My New Boyfriend Wants To Be Exclusive. Does He Like Me That Much, Or Is He A Control Freak?


What are the signs that someone’s desire for exclusivity is really about YOU, rather than about a need to control?

I’ve been casually dating for three years since my divorce, and have had my share of all the various issues that most of your readers have experienced. The newest guy has his share of initial red flags flying. Most concerning to me is that he is an alcoholic in recovery for 12 years. He mentioned that he struggles at the holidays and one of the current struggles includes some regrets over an old 4-year relationship of his that he messed up. He works his program and has many supports in place, which is all very good.

What has my radar up is that we have only been dating for three weeks and he is already asking me to date him exclusively. He’s the first guy in a long time that makes me feel like I enjoy him enough to consider an actual relationship, but it just seems so soon. We have been sexually active and he wants us to take our profiles down and date exclusively.

When I expressed some hesitation, he requested that at the very least, I tell him before I enter into something sexual with someone else. I think that’s fair, but parts of me wonder if his focus on exclusivity so early in the dating process is a controlling behavior that is characteristic of his addiction. Three weeks just seems too soon for his decision to really be about ME. I would love an exclusive relationship with the right guy, but I want to be the catalyst for him wanting exclusivity, not his need to control.

That’s the way we want love to feel — organic, passionate, and FAST. No waiting, no games, no B.S… Like Communism, it sounds great in theory, but it doesn’t work in practice.


Dear Shirl,

I recently sent out a newsletter about this, but since not all of you have gotten my 5 Massive Mistakes report (hint, hint), I will attempt to recap what I said.

Namely, that when you’re positive about a man from the get-go, all you want to do is let down your guard and be “real” with him. You may have that “you just know” feeling and nothing seems more right than to give into the moment and become an insta-couple.

That’s the way we want love to feel — organic, passionate, and FAST. No waiting, no games, no B.S. “I want you. You want me. Let’s give this a go.”

Like Communism, it sounds great in theory, but it doesn’t work in practice.

Take Exhibit A:

His name is Bill. He thinks you’re the bees knees. He tells you that he wants to be your boyfriend. He finds you the most divine creature on earth.

And all you can think is: I’m on a fast train to Red Flag City.

Immediate questions abound:

Does this guy have no self-esteem?
What’s wrong with him that he likes me so much?
Does he like me or is he projecting his need for a relationship on the woman before him?
Is he like, a stalker, or something?
What did this guy do BEFORE I came into his life?

In any case, the point is that when YOU feel strongly about some new guy, it’s normal and natural. When a guy feels that way about you, it’s creepy and weird.

I only bring this up to point out our hypocrisy about letting our feelings show. It’s cool when we’re “honest” and “real”; not so cool when people do it to us.

I only bring this up to point out our hypocrisy about letting our feelings show. It’s cool when we’re “honest” and “real”; not so cool when people do it to us.

To your credit, Shirl, you’re asking a good question. And, as I am not a Dr. Drew type addiction specialist, it’s not my place to say whether he’s trying to “control” you or if he’s just, well, excited about you, like any boy with a crush on a girl.

The good news is, you’re going into this relationship with your eyes wide open, which will serve you well in dealing with his real red-flags — his alcoholism and his regrets. Truth is, it’s too soon to know his intentions, or what his character is made of. These are the things that will be revealed over time.

I think, if you like him, it would be a shame to toss him aside because of your fears about what MIGHT happen. Recently I’ve been talking to far too many women who break up with men at the first hint of trouble — and, as a result, never end up in a relationship.

Give him the benefit of the doubt for now. See how he treats you. Hold back a little bit emotionally to avoid getting his hopes too high. In a few months, you’ll have a much clearer picture of this man. And with that information, you’ll decide whether he’s interested in a relationship with you, or a relationship with anyone.

I’m confident you’ll make the right decision.

Join our conversation (24 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 1
    Kat Wilder

    If you’re sexual already, then it doesn’t seem all that weird that he’d ask to keep it exclusive. Not everyone wants to be sleeping with a guy/gal who’s shagging others; there are things like STDs and HIV, etc
    Being in recovery also means that he might be a dry drunk (the drinking’s gone, but the behaviors remain; bummer on that!) So, you’re smart to take it slow with eyes open.
    If nothing else, being exclusive with him will allow you to experience him without distractions such as other men. That doesn’t seem so bad …

  2. 2

    When did prefering to date one person at a time become an “issue”? Seriously.

  3. 3

    I also think that if you’ve been sexually active it’s totally normal to want to be exclusive (though not necessarily logical since there’s no way for either of you to know how many partners you’ve had under what circumstances since your last STD screening, or even when your last STD screening was).

    My boyfriend and I were exclusive after 3 days and long-distance after a week. We celebrate our 4-year anniversary this May.

  4. 4

    What’s the problem? He’s been in recovery for 12 years – would Shirl rather he was still drinking? And he has some regrets about a past relationship? Who doesn’t? At least he’s in touch with those feelings. It doesn’t seem to be impacting his ability to move forward with her. Yes, perhaps it’s a bit “fast”, but she’s already having sex with him, and some might consider that fast. The last guy I dated wouldn’t take down his profile or be exclusive after 4 friggin’ months! I would have been thrilled if he’d wanted to do that after 3 weeks.

    EMK mentioned women (I assume they’re private clients) who end relationships at the first sign of trouble. I found that ironic, because in the letters on this blog, the women (and the men) seem to have trouble letting go of relationships, rather than the other way around.

  5. 5

    If you feel like you really like him and would like to pursue a relationship with him, then I don’t see the problem. My boyfriend and I were dating only each other at that point, and we couldn’t be happier 2 years later. So it really depends on what you are feeling. I think it is definitely reasonable for him to want to be exclusive, as much as it reasonable for you to make the decision not to.

  6. 6

    It seems to me that exclusivity is a moot point here; if you’re having sex with him three weeks in, that is jumping the gun in my opinion. But, what do I know?

  7. 7

    Eh, starthrower68, my boyfriend and I had sex on the first date. It isn’t any more or less of an indicator that things will work out than anything else, as long as it was consensual 🙂

  8. 8


    Apparently having sex with someone you haven’t known very long is normal. Being *exclusive* with that same person is indicative of a possible control issue on their part. Go figure.

    I think she’s using the guy’s past alcohol problem as an excuse for her to keep her options open. She’s just not that into him. (So far anyway.)

  9. 9

    I find myself thinking that perhaps it’s Shirl who wants to feel in control. This isn’t a judgment call in any way on the decision of others, but I would never sleep with someone only three weeks in to dating them. A lot [not all] of relationships that start like a torch end snuffed out; some just burn longer than others.

    I can understand him wanting exclusivity, given their early rendevous. If she wanted to know if it’s really about her and not about a need to control or anything else, I think she lost that window of opportunity when she slept with him early on.

  10. 10

    This scenerio sounds identical to a guy I was seeing for a brief moment after my divorce a few years ago. Very controlling, manipulative and extremely needy. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt but he just had to many emotional issues for a girl to handle. And the ink hadn’t even dried on my divorce papers before he was taking about getting married. The last thing on my to do list as well as on my mind is another marriage and I could do without it @ this point in my life.

    DO NOT ignore the red flags. They are there for a reason. If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it! If you are unsure about this guy then you need to have a talk with him about slowing down the ride a little bit. If that convo don’t go over to well, then you need to keep you options open. Sex does not equal relationship, let some people tell it, which is in fact true.

  11. 11

    Unless the OP has left very important information out of her letter, I don’t see how wanting to be exclusive is controlling behavior.

  12. 12

    The red flags:

    1) He’s been a recovering alcoholic for 12 years. Not a huge flag. Obviously it’s something that will always have to be dealt with, but he’s definitely gotten through the most difficult times. Unless the OP is the kind who likes to go drinking regularly, and perhaps drinks heavily. In which case this is not a match made in heaven.

    2) He regrets a relationship he messed up. The guy’s human, and at least sees where he’s made his own mistakes and can own up to it. A good chunk of the adult population is divorced, and can you tell me that most of them don’t feel they contributed in some way to the divorce? Hardly any different than that.

    3) He’s sleeping with the OP and wants to be exclusive with her. Um, this is the recommended standard. Most would probably say this is commendable rather than a red flag.

    But if the guy the OP’s seeing, “has his share of initial red flags flying” then why the heck is she still seeing him? Even if I don’t think the things she mentions are necessarily big problems, if she sees them that way, then she should end the relationship, particularly since they’ve only been dating for three weeks.

  13. 13

    I think the OP does want to be exclusive too; it’s just that her schedule is different from his. His schedule isn’t necessarily wrong: just because her schedule is different doesn’t make it right for someone else.

  14. 14

    I’m going to chime in with eveyrone else. Once you have sex with someone you date, it is no longer casual dating. Most people I know operate on that rule.

    If you don’t want an exclusive relationship, that is 100% fine. Talk to him about it. It is 100% fine if he wants one. That just means you go your separate ways.

  15. 15

    BTW, even if STDs magically disappeared from the Earth tonight the rule about casual dating ending where sex begins is rooted in some very wise reasoning.

  16. 16

    @starthrower, I had sex on the first date and married the guy 11 months later. Then found out a LOT of my friends who gave me advice not to have sex on the first date, did it also with their husbands.

    I was in an almost identical relationship, and I get her feelings. Same thing, NA member, active leader in his group, got intimate in a similar timeframe and not only did he want exclusivity, he damn near stayed at my house 24/7. At the time, I was also about 3 years out of my divorce, had started dating and sorting through the guys I had met and really wasn’t ready to get all deep. This guy also wanted me to come offline and I honestly said, I still wanted to see other people and we agreed that I would tell him if I did. Well when I told him I had a date, it turned into 20 questions finally with him screaming why do you want to see him are you F****ing him?! Repeatedly. So, it turned into me not sharing because he couldn’t have a conversation. It eventually ended up with him coming over unannounced when I had an old (haven’t seen for 12 years) friend over. In fact, I introduced my friend to him and he proceeded to act like a complete crazy person (I won’t repeat the comments, but they were to instigate an argument and I didn’t bite). He then left and came back 30 minutes later asking me had the guy left. I said of course not, why would he? So he then walked all around my house gathering his stuff (that I kept packing and telling him to take for months) and calling me a nasty word and left. I was pretty shocked as was my friend (we ended up getting back together after the trauma). But I did feel that despite my being open about our incompatibilities and my openly stating I wanted to date other people, he wanted it his way.
    If you are feeling crowded and if its too soon for you, then my suggestion against everyone else here, is to wait until you feel its right.And for the record,if you practice safe sex, there is nothing wrong in my book with having more than one person you enjoy intimacy with and I’m 50 years old.

  17. 17

    @ Honey #7,

    Well I guess if that’s what floats one’s boat, that’s fine. I tend to thing that it doesn’t work out well more often than not, but then again what do I know? I tend to observe the masses and do the opposite.

  18. 18
    Kurt S.

    Shirl has some serious issues.   She has no problem with sleeping with a guy right away, yet she thinks something must be wrong with him because he wants to be exclusive after that?   It seems as though Shirl doesn’t want to be in a relationship and give up her freedom, but would prefer to sleep around.

  19. 19

    I have dated a former alcoholic person.   The relationship ended with him cheating on me.   When I look back at the relationship, and how he behaved at certain occations, how he treated me, how we argued about little things, I knew that there were red flags.   It’s really hard to stay open-minded about his issues and to watch out for red flags when you are falling for the person.   Just make sure that you don’t accept his unacceptable behaviors.   Don’t just listen to what you want to hear.   Keep your eyes and ears open, and when you see too many red flags, it’s time for you to walk away with your head held high.

  20. 20

    I went through a similar experience with the guy I’ve been communicating with/dating now for about a month and a half/two months. He came on very strong in the beginning — multiple daily cutesy texts, overdoing it with the flattery even though he didn’t know me that well (especially about my physical appearance), asking to have a second date scheduled for the very next day after our first (I nixed that one) and pretty much saying he desired exclusivity after only our second date/about 2 weeks in (because he only likes to date one person at a time). I kind of freaked for all the reasons the writer did: “He doesn’t know me that well, yet; he only can only possibly like the ‘idea of me’ — not really me, yet.” “Does he have co-dependency issues (his ex was an alcoholic)?” “Does he have low self-esteem; why was he so willing to cut off HIS options so soon?” BUT… There was something about him, and I felt as long as he was willing to give me a little time, there was a lot of potential there. So, I took Evan’s advice that the men that are the best at relationships are usually lousy at early dating and decided to give him a chance while keeping an eye out for red-flags. I told him I understood if our timelines are different and if this was a dealbreaker but that I like to go more slowly than he does. I wanted to see how he would react; bitter and angry would’ve been huge red-flags! But he took it very well and respected my boundaries. Score! …And I then actually ended up sleeping with him much earlier than I’d ever done — on date 3/week 3 — in part, to “hold him over” until I could agree to exclusivity… and to find out if that’s why he really wanted to be exclusive so soon (which actually wouldn’t have hurt so badly at that point, because I wasn’t yet sure how I felt about him). It wasn’t; it actually made him ask more questions about where I saw “us headed.” …Now, a month and a half/two months in, I can say that he’s a great guy and we’ve grown closer and have even come through a few life obstacles. If he asked me to be his “real” girlfriend soon, I’d say, “yes.” I’m glad I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *