Although I fully accept alternatives to monogamy for those who need them at some point in their life or permanently, I strongly believe that dating exclusively is an essential step to take on the path towards developing and nurturing a deeply intimate and satisfying long-term monogamous relationship.
Not that long ago, dating was assumed to be an exclusive arrangement by default, even in the early stage of the new relationship. It was safe to assume that prospective partners were not dating other people, and any other behavior would have been considered disgraceful and dishonest. To some people it's still very much the only acceptable way to meet and date people nowadays.
With the development and increasing in popularity of dating websites and apps allowing people to meet and date multiple people at the same time, norms have been turned upside down and the safe belief to hold these days is to assume that there is no exclusivity before a formal agreement is made.
What does it mean?
On the positive side, it means that people not interested, ready or capable of exclusivity, monogamy and commitment now have easy access to sex and companionship with no strings attached, whereas in the past they would have been pressured into a serious relationship or a marriage that they were not ready for. When more options are socially acceptable, people are more likely to be honest with themselves (and others) and be less at risk of getting into arrangements they can not sustain.
On the negative side, it also means that people interested, ready and capable of a serious relationship or marriage can no longer assume that dating is a path towards the exclusive and intimate long-term relationship they are hoping to develop. Dating has become an in-the-moment activity that can lead to all kinds of outcomes and therefore the onus is on the person who wants more than Netflix & Chill to do the detective job of figuring out what the other party is up to and what they are capable of.
Because The Thread of Ariane is about developing and nurturing long-term relationships, my purpose is to help you get into a happy and healthy long-term relationship rather than into a casual arrangement. When you are looking for a spouse - or at least a long-term partner with whom to live a good chunk of life - a crucial step in your early dating is going to decide whether you and your prospective partner want to start focusing on one another exclusively, with no other "distraction".
And this first step has to take place as soon as possible if your relationship has any chance to grow and develop into something deeper.
No, the exclusivity talk does not have to take place on the first date. After all, you and/or your prospective partner might have several first dates that week or a second date already scheduled. However, after a few dates, you need to be able to decide whether there is enough spark, interest and compatibility to explore things deeper and if this is worth it to let go of other options. It might take a few dates, but it should not takes weeks or months to get there. In dating, ambivalence means no.
Remember, agreeing to exclusivity is not marriage! It's not even a real commitment. It really is just a date-as-you-go agreement: you promise to be committed to one another until your next date. It's a very low standard to meet, really, one that is not hard to fulfill at all. When you can still end things at the next date, it's far from a binding or constricting commitment because you still have a lot of freedom, yet such agreement gives your new relationship enough focus and safety to have a chance to grow if it is meant to. If you or your prospective partner can't agree to exclusivity within a reasonable time frame, it means that one of you is not ready to focus on one person or that they're just not that into you.
Does dating exclusively mean that you might miss out on other possibilities? It sure does, and so what? Each time we make a choice, we give up on plenty of other choices. Making a choice is good! If you don't choose to focus on the real human being who is right in front of you, what you are going to miss out on is that special person who is willing to give you time and energy.
Your fear of missing out on a fantasy will make you miss out on a real possibility.
Now, if you are the one ready for exclusivity and it's not being offered to you or accepted when you suggest it after a few dates, here is what you are going to do:
Please understand that if you're looking for a long-term commitment, investing in someone who won't commit to you for three or four days until your next date is a waste of your time and emotional energy because they are not going to become capable of making a lifetime commitment to you within your dating time frame. Stop wasting time: make a graceful exit and move on to someone who - just like you - is fully ready to explore the possibility of a serious relationship by not shying away from exclusivity.
Being free from casual arrangements makes you emotionally and energetically free for a serious relationship.
If it's acceptable and even pretty effective to meet several new people at the same time and do a first round of vetting in a non-exclusive context, sooner rather than later you must choose to focus on one person if you want to learn about them and about you two as a couple.
Exclusivity is the only way to develop true emotional intimacy, true knowledge and true depth.