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How to Know When You Are Exclusive & Monogamous in a Relationship

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

When your relationship goes from casual dating to exclusive, there are signs that you have made at least an implicit agreement to be monogamous, according to social worker and relationship expert Heather Setrakian, M.A., in an eHarmony article about exclusive relationships. While the most direct method could be to ask your partner, many people are not comfortable asking the question. An alternative is to look for signs of exclusivity and commitment.

We’re Not a Secret

When your dating partner is willing to let everyone see you together as a couple, your relationship can be exclusive or moving there fast, according to Setrakian. You go out together to many different social functions. You and your dating partner spend time together as a couple with each other’s family and friends. You plan dates in advance and make the effort necessary to do it right, such as dressing up and making reservations. You buy each other gifts and you are comfortable being passionate together.

Commitment Signposts

When you make your relationship a top priority, you’re in an exclusive and monogamous relationship, according to psychologist and relationship expert Meredith Hansen Ph.D., quoted in a PsychCentral article entitled, “3 Keys to a Strong Relationship.” Other signs that Hansen says are important include trust, working to solve conflict together instead of walking away, daily taking time to remember or do things with your partner and a willingness to express your feelings to your dating partner. These signs display a level of commitment not evident in a casual dating relationship and express a willingness to continue the relationship.

Words and Actions

When researchers Thomas Bradbury and Benjamin Karney asked 172 couples what being really committed meant, they got two primary answers, according to PsychCentral’s article, “True Marriage Commitment Requires Willingness to Sacrifice.” Couples said that being committed meant they wanted the relationship to continue and they were willing to make sacrifices to keep the relationship alive. Sacrifices are often necessary to keep a relationship moving forward, such as when you resolve a conflict with a win-win solution and when you are willing to give up something you want so your partner is happy. Those types of sacrifices don’t always equate to conflict resolution. You might buy tickets to a movie or a play she wants to see just because you know it will make her heart sing.

A Life Together

When you are exclusive and monogamous, you have a life together that includes expressions of love, a comfort level together that admits bad hair days and food in your teeth, and some shared routines, according to “Glamour” relationship correspondent Melissa Melms. If you don’t live together -- which is an explicit sign of exclusivity -- you have stuff at her place, she has stuff at yours and you probably have keys to each other’s home. You value your time together and activities apart, enjoy each other’s company and you can sit comfortably in the silence together.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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