Ok, you’ve found a man who appears to be on the same page as you – he possesses the qualities of a man looking for a meaningful long-term relationship. What can you do in the early stages of your relationship to ensure your new romantic interest sees his future with you before becoming emotionally invested?
- Don’t stop dating other people right away.
- As I said in Part 1, you want to avoid wasting time with a man who doesn’t share your timeline.
- Keep yourself open to meeting others until you are positive this relationship has a solid foundation for something long-lasting and secure. Dating exclusively may provide a false sense of security since it doesn’t always indicate that the relationship will last, or that the man even sees himself with you in the long term.
- If you are on a timeline, you can’t afford to become exclusive with someone until they have specifically demonstrated that they are ready, willing, and able to create a future-oriented relationship leading to marriage, specifically with you, and within a timeframe that works for you.
- Don’t agree to his request to exclusivity on the spot.
- While, as discussed in Part 1, his declaration that he wants to be exclusive is a must, this declaration alone is not enough to suggest that the man is likely to marry you. There are many reasons that he could not want you to see other men: As explained in Part 1, maybe he wants a period of risk-free, unprotected sex; or maybe he wants a monogamous relationship now but is not interested in marriage within your timeline; or maybe he just doesn’t like competing with other men for your Saturday nights. It’s important to remember that just because he asks you to be exclusive, it does not necessarily mean anything more than him wanting to “go steady” in a high-school sense.
- When a man suggests exclusivity, I encourage women to be receptive and interested, but, as I began discussing in Part 1, get to the bottom of the true reason he wants it:
- Ask him why he wants to be exclusive with you, what exclusivity means to him, and what his goals are for the relationship. It says a lot if he is tongue-tied in response to this question. It may suggest that he doesn’t possess or is unable to express anything beyond a mere wish to tie up your time. Give him plenty of time to answer the question, and don’t put words in his mouth. If he says, “I don’t know, it just feels right,” you can explain that you’re flattered the idea of spending time with you exclusively feels appealing to him, but you’d need more information about why it feels right and where he sees the relationship going, and if he has any idea of a timeline for his ideas. If he becomes standoffish and/or makes you feel uncomfortable for wondering about these things, take that as information that he may not value these factors as much as you do, and he apparently isn’t interested in exploring them even when you’re revealing that these factors matter to you.
- If he has answers for the questions above, ask him how long he’s felt this way about you.
- View it as a conversation and don’t commit to it right then on the spot. Express how happy and flattered you are that he wants to be exclusive with you (if that’s true), but also explain that you see it as a big step– and as exciting as it may be, you want a day to pass before deciding, since it is such a big decision. This is important because men may suggest exclusivity because of a conscious or unconscious awareness that many women wait for this before they have sex – so don’t let the “exclusivity talk” become the “key-to-your-pants talk.”
- Avoid having sex right away.
- By waiting, the woman is communicating that she is looking for more than just a good time. I know there have been success stories of long-lasting relationships where sex was had right away, but we’re discussing strategy for a very specific demographic of women with time-oriented goals – it’s generally best to wait until you know him better.
- When a couple begins having sex, they often quit dating other people, which, as discussed above, is something you don’t want to do too quickly with someone you’re not positive is on your same page.
- When women have sex – especially good sex – they release oxytocin, which causes them to bond. Men do too, but women do so on a much larger scale. This means that the woman “loses her center” a bit when she has good sex. Do yourself a favor and refrain from making yourself vulnerable until you can be reasonably sure it’s safe to do so. “Reasonably safe” means he has requested exclusivity and explained good reasons for why he wants it.
- Unless you want to feel like the pursuer, allow the man to initiate conversations about the future and exclusivity.
- Many women complain that the man isn’t raising conversations about exclusivity, so the women feel compelled to “get the conversation started” for him. There’s nothing wrong with this if you don’t mind being the pursuer. But since the same women complain that they feel they have then become the pursuer, my advice for them is to refrain from bringing the topic up. If it’s on his mind and he’s comfortable taking the lead, he’ll bring it up. If he doesn’t, it’s either not on his mind, or he’s not comfortable taking the lead. If you’re a woman looking for a relationship-oriented man who knows how to take the lead, then accept that a man who doesn’t ask for exclusivity either doesn’t want it from you or isn’t comfortable raising the topic. Either way, it suggests he may not be what you’re looking for. It’s best to see this for what it is sooner rather than later.
- A woman need not elaborate any further than “I just don’t feel ready” when asked why she does not want to have sex right away. Explaining that she doesn’t feel ready because the man hasn’t expressed that he sees a future with her is basically taking the lead and starting “the talk” yourself. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this, but if you’re a woman who wants a man who is comfortable pursuing you then you should allow the man to initiate that conversation and provide those signs without prompting. If he doesn’t do this on his own, take that as information, too.
- If you are hoping to get married in the next few years (which can be an especially important goal for women over 30 who want children), make SURE you are dating other people until he gives you good reasons not to do so. This will keep you from getting over-focused and tense about his timeline, because you won’t be just “sitting around waiting” to find out if or when he might be interested in a future-focused exclusive relationship with you. Becoming exclusive to a man who hasn’t expressed a strong interest with good reason puts you in the position of over-investing in him. This makes it more difficult for you to relax and enjoy the process of getting to know him, including finding out whether or not he shares your relationship goals and timeline.
Before becoming emotionally invested, I encourage women to understand who they are dating and how he views commitment and marriage. Because many women don’t want to initiate these conversations themselves, they must wait for the to initiate them– and accept that if he doesn’t ever initiate them, it could indicate that the subject may not be important to him or he may be uncomfortable taking the lead and being the “pursuer type” that the woman is often seeking.
It is hard to make logical decisions when caught up with the emotions and excitement of dating someone new. Setting your dating pace and mood – looking for the the type of man who could be on your page and then not jumping ahead first by following the guidelines above – will help keep the goal of marriage and family in clear sight within the timeframe you want.
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Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, dating coach, and the founder of Carmichael Psychology in New York City. She specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety reduction in every aspect of your life. Her new series of online tools allows her clients to master CBT techniques for anxiety on their own schedule.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael Peet