Life Advice



Navigating exclusivity in dating

Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

As a dating coach, I'm frequently asked questions about exclusivity in relationships — how to approach it, when to discuss it, and what to expect. I want to address two questions I got just today and offer some insights on how to handle these situations effectively.

Question 1: I’ve been seeing someone for two and a half months and found out he’s still active on Hinge. How do I proceed?

My response to this one is pretty straightforward: Did you find out that he’s still active on Hinge because you’re also still active on Hinge? Until you both agree to be exclusive, neither of you is in the wrong for being active on the dating sites and potentially exploring other options. It sounds like what you’re really looking for is a conversation with him about exclusivity.

Question 2: I’ve been waiting three and a half months with no exclusivity. How long do I wait for him to bring it up?

My advice in this situation is also pretty clear: You have agency in your own dating life. Bring it up if and when you want to. You’ll get frustrated fast waiting around for someone who has no idea what’s on your mind.

For both, the question askers (both women) need to find the courage to bring up their desires and be prepared for the conversation to either go or not go the way they want. The person they are dating could simply say no, could say they’re not ready yet, or could say yes. It’s the fear of the former two that often prevents someone from broaching the topic. It oftentimes seems easier to live in the status quo than to risk not getting what you want. I advise taking that risk when you’re ready.

Then, of course, comes the question of how one might bring this up.


“I’ve really been enjoying all the time we’ve been spending together. I thought it might be nice to continue to do that without the distraction of dating other people… and because I kind of only want to date you. ;) How do you feel about that?”

The way this is phrased, you’re not only stating what you want (versus leaving it entirely in the other person’s hands), but you’re also opening the floor to have an honest conversation about where you are as a pair. It takes two people to be invested in a relationship, so the conversation about exclusivity also takes two active participants.

I also want to add that it’s important, if you do decide to be exclusive with the person you’re seeing, to define exactly what “exclusivity” means to you. Does it mean that you pause your online dating accounts, or delete them permanently? Does it mean that you introduce each other as “partner,” “girlfriend,” “boyfriend,” or something else? I have seen one too many scenarios where someone leaves the “exclusivity” talk confused or unsatisfied. Or thinking that now more time has to pass before labels are discussed. Once you’re in the thick of the conversation, say everything you want to say.

Defining the relationship (DTR) is a crucial step in any romantic connection. It's about clarifying expectations, understanding each other's needs, and ensuring both partners are on the same page moving forward. The first thing to remember is that there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Every relationship is unique, and the timing of this conversation can vary, so it's important to approach this conversation with open communication and honesty and not be beholden to arbitrary timelines.

Even after the conversation, continue to communicate openly and check in with each other regularly. Relationships evolve, and it's essential to revisit as needed to ensure that you're both still on the same page. Remember that defining the relationship and discussing exclusivity or otherwise is a continuous process that requires ongoing communication, trust and mutual respect.

©2024 Tribune Content Agency, LLC


blog comments powered by Disqus