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Stepping It Up: Why an Exclusive Relationship Might Be Right for You

by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023

You’ve been seeing someone for a while, and it’s going great – so great, in fact, you think maybe it’s time for the next step: an exclusive relationship. The meaning of ‘exclusive relationship’ can be different depending on who you ask, though, so it’s important to clarify with your significant other or feelings might be hurt.

Let’s explore what an exclusive relationship is, a few rules for being in one, misconceptions surrounding them, and if and when you should consider going exclusive with your date.

What is an exclusive relationship?

Dating exclusively is what it sounds like – you see only the person you’re dating rather than juggling several options at once. It’s not quite the commitment a full-on monogamous relationship demands – but it does mean you put away those dating apps and ignore that flirty hottie in the bar. Not everyone has the same answer to ‘what does exclusive mean in a relationship?’, though, so it’s important to sit down and talk to your partner about exactly what you both consider an exclusive relationship.

What does an exclusive relationship look like?

It’s all well and good to say you want an exclusive relationship, but what does that mean in practice? At its core, the meaning of exclusive dating is commitment. When you decide you want an exclusive relationship, it doesn’t just mean not seeing anyone else, but also focus more on each other.

That could mean getting to know each other better, spending time with each other’s friends and family, or dropping your guard and letting them see more of the real you. 

Commitment in a relationship

It’s commitment, which studies have shown is key to a relationship’s success. Learn about the definition of commitment in a relationship, a few examples of commitment in a relationship, and a few ways for you to build commitment in your relationship.

Exclusive dating: the benefits and challenges

An exclusive relationship comes with upsides and downsides.

When you decide to be exclusive, it creates a sense of security and trust which means it’s easier for your connection to deepen. Communication also improves, since you both care for each other enough to want to get serious and are willing to put in the work. Being exclusive can also reduce the jealousy and competitiveness that come with dating multiple partners. Finally, since exclusive dating means only seeing one person, you have more time and energy for your relationship.

However, exclusive relationships do have their drawbacks. They can feel restrictive, especially if exclusivity happens early. Being exclusive can also put pressure on the people in it to show their commitment. Exclusivity can lead to complacency – some might feel they don’t need to put in the same kind of effort. It can also lead to one or both partners putting each other’s needs and wants over their own, to their own detriment.

What to keep in mind when you’re in an exclusive relationship

While exclusive dating isn’t the commitment a monogamous relationship is, it’s still different enough from playing the field that there are a few things you should know.

There are all kinds of relationships in the world

While some are content to date one person exclusively, others have a more expansive definition of love. Whether it’s monogamy (an exclusive relationship between two people), polyamory (committed relationships between more than two people) or open relationships (a committed non-exclusive relationship where both partners are free to sleep with other people), figure out what works for you.

Communication is important

Regardless of the relationship you’re in, good communication is key. Communicating effectively helps you build trust, avoid jealousy and deepen your connection, especially as your relationship becomes serious.

So are boundaries

Having clear boundaries – and those being respected on all sides – is the foundation of a successful relationship. That’s why it’s important not only to figure out what your boundaries are but to discuss them with your partner.

As is individuality

It can be tempting, especially in the initial stages of dating, to lose yourself in the relationship. However, that isn’t sustainable or healthy for either of you. Whether you’re in an exclusive relationship or not, it’s important to have your own life and carve out time for hobbies and interests.

How to tell if your relationship is healthy

Not all exclusive relationships are healthy – isolating you from other people is a time-honored abuse tactic. If, however, you communicate well, trust and respect each other, are honest and can solve problems constructively rather than lash out when you fight, then the odds are your relationship is thriving. 

What people get wrong about exclusive dating

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about exclusive dating is that it’s the same as a committed relationship when it’s actually a precursor. When it comes to exclusive dating vs a relationship, the former is figuring out whether you’re ready for the latter.

Another misconception is that exclusive relationships mean you can suddenly read your partner’s mind. Sadly, no – you still have to communicate.

Finally, an exclusive relationship doesn’t mean you depend on your partner for everything – as we’ve said previously, that’s neither sustainable nor healthy.

When to consider exclusivity

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for when a relationship should become exclusive. However, if:

  • you’re spending a lot of time with this person
  • you’re thinking about them even when you’re not with them
  • you’ve had arguments but resolved them
  • you can see a future with them

… then it might be time to consider an exclusive relationship.

Types of relationships – Which one fits you best and how do you find it?

Dating can be a variety pack so we explore types of relationships, how to define yours and the general notion of a romantic relationship.

Going exclusive is a great way to find out if you’re ready for more

An exclusive relationship is often the natural next step when you really like someone you’re dating casually. You can find out whether there’s something more serious between you before making a commitment. And if it doesn’t work out, there’s always eharmony. Our unique Compatibility Matching System helps you find partners who share your desire for an authentic connection. So sign up for eharmony and take your first step on the road to real love today.

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