For many people, the reason why they date is so that they can find someone to enter an exclusive relationship with and, perhaps, eventually marry. Many of us date because we want to find “the one”. But what happens when your one isn’t making you their only one?
Your significant other might not even recognize that they’re doing it, but they may be shirking the kinds of commitments needed to progress from dating to an exclusive relationship. In fact, you might not realize that you could be the one shying away from these commitments. If you and your partner are serious about making a go at an exclusive relationship, here’s what you need to be embracing, and what you need to be letting go of.
Navigating an Exclusive Relationship: The Commitments That Matter
#1 An exclusive relationship can only happen after dating exclusively
Although an exclusive relationship and dating exclusively sound similar, they actually mean two different things. According to Maria Sullivan, a dating expert and VP of Dating.com, dating exclusively is a transitional phase. When you first start seeing someone, there’s a general understanding that you’re both still dating around.
Most people don’t just decide that they want to be partners with someone after one date. It takes time to reach that point where you and your partner decide to focus only on dating each other, which is when you progress to dating exclusively.
But that doesn’t mean you’ve entered an exclusive relationship. Dating exclusively doesn’t mean that you’re committed to someone. It just means that you’ve committed to focusing on only dating one person.
An exclusive relationship also includes the relationship aspect that comes after dating, like planning for a future with this person. Entering a relationship takes more risk than simply dating because you’re essentially letting yourself go from a “me” to a “we” and sharing your life with another person
#2 Dating apps need to go by the wayside
At this point, when you’re entering an exclusive relationship, you’ve already been dating exclusively so all those dating apps should have already been deleted. In case you haven’t scrubbed them, you both need to do that immediately. According to Celia Schweyer, a dating and relationship expert at DatingScout.com, having a partner on a dating site is a telltale sign that they’re really not ready for a committed relationship.
Although someone may have several excuses for why they still have their accounts, like,“It’s just a confidence booster,” or, “I’m just trying to meet some new friends to hang out with,” the reality is that dating apps were created for dating and there really isn’t a good excuse why someone would actively be using an account made for dating when they’re only seeing one person.
But “actively” is the key word here. We all forget to deactivate our accounts or just don’t see a need to. If you have an account but you deleted the app needed to access that account, it’s very different from actually spending time swiping and messaging others.
#3 Communication is non-negotiable when it comes to a committed partnership
Leaving your partner on read is a big no-no. While no one should expect that you have to have your phone on you 24/7 and be available all hours of the day or night, it is expected that you will make an effort to communicate.
If your partner messages you, do your best to respond in a timely fashion. That means not disappearing for days at a time and then popping back in later and trying to pick up your relationship where you left off.
According to Shannon Thomas, a certified trauma specialist, if you’re getting unaccounted for silence from your partner, it might mean that your relationship isn’t as exclusive as you may believe it is. Even if they don’t disappear for days, it can also be telling if your partner goes off the radar during specific times, like nights or weekends.
Do your best to communicate with your partner about what’s happening and where you’ll be, instead of just ghosting them. If you won’t be available one weekend, let them know that ahead of time. Don’t just not respond to them and let them worry.
You and your partner made a commitment to be there for each other and, while that doesn’t mean that you have to put your life on hold to be available to them, it does mean that you should communicate with them about when you can’t be available.
#4 Factoring in time each week to be with your partner needs to happen
When you were just dating, even if you were exclusively dating, your time was more your own. It wasn’t expected that you would be spending time with your partner every week. You could have an “I’ll see you when I see you” mentality and that was okay because you never committed to being with this person. You made no promises to be there for them or support them or anything like that. It was just dating.
But now it’s different. It can be unfair to a partner if you not only disappear for long periods of time, but also avoid making concrete plans. If you don’t live with your boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s important to set up time to actually see each other and actively engage with each other. Your partner wants to spend time with you and it wouldn’t be right for them to be the only one making an effort to see you.
If you do live together and do see each other often, you still need to make a commitment to your partner to spend time together, actively engaging with one another. Sitting in bed together on your phones doesn’t count as time spent together.
#5 You need to share parts of your life in a way you didn’t while dating
While you were casually dating, you likely didn’t introduce your dates to your friends and parents. No one would expect you too. If you introduced every single one of your dates to your friends, that would be a little extreme. Even when you were dating exclusively, you might not have wanted to introduce them because, during this time, you’re mainly focusing on getting to know each other.
When you’re in an exclusive relationship, though, you’re looking towards the future. Your future is also going to include the ones you already love, like your friends and family. Because you want a future with all of these people in it, including your new partner, it’s important that those you already love meet this person that you’re just falling in love with. You’re making a commitment to bringing your partner into your life, all parts of it including your family and friends.
For many, commitment can be a scary term, but if you’re looking to take an exclusive relationship seriously and plan for a life with another person, commitment is the only way to make it happen. If you’ve found someone you love completely, it’s time to take the plunge. You won’t regret it!