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Dating Exclusively but Not in a Relationship? The Grey Area Dilemma

Dating is confusing! You’re dating exclusively but not in a relationship – what does that mean? When you’re exclusive dating, is it love? Let’s decipher.

dating exclusively but not in a relationship

One extremely confusing relationship zone to be in is when you’re dating exclusively but not in a relationship. You would think that exclusive dating means you’re properly together. But, what if the other person has a totally different definition? The one thing we can all agree on is that dating is extremely confusing!

Now, you might wonder if it’s even possible to be dating exclusively but not in a relationship. Most people who date casually see other people simultaneously.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as all parties are aware of what’s going on. It becomes a problem when you don’t have the first clue what your relationship status actually means. [Read: Types of relationships – 26 Ways to define your love life]

Dating was far easier back in the day

Back in the day, dating used to be far less confusing. Okay, it might have been extremely old-fashioned and rather rigid, but you met a man or a woman, you talked for a while, ‘courted,’ and then you got married. End of story.

These days, we have a world of choice. There are a million ways to meet people, different ideas, and thought processes. Finding someone with the same way of thinking as you can be borderline impossible!

For instance, maybe you don’t want to get married ever, maybe you never want children, maybe you want both, perhaps you never want to be tied to just one person. The list goes on! [Read: 10 signs of true love that will make you believe]

It’s great that we’re free to live our dating lives in a way that suits us, but it’s important to communicate clearly with anyone you’re dating so they’re not hanging around expecting more, or something entirely different.

How does dating confusion occur?

You see, two people like each other. Probably one likes the other more, and they aren’t sleeping with or dating anyone else, but one *or maybe both* refuses to label it a real relationship. [Read: The best ways to read mixed signals and turn the signs into love]

It seems ridiculous, because the very pillar of a relationship is that you’re not sleeping with anyone else! If you’re only with that person and you have no interest in seeing someone else, surely you’re actually in a relationship of sorts already?

You would think so.

But, it all comes down to what a person views as a relationship, whether they have any underlying fears related to the R-word, and what they want in the future.

How you define a relationship varies from person to person. Most say a relationship is when two people meet, want to spend time together, don’t want to see other people, sex usually becomes involved, and they’re seeing how it goes.

There doesn’t necessarily have to be a solid ‘look to the future’ view. There may not even be a commitment to be together forever. In general, it is two people sharing time, thoughts, feelings, and stories.

So, when two people are exclusive dating but one or both don’t deem it to be a full relationship, it’s easy for confusion to start entering the equation. [Read: Dating vs. Relationship – 14 signs to know your real status]

Wait, it gets even more confusing!

The reason that some people are dating exclusively but not in a relationship per se is because one of them has a true fear of commitment.

The R word basically means me and them. Which means a union, being seen as a couple, and not having the same level of independence as before. What they don’t realize is that by dating exclusively, they’ve already made a commitment, a promise. They’re already there! [Read: 20 signs you’re wasting time in a one sided relationship]

Signs you’re dating exclusively but not in a relationship

You might be a little confused as to what your situation is. Maybe you’re with someone and neither of you are seeing anyone else, but something just doesn’t feel right. Perhaps you don’t feel like there’s a real commitment yet.

To help you figure out whether the whole dating exclusively but not in a relationship just yet situation is yours, let’s check out some signs. [Read: 15 signs he doesn’t want a relationship with you & just wants fun]

1. You don’t really talk about the future

When you’re in a relationship, you tend to make plans for the future. It doesn’t have to be a long time in the future, but you might plan to go away on vacation in the summer. You might talk about going to a family member’s wedding in a couple of months’ time.

You might also talk about the serious future stuff, such as moving in together, perhaps getting married, or even the subject of kids. It’s possible that you have a conversation about what each of you wants versus what you don’t want.

This is normal in a relationship. So, if you’re exclusive dating but there’s no chat about anything further than tomorrow going on, that’s a clear sign that you’re not really in a relationship at all. [Read: Signs he sees a future with you or not – 30 things to look out for]

2. It seems to be mostly about sex

The sex is probably fantastic and maybe that’s why neither of you are seeing anyone else! However, a real relationship is about more than getting it on.

If the two of you spend most of your downtime together in the bedroom, then there’s not a huge amount of substance to your situation just yet. Maybe you just need a little more time to develop your future relationship, or maybe it’s not likely to ever turn into one.

3. You’re not introduced to important people

When you’re serious about someone, you introduce them to the important people in your life.

That may include your parents at some point, but at first, it certainly includes your close friends and then maybe your siblings next. Depending on how long you’ve been dating, you’d be able to tell if it’s time. But if it’s been a while and there’s no sign, why is that? [Read: How to accept your BF’s friends & get them to accept you]

4. One of you has a clear fear of commitment *or maybe both*

Maybe your partner talks a lot about how they’re not a big fan of relationships or marriage. If they drop hints like this on a regular basis, they’re indirectly telling you that they’re not into commitment.

Of course, it could be that you feel that way and that’s why you’re dating exclusively but not in a relationship proper.

5. You don’t share things with each other

Another clear pillar of a relationship is sharing. You share problems, happiness, goals, silly stories, you name it. If there’s not a whole lot of sharing going on, it doesn’t matter that you’re not sleeping with anyone else, you’re still not in an actual relationship. [Read: How to build trust in a relationship and make it last]

6. You don’t really talk about much at all

Communication in a relationship is so important. If you don’t talk about things, you’re not really connected to one another. That means you’re not in a relationship.

When you’re relationship official, you talk about what’s on your mind and you share your problems. That way, you support one another through the hard times and share joy in the good times.

Are you ready to move from exclusive dating only to relationship territory?

If you’re in this type of situation and you’re not entirely happy with it, figure out what the blockage is. [Read: 10 definite signs it’s time for the relationship talk]

Of course, it could be that you’re both entirely happy with not having the relationship label on your union. That’s fine. The problem comes when one person wishes for more, and not getting it out of fear of rocking the boat.

Rock the boat if you want to move past this problem. It’s that simple.

Dating exclusively is different from a relationship, that’s something we’ve established already. However, it could be that you’re not quite at that point yet because you’ve not been seeing each other that long.

Exclusive dating is often the stage before two people become relationship official. [Read: How to make a relationship official without relying on social media]

It’s time to talk

If you’re dating exclusively, that is already one commitment made. Your ‘partner’ has already made it known that they like you enough to refrain from sleeping with and seeing other people. That’s a good sign, and it should give you plenty of confidence and heart.

What you now need to know is whether they’re happy to move from casual dating *albeit exclusively* to a more solid relationship platform. [Read: All the clear signs both of you are ready for a relationship]

For some, the term ‘dating’ gives them safety. It makes them feel less trapped. The problem is, you’re never going to get what you want if you don’t have a conversation and find out where the stoppage really is.

Most people do not relish these types of conversations, because they’re scared that if they say too much, they’ll frighten the other person off and the whole thing will be over.

What you need to ask yourself is this, if you’re not happy with things as they are, isn’t it worth taking a small risk to move things along? You’re not happy anyway, so it won’t make a difference! There is also a very large chance that you will get everything you dreamed of! [Read: 5 big changes when you go from dating to a relationship]

How to have THE conversation

Choose your timing carefully for when to have this conversation. Don’t let it turn into a firm question and answer session. This needs to be casual and without pressure, but get the answers you seek.

When out together or at home chilling, simply say something like ‘I really love spending time with you.’ Then, assess their reaction. Keep your voice light and casual, don’t make it heavy and serious.

Then, say something like, “I mean, neither of us are seeing anyone else, so that kinda makes us a ‘thing’ right?” [Read: How to talk about your feelings in a relationship & grow closer]

By using these casual terms, you open the doors for a firm conversation. You’re expressing why you want to have this conversation around your relationship status. Gauge their reaction when you say, ‘Maybe you don’t like the word ‘relationship’, I don’t know, but in my mind, we’re kinda there I think.’

It’s out there. You’ve said it, you’ve got it off your chest. Don’t worry now!

You’ll either get an answer which basically says ‘yes, we’re in a relationship’ or one which tells you that it’s probably not going to happen. From there, make your own personal decision, based on the things you want and need in your own life. [Read: How to tell a special someone you’re in love with them]

Don’t stay in a situation-ship you don’t want

The whole exclusive dating but not in a relationship thing is a contradiction. Okay, so dating in itself is casual. It’s a ‘let’s see what happens’ kind of situation. When you start dating, it’s not unusual to be dating more than one person, and there is nothing wrong with that provided the other person is aware of it, and you’re not serious. [Read: Why casual dating is the best thing ever]

By the time the exclusivity comes around, e.g. there is no one else in the equation, you’ve already stated an intention that you only want to spend time with that person. So, the casual side of things has passed.

For most people, this is the point when an early relationship begins. It’s not a serious relationship at this point, but a relationship all the same.

Never stay in a situation that isn’t what you want. If you’re dating exclusively but not in a relationship and it’s not what you want, have that conversation. Maybe it won’t go your way, and if they make it quite clear a relationship isn’t what they want, leave. [Read: 25 best relationship topics to talk about if you want to be happy]

If you want that relationship status and they’re not willing to give it to you, you’re not going to make them change their mind. In that case, find someone you don’t need to convince.

[Read: How to make the DTR conversation easy and unawkward]

Every union and relationship is totally different, it’s important to always make sure that you’re happy with where you’re at. If you’re dating exclusively but not in a relationship, it’s vital that you’re satisfied within that grey area.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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