How Do I Tell Someone I'd Like To Date Them Exclusively?

Healthy relationships are grounded in open, honest communication.

Healthy relationships are grounded in open, honest communication.

Siren to the Rescue is an advice column offering guidance on the social complexities of 21st century romance. (Got a question for us? Get in touch!) 

Q: I just started dating someone I met online. I like them a lot! To be honest, I like them so much that I'm ready to delete my dating apps and be exclusive.

My problem is that a friend of mine just stumbled on their profile on a different dating app.  When my friend told me, it broke my heart, because it let me know that my feelings for this person are not reciprocated. 

I'm looking for advice on how to bring this up with the person I'm dating. I don't want to come on too strong, but I would like to tell them I would like to be dating exclusively, and that for me, this means no more dating apps.

"How Do I Tell Someone I'd Like To Date Them Exclusively?" [Tweet this]

A. First of all, congratulations on finding someone you like enough to consider having this conversation! That really is an accomplishment. But please keep in mind that as great as this person seems in the early phases of dating, you are still getting to know them. This process can take time, and unfortunately there is no universal time frame on how long it takes. People open up to new people when they feel comfortable doing so, and they make commitments when it makes sense for them personally.

In the meantime, I'd avoid jumping to the conclusion that your feelings aren't reciprocated. The only way to find out if they are reciprocated is to ask, and here's how I would approach that conversation, if I were in your shoes: 

1. Figure Out What You're Ready For

You say that you want to be "exclusive" with this person, but have you asked yourself why? Are you motivated by possessiveness or jealousy? Are you trying to dive into a new relationship after a breakup because you aren't used to being alone? Do you feel pressure from friends or family to be happily partnered? Or are your feelings motivated by a genuine desire to share your life with not just any person, but this person, whatever that may look like in the future?

Why do the answers to these questions matter? Because in our society, a surprising number of our expectations around dating and romance are determined by "social scripts"—expectations of behavior that we go along with because they're cultural norms, often without reflecting on whether it's what we really want. One common social script is known as the Relationship Escalator: the idea that in order to be valid, all relationships have to be "going somewhere," which typically means moving toward preordained ideas of what constitutes couplehood. There's nothing wrong with being on the Relationship Escalator, but there are also completely valid reasons to stay off of it.  

This is why the first step toward a healthy committed relationship must always involve examining your own motivations closely. When you know what you want, you will be in a much better position to ask for it.

"When you know what you want, you will be in a much better position to ask for it." [Tweet this]

2. Use Conversation to See If You Are On The Same Page

Before you have the "big talk," try opening up the dialogue to determine if your values and goals for the future are aligned. For instance, if you think you are ready for children but your potential partner is interested in playing the field indefinitely, knowing this information will help you make an informed decision as to whether or not a more committed relationship is in the cards.

Remember that the basis of a long term relationship isn't just how compatible you are now. It's how well you are able to grow together in the future. 

3. Be Direct, Honest, and Communicative

There is a lot of old fashioned "common wisdom" about dating that involves feminine people playing hard to get and masculine people never, ever talking about their feelings. Can you see how these tendencies can often work together to create a completely avoidant situation where no one ever brings up anything challenging? The sooner you can get over this so-called wisdom, the better. Healthy relationships are grounded in open, honest communication, regardless of gender stereotypes.

Invite your potential partner to a comfortable place, such as a quiet restaurant, a walk in the park, or perhaps offer to make them dinner. The important thing is to set aside some time free of distraction, where you will both feel comfortable having an honest discussion.

Practice bringing up what you want to bring up, and bring it up. If, after all your soul searching, you decide to tell this person that you want a committed relationship—and that for you, that means monogamy and no more dating apps—tell them exactly that. Understand that you might not get what you want, but you'll never get it if you don't ask for it. 

Don't be manipulative. Avoid ultimatums and head games. This is about telling the other person what you want, and what you would like from them, not winning a game.

It's very rare to get what we want out of life without asking for it, and even then, we still don't always get it. Please don't have this conversation if you aren't secure enough to handle the answer if it is no. But if you are truly willing to accept any possible outcome, you might be surprised just how well direct, honest communication could work in your favor. 

Good luck out there!

"It's very rare to get what we want out of life without asking for it" [Tweet this]

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