You might be considering an exclusive relationship or you may already be in one. But, what does exclusive mean and how can you make it work?
An exclusive relationship is a relationship that is limited to a specific couple or group of people. Being an exclusive couple means you reserve your intimate relationship for each other and no one else. If you have 3 or more people in your relationship, it’s a polyamorous relationship. It can also be exclusive provided you agree on who is involved, and you are sharing your intimacy exclusively with these people.
In this article, you will learn all you need to know about an exclusive relationship to help you decide if it is for you or not.
What Is an Exclusive Relationship?
Characteristics of an Exclusive Relationship
- You are only seeing each other. You are no longer looking for another partner.
- Higher degree of involvement than in a casual relationship.
- Make your relationship public.
- Set amount of people in the relationship
When trying to define your relationship as exclusive you can direct your effort to identify the boundaries and freedoms that work for you and everyone involved.
The more people in the relationship, the most complicated it becomes and the more clarity it requires for such relationship to be healthy and nourishing.
What Does an Exclusive Relationship Involve?
An exclusive relationship is something you agree on, rather that something you develop. Unlike a casual relationship that can become serious once you get to know someone and connect with them.
Exclusivity can be a step between a casual relationship and a serious relationship.
An exclusive relationship is the one where:
- You are romantically involved with a specific person or people if it’s a polyamorous relationship.
- You want to spend more time with a particular person, and
- You want the other person to so the same.
- You are no longer interested in being romantically involved with other people.
Types of Exclusive Relationships
Normally, an exclusive relationship is thought as 2 people being exclusive, however it can involve more than 2 people.
- Exclusive monogamous
- Exclusive polyamorous
An Example of an Exclusive Relationship
You met someone special and after dating for a little while you feel the connection and you want to develop a more intimate relationship.
To get to know each other better requires time and energy. So, rather than seeing different people, you dedicate your time exclusively to each other. At some point you may decide on starting a serious relationship while making some plans for your future together.
Exclusive vs Open Relationship
An exclusive relationship is limited to a specific person or a group of people. You agree on the rules and boundaries for your relationship and everyone involved stays within this boundaries. In general, in an exclusive relationship you have less freedoms, less time to see your friends. You may also agree or not to flirt with others, and sleep with others.
In an open relationship, everyone involved is free to see other people. Much like an exclusive relationship, an open relationship also has rules and boundaries. They are based on the agreement and serve as guidelines to help you navigate your relationship and manage your expectations.
Pros and Cons of an Exclusive Relationship
Pros of an Exclusive Relationship
- More stability
- Starting to make plans together
- Spending more time with each other
- Getting to know each other better
Cons of an Exclusive Relationship
- You stop seeing other people to be romantically/sexually involved with
- You have more rules and boundaries and less freedoms
- You have less time for yourself
- Exclusive – could also mean that you are excluding yourself from the world of dating as well as interactions and connections of different kind
Is an Exclusive Relationship Right for You?
An Exclusive Relationship Is Right For You If:
- You want something more than a casual relationship.
- You want only one partner.
- You want to get to know your current partner better.
- You want more commitment in the relationship.
- You want a long-term relationship.
- You want more emotional connection.
- You want to invest your time in only one person.
- You are considering the possibility of having a future with this person.
- You are developing strong feelings for the other person and both of you want to be together.
- You are getting on really well together.
- You are sharing common goals, values and beliefs.
- You feel comfortable around each other.
- You are happy to share the space with this person.
- You want to form an intimate relationship.
An Exclusive Relationship Is Not Right For You If:
- You still want to date other people.
- You don’t want to be tied to only one person.
- Your personal freedom is a priority.
- You prefer to keep things casual without much commitment.
- You are not ready to open up emotionally.
- You want to keep dating and see other people.
Starting an Exclusive Relationship
Dating is the first stage of a romantic relationship where you get to know someone new. Exclusive dating is a stage between dating and an exclusive relationship.
When you are looking for a potential partner you are opening to different people. As you get to know them better you develop certain preferences towards some people more than others. At some point, you may narrow it down to a particular person that ticks all your boxes at the time.
How to Find an Exclusive Relationship
An exclusive relationship is a commitment you develop from a desire to dedicate more of your time to getting to know another person.
So, rather than looking for an exclusive relationship, allow yourself the freedom to explore different people until you you find someone with whom you feel most connected. At which point, you can agree to have an exclusive relationship and start planning your time together.
Before Starting an Exclusive Relationship
How to talk about having an exclusive relationship?
- Understand what it means to have an exclusive relationship and what it takes to make it work.
- Make sure neither of you that have no need or desire to see other people.
- If your feelings changed or you want to see other people agree to discuss it openly and honestly.
What to Expect from an Exclusive Relationship
- Spending most of your free time with each other
- Getting to know each other better
- Deciding you want a more serious relationship with this person
- To be included in some plans such as social events, going out with friends or visiting each other’s family.
How to Start an Exclusive Relationship
- Talk about considering an exclusive relationship
- Discuss what it will involve and look like for both of you
- Agree on the rules and boundaries that satisfy both of you without having to compromise
- Consider having an exclusive relationship for a specific amount of time to see if it works for both of you
Having an Exclusive Relationship
Reasons to Have an Exclusive Relationship
- You don’t want to share your partner
- You want to get to know each other better
- You want to build a more meaningful relationship
- You would like more security and stability in your relationship
- You want to dedicate your time to get to know each other
- You are considering a serious long-term relationship
How to Talk About Having an Exclusive Relationship
The same idea applies to dating once your relationship gets a little more serious with a bit more commitment. You can bring up the talk about exclusive dating if it’s something you are interested in. The best way to approach this conversation is by talking about what you want and feel.
Many couples make the mistake of labelling their relationship without having a conversation and understanding of what is involved in an exclusive relationship. A healthier way is actually to do the opposite, to openly and honestly discuss your feelings, needs and preferences at the time knowing they are likely to change in the future.
So, how to do you bring up the conversation about having an exclusive relationship? It may seem too obvious, but asking your partner how they feel about you and your relationship is the best place to start.
- You express what you want as clearly as you can.
- Ask them to say it back to you to make sure they heard you correctly.
- Ask how your partner feels about you and your relationship.
Recognise what your partner wants, respect their choice and don’t take it personally. Rather than asking for an exclusive relationship, you are sharing with your partner how you feel and what you would like, in this case, is to be exclusive.
The goal of this conversation is to bring up how you feel about each other and where you are with this relationship.
By having this conversation you are not trying to persuade them to have an exclusive relationship with you. You just want to express how you feel and what you want. If your partner isn’t ready or don’t want to have an exclusive relationship, that’s ok.
Maybe it’s not the right time or it may not be something that they want. Don’t see it as a rejection, show your appreciation for their openness and honesty. Trying to rush into something that either of you isn’t ready for it’s a mistake and nothing good is gonna come out of it.
If both of you are interested in having an exclusive relationship make sure you understand what it is and involves to avoid misunderstandings later on. Finally, agree to update each other if your feelings change. It’s better to be upfront and honest about your feelings, desires and preferences rather than going along with something that you don’t really want.
How to Maintain a Healthy Exclusive Relationship
A healthy exclusive relationship is based on the desire of the people involved to be fulfilled by being with each other. By far, the one thing that can compromise an exclusive relationship is the suppressed desire to be with someone else. If you want to see people outside of your relationship, the best thing you can do is to talk about your needs and the reason you would want to see someone else.
The key point here is to be honest with yourself and with everyone involved. Take the time to understand yourself, your needs and desires. Getting to know yourself first will help you better express to your partner. This will allow you to remain connected with yourself, your needs while being honest with the person/people in your relationship.
How to Handle Problems in an Exclusive Relationship
Aside from general problems that come with any relationship. In an exclusive relationship you may encounter specific problems related to this type. But, as long as you are open and honest with a person/people in your relationship it will be easier for all to navigate the relationship and adjust to the changes of feelings and circumstances.
If you are getting on well with your partner, but having some issues in your relationship. It may be the time to change the type of your relationship. However, if the problems you are having is with the person, perhaps it’s best to end your relationship.
It may happen that your partner meet some of your needs, but not others and you start wondering if another person could meet them your needs better.
We will look at some of the problems next, but generally as a rule of thumb always be honest about your feelings and needs with your partner.
Rules and Boundaries in an Exclusive Relationship
What Are Relationship Rules?
In a healthy relationship rules are made based on boundaries.
Rules are agreements on what to do and what not to do under certain conditions.
Rules in an Exclusive Relationship
In an exclusive relationship rules are mostly focus on maintaining a fulfilling relationship without getting romantically involved with other people.
What to Do in an Exclusive Relationship
- Agree that you and your partner will only see each other.
- Agree that you will only have sex with your partner.
What to Avoid in an Exclusive Relationship
- Not giving priority to your partner.
- Going beyond what you agreed on in terms of relationships with other people.
What Are Relationship Boundaries?
Boundaries are based on preferences with the limits showing how far these preferences extend.
The limit of the boundary is the extend of your willingness to do something.
It’s up to you and you partner to define your freedoms and boundaries based on your beliefs and preferences. The key is to agree on something both of you are comfortable with to avoid future compromise.
What Boundaries Should You Have in an Exclusive Relationship
- Agree on the extend of your exclusivity
- Define what flirting means for each of you and what constitutes flirting with others
- Agree on the extend of flirting is ok for both of you
- Agree on what is acceptable in terms of having relationships with other people
How to Set Boundaries in an Exclusive Relationship
In the early stages of your relationship, you can agree if you are exclusively dating or if you want to see other people.
Things to consider before starting an exclusive relationship:
- What do you expect from having an exclusive relationship.
- Set the rules and boundaries of your exclusive relationship.
- What do you want and expect from each other.
- Agree whether or not is ok to still kiss, text, talk, see, or go out with other people from the same and opposite sex.
Common Problems in an Exclusive Relationship
- Becoming exclusive without having a conversation about it
- Either you or your partner wants to see someone else.
- There’s a possibility of changing your mind about the exclusivity.
- You may feel too constricted and restricted in this type of relationship
- Lack of excitement and boredom
1. Becoming exclusive without having a conversation about it
Sometimes couples end up having an exclusive relationship without talking about it before hand. An exclusive relationship requires a certain degree of commitment and carries with it a number of expectations.
Unless you get familiar with what comes with being exclusive, you may struggle to maintain a healthy relationship.
If you are considering an exclusive relationship now it’s the perfect time for you to have this talk with your partner. If you are already in an exclusive relationship and are doubting if it’s right for you, take the time share your feelings with your partner. See if it’s healthy for you to continue or if you rather have a little break.
2. Either you or your partner wants to see someone else.
It’s normal for feelings and desires to change, it happens all the time. Sometimes it’s ok to let these desires grow. It’s necessary to recognise them and address them. Dismissing your needs and desires can leave you feeling restrained, restricted and suffocated.
3. There’s a possibility of changing your mind about the exclusivity.
When you agree to have an exclusive relationship consider the possibility that at some point your feelings may change and you may want to start seeing other people. If and when this happen will come down to having enough trust and understanding to share your feelings freely without the fear of conflicts and arguments.
4. You may feel too restrained and constricted in this type of relationship
If you are feeling constricted while being exclusive maybe this type of relationship is not for you.
As a solution, it’s worth expressing your feelings to your partner. Often, your partner may give you a different perspective on things. You can find a way to maintain this relationship, change the type of your relationship or separate.
5. Lack of excitement and boredom
When you dedicate most of your time to one person you miss out on interactions with other people. This can become monotonous and boring. At some point, you start loosing interest in your relationship altogether.
To avoid this, consider opening yourself up to spending more time with people outside of your relationship. It can either be as friends or in a form of an open relationship.
Signs and Red Flags in an Exclusive Relationship
Signs of a Healthy Open Relationship
- Looking for signs that will tell you if your relationship is exclusive or not. It is in itself a sign that you need to talk to the person you are with about the exclusivity of your relationship.
- You have a plan.
- You achieve your personal and relationship goals.
- You have a healthy balance of doing things together and separately.
- You have fun with your partner and you are also busy with achieving your personal life goals and ambitions. You have fun together and also spend time working on your relationship by learning about each other.
- You support each other.
- You share your thoughts, doubts and concerns.
- You help each other resolve problems rather than visiting each other to moan and complain about things.
- You maintain free expression, openness and trust.
Red Flags in an Exclusive Relationship
- Feeling of being trapped
- Desire to be romantically involved with others
Ending an Exclusive Relationship
When to End an Exclusive Relationship
You should consider ending your relationship when you tried to make it work, but nothing did. You may still have feelings for each other, but maybe is not the right time for you to have an exclusive relationship.
Likewise, you may no longer have the feelings you have before. In this case, is not worth staying together just for the sake of it.
Signs Your Exclusive Relationship Is Over
- You had enough of feeling enclosed or restricted
- You or your partner secretly start seeing other people
- Neither of you want to be exclusive
- You feel you are missing out on being with different people
- You are not satisfied with this relationship
- You are arguing more often than not
How to End an Exclusive Relationship
- Acknowledge that you are no longer fulfilled in this relationship
- Reflect on what is working for you in this relationship and what doesn’t
- Express your thoughts and feelings to your partner
- Take time to hear how your partner feels about having this exclusive relationship
- Try to find the way forward that works for both of you
How to Move On After an Exclusive Relationship
After you end an exclusive relationship take some time for yourself. Reflect on your relationship and find some takeaways that you can apply to your future relationships. Reassess your life in general and understand what type of relationship suits you best at the moment, if any.
An exclusive relationship can work really well for you if you are ready for more commitment and to dedicate a significant amount of time to your partner.
Many couples get into an exclusive relationship without understanding what it involves. Then, when it’s not working for them, they ignore their feelings and continue with the relationship that becomes more and more toxic.
Whatever your situation may be it’s always helpful to reflect on your relationship, acknowledge your feelings and have an open and honest conversation about it with your partner. Keep in mind that your feelings, needs and preferences are likely to change in the future.
After that, you may find a way to work things out or you may decide to end this relationship. Either way is better than wasting your life in a relationship that doesn’t work.
Help and Advice for an Exclusive Relationship
Tips for an Exclusive Relationship
- Take time to understand what it is that you need and want and why before making any suggestion or commitments about your relationship. Make sure you are clear on what you want.
- Check that being in an exclusive relationship means the same for both of you. So, you can create realistic expectations.
- Be open and honest about your feelings and desires rather than going along with something you don’t want.
- Consider the pros and cons of having an exclusive relationship.
- Create specific rules, boundaries and freedoms that both of you want.
- Make sure these are things that both of you want rather than something you are restricted by.
- Reserve the right to change your mind if you decide it’s not for you.
- Check in with your partner from time to time to see if they are still happy with how your relationship is or if there’s anything they would like to change or do differently.
If you need professional help and advice, get in touch – we’ll be happy to help!
Frequently Asked Questions
How many dates before exclusive?
There is not a specific amount of dates. It’s more about how well you get on with the other person and how you feel about only wanting to be with that person.
How long before you become exclusive in a relationship?
Becoming exclusive is more about the dynamic of your relationship rather than the timing of it. For example, a short-term can be an exclusive relationship. Likewise, a long-term relationship can be either exclusive or open.
Is exclusive dating a relationship?
Dating is the beginning of a romantic relationship, whether it is exclusive or not is up to you and your partner to decide.
Is a casual relationship exclusive?
A casual relationship can be exclusive as long as you set your boundaries and none of you are romantically/sexually involved with other people.
Can you be exclusive without a label?
You don’t need a label, but you need to agree on what both of you want and expect from a relationship.
What is a no label relationship?
Practically there are different types of relationships and their main reason to know what type of relationship you are in is to know if you and your partner are on the same page in terms of your expectations. Labelling of a relationship is for the most part related to the social standing.
How to tell if an exclusive relationship is over?
One of you wants to start or are already dating other people.