Being in a relationship vs. being exclusive: a look at the difference, in honor of that 'Love Island' season finale

Yes, there is a difference between being in a relationship vs. being exclusive, even according to those in the villa

Zach and Molly from Love Island
(Image credit: ITV)

So, is being in a relationship vs. being exclusive one and the same? Not according to those residing in the villa. 

Now that we've witnessed the Love Island final, we figured we'd delve into the dating glossary to make sense of what's happening amongst the singles—and how it all translates into the real world. Let's get to it, shall we?

What's the difference with being in a relationship vs. being exclusive?

On the dating series, you're going to hear plenty of interesting terms thrown around. (Here are all the Love Island quotes and phrases you need to add to your vocabulary, btw.) Dating exclusively and being in a relationship might seem interchangeable—and more self-explanatory than the likes of being "pied" or finding a "right sort"— you'd be surprised by the technicalities. 

Both terms indicate that each partner is not seeing other people. However, being exclusive is considered a pitstop on the way to a full-blown relationship. It means you are not interested in exploring other options, but you're not quite ready to label things just yet. It's like getting stuck in a situationship/relationship purgatory.

Truthfully, it's a bit confusing. When stepping outside the villa, it feels as if being in a relationship and being exclusive can mean the same thing. In fact, we'd take things a step further and argue that exclusivity carries more weight, as it indicates other people aren't involved. But in actuality, it's the opposite (in Love Island terms). 

Though we've been bombarded with trendy dating terms as of late—ghostlighting, gophering, wanderloving, expirationships, etc.—it seems single are interested in finding that traditional relationship. Yes, hurdles stand in the way, like wanderlove and expirationships, but overall, dating experts claim people are in search of the real thing, particularly after the traumatic three years we've experienced.

"Now that daters have warmed up and started to reconnect [after the pandemic], they are ready to feel close to someone special again," Laurel House, a relationship expert with eharmony, told us. "Especially now that summer is [here], they want to travel, do activities, and be emotionally vulnerable again."

So, how do you go about driving towards a relationship without taking a breather at exclusivity? It's all about the way in which we date, and the way we approach our matches, according to the pros. You have to figure out what you're looking for in a match. 

"Know what your standards are," intimacy coach Brenden Durrell previously told us. "Know why you're dating. Know what you're out there in the field looking around. Be clear in your intention because that will set the foreground."

Likewise, dating coach Rikki Dymond said that means being truthful, not just with yourself, but with the person you're seeing. It might cause you to have uncomfortable conversations in order to get on the same page, but ultimately, it'll guide you onto the right path.

"If you know in your heart that this isn’t the right situation for you, you must follow that feeling," Dymond once told My Imperfect Life. "Sometimes those hard decisions come with guilt (especially if you care about the other person), but remind yourself of what you want, need and desire—and that you are worthy of having all of those things!"

Dating and all the particulars that come with it could be challenging, but as long as you stay true to yourself, you'll find what it is you're looking for. 

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.