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Dating Exclusively but Not in a Relationship? The Grey Area Dilemma


Dating, not dating, seeing other people—dating is confusing! If you’re in the dating exclusively but not in a relationship zone, what does it mean?

One extremely confusing relationship zone to be in is when you’re dating exclusively but not in a relationship. Is that even possible? It shouldn’t be, but it is!

Back in the day… 

Back in the day, dating used to be far less confusing. Okay, it might have been extremely old fashioned and rather rigid, but you met a man or a woman, you talked for a while, ‘courted,’ and then you got married. End of story.

These days we have a world of choice, a million ways to meet people, different ideas and thought processes. Finding someone with the same way of thinking as you can be borderline impossible! For instance, maybe you don’t want to get married ever, maybe you never want children, maybe you want both, perhaps you never want to be tied to just one person. The list goes on!

How does this confused zone occur?

You see, two people like each other. Probably one likes the other more, and they aren’t sleeping with or dating anyone else, but one *or maybe both* refuses to label it a real relationship.

It seems ridiculous, because the very pillar of a relationship is that you’re not sleeping with anyone else! If you’re only with that person and you have no interest in seeing someone else, surely you’re actually in a relationship of sorts already?

You would think so. But, it all comes down to what a person views as a relationship as, whether they have any underlying fears related to the R word, and what they want in the future.

Again, it all gets rather confusing!

What exactly is a relationship defined by?

This varies from person to person. Most say a relationship is when two people meet, want to spend time together, don’t want to see other people, sex usually becomes involved, and they’re seeing how it goes. There doesn’t necessarily have to be a solid ‘look to the future’ view. There may not even be a commitment to be together forever. In general, it is two people sharing time, thoughts, feelings, and stories.

Relationships can be serious, e.g. a real commitment for the future, or they can be more casual, e.g. spending time together. The one thing which defines them is whether they are monogamous or not. If you are dating exclusively that means you’re in some kind of relationship, surely?

Wait, it gets even more confusing!

The reason that some people are dating exclusively but not in a relationship per se is because one of them has a true fear of commitment. The R word basically means me and them. Which means a union, being seen as a couple, and not having the same level of independence as before. What they don’t realize is that by dating exclusively, they’ve already made a commitment, a promise. They’re already there!

How to move from dating exclusively but not in a relationship, to relationship territory

If you’re in this type of situation and you’re not entirely happy with it, figure out what the blockage is.

Of course, it could be that you’re both entirely happy with not having the relationship label on your union. That’s fine. The problem comes when one person wishes for more, and not getting it out of fear of rocking the boat.

Rock the boat if you want to move past this problem. It’s that simple.

If you’re dating exclusively, that is already one commitment made. Your ‘partner’ has already made it known that they like you enough to refrain from sleeping with and seeing other people. That’s a good sign, and it should give you plenty of confidence and heart. What you now need to know is whether they’re happy to move from casual dating *albeit exclusively* to a more solid relationship platform.

For some, the term ‘dating’ gives them safety. It makes them feel less trapped. The problem is, you’re never going to get what you want if you don’t have a conversation and find out where the stoppage really is.

Most people do not relish these types of conversations, because they’re scared that if they say too much, they’ll frighten the other person off and the whole thing will be over. What you need to ask yourself is this, if you’re not happy with things as they are, isn’t it worth taking a small risk to move things along? You’re not happy anyway, so it won’t make a difference! There is also the very large chance that you will get everything you dreamed of.

Always look on the positive side!

Choose your timing carefully for when to have this conversation. Don’t let it turn into a firm question and answer session. This needs to be casual and without pressure, but get the answers you seek.

When out together or at home chilling, simply say something like ‘I really love spending time with you.’ Then, assess their reaction. Keep your voice light and casual, don’t make it heavy and serious. Then, say something like, “I mean, neither of us are seeing anyone else, so that kinda makes us a ‘thing’ right?”

By using these casual terms, you open the doors for a firm conversation. You’re expressing why you want to have this conversation around your relationship status. Gauge their reaction when you say, ‘Maybe you don’t like the word ‘relationship’, I don’t know, but in my mind, we’re kinda there I think.’

It’s out there. You’ve said it, you’ve got it off your chest. Don’t worry now!

You’ll either get an answer which basically says ‘yes, we’re in a relationship’ or one which tells you that it’s probably not going to happen. From there, make your own personal decision, based on the things you want and need in your own life.

A confusing subject

The whole thing is a contradiction. Okay, so dating in itself is casual. It’s a ‘let’s see what happens’ kind of situation. When you start dating, it’s not unusual to be dating more than one person, and there is nothing wrong with that provided the other person is aware of it, and you’re not serious.

By the time the exclusivity comes around, e.g. there is no one else in the equation, you’ve already stated an intention that you only want to spend time with that person. So, the casual side of things has passed. For most people, this is the point when an early relationship begins. It’s not a serious relationship at this point but a relationship all the same.

Never stay in a situation that isn’t what you want. If you’re dating exclusively but not in a relationship and it’s not what you want, have that conversation. If it doesn’t go your way, and if they make it quite clear a relationship isn’t what they want, leave.

If you want that relationship status and they’re not willing to give it to you, you’re not going to make them change their mind. In that case, find someone you don’t need to convince.


Every union and relationship is totally different, it’s important to always make sure that you’re happy with where you’re at. If you’re dating exclusively but not in a relationship, it’s vital that you’re satisfied within that grey area.

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