Here's How Long To Date Before Being Exclusive, According To 6 Women

There isn't a perfect formula that can tell you how long to date before being exclusive with someone. For some couples, it feels right to define the relationship immediately, while others prefer to date casually for a few weeks or even months before committing to exclusivity. Other factors — such as timing and distance — can also affect how soon two people decide to see each other exclusively.

When it comes to the difference between being exclusive and being in a relationship with someone, the lines are blurry. They're essentially just two different ways of saying the same thing: You're dating each other and no one else. Some people consider exclusivity to be the first step. It comes before calling someone your boyfriend, girlfriend or partner, which is a little more serious and requires a more in-depth discussion.

You may not be able to pinpoint the exact moment when you became exclusive with your significant other, either. Not all couples have an explicit conversation about labeling what you are to one another. More likely, you both confirm that you're not seeing other people. Eventually, one of you calls the other your boyfriend or girlfriend for the first time, and that's that.

I spoke to six women in exclusive relationships about how long they dated their current partners before deciding to be exclusive, and if anything changed when they did so. Here's what they each had to say about how it all went down.

This couple dated casually for six weeks and then agreed to be exclusive.

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It was about six weeks of casually dating before we agreed to be exclusive. We talked about the fact that neither of us were dating anyone else. It was another couple of months before he started to call me his girlfriend. I thought that exclusively dating and being boyfriend and girlfriend were the same thing, because nothing actually changed — he just started using the word 'girlfriend.'

— Lindsey*, 26

These two dated for a month before becoming exclusive.

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My boyfriend and I dated for about a month before becoming exclusive. I think this was the right amount of time, because at that point I knew I wanted to be exclusive with him.

— Mary*, 23

This woman wishes she and her boyfriend had waited longer than four or five dates before saying they were exclusive.

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We went on four or five dates before becoming exclusive. I think it was too short. It doesn’t affect our relationship now, but it would have been nice to have a little bit longer to get to know him. But he asked me after [one of our first few] dates if I wanted to be exclusive and I said yes, mostly because I knew I liked him, and if I said no, I knew he probably wouldn't talk to me anymore. And, since it was still a new relationship, it would be easy to get out of if things went south — but they didn't.

— Chloe*, 25

This couple talked long-distance for three months and then decided to be exclusive.

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When we first started talking it wasn't exclusive. I know he was talking to other people, because that was back when Snapchat still showed your top three best friends. It was summer and we were long distance for three months. But once we got back to school and hung out in person, I remember one night where we were kind of drunk and he said I had pretty eyes and I was like, 'Yeah so how many girls are you telling that to?’ And he was like, ‘OMG just you, just you,' and looked so taken aback and shocked. I believe he called the other two girls to tell them he and I were exclusive.

— Melissa*, 23

These two dated for a year before clearly defining the relationship.

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We dated for a year long-distance (we were at different colleges) before we explicitly said we were boyfriend and girlfriend. After a long time, he finally asked me to be his girlfriend and gave me flowers. Apparently I said, 'So does this even change anything?' because we had already been together for so long.

— Christine*, 23

This couple chose to be exclusive almost right away.

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My partner and I were pretty much immediately exclusive. We had the conversation about two or three weeks into our relationship. It worked really well for me because I'm pretty monogamous when it comes to dating — I would go out on dates with multiple people at one time, but once I've decided to actively date someone, I only want to date that person.

— Alaina, 25

Exclusivity isn't as complicated a concept as it's often made out to be. As long as you and your partner are on the same page about what you want out of the relationship, you might even choose to skip the labels altogether — and that's totally cool.

*Name has been changed.

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