Reader D. E. asks:

What does “exclusive” mean in terms of a relationship? What I mean is, the guy I’m seeing wants to be “exclusive”. I said OK. Do we need to discuss this further? Are there rules of exclusivity I should be aware of before I really commit to this?

Dear D. E.:

I think this is one of those play-it-by-ear situations. “Exclusivity” means various things to various people. The most basic definition I can come up with is “not sleeping with or dating other people”. You’re going to have to ask your partner to give you details. Does it mean you’re completely monogamous and therefore not using condoms anymore? (Probably.) Does it mean you have to shut down all your online dating sites and not accept dinner invitations from other men who are seeking your attentions? (Probably.) I wish I could tell you a more definitive answer, but you know your man better than I do.

old people

I think these two are exclusive. Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

However, “exclusive” does not necessarily mean this fellow is officially your boyfriend. I wouldn’t start inviting him to family holiday functions or expecting long weekends away just yet. “Let’s be exclusive” is a far cry from “let’s get married!”, or even from “be my girlfriend”.

Of course, if he’s the one asking for exclusivity, he probably does want to be your boyfriend. Rarely have I come across a fellow who was willing to ask a girl to be exclusive who was not also willing to ask the girl to be his girlfriend, but you never know. You’re going to have to ask him about it, if you really want to know.

But for the time being, how about you define it for yourself?

In my personal experience, I find that I cave into demands from partners far more easily than I probably should. (Hindsight is always 20/20.) Do you want him to be your boyfriend? Do you want to quit seeing other people? Are you ready for that? Decide on the rules that you need and lay them out for him. Be honest. If you aren’t ready to give up those titillating dates with other men, your new partner in exclusivity needs to know it now rather than in three months when you explode in a cheating rampage of doom.

I think that we ladies get caught up in the romance of being wanted and forget what we actually want sometimes. If you’re not ready for “exclusivity”, don’t pretend you are.

But if you are ready, and know what you want and are prepared to get it, well then… mazel tov!


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