When to Define the Relationship and How to Have the “What Are We” Talk? Our Complete Guide for Becoming Exclusive What Does Exclusive Mean in a Relationship? How Long Do You Date Before You Become Exclusive? Who Should Initiate the Exclusive Talk? How to Bring Up the Exclusive Conversation? Dating Exclusively Rules & Advice Exclusively Dating FAQs When to Define the Relationship Getting to know someone and gradually falling for them is so exciting. You have butterflies in your stomach. There’s a light spring in your step. Workdays feel less painful, because you’ll see them Friday. You treasure your inside jokes and can’t wait to hang out. But not knowing where you stand with that person and considering having “the talk” with them can make those happy things difficult to enjoy. Sometimes exclusivity happens naturally, but not always. You can find yourself caught in dating limbo. Even if the two of you aren’t seeing other people, it can be useful to have a conversation about what exclusivity means to you, as it’s not the same for everyone. In this article, we’re looking at what it means to be exclusive, how long to date before becoming exclusive, and how to approach “the talk,” even if you aren’t sure whether they are seeing someone else. We’ll explore when to define the relationship and how to approach having the conversation under different circumstances. What Does Exclusive Mean in a Relationship? First off, if you want to have the exclusive dating talk, define the meaning of exclusive dating. This might seem obvious, but assuming that your partner’s on the same page as you could lead to unnecessary confusion. For some people, exclusive dating means not having sex with anyone else, but they still feel free to flirt or take someone else out to dinner. For others, even dancing with someone else could cross a line that hurts their partner. So, if you want to talk about exclusivity, be clear about what exactly you mean by exclusive dating—what you’re asking your partner to commit to. Understand the difference between exclusive dating vs a relationship and which you’re looking for. Exclusive dating suggests that you’re exclusive but not official. So while neither of you will date someone else, you aren’t obligated to consider each other while making major decisions like changing jobs or moving to a new apartment. Entering a relationship often means that you want to build your lives together as a couple, so you’ll want to consider how your actions impact your partner. This is different from asking someone to be exclusive, but it’s another important conversation to make sure you’re both on the same page. How Long Do You Date Before You Become Exclusive? There’s no specific timeline for how long should you date before becoming official. It depends on your circumstances. Sometimes you connect with someone quickly and want to become exclusive almost immediately. This is common in lesbian relationships due to the particular hormones that women produce when falling in love. Read why in our Lesbian Dating Advice article. Other times, you might see someone casually for a year or longer before wanting to define the relationship. So don't ask yourself - "How many dates should you go on before saying you’re 'in a relationship'”. This is completely up to you and your partner - there is no right or wrong here. Sometimes the conversation can be little more than a formality. You both know that you’re exclusive but haven’t formalized it. Sometimes it can mean stepping into the unknown when you don’t know what the other person wants. When to talk about being exclusive depends on your feelings. Would you be hurt if you found out your partner is dating other people? If yes, then it’s time to have the exclusive talk so that you can feel happy, secure, and let your connection grow. If you’re ready to become exclusive, but you’re worried that your partner might not be, consider where you are in your relationship and what expectations you have. If you both have a free night, do you expect you’ll spend it together? If your partner receives an invite to their second cousin’s wedding, do you expect they’ll bring you as their plus one? If these kinds of expectations exist, it’s probably time to think about asking to be exclusive. If you know they’re seeing other people and you’d like them to stop, knowing when to ask to be exclusive can be more complicated. While there are no firm rules, experts suggest waiting at least three months after you start dating someone. By this time, you should both know each other well enough to make an informed decision, and it won’t seem like you’re rushing things. But general guidance suggests not waiting more than a year; if you’re dating someone for that long and still haven’t naturally become exclusive, you may not get there. Who Should Initiate the Exclusive Talk? Whoever wants to define the relationship generally initiates the talk. Man or woman or non-binary, older or younger, the person who usually calls first or the one who waits to be asked—those factors don’t matter. If you want to know where you stand, you need to make the first move and have the conversation. Traditionally, many heterosexual women have felt like they should wait for the man to initiate this conversation in order not to seem desperate or overeager. This attitude is outdated. If you want to move the relationship forward, the best thing you can do is take the lead. Many people find this attractive. It means the person they’re seeing knows what they want, isn’t interested in playing games, and can have a mature conversation. If you are seeing one person and want to signal to them that you’re happy with how things are going and really want to keep seeing them, initiating a talk about becoming exclusive can be a great way to convey those feelings. How to Bring Up the Exclusive Conversation Once you have decided to have the relationship talk, how do you actually bring it up? First, find the right time and place. This isn’t the kind of conversation to have when your partner has had a very stressful day at work. It’s also not the kind of conversation to have somewhere you’re likely to be interrupted by friends. The last thing you want is a friend to pop over right when your partner is about to say something. Choose a place with few disturbances and ask them if now is a good time to have a serious conversation. Then, jump right in. Often, people will pose the conversation as a question and will ask something like, “What are we?” or “Are we exclusive?” These openings can work well if you aren’t sure whether they want to move things from casual to exclusive, and you want to know what they’re thinking. But a better approach might be to talk about what you want. Share how much you like them, that you’re happy with how things are going, and that you’d like things to be exclusive between the two of you. That you aren’t interested in seeing other people, and you hope they feel the same way. Their response will inform where the conversation goes from there. Sure, envision your ideal outcome to build up your confidence, but don’t forget to prepare yourself for how you might react if you don’t get the response you’re looking for. If you aren’t prepared for them to feel differently, this can trigger an emotional response that could derail your conversation. Have a plan for what you will say or do if you hear something disappointing. You could take a break from the relationship for a while, then reassess how you feel down the road. If you both want to be exclusive, define exactly what that means. It might be a natural extension of the conversation you’re already having, but it might also be best to wait and have a follow-up conversation in a few days. If you’re both enjoying a strong emotional moment after realizing you want the same things, you might not want to spoil the moment by getting into the details. But don’t neglect having that more detailed conversation. Use the same guidelines for deciding when and where to have the conversation. Say you’d like to talk about what exactly being exclusive means so that you can both be on the same page. You might want to start the conversation by stating what you think is assumed—for example, that neither of you will be having any sexual contact with anyone else and will not be dating other people. If they disagree, this is their opportunity to say so. You can then go on to introduce other things that you consider important. Approach it from your perspective. Say things like, “I don’t plan to flirt with anybody else, and I know I would be hurt if I saw you flirting.” Then give them a chance to respond and say whether they also consider this part of exclusivity. Taking each point in turn, you can then establish a kind of verbal contract for what the two of you believe it means to be exclusive. Dating Exclusively: Rules & Advice There are no dating exclusively rules. The key is to define what the two of you are happy with. This could look very different to someone from a family that’s heavily influenced by traditional practices compared to a couple who is polyamorous and want to commit to one another while expanding their sexuality. That said, below is our “becoming exclusive” dating advice and things to consider when choosing to define your relationship: Establish ground rules and what cheating looks like to you. While this may seem burdensome and overly bureaucratic, it means that you are both less likely to inadvertently cross one another’s boundaries. Be honest about what you want. Don’t try to water down what you want in order to get the other person to agree. For example, don’t tell them that flirting is fine if, in reality, it will upset you. Show trust. If you’ve agreed to become exclusive, show that person that you trust they’ll abide by the rules you’ve mutually set. If you express jealousy every time they speak to someone else, they’ll probably be confused. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt and keep feelings of jealousy in check. Practice what you preach. If you have agreed to become exclusive, take your commitment seriously. Suspend your online dating accounts, don’t flirt with others if that’s what you have agreed to, and remember that everything you asked of your partner you need to live up to as well. Don’t let someone avoid “the talk” with you. People may sidestep the talk by saying they don’t want to label the relationship. But that’s not what you’re doing; you’re agreeing to your mutual expectations and establishing trust. Completely avoiding the conversation is a major red flag. Exclusively Dating FAQs After how many dates should you be exclusive? There’s no set number. If you connect with someone, you might find that the two of you naturally become exclusive right away. But if someone is already dating other people and building connections, it can take a lot longer. When you become one another’s first choice, this is a good time to consider becoming exclusive. How to ask a woman to be exclusive with you? How to have the “what are we” talk with a woman? It’s honestly the same as asking a man. Start by telling her what you want. Tell her that you like her a lot and that you don’t want to see anyone else. This is flattering and makes it clear you know what you want. While it’s not a blunt question, it lets her confirm whether she wants the same thing. How to ask a guy if you are dating exclusively? How to have the relationship talk with a guy if you aren’t sure whether you are dating exclusively? The best thing you can do is ask outright whether they are seeing other people. If they aren’t seeing anyone else, you might then want to tell them that you would like the two of you to be exclusive. If they are, the conversation could be more delicate. You could respond by telling him that you aren’t dating anyone else because you’re only interested in seeing him. If he didn’t know that, this might give him the confidence to consider exclusivity. What if she wants to be exclusive and I don’t? If one partner wants to make things exclusive and the other doesn’t, it doesn’t always mean that you should break up. It could mean that one partner simply isn’t ready for the level of commitment that exclusivity represents, rather than it being something they aren’t considering. Having the conversation may help them start to question whether they’re ready to take that next step in your relationship. This may mean exclusivity is in the future, but it may not. If the conversation reveals that the two of you want fundamentally different things, it’s generally not a good idea to continue in the hope that you’ll change them. You can’t change another person; they need to want to change themselves. What are the best places to have a serious conversation? When you need to have a serious conversation, you want to find a place with positive energy where you won’t be disturbed. You don’t want anyone walking over and interrupting you at an important moment and derailing the conversation. A quiet, outdoor spot in nice weather is a great choice. A quiet corner at the back of a restaurant is also a good choice, but make sure to factor in when the waiter is likely to pop over. Consider locations such as: A quiet park with secluded seating areas A corner of a restaurant without a lot of foot traffic When the two of you are at one of your homes alone When walking around a museum or similar cultural space When To Define Your Relationship There are no strict rules for when you should define a relationship. Everyone is different, every relationship is different, and there are no hard-and-fast deadlines for deciding to become exclusive and defining what that means to you both. But if you want to be exclusive, and you know you would feel hurt and betrayed to learn that the other person is seeing other people, it’s probably time to have the talk. Don’t leave them to read your mind and guess what you want. Tell your partner what you need. In many cases, we build up the conversation in our heads. In reality, the other person is on the same page and is happy that we’ve brought it up. If it turns out they’re thinking and feeling something different, then this is important information to know, so we can make decisions about what we want for the future. If you're looking for a relationship, download OkCupid today.