Erika Ettin: Discussing exclusivity in the age of coronavirus

Tribune Content Agency

DTR, when strung together in that order, might just be the scariest three letters in the English language for singles. For those who can’t keep up with the ever-evolving and ever-growing list of acronyms associated with the world of online dating, DTR stands for “defining the relationship” — AKA (OK, I’ll stop with the acronyms now) the dating milestone where you and partner discuss the status of your relationship. For many, it’s the point where you decide to take your flirty friendship into “officially boyfriend and girlfriend” territory. But nowadays, with the coronavirus pandemic impacting every decision from grocery shopping times to shaking hands with strangers, exclusivity could mean your safety.

Before COVID-19 radically changed the world, including the dating scene, it wasn’t abnormal to line up a few dates a week with different people. Even if one relationship was going particularly well, talking about being exclusive with each other was still weeks or even months away.

“It doesn’t have to be exact, but I recommend dating someone for two to three months before you think about exclusivity,” dating expert Anita A. Chlipala told Elite Daily in August 2019. “It gives you enough time for some of the infatuation to wear off and for patterns to emerge.”

Of course, the timeline of relationships has changed amid the pandemic. In many ways, it’s slowed down — instead of meeting in person after just a few exchanged messages, some daters are opting for several conversations over the phone or video chat before even considering a face-to-face interaction (masked or not). In other ways, things are speeding up — if a relationship seems to be going well, people are eager to move towards exclusivity in order to feel safe spending time together.

Not only does DTR give you peace of mind that you’re on the same page as your partner, but it’s now a safety matter. You definitely don’t want to be kissing someone who is locking lips with lots of other people at the moment! Not only would you be exposing yourself, but also your family, roommates or anyone else in your “quarantine bubble.”

Exclusivity is also on the fast track for potential couples who are spending more time together. With more people working from home and taking precautions, you and your partner may decide to quarantine together so you’re exposed to the same people and places, leading to a deeper connection much faster than if you met once a week for dinner and drinks while getting to know each other. You also find out if you’re on the same page when it comes to wearing a mask, washing your hands and taking other necessary steps to stop the spread.

So how do you approach the DTR conversation in these odd times? The answer is simple yet complicated: You have to be honest. Say something like, “I know we’ve only known each other for a short time, but I like where this is going and I don’t want to worry about my safety when we’re together. Should we make this official?”

Hopefully, your partner feels the same way and is eager to take the jump. Worst case scenario, you part ways, giving you more time to find someone who shares your feelings — both about reducing risks and for each other.


(Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter,


©2020 Erika Ettin

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