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.

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  1. 21

    I dated a guy who I already knew as a friend. I got multiple texts, lots of flattery, he said it was v important that I’d be faithful. He dumped me twice for no reason – 1st time he got text message from someone saying I was going out with someone else (untrue but didn’t bother to ask me!) – so I got dumped my text, then the 2nd tine just stopped texting , wouldn’t answer my calls and I didn’t see him for 3 months. I then engineered seeing him as offered him a lift as we have mutual friends then it was all back on v quickly after I stayed the night on another occasion. he never went back to the romantic texts or hand holding though. We then went out for another 18 months with no arguments, had lovely holiday, then we recently had another one which he wanted. When we got there he was grumpy some of the time, wouldn’t bother dressing for dinner even though I did, wouldn’t have any photos taken with me, and on the last day got v grumpy and rude; so much so that I told him I didn’t need to take that, so then I wouldn’t speak to him as he’d ruined a lovely holiday with his behaviour . No apology either. He spent a couple of days my house, slept and cuddled me then couple days later (after I paid money owed him for holiday) I get a text saying he wanted to talk face to face about the relationship as obviously neither of us happy with the present situation and he didn’t see any future! phoned him – no reply. I texted saying he hadn’t seemed unhappy when he left and he had in fact invited me for the weekend at his house. He didn’t reply so my daughter said I had to take control so I said I wanted a reply by end of that day. I got one late that night saying he didn’t know what to say. Next day he said the weekend invite cancelled so I immediately texted to say I didn’t want someone who was snaps at me on holiday and hasnt the guts to talk face to face. He then said he wanted his things back he left at my house, when he came he wouldn’t even   look at me, let alone talk! Wish I hadn’t given him another chance after he had done this sort of thing before.   

  2. 22

    I think that once you have had sex, it’s normal to want to be exclusive.   Seen from the man’s point of view, it is pretty confusing.
    Also, he may have been an alcoholic but he’s honest about it and, from what it sounds like, he is just asking for the OP to maybe help him out at difficult times.
    One of my friends (female) used to be an alcoholic and whenever we go out together, I usually take a non-alcoholic drink (even if sometimes – though rather rarely – I’d rather have a beer!)

  3. 23

    I have recently been in a similar position as Shirl and can appreciate her concerns.  

    I agree with other posters that wanting to be exclusive is not a read flag if you are sexually active.  

    However, I think that someone being unusually needy or irrationally enthusiastic can be a red flag.  

    I was seeing a recovering alcoholic myself. I had been doing the online thing, not meeting good prospects, and then met this guy who was articulate and we had a lot of common interests. So we had a second date, a third date etc.   I should state up front that I was never crazy infatuated with this guy. However, applying what I have learned from Evan, I thought I would pay less attention to the heart-pounding stuff, give the guy a chance, and see if the feelings would develop naturally.  

    There was no ‘natural’ from my perspective. As with Shirl, my guy went way over the top with the attention – He sent me 6 emails about nothing per day. Every night he wanted to spend time with me and would lay a guilt trip on me if I wasn’t available. It seemed like he had no other guy friends to spend time with. He told me I was beautiful. He bought me flowers. He wanted to eat at expensive restaurants, though I doubted he could afford them. After the 3rd date – without sex – he wanted to be exclusive. After the 9th date (still no sex, just making out) he told me he considered me his partner – not his girlfriend, his life partner! He kept trying to get me to commit to events that were 6 months or a year in the future. I kept telling him he was going too fast. And every time he acted as though it was the 1st time he had heard me say anything, though I pretty much said ‘slow down’ every date.

    … I think that people develop addictions for a reason – often the substance abuse fills a hole the person feels inside. And as another poster alluded to, – someone can have the abuse under control but not necessarily have overcome the underlying cause. People with addictions also often have issues with control, and turn to substances when they are angry/frustrated at their inability to control events and the people around them…

    I stopped seeing this person because my instincts were that he had unresolved emotional issues, perhaps fairly large ones.  

  4. 24

    Sounds like he wants to do the right thing since you’re already sleeping together. Go figure.

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