Only Be Exclusive When the Timing Is Right

when to be exclusiveNothing is better than falling in love.

But…it’s not always in your best interest to be exclusive early in the relationship.

Let me explain why.

First, a quick story to illustrate something important.

I received a letter from a division of the US military requesting that I work for them part-time and also join the reserves. They have an interest in a particular set of unusual skills I share with a very small portion of the US population.

I called the recruiting officer to discuss the details of their offer. It all sounded pretty good. They wanted to pay me a lot of money for a very small amount of my time. There was only one problem.

The problem was they also wanted the exclusive right to force me to leave my relationship coaching practice and social life behind if they ever needed my services for a protracted war overseas.

That would essentially give them the power to shut down my livelihood, which would dwindle and possibly disappear by the time they let me come home if I was ever deployed.

Here’s how this relates to dating men. A lot of women are frustrated with how slow men are to commit. As a result, they push for an exclusive relationship as soon as he is willing.

Being exclusive is the end goal. I’m not arguing with that. But being exclusive is not enough.

The real end goal is to be exclusive with a guy who makes your heart sing. You don’t want to be exclusive with a guy who is “pretty good” or “just okay.”

If you’re exclusive with a guy who is just okay, you will drop your efforts to meet new men, and you’ll be hesitant to dump this guy if time reveals he’s not as amazing as he first seemed. If he hasn’t done anything wrong, you’ll feel bad about leaving him.

Sadly, a lot of women end up married to a guy who is just “good enough” but not really her true love because of this very process.

When things are going pretty well in a relationship, there’s a strong desire to “take him off the market” so to speak. I get that.

But consider this. If he’s right for you, he’s going to adore you. Going slow just means he has to prove his interest. There are several advantages to keeping him on the hunt.

One of those advantages is that the harder he works to have a relationship with you, the more he will intrinsically value exclusivity with you once it is achieved.

On top of that, his persistence over time proves he believes you’re special. Believe me, you do not want to end up with a man who thinks you are just “good enough.”

And don’t forget my military analogy. It’s not that their offer was not a good one. It’s that their offer had the potential to shut down all other options for making a living.

By slowing the race to exclusivity, you avoid slamming the door on someone else who might have been your perfect match.

Getting to know lots of different men doesn’t always feel cozy and perfect. But as soon as you turn down all your other suitors, you have (at least temporarily) closed the door to other possibilities.

The time for that may come. Just make sure you don’t rush into it so soon that you miss the opportunity to learn who is truly right for you, and who isn’t.

when to be exclusive

If you slow down and take your time, you have the best of both worlds. You’ll give more men a chance to prove they are right for you, and you’ll avoid diving headfirst into a relationship that may not turn out to be the best.

Always on your side,

James Bauer

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32 thoughts on “Only Be Exclusive When the Timing Is Right

  1. Joyce said:

    Hi James. I’ve been in a fwb relationship for a year. I love this man. He has no love for me. I want to end this relationship but it’s very hard for me to do because we live next door to each other. I am twelve years older than him which he say’s is the problem. How can i move on and live next door to him? Would i be foolish to sell my home just to be free of him? Thank You, Joyce

  2. Nina said:

    I agree with your advice, James, and actually had it work for me, so I urge the women above to try it.
    I had a guy pushing for exclusivity. I already know he isn’t “the one” but I enjoy his company. When I refused to stop dating others, he cut me off entirely, very upset. I sent him a nice card, thanking him for the lovely gifts he had given me and explaining that I was “sorry we weren’t on the same page” regarding the relationship. Several weeks later, I forwarded a funny email to him. Gradually we have resumed our friendship. It’s now exactly where I want it.

  3. AR said:

    Thank you for posting this as it came right on time! I’m dating and am not really the ‘dating’ type but more so the relationship type and it’s so hard to not want to be exclusive with one person. That being said, your post reminded me that I have dealt with ‘just good enough’ in my ex-husband and that isn’t what I want ever again. Thank you so much for posting this!

  4. Charlene said:

    Hi James, I’ve been dating Chris for a year. He travels a lot and our work schedules are opposite, he’s never been married at 49. Usually see him on Sundays. I’ve told him I want more and if he doesn’t see this going anywhere to quit calling. I ask where we stand… he says he’s only going out with me. And im a great person who he enjoys. But he’s family doesn’t know of me. We don’t have holidays together, his family lives out of state so he goes there.
    So I’m asking how long do I wait for him to step up to the next level? Do you feel like I’m wasting my time?


    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Charlene. This would be a good question for private email consultation. You can access that service here.

  5. marie said:

    Hi James, I hoping you will give me a little advice.
    I was with my ex for 4 years and we were getting married (4 months down the line) but he met someone else, someone we both knew, and married her 28 weeks later. He has constantly stayed in contact over the last 6 years, which he says was because he still had feelings for me and couldn’t let me go even though he was married to someone else.
    He is at the moment finalising his divorce but over the last month, mostly this week, he has constantly made contact, ringing my mobile, texting and phoning my house phone when I didn’t ans mobile.Convincing me he needs me in his life and stating that he made a massive mistake letting me go. I’ve learnt recently His reason for walking away was that he felt I was only with him for the lifestyle he could give me but admits he realised a month or so after, I wasn’t with him for that at all, only love.
    I still have feelings for this man and admit I was taken in by it all but thankfully refused to go to his house, late at night when he invited me because I didn’t want the physical side till I knew he was being genuine.
    The problem started yesterday after I text to see if he wanted to go for a walk to talk and hopefully have a laugh but he never replied. I then became hurt, felt I had been taken for a soft touch yet again, ( every time he had a problem in his marriage and they split up he would turn up at my house) so I ended up sending him a text to say “delete my no because not playing this game anymore” He text me back eventually ( 6hrs later) to say he was busy and would ring when free, which he did, but the first thing he did was accused me of flipping out and that he didn’t need it because he was in the process of getting out of a marriage that was fuelled by anger. I reminded him that it was him who had contacted me yet again- I had deleted his number 6 months previously, and the reply he gave was “let’s forget this and he was sorry but good bye”
    This man has affected my life for so long, He used to say he will be with me one day and in a way I believed him and have waited around. I know I’m worth a lot more than how he treats me and that I deserve to be loved by someone who really cares, but making my heart forget him is the hardest.
    My friends say that he has me hanging on so that I’m there to make him feel better about himself when he needs it and also state he doesn’t really want me but also doesn’t want me to be with anyone else that’s why he gets in contact every few months. As an a avid follow of yours I sure would like your opinion on this as I am confused by it

    Yours gratefully

    • James Bauer said:


      I believe your friend is right. His actions have repeatedly shown you that he uses you as a backup plan. He has never followed through and pursued you in a way that is honorable and forthright. His actions speak louder than his words.

      In this case, moving on will become easier when you make a final decision to let go of the “what ifs.” For example “What if I gave him one more chance? Maybe this would be it and would finally be together?” “What if I really did offend him and he just wants to be with me…if I just apologize?”

      Let go of these questions. Make a solid decision to invest in people who want to invest in you.

      And don’t beat yourself up for having believed in him. It’s an admirable personality trait that will make you a good lover for someone else. It’s unfortunate that his personality traits caused your strength to become a weakness. But it’s time to put an end to that.


      • marie said:

        Hiy James,
        Thank you for the quick reply.
        I am grateful for the advice you have given me, and touched by the way you responded to my question in a caring but honest manner 🙂

        When reading it in black and white It actually struck a cord and a light so to speak came on which allowed me to see the situation in a totally different light.

        I realise now it is time to call it a day with him and allow myself to be free of the what ifs to enable me hopefully to meet someone in the future who will genuinely want to be a part of my life and will show it in both words and actions.

        Thanks again for your reply, I can, at last, see happiness ahead of me in the future instead of the anguish I have been through the last 6 yrs. investing time in him

        Kind regards

  6. Chrissy wales said:

    I met him 2 months ago , such chemistry between us ,he said he felt the same he was so into me, one day he didn’t text me ( he is really overun with work) so I taxt him and asked why ,he apologised and said he was really busy, with that I wrote him a huge text message saying how much I liked him but wouldn’t be offended if he wanted to finish it, then he went very quite for a week, he will always text me after a few days and then when I text back he backs off, I put on fb what a good time I’m having and then he started liking and making nice comments on other girls profiles ,I really don’t know where I stand and can’t move on because when I think it’s time to move on he always texts me , I see him on Saturday at a party , he was all over me and didn’t leave my side then it got a bit heated wen I asked him about his long silent treatments, he was ranting about how busy his job is and then said in a small voice”I’m scared of getting hurt” didn’t here from him for a week again then new years eve texted me in the early hours heard nothing since ,the whole thing is getting me down

  7. Stephanie said:

    I just wanted to thank you for actually giving useful information in your newsletters. I have signed up for several of these relationship newsletters to see if I actually want the product but all I get are advertisement links. How am I supposed to make an informed decision on purchasing a product if I don’t have any good information on what I am getting. So, I commend you on providing us with real info to try out before purchasing your product.

  8. A+ said:

    Would love if you had a blog entry or book on polite let downs, exit strategies and disclaimers to give to men during different stages of acquaintance, dating and moving-into-serious-territory. Sometimes when a guy reveals a red flag to me, my first instinct is to make my disapproval very clear. However, I know this might come across brutal and I don’t really want to do that, I just don’t know how else to be straight-forward but gentle about it in a way where I know that my kindness isn’t mistaken for something more or that there are no misunderstandings in my words.

    • James Bauer said:

      Thanks for the useful feedback. I think that’s a very good idea to have those kinds of phrases in mind.

  9. Li said:

    James but should I give it a try. I don’t want to wait much. I want ask him if he is open to give it a try without stress and back off with the texts and calls. I won’t tell him about not calling or texting I will just stop so that he notices that I really mean this different approach. Giving him a chance to think about it without him giving me an answer right away and if he misses me he will call. I want to do this now because since our last conversation was so intense and I know he was upset I fear that because of that he won’t call again if on the other hand I tell him it will be different he might want to give it a try. What do you think?

    • James Bauer said:

      I think that’s a balanced approach that is worth a try.

  10. Li said:

    Hi James I have the same situation as Pauline. I was thinking of calling him. Apologizing for everything I did and offer him my friendship as the person I used to be before all this began and not who I became. Letting him know that I was reacting like an emotional woman would. He many times expressed his frustration and that brought arguments between us. Now he has asked me to please not call or text him and anymore I’ve done it so much and wait until he does it but I want to give a try and then back up and wait for his reaction. Please give me your advice. He always said I was a nice person and he liked me but I was pushy. My fear is that he is talking to someone already. The last time we talked was three weka ago and it was really intense but after that I have read many of your articles looking for a solution. I want to call him and then just wait and see if eventually he comes back to me. This is a distance relationship but I don’t want to loose him. Please tell me what to do? I’ve become very anxious because of this but I want to try and let him thinking about it. Many times before he would agree with me with what I asked. I hope he agrees in giving it a try.

    • James Bauer said:

      Well, I guess my advice to you would be similar to what I advised Pauline. You might also spend some time thinking about what “pushy” means to him (and anyone else who perceives you this way). In my experience it’s not about being a woman or having emotions. It’s something about your personality and the way people experience interactions with you that would typically generate this kind of response.

      • Pauline said:

        Hi James, I have another question. i tried to keep it as short as possible, and also used the “be irresistible what men secretly want” as a guide to follow in the respect formula…i was inspired by the examples on the “hypothetically” and fear of losing him. using the storm rocking the boat as the second inspiration to address that it wasn’t anything he did, and i wasn’t pointing fingers at him because of my negative feelings and frustriation. so my question is, would this letter come off as obsessive? i tried to keep it positive. how long is too long for guy? I want to salvage this, and i don’t wan to make it worse. Thanks.

      • James Bauer said:

        Hi Pauline. I’m not exactly sure what your question is. But I would keep the letter short and sweet with a focus on speaking very briefly about letting go of the past and much more about beautiful things that you appreciated and enjoyed. You have to let go of the desire to control his perception of what happened and instead give him a new experience of interacting with you.

  11. Pauline said:

    Hi James, I have a question. how would one reverse the damage of being pushy with a guy you have knows for abut 4 months? most of our connection was through us talking. i feel a deep, instant connection the moment we started talking, and the chemistry…i’ve never felt this way about anyone and i just know he is the one. however i drove him away with my drama, saying thing things and taking i back (because it didn’t come out right, and he took it the wrong way) i would ask where this relation was going, i kept doubting his feelings for me because i wasn’t getting the commitment i wanted, although we have talked about it once about it being more. i also let my fear of losing him affect how i talked to him and became a bit needy and clingy. now, he wont even respond to my text, or return my calls. since then, i have given him space and it’s been almost about a month now and i still have not heard from him. what can i say to him to bring him back….i know i made him feel disrespected after going through “what men want” i was wondering if you have any tips i could use to message him that shows respect, and that i am open for communication.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Pauline. It is very difficult to change someone’s opinion about you when they won’t interact with you long enough to notice the change. I’m sorry about the feelings of sadness and loss you must be experiencing right now.

      I think you probably already know this, but Just to make sure, the answer to your question would not be to pursue him right now. It would seem like more “pushy” behavior to him and it would reinforce his belief that he would get more of that by returning to you.

      Instead, send him a letter or email. Tell him what you really enjoyed about the relationship with him. Tell him you are sorry for the ways your fear of losing him interfered with the relationship. Then leave it at that for a few months. In about two months, start texting him on occasion with friendly comments or thoughts about interests you have in common. Don’t invite him to see you and don’t ask for a response. Do that for a while and see if he initiates a deeper discussion.


      • Pauline said:

        Thank you James, I really hope this works. do guys lose feelings or interest that quick? i am just concern that during this time, he could be meeting and talking to other girls, and forget about me. I will do what you suggested. thank you!

  12. Mieko Louise said:

    As always your advice is spot on and applicable to my situation right now! Thankyou! I’m taking things v-e-r-y slow with dating different guys right now making them work to spend time with me, seeing who is persisting over time.

  13. Tara said:

    I totally agree! Any commitment made too early is not from love but from either infatuation, lust, fear, or wanting something in return. (Trading commitment for sex.) I would rather take my time and get to know a man mentally, emotionally, and physically, before I decide he’s worth investing my life in!

  14. Joan said:

    Wise words indeed, James. I wonder how many marriages fail because of the convenient low hanging fruit.syndrome and the excitement of whirlwind romances one can misinterpret as love. Getting to know someone on a deeper level (slowly as real character and similar values are revealed) takes time so that the raging hormones settle down enough to be able to see clearly if that person is worth our love and devotion.. Best to let time reveal true selves in a clear light as the relationship develops as one keeps networking and meeting other eligible possibilities.

    The only thing is that there are no guarantees either way, One can search and search for “the one” and pass on those that seem only ,”good enough” but could be a diamond in the rough.and the right one after all.. Isn’t love grand? Is this where our intuition steps in to assist in the process and hopefully guides in making good decisions in choosing wisely?

    • James Bauer said:

      Good perspective, Joan. Thanks for adding that. I think intuition does tell us a lot, but time tells us even more. The combination of those two (time and intuition) is best.

    • said:

      My boyfriend and i are going our separate ways come to find out he’s moving in with someone else he has a lot of friends he says that are girls but I know there’s something more and it drove me crazy and argue about it all the time I don’t know what to do or how to get over it I text him a lot I mean a lot when I see it I realize what I’m doing and just saying mean things to him what should i do James help me

      • James Bauer said:

        I think you’ll find private relationship coaching helpful for a question like this. You can submit your background info along with your question here.

  15. joy said:

    hello James! I have a problem.i started dating my boyfriend three weeks ago.he gives excuses whenever we plan going out.last week was my birthday and he forgot am very confused.i don’t know if he loves me or not.val is around the corner,i don’t know if i should get him something.please i need goin crazy

      • Roberta said:

        My my my,this one was for me, James you just hit the nail on my head this is exactly what am going through I feel like moving on then at the same time I feel like holding on, but when I look at it again it seems like we have broken up silently without saying it openly, what am trying to avoid is to be blamed

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