How and When to Have the Exclusivity Talk

So you’ve been out on a number of dates with a guy. You’ve slept together, you text daily, maybe you even met his friends or his mom. You might even have vague plans scheduled in the future – like attending a concert or going to a special event together. Still, you remain in dating limbo. You’re wondering, “Where is this going?”

Here’s what you need to understand: when it comes to dating and commitment, women and men see things very differently from each other. Women need to know what page they're on with the man they're dating thanks to this ingrained time clock that’s constantly ticking and telling us, “We should be monogamous and exclusive by such and such a time.” However, men don't have this clock. They’re running on “man time.”

How Men and Women see “Getting Exclusive”

If you have sex after the third date, a man is just still thinking that you're enjoying getting to know each other, that you're having sex and fun and that you're just dating. A woman, on the other hand, after she's slept with a man, and certainly after five or six dates, starts to already think they are heading toward an exclusive relationship.

Women start to get very excited about this possibility. But for a guy, getting exclusive is a big decision. When he hears exclusivity, he’s thinking of spending holidays together, meeting each other’s family, and planning trips together. Then he thinks, “Oh my God, maybe she's going to even talk about moving in together." Yes, ALL of these things are running through his mind when he hears the word “exclusive.” He doesn't hear, "Let's keep dating and getting to know each other." He hears meeting the family, making plans, hanging out together, planning a future together. While dating might be manageable for him, “being exclusive” is a whole other ball game.

Sex Doesn’t Mean Commitment

This is why it’s so important not to sleep with someone on the third or fourth date.

I've seen so many women get themselves into situations with men who won't commit to them but then they're sexually involved and, so, of course, they're starting to attach, and it's not good.

In fact, I had one client who was sleeping with a man, and then she asked him for exclusivity, but he said he wasn't ready for that. Later, she found out he was seeing other people, and she was deeply hurt because she had put herself in a bad spot by both sleeping and becoming emotionally invested in a man who wouldn’t commit to her.

That’s why I recommend to clients that you've got to say to a man you're dating, "Hey, I would love to sleep with you, you're hot. It's hard for me to say no, but I need to be in an exclusive relationship before I do that."  (Read my Share Your Head Before You Share Your Bed post to find out why putting off sex is so essential in getting the relationship you deserve.)

If You Want to Know, Ask

A lot of women are scared of having “the talk” with a man because not only is it open and vulnerable – or emotionally naked – but they might hear something that they don’t want to hear, i.e. the man they’ve been sleeping with for months doesn’t want to be exclusive. Or maybe he does want to be exclusive, but he’s scared to bring it up because he thinks it’s too soon and it’ll scare you away.

This is precisely why it’s so important to have this conversation. You have a movie playing in your head. He's got a movie playing in his head. And the thing is, most people don't share their movies. They don't talk about this stuff, and so they've got completely different movies going on and you've got to share your movies and see if you can get in the same movie together. If not, it’s time to switch to another channel. You don’t want to keep investing your time, energy, and body, to someone who doesn’t want the same type of relationship that you do.

How to Have “The Talk”

Let’s assume you’re bringing up the conversation of exclusivity before you have sex, which is what I recommend. So you’ve dated for a few weeks, maybe even months, and you know what you want – exclusivity – so now it’s time to bring it up. Don’t give ultimatums or ask him what he wants. You must start from your own perspective. Say something like, "I am really enjoying getting to know you and I've decided that I don't want to see other men. I really want to take time to get to know you and so I've pulled my profile down and I just want to enjoy dating you and seeing where this goes." And then, you pause. A little silence is a good thing, so just be quiet and create that space for him to come forward and tell you how he's feeling.

You want to pay attention to his response. Does he freak out? Does he say, "Wait a minute, I'm not ready to be exclusive, I just want to date." Or does he say, "Hey, I really love getting to know you and yeah, I'd love to be exclusive. I just thought maybe it was too soon to ask." Or maybe he'll say to you, "I really like you, but I want to take it slowly, so let's date a little bit longer and check in with each other."

Whatever his response might be, now you know where you stand on being exclusive, and you can either move forward in a committed relationship, or you can move on and find the right person who will want to be exclusive with you. Because clarity only brings you closer to the loving commitment you deserve.


XO,


Lisa Shield