in: dating + single

5 Terrible Reasons to Be Exclusive

Leslie Malchy

There are many reasons to be exclusive with the object of your affections. Then again, there are a few not-so-wonderful. Did any of yours make the list?


Ok, we’ve all done it. Gotten into a relationship for the “wrong” reasons.

Maybe a small part of you knew at the time, but you were drawn into it anyway. Or maybe you didn’t see the light until the bitter, miserable end, when everyone you know began telling you about the doubts they had about your lover from the very beginning. In any case, who among us cannot say that we have been there, choosing to be in a bad or unhealthy relationship?

We all know there are some disastrous reasons to be exclusive. Some of the obvious ones are: you are financially in the dumps and would like a partner to help you make ends meet. Or you are pregnant and desperately believe a child will make a relationship work. These common rationalizations have big red flags waving for many of us who are looking for something emotionally, psychological, and spiritual fulfilling. But what about the more subtle ways in which we trick ourselves into making a poor choice, then continue to make the same poor choice over and over?

Here are some of the lesser-known but potently terrible reasons to be exclusive:

1. You feel you must control your date.

Do you get panicked every time you see your date spending time with one of her so called “friends” that you believe is probably secretly into her? Do you obsessively study his Facebook photos looking for evidence that he is out on other dates? Do you feel insecure all the time when you are together and you see your date checking out other men? Maybe you think that “going steady” or becoming exclusive will change these behaviors that are bringing you down. Or maybe you think that once you and your guy are in the exclusive realm, you’ll be able to control him and his behaviors. Maybe she will give up going out with all of her other friends who intimidate your sense of security, just to please you…

A warning: this is not so.

If you think becoming exclusive is going to suddenly take away your insecurities about your date’s behavior, you are wrong. If you think you can control your partner, well, this is even more worrisome. You may be able to get away with this for a little while, but eventually your relationship will suffer because of your controlling tendencies. Or worse, you could end up sliding into an abusive relationship. Please don’t languish under the illusion that exclusivity solves problems of boundary setting, feelings of vulnerability, or painfully insecure feelings.

Instead: if you feel comfortable, talk to your date about your experience and get a sense of what the expectations are. Or go to a therapist to unlock your feelings of worry in a safe environment. Getting clear about your situation will likely provide the growth that you will benefit from, when and if you decide to do want to be exclusive with someone.

2. You are trying to please someone else.

Are you being pressured into making a decision to become exclusive by someone? Maybe your mother is tapping her watch, saying “your beauty isn’t going to last forever you know, better commit so I can have grandchildren sooner rather than later.” Or maybe that woman you are dating is threatening an ultimatum to move quickly or move on because she is on her own timeline, regardless of your hesitant self.

Try not to get caught up in someone else’s urgency, even though it can be pretty powerful or convincing. Making the decision to commit your time, energy, and love into someone is a pretty big deal: don’t bite off more than you can chew if you are not 100 percent certain of the way forward.

3. You are trying to fill the void of loneliness.

Are you hoping the idea of being “exclusive” with somebody will cure your lonely feelings? You may be burnt out from the chronic stress of dating, having to put your best self forward and perform in order to feel liked and desirable, and asked out again! Or you may think “this guy is not the one for me, but at least I have someone.”

Beware of these pitfalls. There is nothing lonelier than being in the wrong relationship or one that is unsatisfying to you. If you have made an ill choice, you will figure it out pretty quick.

4. You are scared of being alone

This reason is similar to above, but with a slightly different angle. Do you identify with having a fear of being alone? Possibly forever? Maybe your friends are all in secure and long-term relationships and you want to be a regular part of the gang. Or maybe your eyes are just open to the ongoing stream of media and advertising suggestions that promote relationships as the norm and you are feeing abnormal?

Fear can be a useful symptom that tells us about our emotional world, and gives us insight into our needs and our boundaries. But when used as a tool to make a gigantic decision about spending our time with a significant other, it is not necessarily the best indicator that we are making a sound and safe choice. Check your fear at the door and try to be honest with yourself about what it is telling you.

5. It’s “just time.”

This is a seemingly innocuous statement, “it was just time to do it”; but when we break the statement down, what does it really mean? You have wanted to be exclusive this whole time but were somehow stalling? You have gotten to a point in your life where you are being pragmatic or matter of fact about your relationship? You have given up on all possibilities of “trading up” or finding someone or something better? I don’t know.

I am always curious when I hear this statement as to what the speaker is really referring to, but the words do seem to harken back to that famous saying “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Have you really examined your relationship and chosen to decide and not slide into an arrangement that is somehow convenient to your life? If you find yourself using this term, take heed: what is it really “just time” for?

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About the Author:

Leslie Malchy Leslie Malchy

Leslie Malchy is a Relationship psychotherapist working in private practice, Soft Landing Therapy, in Downtown Vancouver, BC, Canada. She is an experiential therapist working from a bio-psycho-social-spiritual and strengths based framework of change. She holds a Master of Science degree in Psychiatry from McGill University and a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from Antioch University Seattle. When Leslie is not working, she is busy writing creative and literary fiction, tending to and growing kale in her community garden plot or jogging along Vancouver’s gorgeous Stanley Park seawall.

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