When in a relationship are you exclusive?

There are a few ways to figure out when you’ve gotten yourself into boyfriend/girlfriend territory.

From recent reports it seems that actors Michelle Williams and Jason Segel have quietly crossed that line between playing with the idea of being exclusive and committing to being a couple. At a premiere party to celebrate Segel’s film “The Five-Year Engagement,” they were seen holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes. They are both known for taking their time when it comes to romance. It raises the question: How does a hopeful pair get from one point to the next? When do you actually become an exclusive couple?

One of my patients was pondering this recently, and she asked me when it is appropriate to have the conversation and negotiate the terms of becoming a committed couple. I told her that in order to gauge that, you want to look at what is going on between the two of you.

Being exclusive is the exciting hill everyone wants to get over in a new, promising relationship. And there will be definite signs that you are successfully making that climb. There is the obvious: If you begin to refer to each other, and to introduce each other, as boyfriend and girlfriend. Other clues are when you start to show your affection in public by holding hands and touching, making the statement that you belong together, or the biggie: You start saying “I love you.” And the best indication of all is that you no longer want to date other people or even leave that door open for the possibility. When it becomes clear that you are focusing your energy and heart on that one person, and that it is a mutual choice, that is a good time to check in to determine if you are now being exclusive.

Once you decide you are each other’s one and only, you will be able to usher in the emotional and sexual trust and safety that most people crave. You want “the talk” my patient was referring to — and even more importantly, you want the move toward steady dating. You want to acknowledge what is already happening between the two of you rather than be in a negotiation to put something in place the way it seems to be for Michelle and Jason.

— Relationship expert Dr. Jane Greer is the creator of “Shrink Wrap” – national commentary on what we can learn from celebrity relationships – and host of “Let’s Talk Sex” at Healthylife.net. Her book, “What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship,” is available nationwide.

Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages.


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