Are You Exclusive? How to Explain When the Answer is No

It’s that awkward situation many of us have experienced, and wish we hadn’t. You’re cruising along having fun getting to know a guy, when, out of the blue, he says something that betrays his assumption that you’re ‘exclusive’. You’re backed into a corner and the only way out is to potentially hurt his feelings, by telling him you’re not interested in that type of relationship right now.

The situation might have happened after a few dates and he tells you, with intent, he’s not seeing anyone else, so alarm bells go off. Or, it’s been a couple of months or so and the guy has genuinely assumed you’re his girlfriend. Perhaps he lives in another city or country and, while you want to keep the situation open, you also don’t want to put your dating life on hold for a guy over the internet.

Whichever scenario yours falls into, there are ways to unstick yourself from the awkward exclusive corner, without leaving too much carnage behind. Just remember, there’s nothing wrong with staying in a ‘single but dating’ mindset. In fact, there are loads of advantages and it’s nothing to feel bad about. Don’t allow yourself to feel pressured. Instead, stay true to your path and embrace honesty as the best way out, and forward.

What To Do From The Very Beginning Of Dating

First things first, it’s important to understand that telling a guy you’re not exclusive starts non-verbally. In most cases with socially aware guys, this shouldn’t be a conversation you have to have, as he’ll know it without you having to say it. So, if you’ve just started seeing someone and you’re still feeling him out, you need to ensure you’re actions clearly state your intentions.

It’s best not to see him excessively in the beginning. If you see him anymore than twice a week, there’s a big chance this will start misleading him towards thinking you’re exclusive. Keep your other priorities revolving, in terms of seeing your friends, hitting goals, doing your hobbies and dating other guys.

Be careful about projecting too far into the future, when you chat to him. If, for example, you’ve been seeing a guy for a couple of months and you start talking about something you want to do with him in six months, you’re non-verbally indicating exclusivity. Naturally, he’s going to presume you see him in your future, which is one of the first steps towards a relationship. If this isn’t what you want right now, keep the planning to a week by week, or month by month basis, depending on how long you’ve been seeing him for.

When Non-Verbal Signals Don’t Work

So, if you’re shaking your head and thinking, “but that’s exactly what I did and I’m still pretty sure he thinks we’re exclusive,” you’re obviously in a difficult spot. A common scenario starts with a guy letting you know he’s not seeing anyone else, hoping you’ll say the same thing. While you might really like him, you also want to take your time to get to know any man, before you make a big commitment. This is the best reason to not go exclusive because you want to be sure you’re committing to the right person.

Given that your intentions are truly based on putting yourself, your life and your values first, honestly explaining your thoughts to the guy might feel like a disappointment to him, but it shouldn’t hurt his feelings. Unless he has serious insecurity or self-worth issues, it’s likely he’ll respect you for your honesty and ability to live life as your best self.

“Let him know you’ve made a promise to yourself not to commit in a short amount of time, to avoid past mistakes.”

Frame the conversation by telling him where you’re at, in terms of wanting to get to know different people, or one man particularly well, before you decide to commit. Let him know you’ve made a promise to yourself not to commit in a short amount of time, to avoid past mistakes. Explain that, if he’s ok with that, you’d love to see where things go. However, if he’s not, that you understand if he decides to move on.

There’s no need to complicate the simple truth. In this example, you’re getting your message across, letting him know where you’re at and taking the pressure off the situation by being cool with what he decides to do. If he, in turn, is a very cool guy, it’s likely he’ll understand and you can continue your casual dates.

What To Do When He’s Changed His Relationship Status

So, you’re sitting on the couch flicking through Facebook and you get a notification. The guy you’ve been dating for a while is ‘in a relationship’, with you. Not that you knew about it. Worse, as the minutes go on, his family and friends are commenting about how happy they are for him as if they’ve known about it for ages. Your face goes red, your hands sweat and you can’t help but wonder how on earth you keeping letting yourself get into these situations. Yes, you really like him, but you’re just not ready for a boyfriend.

If the guy is this invested and you’re not, it’s time to let him down gently. No matter how hard that is – and even harder when it’s public – you’re misleading both of you and risking hurting him even more, if you prolong the situation. It’s time to come completely clean about how you feel, tell him where you’re at and give him the choice to accept that, or not if he’s uncomfortable with it.

To do this, explain that the situation is moving too fast for you and you’re not ready for that level of commitment. Tell him how much you like seeing him and want to continue doing so, but you’re on different wavelengths about what that means right now. Let him know you want to be more casual moving forward, but only if that’s ok with him and, if not, that you’ll totally understand.

It’s definitely not an easy one and it’ll probably suck. However, all you need to do is reverse the situation, to see that you would want a guy to be equally as honest with you.

When Long-Distance Gets Heavy

If you’ve met a guy and you really like each other, but you can’t be together at this time due to distance, be honest about how you feel in the beginning. Chances are, you’re not going to put your life and dating on hold for a guy over the internet, while you wait for the next catch up.

That’s totally cool and a smart choice, however, long distance situations often ramp up emotions in the short term, with all the excitement, expectation and longing involved. This could lead to him assuming or indicating exclusivity, without even having a conversation about it.

You want to make it clear that you really like him and are open to something in the future, because you enjoy the connection. Then, bring the conversation around to the reality of the situation. In that, you have to be realistic about living a long way apart and potentially not seeing each other for months, so it simply doesn’t make sense to force things.

Let him know that, the way you see it, what he does with other people is his business and vice versa, but you’d like to keep connecting, without sharing the details. It’s all about expressing hope for the future, while talking about the expectations, as a result of the reality of long distance.

A Final Note

Be aware that in all of these scenarios, not every man will be able to handle your honesty. The important thing is to maintain your own integrity in your early relationships and confidently communicate non-exclusivity to guys. It’s up to you to face your fears and leave the decision up to him, as to whether or not he’s comfortable with where you’re at. Anything less is simply dragging him along or misleading him, which causes unnecessary hurt and drama.

While it’s flattering to be the subject of someone’s adoration and tempting to want to keep it, snap yourself out of that thinking by imagining the situation in reverse. It’s pretty awful being in a self-induced love haze and finding out, after being mislead, that it’s predominantly one-sided. Stay true to your decision to take your time in commiting, know that’s it’s the right thing to do, and you’ll find it easier to be clear about your intentions, from the beginning.

This way, you can spend your time painting the town red, rather than painting yourself into awkward corners.

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