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.
We're not going to say that there aren't exceptions to this, there surely are, but when we look at our relationship and all of the successful relationships we know, they have all followed this same general progression.
We've seen it 100% of the time in our past relationships, friends' relationships, and with our coaching clients--when one partner was not willing to allow the relationship to unfold along these lines, it went nowhere. So while there may be exceptions to this timeline, we haven't seen them yet (and we've seen a lot).
This is the actual timeline upon which a successful relationship unfolds. If you hold your potential relationships to this timeline, you will know very clearly if they are going somewhere or not.
So let's expand a bit on each of these:
#1 They should be consistent
If you have to wait hours or days for a response to a text or phone call, don't waste your time. If they are non-committal in scheduling dates and making plans, don't waste your time. If they cancel plans last minute, don't waste your time. If they say they will call or text and they don't--you guessed it--don't waste your time.
From the beginning, they should make it clear that they are interested. Not that they are falling in Love with you, but that they want to give this a chance. Someone who makes you work unnecessarily hard to see them and speak to them is more concerned with their own ego than a real relationship.
#2 The 3-month rule
It doesn't take more than 3 months max to figure out if you have a sincere interest in a relationship with someone. Again, this doesn't mean you'll spend your lives together. It means that you like what you've seen so far, you'd like to see more, and you're willing to take other options off of the table for the moment to explore this one.
This is an essential step in a relationship. If you're not willing to give this relationship some dedicated attention, how can you really make an honest assessment about it? To know if it can work you have to make an exclusive commitment to it. We always say it's the space between 3 months and 1 year when couples discover if they have what it takes to make it together.
If someone is not willing to give the possibility of a relationship with you this kind of attention, it's not that important to them.
#3 The 1-year mark
If you made the suggested commitment at 3 months, by 1 year you should have a pretty clear idea of where this is going. It doesn't mean that everything will be perfect. We've found that sometimes this process can take up to 18 months, but around this time you should be pretty clear as you look to the future whether you see this person in it or not.
#4 The long term commitment
Following this natural progression, once you reach the 2-3 year mark, you should be ready for the real commitment. By this time you've been through enough ups and downs, worked through enough things together and had enough experiences that you know if this is a lifetime relationship.
Something important to be said here is that we have seen many couples get to the 2-3 year mark only to end the relationship. We've also seen couples make it to the 10-year mark and still have no clear idea of what their commitment to each other really is.
What we are laying out here is a conscious process. If you are conscious about each step of the process and hold the relationship to each step, you will discover what level of commitment is present and if the relationship honestly has potential.
If you are not conscious about it and you simply allow the relationship to continue along with no commitment at any stage of the game, you could easily waste 10 years with someone who has no real commitment to you in the long run.
Holding all potential relationships to this timeline will ensure that you do not waste your time with anyone who is not on the same page as you. It will ensure that even when you do decide to end it with someone, you have learned exactly what you needed to prepare yourself for the next one.
This is about honoring yourself, valuing yourself, and letting people know that if they want to be with you, they get to bring something to the table--that your life and your time are valuable and will not be wasted.
Holding a relationship to this timeline will certainly require some challenging conversations, some uncomfortable periods of time, and both of you digging deep within yourselves to discover where you truly stand. These are the things that many couples avoid only to find themselves, years later, alone and bitter.
If you're going through this process right now and need some guidance in it, we have a program designed for just that. Click here to apply.
And, as always, thank you for reading <3
A Conscious Approach to dating and Relationships...
We are not gurus. We have nothing that everyone else doesn't have and no secret tricks that will magically solve your love life. All we've done is learn to navigate the wild waters of relationships in a way that led us to find and create the love we've always wanted.
And we're still working on it Every. Single. Day.
The way that we, as a culture, have learned to do relationships is not the way to find True Love. Most of us have a lot of relationship-bad-habits and it's time to unlearn them. When you do, you'll find that the love you are looking for is well within your reach.
We've found a new kind of relationship, a departure from the modern dating drama and toxicity that so many people have come to accept as normal. And our methods have helped hundreds of individuals and couples navigate these challenging waters themselves to find the love they're looking for.
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