Q: When is it appropriate to ask a woman to date me exclusively? Is there a secret password? I've been seeing this woman, but she just told me she saw (non-sexually) another guy, a party animal who she had a drinking binge with. That's a problem she's been working on, so I wasn't comfortable with that. But when I asked her to date only me, to see if there is anything to pursue, she kinda freaked out. I've been accused in the past of coming on too strong where I'm not wanted, and so I wonder if I expect too much too fast. Someone once said in this context, "There's only so many shopping days 'til Christmas," meaning we're all getting older and it's now or never for finding a relationship. I guess I just don't know when to make that request that a woman date only me.
Dr. Susan: The time to ask someone to date you exclusively is when you don't need to ask. Sorry, but there's no secret password here. You have to learn to read the signals. For instance, when I met my current husband, he let me know that he preferred exclusive dating situations, and I let him know I wasn't ready to say bye forever to the couple of guys I was then seeing. He decided I was worth waiting for, and "allowed" me to date others until I made up my own mind, which didn't take long. I appreciated not being told what to do, even though autonomy isn't my most major personality trait. If he had said I had to let the others go, I would have felt prematurely controlled. As it was, it took me a week or two to realize I truly needed to drop the others and give "us" a fair chance.
If the woman you've been seeing saw fit to drink uncontrollably with someone else -- and I would wonder if more happened than she's admitting -- then I'd say it's pretty obvious she's not ready for a steady gig as your one-and-only. If you put up with that kind of behavior on her part, then that's the kind of behavior you'll continue to get. You asked for exclusivity, she freaked out. VERY clear signal that she isn't where you are in this relationship. Take it or leave it.
Is there EVER a time to make that request? Only if you keep it in the form of a self-revealing discussion. You can say, "I'm about ready to stop seeing anyone else for a while, just to see where you and I are heading. I'm interested enough in you (or I like you enough, or I'm growing fond enough of you) to take that chance." Then see what the other party responds.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.