your significant other, exclusivity is the natural place to start. Start by assessing your relationship, how long you’ve been together if they tick all your boxes, and if you could see a long-term relationship forming in the future. 

Once you decide you’re ready for an exclusive relationship, it’s time to have a chat with your partner. Ask them a few questions to gauge how they’re feeling about seeing each other, and then see if they’re ready to commit to exclusively dating! 

In many cases, this could be a positive step toward the romantic relationship you’ve always wanted. However, in certain circumstances, your partner may not be ready for this step and could resort to ghosting or other toxic behaviors in reaction to this conversation. It’s difficult to not take this personally, but remember that it’s no reflection on you!

It may not be the result you wanted, but it means you’re one step closer to finding the kind of relationship that you deserve. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between an exclusive relationship and a monogamous relationship?

    While both types of relationships involve a degree of commitment to a single partner, the term "exclusive" is often used to highlight the emotional and romantic commitment to not pursue others, while "monogamous" specifically refers to having only one sexual or romantic partner at a time.
  • Are exclusive relationships monogamous?

    Usually, an exclusive relationship is monogamous but it can vary depending on the specific terms that each partner has agreed to which can lead to different interpretations of monogamy. The key to this understanding lies in having open and honest communication with your partner.
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