Shouldn't The Two of You Be Exclusive By Now?

We recently had someone come to us saying that she had been dating a man for a year and a half and he still was not willing to call her his "girlfriend".

We had the opportunity to speak with both of them and it didn't seem that he had been seeing anyone else. He was very career-focused and barely had time for that relationship, let alone another one.

The issue wasn't that he was "cheating" but more so that he was unwilling to offer her the kind of relationship that she truly wanted. And she was waiting for him, hoping that he would finally come around.

It didn't take long for us to identify that this relationship was going nowhere, that even if he did agree for them to be boyfriend/girlfriend, this was not going to be the kind of relationship that she truly desired. They were on different pages, they wanted different things, and neither of them was changing their mind.

What is difficult about a situation like this is that it was costing him nothing because he was getting what he wanted--companionship, friendship, and sex--with no commitment. On the other hand, it was costing her everything, most of all time that she could have been out connecting with men that are on the same page as her.

We were able to help them get clear that they wanted different things. They recognized that they were headed in different directions and she was courageous enough to stand firm and tell him that it was over. But I remember feeling heartbroken at the idea that if she had only known by when they should have been exclusive, she could have gotten back a year of her life.

Has something like this ever happened to you?

We've gotten this question enough that we thought it would be worth addressing directly.

How long after you start dating should you be exclusive (boyfriend/girlfriend) in a relationship?

Most people don't realize that there are actually guidelines for this, and it's not pushy to hold someone to them--it's necessary.

In this post, we're going to lay out these guidelines very specifically so that you can tell early on if someone you're dating has the potential to actually go somewhere.

You may have heard us say this before, but it doesn't hurt to hear it twice:

A relationship should follow a natural progression, a timeline, and if it is actually going somewhere, it will unfold along these lines.

Depending on your lifestyles, how often you see each other, and how much time you spend together, it could vary considerably, but it will never get too far off this track. It's not that someone should be ready to commit right away--people get hung up on that sometimes. You do need time to get to know each other and to see if this relationship is even something you want.

But you can require a kind of commitment from the start. What you need to know is what kind of commitment to ask for every step of the way.

When one person (often the man, but not always) is stopping the relationship from taking the next natural step in its progression, that is when you know that it's not going anywhere.

If you feel like you constantly have to force it, it's probably a waste of your time.

So how does this look? Here are the guidelines:

#1 - From the start, whether you're connecting through text, phone, or even in person, they should be consistent, meaning they reach out to you and they respond when you reach out to them. They're open to planning dates and making time to connect with you.

#2 - If you've been seeing someone consistently for 3 months (max), they should be willing to make it exclusive. This doesn't mean you'll marry them. It simply means that you're not going to see anyone else and that you are giving this relationship an honest chance.

#3 - Within a year you should be clear if this is something you want or not. Again, this doesn't necessarily mean you will marry them. But it does mean that by that time, you should be clear as to whether or not this a relationship that you want and you are willing to invest in long-term.

#4 - Between 2-3 years, you should be looking at getting engaged/married (if that's your thing) or moving in together. Not that is has to be one of those things, but the sentiment here is that you are making a commitment for the long run.