Love Islanders, 'Exclusive' Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means

·4-min read
'Exclusive': Indiyah and Dami aren't the only Islanders using the 'e' word. (Photo: ITV)
'Exclusive': Indiyah and Dami aren't the only Islanders using the 'e' word. (Photo: ITV)

'Exclusive': Indiyah and Dami aren't the only Islanders using the 'e' word. (Photo: ITV)

We’re now into the final stretch of Love Island. Bombshells have come and gone, Casa Amor happened, the couples were tested, and everyone is doing that “settling down” bit – in the skewy timeframe that marks a summer in the villa out from any other holiday romance.

In fact, in the past week, there’s been one word on most of the contestants lips: exclusive.

Dami gave Indiyah a promise ring to upgrade their relationship status to this level. Adam and Paige used the ‘e’ word, too, and even Ekin-Su and Davide are trying it on for size.

With their eyes on the Love Island winnings, maybe they are simply playing the game, or maybe they really mean it.

But what does being exclusive actually denote, out in the real dating world, and how is it different to being in an actual relationship?

Davide and Ekin-Su (Photo: ITV)
Davide and Ekin-Su (Photo: ITV)

Davide and Ekin-Su (Photo: ITV)

We chatted to Jessica Alderson, co-founder and relationship expert at the dating app, So Syncd, to decode these labels we love to use in dating – and how to navigate them.

So, what’s the difference between being exclusive and in a relationship?

When you’re in a relationship, you’re likely to have certain expectations of connectedness, Alderson says, but when you’re “exclusive”, these rules of engagement can be more casual, as counter-intuitive as that can seem.

“For example, couples who are exclusive tend to see each other less than couples who are in a relationship,” she says, adding that there will be other factors that come into play, depending on the relationship.

“A couple at the exclusive stage of their relationship might not have met each other’s families,” she says, “but this might change at the relationship stage.”

Or if you’re a contestant on a national dating show – with Love Island’s ‘Meet the Parents’ episode coming up super soon!

“Another example when you are exclusive is that you might plan a date a couple of weeks in advance but not book a two-week holiday together as you might when you are formally in a relationship,” ’Alderson adds.

“Ultimately, labels help us define things in life but the most important thing is that you and your partner know where you stand and you are both happy with the situation.”

Why do some people want to be ‘exclusive’ before committing to a relationship?

For some, getting into a relationship is a big deals so being exclusive prevents people from feeling like there’s been a big jump.

Anderson says one of the most common reasons is someone fearing losing their independence and having to “answer to someone”.

“They want to see their friends when they want, have alone time when they want, pursue whichever career they want, clean (or not clean!) their apartment when they want, and so forth. They worry that being in a relationship will mean they have to make a lot of compromises and they aren’t yet convinced whether those compromises are worth it,” she says.

Anderson thinks unhealed wounds from the past can also stop people from wanting to get into a relationship sooner.

“Agreeing to be exclusive before being in a relationship is a way of setting the speed of how fast things are moving,” she says.

How do you bring up the ‘what are we?’ question?

Defining your relationship can be awkward, but it has to happen at some point. You may leave the conversation with an answer you didn’t want but at least you have clarity.

“When it comes to the ‘what are we’ conversation, know that every relationship is different and it’s not a good idea to look to other couples for expected timelines,”Alderson advises.

“Some couples talk about defining their relationship in a matter of weeks while others don’t feel the need to label anything for much longer.”

It’s best to be direct when discussing exclusivity – “explain that you’ve realised that you don’t want to see other people and then ask them how they feel,” she says – and see the conversation as a two-way discussion, a chance for both of you to openly share how you feel about each other.

“You can’t plan for every scenario but you should have a think in advance about how you might respond to different outcomes,”Alderson adds.

“If they want to be exclusive too, it’s fairly simple but you can still take the opportunity to talk about the dynamics of how you work together. If they don’t want to be exclusive yet, you need to decide if you are happy to continue dating non-exclusively or if it’s a dealbreaker for you.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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