Can We Be Exclusive?


When is it OK to ask someone if they’re seeing anyone else, and if, indeed, they would agree to see you exclusively? Yes, I know the mature answer to this is “Whenever you feel that that’s what you want,” but given that I’m not quite out of my 20s, this is the kind of thing that often (always) plagues me at the start of a relationship.

I’m such a pussy, in fact, the biggest question I find myself asking is, “How do I know if he’s on the same page as me so I don’t appear overly needy?”

Not that there’s anything needy about saying, “Hey, I like you, and would like it if we only dated each other going forward,” after you’ve been seeing someone fairly regularly for a discernible period of time. It’s not like I’m saying “Heyyyyyy, so like, here’s a bracelet made exclusively from my hair, you should wear it and OMG BITCH ARE YOU LOOKING AT MY MAN. OH NO, YOU LOOK AWAY NOW OR IMMA POUND ON YOU,” on the first date. No, no; those are two completely different and mutually exclusive things, the latter being an entirely insane thing I would never say, and the former being completely normal and rational.

Why, then, does it not feel like a normal and rational thing to say?

I mean, I’m not looking for a declaration of love. I’m not looking for a marriage. I’m looking for the guarantee that whatever guy I’m sleeping with isn’t sleeping with anyone else, especially when we’re going out to dinner, watching movies, holding hands, sharing feelings, touching each other’s hair, and other such frivolous intimacies on a regular basis. When did that become too much to ask?

The simple answer is: When I moved to New York. It seems like most guys here are trying to have their pussy and eat it too; not that the women are any better. We’re all on constant rotation, unable to commit to a Saturday night party invitation let alone another person. We don’t give ourselves exclusively so we don’t expect it; likewise, we’re so scared of being asked for exclusivity from someone, we become too scared to ask it of someone else.

And it’s such a simple thing, or at least it should be. It should be that when you’re really enjoying getting to know someone you’re satisfied to be getting to know only them; maybe I’m too traditional or old-fashioned, but “getting to know” several people at a time kind of takes the importance — and ultimately the magic — out of getting to know one that might be special.

A friend of mine suggested that asking the person you’re dating if they’re seeing anyone else too soon will “scare them off.” This is a concept that I’m not even sure I entirely understand. If someone is that easily scared, then isn’t it better you learn say, after a month or two of seeing them, than after a longer period of time in which you’ve managed to fall madly in love with them? Aren’t these the sort of things we want, are important, to know before we invest?

Moreover, doesn’t the “scared off” excuse just mean they don’t like you as much as you like them (which, again, is probably something that’s good to know)? And what are the benefits of not asking for what you want anyway? Isn’t that somewhat duplicitous — hiding your intent in the hope that the person you’re seeing will one day like you enough to only like you? It just seems like we’re selling ourselves short by playing games.

Listen — it’s OK to want to be with only one person, even in a new relationship. I know we’re all young and free and getting tatts and eating kale and kissing girls and liking it or whatever, but I sometimes feel like we’re never going to get what we want if we’re too scared to ask for it. Wanting to be exclusively special to someone you find exclusively special is a normal desire. It doesn’t mean things are going to work out, or that you’ll even get to fall in love; it just means that you think it’s worth it enough to try, to give you whole heart to, and that tiny, seemingly insignificant sentiment is something that we’re in danger of losing entirely.

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