“Are you dating other people?” I asked, one night to the guy I’d been dating for a few weeks.
We had reached that point in the dating road map where I had decided I didn’t want to be dating other people, which if I’m being honest, meant I really didn’t want him to be dating other people.
“I’m not dating other people,” I told him. “Nor do I want to.” Which is why I wanted to classify our relationship as “dating exclusively.” Which to me meant that if I were to decide I wanted to date someone else, I would tell him I didn’t want to date him anymore before moving on to the next guy.
But the word “exclusive” seemed to put up some sort of awkward wall between us. Which is not to say he didn’t answer my question, he just tiptoed around the word like it was on fire.
He could articulate the following with certainty:
He was not dating anyone else at the moment. Nor was there anyone at the moment who he wanted to date. And yet, for some reason, when the conversation of defining the relationship as exclusive came up, his response was that “he wasn’t there yet.” All he could tell me were the above statements, and that the exclusive conversation was “too serious.” And so we continued watching reality TV like everything was normal. But all I could think was, but are we saying the same thing? Why can’t you just say we’re exclusive if you’re not dating and don’t want to be dating anyone else?
We were floating in this weird limbo land of detachment. He was not my boyfriend, and I was not ready for him to take that title. We texted daily, and hung out a a few times a week, but he still hadn’t met my friends, and I still wasn’t sure where this was headed.
So why did I need to give us some sort of label?
I was convinced that It would just be so much simpler if he could just say those words. It would quell all my insecurities. No one else is coming over to his apartment or going out for drinks with him this week. But hadn’t he already said that in different words?
What does being exclusive even mean? Maybe by clarifying where we’re at, I was really over complicating it, because we were in a grayer area than I was willing to admit.
Because I couldn’t help but wonder if I was just as guilty of being non-exclusive as he was. I’ll be the first to admit that I was still flirting at parties and swiping through apps. No, I wasn’t going on dates with other guys, but I’d still scout out rooms for cute guys. And I’m assuming he was doing the same. But I had told him I was exclusive. Had I lied? After all, we were in the in- between.
We put labels like “exclusive” in order to simplify things. If we can categorize where we’re at, then maybe we can better understand exactly how we each feel and where exactly this relationship is heading. But maybe we’re doing ourselves a disservice. we’re focusing so much on what we think the other person means, that we’re not actually hearing what they are telling us. He told me exactly where he was at. Why did I need to box that into a neat little word that likely meant two totally different things to each of us. How could I be sure we were speaking the same language if we never even defined our terms. And so, maybe by trying to simplify things, I was really just over complicating them. Sure labels are important in understanding and categorizing. But definitions matter more. And maybe I needed to focus less on what we were and more on what we meant when we said the things we said.