USA TODAY International Edition

Examine needs in exclusive relationsh­ip

- Sara Kuburic

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 significant 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 specific – 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 significant 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 conflict? Have you disagreed yet? How did you resolve it? Disagreeme­nts in a relationsh­ip are inevitable, but finding someone willing to navigate them healthily and productive­ly is often rare. When managed well, conflict 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 fit for us at the moment but will not be the right fit 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 definitions 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 infidelity. 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? Reflect 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.

 ?? MOTORTION/ GETTY IMAGES ?? Becoming exclusive in a relationsh­ip can be a difficult decision but you can ease your angst if you have a plan.
MOTORTION/ GETTY IMAGES Becoming exclusive in a relationsh­ip can be a difficult decision but you can ease your angst if you have a plan.

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