USA TODAY International Edition
Examine needs in exclusive relationship
Monogamy isn’t for everyone, but for those who want or need it, becoming exclusive with a dating partner is a big step.
This relationship milestone often comes with labels and conversations that begin with “What are we?” It makes some people nervous, and it can feel like a complex topic to broach.
When it comes to becoming exclusive, when do you bring it up? What do you say? Having a plan can be helpful. But before you get ready to discuss it with your significant other, ask yourself the following questions:
Questions to ask before becoming exclusive
Why do I want to commit to this
person? Our reason for wanting to be exclusive matters. If the reason is rooted in our fear of ending up alone or our insecurity that the person will want to be with someone else unless we lock them in, exclusivity is not the “solution.” A decision to be exclusive should be driven by our genuine desire to get to know this person in a specific – exclusive – context.
Am I being treated the way I deserve? Sometimes we push for exclusivity, hoping it will improve the relationship or get the person more focused on it. And, although that might work, I wouldn’t count on it. Instead, let’s have a candid conversation with ourselves. As things are right now, do you feel respected? Are your ( appropriate) needs being met in this relationship? Is there a part of you that feels like you’re settling? When you pictured a significant relationship in your life, which qualities align and which don’t?
Do I feel safe enough to be myself? Being in a relationship where we don’t feel safe or comfortable enough to show up fully ( authentically) is a relationship that will feel exhausting and disappointing in the long run. Finding someone with whom we can express our needs, wants and preferences is essential.
Do I like the way we resolve conflict? Have you disagreed yet? How did you resolve it? Disagreements in a relationship are inevitable, but finding someone willing to navigate them healthily and productively is often rare. When managed well, conflict can be a foundation for deeper insight and a stronger relationship.
Is this a person that your future self would date? Someone could seem like a good fit for us at the moment but will not be the right fit for the person we want to become. Are they willing to support your goals and dreams? Will they be there to help you walk through life? Do they want to go in the same direction as you?
How to have the conversation about making things official in your relationship
Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to chat with the person you’re dating. Here are some questions you can consider asking them:
● How do you define being exclusive? Make sure your definitions match, and there is a mutual understanding of this commitment. Be clear about what you want and expect. Pay attention to what they need and want.
● What is your definition of infidelity? Having your partner explain what they would or would not feel comfortable with is a great way to respect the relationship and notice any discrepancies in how you perceive infidelity. It’s better to have these conversations before anyone gets hurt.
● What is your goal for this relationship? Children? Growing old together? And what is their goal for this month or year? Reflect on if their relationship goals match your own.
● What’s your biggest worry about me? Exchange what concerns you have about each other and see how you plan to address them.
● How much time and energy can you commit to the relationship? It’s good to check in and see how much time they have for you and the relationship, evaluating together if that’s enough for the goals you have set.
● How and why did your previous relationships end? Understanding the trajectory of previous relationships can help both individuals understand where things generally go wrong and how to be mindful of potential pitfalls.
● What are your expectations when it comes to intimacy? If the only person you are having sex with is your partner, discussing expectations around frequency and preference can be helpful. What kind of sex life is ideal for each person? In addition, what other kinds of intimacy are they interested in ( emotional, spiritual, etc.)?
Being curious and having honest conversations is the best way to set up a relationship for success.
Sara Kuburic is a therapist who specializes in identity, relationships and moral trauma.