You’ve had some practice dating whomever says yes. You’ve gone out with a bunch of different women and now you think you’ve found someone you could have an Actual Relationship with. You’ve been seeing each other for a few weeks, you’ve investigated the signs and believe that the two of you are clicking and she is as interested as you are.
You’ve moved into the next stage of dating called A Relationship, which brings up a slew of issues that don’t typically come up in casual dating.
First, though, a word of warning:
Relationships of adolescence and young adulthood tend to get obsessive and exclusionary. And you, being new at dating and very excited about the prospect of having a girlfriend, will be tempted to ignore your friends and spend every free moment with your new love interest as teenagers do. Do not do this. It’s rude to your friends, it doesn’t leave time for you to pursue your hobbies and ultimately makes you boring. I mean, what the hell are you going to talk to her about if you’re never apart to have any experiences to tell her about? Pace yourself. I’m not talking playing hard to get here or trying to predict blindly what amount of time is the perfect amount of time so she doesn’t feel suffocated and doesn’t feel ignored. I don’t have a specific frequency of seeing her in mind. I’m talking about living with this relationship in a normal way that allows for your other needs, like doing your laundry, going to the dentist, playing chess, calling your mother, hanging out with your friends, having alone time, and vegging out. If you don’t have time for all those things in a given week, you’re spending too much time together. You can’t live the rest of your life that way--don’t do it now.
That said, let’s plunge into the particulars of a relationship.
How do you know when the relationship has become exclusive? I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever had to make this explicit with anyone I’ve dated, but there’s nothing wrong with clarifying this point with the woman you’ve been seeing. If you are interested in dating only her, tell her so and ask her how she feels about that. You can’t go wrong with being explicit, which is probably a good idea for someone new to dating who won’t necessarily recognize the cues.
If you’re seeing each other every night of the weekend, you’re exclusive. When does she have any time to be seeing anyone else? If she does do things on the weekend without you and doesn’t tell you what she’s doing, she’s seeing someone else. Even if a woman is doing something personal, like seeing her gynecologist for an annual exam, she’ll tell you she has a doctor’s appointment. Not giving any hint as to what she’s up to is often indicative of another man.
Most women will assume you’re exclusive if you’re sleeping together. If *you* don’t want to be exclusive and you’re sleeping together, you must tell her this explicitly (preferably before you sleep together for the first time) because she will assume you are monogamous if you don’t say anything.
Also, introducing you to her parents or co-workers or referring to you as her boyfriend means you’re exclusive.
Up on Friday: Meeting the Friends, Meeting the Parents