You’ve been hanging out with someone you really, really like and you’re kinda hoping you’ll have a future together because you see so many clear signs that they’re the one.
There’s just one problem.
You haven’t had the DTR talk so you’re not sure if you’re actually together or you’re just a mere hookup. Your gut tells you that although they like you, they don’t want to be in a relationship so you don’t want to rock the boat.
In order to avoid more confusion and possible sorrow, let’s define what you have so you can assess if it’s truly something you can keep doing in the months to come.
What is a non-exclusive relationship?
A non-exclusive relationship is a kind of physical and/or emotional relationship wherein you are doing some of the things couples do but you’re not actually in a committed relationship.
That means that even if you’re both madly in love with each other and you kiss and have sex, you DON’T do any of the following:
1) Call each other boyfriend or girlfriend
Even if you’ve been “together” for quite a while, even if you see so many signs they want to have a relationship, if you’re not OFFICIALLY in a relationship, you’re not their girlfriend or boyfriend. Period.
The depth and length of your relationship don’t automatically make you official.
What makes you a boyfriend or girlfriend is when you both agree that you’re in a monogamous relationship and you’re committed to maintaining your relationship which could potentially lead to marriage.
2) Expect the other person to treat you like a boyfriend or girlfriend
Sure you’re kissing and cuddling but don’t expect them to hold your bag or answer your call all the time. They’re not your boyfriend or girlfriend so don’t expect them to do boyfriend or girlfriend duties.
Basically, don’t expect anything and there’s no such thing as duties!
3) Get jealous if the other person dates other people
The most defining feature of your undefined relationship is that you’re free to see other people.
That means they are NOT cheaters or assholes if they flirt with others. That means that they owe you nothing, not even an explanation if you saw them kissing someone else.
They can’t hate you for it either.
4) Make them feel responsible for you or your feelings
Don’t throw a fit if they say no to your Netflix and chill invite. Don’t demand an explanation if they don’t send you a text for a day or even a week.
You are not in a relationship so they don’t have to please you or maintain a loving relationship with you.
5) Talk about the future
Since you’re not a couple, neither of you should talk about what you’ll be doing next month or god forbid, next year.
Take things day by day because there are no plans, commitments, and promises in your relationship. You’re both free to come and go as you please.
Should you continue with your non-exclusive relationship?
Is a non-exclusive relationship a bad thing? It depends from person to person.
Ask yourself the following questions to know if a non-exclusive relationship is for you or you’re better off without it.
Have you done this before and it led to a big heartbreak?
Maybe you stayed a little longer hoping they’d want a relationship, maybe you don’t have the skillset to do nonmonogamy.
Do you want a committed relationship with them?
Take a few moments to answer this and make sure you’re honest to yourself and not just taking what you can get because it’s all they can offer.
Are you suffering more than enjoying the relationship?
Just pay attention to what you feel with every interaction, every text message, and every thought you have about them.
The rule of thumb is that for every bad interaction, you should have five good ones. And this is for relationships.
If you’re non-exclusive, there shouldn’t even be any bad feelings, don’t you think?
Do you think you’ll regret this later?
They now feel like a drug. You get high when you’re together but very low when you feel like they don’t care or the relationship is heading nowhere. You know deep down in your heart that you deserve more and that you’ll not be too proud of yourself for staying.
If you answered a loud, resounding YES to even two of these questions, then a non-exclusive relationship might not be your thing.
In that case, respect yourself.
Don’t force yourself to be cool and laid back when you’re actually dying inside pretending to be okay with a non-exclusive relationship.
But before you go, tell them how you truly feel because maybe they also like a relationship but are just nervous. If they say they DON’T want a relationship with you, well…it’s time to leave for your own good.
But then what if you’re not really in great pain from your situationship, what if you’re actually okay with it. Do you really have to go because a non-exclusive relationship is just a waste of time?
Casual dating might seem like a game stupid people play but it’s actually not that bad. Really!
You might want to stay just a little bit longer to reap the benefits of having a non-exclusive relationship.
Here are some of the solid pros of having a non-exclusive relationship
#1 You have more chances of finding a good match
You’re not in a serious relationship so that means you can get to know as many other people as you like. If you settle quickly, what are the odds that they’re really a great match for you?
It’s hard to be attached too soon to someone without knowing them fully well. Go ahead and explore other people while you get to know your non-exclusive partner more. Your future self will thank you for it.
#2 You’re more rational
You’re not experiencing the extreme highs of a honeymoon phase so your brain is not overloaded with love chemicals. This makes you see the person more clearly and assess if they’re really good for you.
This is a healthy way to start a relationship because good decisions require more than just feelings.
Instead of falling in love too quickly and then later realizing they’re not actually all that great for you, take a hard look at them before you even start investing more time and feelings.
Don’t worry that they’ll leave you. As the saying goes, nothing good gets away. If they’re really meant for you, nothing can ruin what you have even if you’re just casual for a while.
#3 You are learning about boundaries
When you’re coupled up and you don’t know the basics of boundaries in a relationship, you will quickly get tired of each other. You expect your S.O. to be always there for you. You expect them to answer your calls because they have to. You also expect them to be more forgiving when you complain about stuff because that’s what couples do, right? Wrong!
You should be respectful of your S.O.’s time, moods, and decisions because they have a life of their own.
Your non-exclusive relationship will be a good training ground for boundaries. It will help you see that they don’t have to do everything you ask them to do and vice versa.
#4 You are learning about relationships
The beauty of any kind of relationship is that it can teach us more about what we want and don’t want in a relationship.
Every partner we have, whether official or not, is like a course in school with a different set of lessons and experiences that can make us wiser in life and love.
That is why many people desire partners who have had relationship experience. We assume that someone is skilled to handle relationships better if they had relationships in the past.
#5 You are learning more about yourself
This is probably the best gift you can take with you from any relationship.
You will learn a lot about who you are — what you’re like when you’re in love when you’re jealous when you’re guilty when you’re in deep sadness. Relationships are a sort of mirror.
Depending on your partner, they’d push certain buttons on you that you didn’t know existed, bringing to the surface a different aspect of you. You’d be delighted to know more about yourself, which is one of the most authentic discoveries of all.
Many people roll their eyes when they hear about non-exclusive relationships. For them, it’s something kids with no clear direction indulge in. But who’s to say marriage and monogamy are the only paths to happiness anyway?
Love has many forms and as long as you’re sure your non-exclusive relationship is giving you something valuable, don’t ditch it. And, not to give you false hopes, it could even turn into an official relationship once you realize you’re really meant for each other.
Enjoy what you have right now. You’ll be amazed how things will fall into place at the right time.
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
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