It’s time to have the talk.
You know the one. The one where we talk about the time you’ve been spending with other people.
I know, you’ve got other friends. You can’t spend all your time with me. You have the right to a life of your own.
But there’s just one little thing I want from you.
Erase anyone of the opposite sex from your social group. Oh, and your Facebook account. And your phone.
I want our relationship to be special. I want us to be exclusive. And I don’t ever want to catch you looking at anyone else in that way.”
We’ve all had the talk. Some version of it, at least.
Until you’re exclusive, you’re not officially girlfriend and boyfriend. You can’t be his special girl if he’s hanging out with a dozen other babes when you’re not available.
But what is exclusivity, exactly?
Is it as simple as agreeing not to see other people?
Then no one can be exclusive. Because other people are in our face all the time. We can’t not SEE them!
Don’t laugh. 😉 Language matters. Every philosopher worth his or her salt knows the importance of defining your terms.
So is exclusivity a matter of agreeing not to sleep with other people?
If so, then how would you feel about your partner hanging out with a girl who’s attractive, single, and not you?
Even if you had his promise that he wouldn’t get physical with her, would you still feel okay about him going over to her house with no one else there?
Maybe exclusivity is more a matter of not doing anything that would make your partner jealous.
If he knows that hanging out with a hot vixen will make you see green, then he shouldn’t do it out of respect for you.
If he knows that an involuntary glance at that woman up ahead in a skirt and high heels will make you feel inadequate, then he shouldn’t do it.
If he knows that finding a new woman’s name programmed into his phone will arouse your suspicions, then he shouldn’t do it.
Just how far should his respect for your feelings go?
Should he avoid all female contact altogether, just in case?
And before you think I’m making this a female issue, men struggle with the same problem.
Some men become incredibly jealous when their partner speaks with other guys. For them, even a friendly conversation constitutes flirting.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
Exclusivity is a tricky word.
It’s vague. It’s loaded. You can’t just say it and expect him to know what you mean.
So, whether he asks you to be his girlfriend or you just want to know if he’s seeing anyone else, make sure to define your terms.
Ask, “What does being boyfriend and girlfriend mean to you?”
Explain, “I’d like us to only date and get physical with one another.”
This isn’t the only time you’ll have to have this conversation. Negotiating the kind of exclusivity that feels good to both of you takes time.
He may think nothing of hanging out with a friend from high school who’s suddenly single and on the prowl. You, on the other hand, might recognize her ulterior motives.
Don’t get angry at him. Don’t waste your anger on her. Instead, take the opportunity to open a conversation about what makes you feel confident in your relationship … and what makes you feel insecure.
You can’t control his life. Sometimes you will overreact. But as long as you’re talking, honestly and frankly about what’s going through your head, your relationship can grow.
Exclusivity and jealousy offer the perfect opportunity to learn how to talk about tricky subjects.
You’ll need to see his point of view. “But she’s an old friend! But I was just looking! But I always do that!”
He’ll need to see your point of view. “But it made me feel bad! But it seemed like you were choosing her over me! But she might tempt you into cheating!”
And you’ll need to come to some sort of agreement.
Maybe he could invite you along every time he meets up with her. Maybe you could agree that he can look at other women as long as he doesn’t touch.
This process of understanding one another and negotiating a solution that works for both of you is invaluable.
It’s the real work of relationships.
You may think that ignoring other women is the real test of his commitment, but it’s not.
His willingness to hear your point of view and work with you to find an answer is a better test.
It’s not genuine commitment if everything has to be his way (or your way).
Which suggests that exclusivity may not be the gold standard we’ve made it out to be.
Relationships aren’t just about choosing one another over everyone else.
Relationships are about choosing to listen to one another, even when you don’t want to hear.