Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Exclusivity Factor: The results are in

The last time we spoke, it was Valentine's Day, and I was pondering the question of exclusivity.

Namely, when is it "time" to say to your current beau, "Hey, let's do this, just you and me?" And how do you bring up that conversation?

I asked my readers to weigh in, and you did. I got many, many comments that ranged from insightful to side-splittingly funny, and all of them made me think.

So this blog post is going to be a little different: I'm going to be taking the comments that really moved me and weaving them into this post, along with my own commentary on the subject.

Let's tackle the "how" of exclusivity first. People were more torn on this than I would have expected.

For starters, there was the "no talk necessary" camp:

Brian said: "Guideline 1: If you need to ask, you're not exclusive."

Which International Woman of Mystery agreed with: "I tend to not love 'the talk.' Although not knowing what 'we are' is hard too. With my ex The Beautiful Swede, we never had the talk. I was frustrated at the beginning and almost gave up on him a few times. But I'm sure if I had forced 'the talk' it would have been over immediately. Instead I waited it out and suddenly he announced he was coming home with me over Christmas and that was that."

And Stephanie's relationship went much the same way: "Sometimes the relationship just sneaks up on you, though. Josh and I weren't 'in a relationship'... but we were, you know? I figured it out the day he was talking to someone else and gestured at me and called me his girlfriend. I'd just never really thought about defining it in those terms."

So these folks see exclusivity as a psychic connection. But then there were also those who advocated hashing it out.

Aggy said: "As for how, I usually say, 'I really like you, and am not dating anyone else nor am I really interested in doing so... if you are on the same page, great and if not, let me know!' via e-mail or IM or texting because face-to-face-ing isn't my thing."

Paulidin concurred: "If you feel like you want to be exclusive with him, then that's how you phrase it: 'I really like this. I don't want to be with anyone else, and I don't like the idea of you being with anyone else. I wish you were my boyfriend (significant other, lover, etc., whatever label you like). What do you think about that?'"

Of course, I liked what Alyssa, who is my BFF from college, had to say: "If you decide later you need to bring it up, there's no perfect way to do it. Probably not in public, but in person, would be best. And like I said, know what you want and stress that you have been pleased with how things have been going so far, but you're trying to figure out what the next step is as far as other dates go, and at this time, you're not really interested in seeing other people, so you want to know if he feels the same way. You can just start there -- not seeing other people. You don't have to exactly put a title on it or anything."

And coming from Now-That's-Just-Goddamn-Adorableville, Diedre and Jen described their exclusivity talks: 

First Diedre: "Inspector Climate simply waited about a month and then said he described me to his friends at work as his girlfriend and he wanted to know if that was accurate..."

And Jen: "#2 was best put to me by my college ex (who I actually suspect went to high school with you) when he said 'I don't want to share you, do you want to share me?' That kicked my butt straight out of Unsure Land and into The Longest Relationship I've Had to Date.... Land."

I like those stories. Kudos to y'all two. (P.S. How do you know he went to high school with me??? Small world!!!)

Personally -- and perhaps this is because I lead an exceedingly wordy life wherein I wear my heart on my sleeve and constantly say whatever inane little thought pops into my head whenever it pops in there -- I am kind of in league with the "You have to talk about this shit" camp. 

I don't like it when people attach my name to things without my permission, even if it's things I support -- just ask me and I'll say yes, you know? So if some dude were to just start calling me his girlfriend without asking me about it first, I'm pretty sure my primal urge to remain steadfastly independent would rear its ugly head and I would cast off the moniker like a dog violently trying to slough off his infernal Elizabethan collar.

But at the same time, I agree with Rob in CA that by the time you have "the talk," it should be a foregone conclusion: "If you feel like you MUST define it to have some sense of security, things are not going as well as you think."

And that brings me to the "when" of exclusivity. Just when is it "time"? 

Pretty much across the board, you guys echoed the same sentiment:
I have NO idea.

Haha, just kidding. In truth, it's a little more poetic than that -- most people said some iteration of "when you know, you know":

Christine, who has the distinct honor of having posted first, eschewed all dating rules: "Reason #1 I was no good at dating: I don't like rules. I don't like the 'it's time to do this' or expectations after this date, no calling until 3 days go by blah blah blah. ... I don't think there is a correct time for exclusivity. Sometimes it's after one date, sometimes after 6 months."

Editor's note: God, I HOPE it doesn't take SIX MONTHS to get to exclusivity. I'm rolling with it for now -- it's only been about a month and a half -- but six months from now is August and if I'm still in the "I don't know what we are to each other" phase with the entrepreneur I'm going to shit a brick because I will have squandered AN ENTIRE SUMMER of opportunities to go party on boats in the Georgetown Harbor. And that's truly goddamn lame!

Mike K. had a few more guidelines to put down: "So when is it time? When your friends know this person, when you want to be able to call them your girl/boyfriend, when you're done dating, it's time to have the talk."

Sassy Marmalade was more succinct: "You will just know (and he will know)."

As a side note, the one thing I will say that many people brought up that I actually disagree with is that it's not time to get exclusive until you've each other's family. That may be something you could do when everybody still lives in their home town, but in a transient city like Washington, D.C., it's just not practical to expect that you'd be able to trot out the family before committing to someone. My family's in Ohio, and they only come out to visit every few months. Also, I wouldn't want to introduce anyone to my family as a precursor to exclusivity anyway. Meeting the family is a big deal to me -- boyfriend-only territory.

But anyway, in my original post on this subject, I wrote that I didn't think there was an empirical way to calculate exclusivity, and as you can see, comment after comment agreed with me. So they reassured me that everything I was feeling in my life now was OK, that my not freaking out and rushing to break out the labels in this situation was a good thing, and that I could proceed as usual.

That is, until I read Vince's comment.

(Even though the part I really want you guys to read for the purposes of this part of this blog is the first paragraph, I'm going to post the whole thing here because it's 100 PERCENT PURE AWESOME.)

"You know it's the time when the thought of him being with another girl wants to make you start ripping hair out; your scalp, his scalp, her scalp, the waiter who served them tiramisu with one spoon ...yeah, hair ripping out is the time.

"And you go, 'Yo foo, I like you, I don't want that beautiful sausage goin' anywhere near no other lady parts but this fabulous brick house right here' then make the Degeneration X sign with your hands and do a hip thrust.

"Or you could just say 'I'd really like to see where this is going. I have no desire to see other men in order to further whatever it is we have here. Do you feel the same, but you know, with women instead?'

"Then blow job before he can answer. Drop bows on it."

Vince TOTALLY WINS. That comment was AMAZING.

But when I stopped laughing like an asshole at what he'd written, I started thinking. Hmm. Hair ripping out time. What DO I think of the idea of the entrepreneur with other women? And the answer to that question floated as easily to my brain as dandelion seeds drifting to the ground on a breezy summer day:

I will CUT a bitch.

I will go all fists-and-elbows on the situation; I will threaten you with spoons, TV remote controls, junk mail and anything else in this apartment that's easily reachable/throwable. Seriously, I WILL CUT YOU! 


So when I realized that that was my instinct, I went, ...awww, shit. 

I have freely said I'm extremely infatuated with the entrepreneur, but I did NOT want to admit that much to myself. Admitting just how deeply it goes with me right now makes me feel completely vulnerable.

And yet, I'm just not ready to bring it up, and if I'm following the "when you know, you know" mantra of all the comments, then that tells me it's just not the right time.

But then, there is one final thought to add from Rhianna: "There is only one thing I will say has never failed me. If my closest friends didn't like my choice of man they were usually right."

Brilliant, Rhianna. Brilliant.

Everyone in my life universally HATED Ex-BF v. 2.0 when they met him. 

My family in particular -- when I told my mother I was moving in with him, she stopped speaking to me for a month. Eventually we reached a state of d├ętente where they tolerated him and he made minimal snide comments about them, but still, it would have been a difficult row to hoe had we gotten married or even just stayed together any longer.

But even my friends disliked him greatly, though they never said anything about it until after we broke up. This time, however, since things ended so shittily with Ex-BF v. 2.0, all my closest friends know the score: Radical honesty. If they meet a guy and don't like him, they're going to tell me about it.

So, that, in theory, is happening tonight. The entrepreneur is coming to my dinner party club. Jury is in session. Verdict TBA.


  1. crossing my fingers. happy sunday!!

  2. Whoaa... the dinner party club, where truth comes to light... how many potential suitors have fallen victim to the "club"?

  3. Seattle Rob came and the assistant project manager came. People liked Rob but thought the APM was boring.

    Additionally, the fine art guy and the Canadian both came to parties with me. Everyone thought the fine art guy was great -- and he was, but he was the one who decided to not take things any further with me. People thought the Canadian was too young for me, and they were right.

    Lastly, people met John out at a bar one night and everyone hated him. So, there's that.

    @PeachyKeen: Thanks! I appreciate it.

  4. P.S. I like to stack odds in my favor by telling women I find attractive that, "He's not the one for you unless you can enjoy dancing with him."

    But that's because I have ulterior motives and can cut a rug to pieces. ;-)

  5. Having danced with you last night, I can say that the "cut a rug" line is a FACT. And I would be HONORED if you would dance with me again!!!

  6. Hoping it goes well -- meeting the friends is always an important verdict. Of course, since I don't really have friends, it was easy to skip that step for me.

  7. You've been dating this guy for almost 2 months and you're sleeping with him. If you're getting stabby at the thought of him dating or sleeping with someone else then you need to get some answers sooner rather than later. The longer you let him go without talking about it while making yourself totally available to him, the harder it's going to be.

    You should be keeping your options open.

    He is.

  8. Oh good luck!! Friends are the best judges because they only have your best interests at heart. I hope it goes well!!

  9. This is a very timely post... as I am in a similar situation (about 1.5 dates behind you, though one of my dates was a very Valentines-y Valentine's Day, soooo...), am entirely smitten, and am also pondering the exclusivity issue... while trying to stay calm and go with the flow. HA.

  10. Hope things went well for you. When my husband decided he wanted to be exclusive with me, he said jokingly, "Hey, wanna go steady?" And I jokingly answered, "Hey, sure!"
    That was 32 years ago.

  11. So bummed I missed meeting him at dinner club! Can you think of an excuse for me to meet him when I get back from NYC?

  12. Great post! Fun to read all the advice. Thanks for quoting me. :)

  13. Interesting discussion!

    First of all, I'm a huge fan of the friend test. If I'm dating a girl, I want to see how she acts around my friends and how they react to her. If all goes well, this is a huge plus for me. If it goes awry, and it sometimes can, I'm very, very likely to break it off with her very quickly. So definitely agree there.

    But one thing I noted a lack of this post was your feelings on whether you thought HE wants a defined relationship. I think all of the vague "if it feels right it's time" comments simply boil down to, if you both want exclusivity, it'll be obvious to both of you. When someone wants to be exclusive, it's usually pretty (to me at least) obvious. When sometime doesn't want to, it's not at all obvious what they want. That is to say, in poker terms, someone can try to be bluffing, but they have tons of tells. A person who isn't bluffing, however, by definition has no tells.

    So, ask yourself: does your guy seem to want an exclusive relationship? If the answer is yes, then he probably does, and if the answer is, "It's unclear," then he probably doesn't. Of course, you'll never be 100% certain unless you ask him, so why waste your time by not asking him if that's what you want?

  14. with my boyfriend, we were best friends first, who then began hooking up with each other. as we continued hooking up, we danced ever closer to the edge of exclusivity without so saying. finally, one day, i said, "i'm not hooking up with anyone but you, y'know?" he said, "neither am i." from there, we moved to, well, neither of us wants to hook up with anyone else. but the rubber didn't meet the road until we had a talk one night where i told him that, even though i'd just left a long marriage and had been encouraged to date around, i didn't want to be with anyone else but him.

    and that, as they say, was that.

  15. HAHAHA. I didn't realize I made such an impact.

    I swear I'm really not that funny. But I'm goddamn poignant as a moh'a-fucka. (That's 'street' for "motherfucker")

    My dad on taking/giving advice - "Be weary of easy quipped quotes that don't reference you in the subject. People love to talk about life experiences, but only one's that affect them. No has to live your life or deal the consequences of their advice."

    That's what I try to build my relationship advice around. Not what works for me, but makes you think. And then I throw a few dick jokes and some explicatives here and there. I use fuck like Emeril uses oregano.

    I'm glad I was able to help. My friend Mike just said he was going to your happy hour. Hook him up, he's good people. Take a shot for me.


  16. I agree with clydewright. I was friends with my boyfriend first and on the night of our first date, we both realized we were totally crazy about each other. And that was that. We never had an exclusivity talk because we just knew what we were.

    Ha, I love Vince.

  17. I know its an old post but i have been reading your blog from the beginning (really bored as you can guess) and really want to comment on this blog.

    Maybe it is just me but after 4 or 5 dates or more precisely after we have "sex" for the first time, i expect the relationship to be heading towards exclusivity from that point on if we are still dating. I honestly can't imagine her getting it on with another guy or dating while we have been intimate already and still dating for 4,5 and so on dates. I get to the phase of girlfriend/boyfriend in a really short time so this post really surprised me especially reading this
    "I figured it out the day he was talking to someone else and gestured at me and called me his girlfriend."

    I thought going to the bf/gf phase happens naturally and you don't even need to talk about it.

    Unless you are talking about moving in which yeah will need the talk and a lot of time.

    PS: I rarely use online dating and mostly date through friends, social gatherings etc and when i strike up a conversation there is already attraction, maybe that is why my relationships go a lot faster. We are a date or two ahead than if we started from dating online.


Tell me what you think!