No Matter How Long We’ve Been Dating, We’re Not Exclusive Until We’ve Actually Had “The Talk”

I love being single. I’m not someone who loses sleep worrying about being a spinster and I don’t bother with dating apps because I know that’s not how I’ll meet my soulmate. I’m actually the exact opposite. I’m single and ready to mingle, living life strictly according to me. However, I’ve had two separate dating experiences in which I’ve been seeing someone for a while and they decided we were exclusive without ever talking to me about it. WTF?

  1. Communication is important. If we aren’t talking about what we’re doing, what else are we not talking about? It’s important to discuss where each person stands, even if it’s just to confess that you’re not sure what you want quite yet. Communication builds trust, fosters understanding, and creates depth for a relationship. I want the person I’m seeing to know they can talk to me and I need to know I can talk to them.
  2. I need to talk about feelings. It is very important to me to be with someone who can articulate how they’re feeling. I respect a level of emotional maturity and confidence that allows someone to verbally convey their emotions. In addition, I’m someone who loves to talk about my feelings and actually finds it easier to process and connect when I do so. If talking about feelings makes them uncomfortable then I’m going to make them dizzy.
  3. If I can’t express myself, I’ll lash out. The person I’m seeing isn’t not creating a safe space for me if my attempts to communicate are shut down, belittled, or ignored. Perhaps unlike their emotions, mine don’t just disappear when I bottle them up and bury them. My emotions work like a volcano and if I can’t diplomatically talk about them, they’ll start to seep out in other avenues (and potentially blow). I start to hold grudges, get snappy, and feel unappreciated.
  4. I’m going to hold back. As a result of not defining what we’re doing, I’m going to play it safe and hold back my vulnerability. I won’t dive in and let my feelings grow, I won’t fulfill any girlfriend expectations, and I won’t trust them with my emotions. In addition, I won’t worry about gaining their trust, I won’t be concerned about how I make them feel, and I won’t invest a lot of time. If they want the best of me, they have to let me know.
  5. I need to hear they want me. Do you know Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages”? My love language is words of affirmation, which means that I understand I’m loved and cared for when it’s verbally affirmed to me. If we don’t have a conversation about wanting to be with each other, I’m most likely to feel that they don’t want to be with me exclusively.
  6. I can’t stand people who make assumptions. It’s dangerous to assume exclusivity. If you guess incorrectly you’re liable to find out that the person you’re seeing is dating other people. If they are dating other people, there’s a chance they’re also sleeping with other people. For your own emotional AND physical safety, you should be very careful when assuming exclusivity. That’s why I never do and I don’t expect the people I date to do so either.
  7. I can’t read minds. I really wish I could, but I can’t. I’m still getting to know them, but I can only see them through my eyes and I can only process their hints and signals through my brain. I’m not a wizard. I’m probably comparing them to past relationships and using my own preferences to guess theirs. How about they just tell me what’s going on and I can stop trying to figure it out?
  8. I want to be with someone who’s clear about what they want. Emotions aren’t fake, made-up chemicals that are meant to confuse you; they’re very clear. Emotions tell you what you want and what you don’t, what you like and what you don’t. Emotions are always communicating with you and it’s up to you to genuinely listen and feel what they’re telling you. Perhaps the person I’m dating is feeling confusion, frustration, or 100% certain about me, but they’re feeling something and it would be nice to know what.
  9. If they don’t want to discuss it, that’s fine, but what are we doing? If they don’t want to discuss what we are because that makes things too real or it forces them to face realities they’re trying to ignore, then cool. I don’t have the time nor the desire to invest my energy in someone who obviously doesn’t want to truly be with me. If they don’t want this to be real, then what are we doing?
  10. If I don’t bring it up it’s because I don’t want to. They should be concerned if I’m not bringing up the “what are we?” conversation. I’m not bringing it up because I don’t care about what we are and I’m most likely running around dating other people, flirting at the bar, and being single. I beat them to it and had a conversation with myself: “Am I in an exclusive relationship?” Guess what, the answer was no.
Rebecca is a freelance writer, obsessive skier, and avid yogi. When she's not in the alpine or on the mat, she is running Subjectively Me, a blog from which she inspires people to feel shamelessly honest.