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As it pertains to people and dating, the term exclusive is an adjective which describes a couple and their relationship with one another. Couples often become exclusive in time, once two people mutually agree that they are serious about romantically pursuing one another.
As the word exclusive literally means limited to a single individual or group, exclusive couples are typically monogamous. However, as a wider spectrum of relationships have grown to become accepted, some people may define exclusive in a different way. For example, a non-monogamous person may have an exclusive relationship with one person they date and have romantic feelings for, but still have sex with other people.
Often people go from casually dating to dating exclusive naturally, without ever talking about it. They simply understand that they are both feeling invested enough in one another to consider the relationship exclusive. However, in the modern world it can be safest not to assume you are in an exclusive relationship. Talking to a partner and discussing whether you are both ready to be exclusive ensures you are both on the same page.
There is no right time to have this discussion, although it is common within a few weeks or months of getting to know a new romantic partner. Rather than worrying about a specific timeframe, many people naturally discuss the topic when they feel they are starting to become emotionally invested in the person they are dating.
It is also a good idea to discuss what the term exclusive means for each of you so that confusion or misunderstanding is avoided. Most people use exclusively interchangeably with monogamous, but this isn’t always the case. Having this discussion when you decide to become exclusive can minimize the chance of hurt feelings later.
Dating exclusively should be seen as a significant step on the path of developing an exclusive relationship. While in most cases a couple dating exclusively are not dating other people, they may still have a few options in mind should things not work out. While they are investing time and energy, they are not likely to be as emotionally invested or confident about their future together as a couple in an exclusive relationship. People dating exclusively may not know one another’s families or be as willing to work through their problems as an exclusive couple. They are also less likely to live together and share the more practical parts of their lives.