"I will spue thee out of my mouth"
When we talk about love, we usually refer to romantic love. And when we discuss romantic love, we always assume that it is exclusive. It is, of course, normal for romantic love to be exclusive. Exclusivity is to be expected. And yet every other type of love is naturally inclusive. Does my love for my brother preclude love for my sister? For my mother? For a romantic partner? Of course not; loving increases my capacity to love.
And yet romantic love is and should be exclusive. Perhaps it is because our romantic relationships are intended to be so intimate and intense that they require enough time to make simultaneous development of other such relationships impossible. Certainly, our needs as regards our romantic partners can be satisfied by one partner – and are best satisfied when we have that partner's exclusive attention.
We ought to remember, however, that love naturally includes others. For some people, at least, it is natural to develop many friendships at once. As friendships lean towards romance, it is reasonable to spend time with many potential partners before pairing off.
Unfortunately, our modern dating culture encourages people to commit very early in the development of a relationship; some people even commit to exclusivity before going on a single date. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with a relationship developing quickly, we should not assume that it is the norm. In particular, we should not be offended when a potential romantic partner is not yet willing to commit – especially if we have not expressed a desire for such commitment.
Instead, we should enjoy our friendships for what they are. And, as we develop interest in an exclusive romantic relationship, we should work towards that end. But we should always respect the autonomy of our friends. We should communicate our feelings clearly in appropriate moments and ways. And we should remember that where there is no commitment, we have no right to expect exclusivity.