I've been thinking about doing a Take on this topic for quite some time. I've seen some people do everything right - approaching confidently, communicating well, planning and going on great dates only to trip and fall before reaching the finish line, which in this case is clinching an exclusive relationship.
Now of course, every situation is different so you'll need to use your judgement and make adjustments, but what I'll discuss here should give you some food for thought.
1. Bring up the TOPIC when YOU are ready
Many of us overanalyze and don't want to make big moves until we are sure someone is interested to the point they're ready to go steady. Sometimes it will be blatantly obvious, but most of the time there will be some element of uncertainty or we're simply oblivious. That can't be allowed to be the tail wagging the dog- fortune favors the bold when it comes to getting a partner.
2. Do not wait too long to ask about exclusivity
The other person is going to be wondering what you really want. Do you just want to casually date them if you keep going on dates but nothing concrete materializes? Or do you want something serious? what happens if someone more decisive comes along and asks them to go exclusive and they aren't sure where they stand with you? Sure, they should say something, but you can always count on that. My personal rule of thumb is after 2-3 dates I am ready to broach the subject.
3. Don't forget that you are probably not the only person with whom they're going on dates
This is especially applicable to online dating, but also to someone you've met IRL. They are in the market and until they go exclusive with one person, you can't assume you're the only person they are dating. It's generally not wise to put your eggs in one basket until you're absolutely sure, and then you want to make sure that person doesn't get away by asking them to go exclusive as soon as you're sure you want to.
4. You cannot expect exclusivity without specifically discussing it
I recently heard that one young lady was shocked to hear on the fifth date that the guy had been out with another woman the night before and she ended things right then and there although he had looked promising. I think that was an overreaction- she should have asked for exclusivity if she was that enamored of him. Note that you don't necessarily have to make it an official relationship that you broadcast on social media at this particular juncture- you can simply suggest that you both forego dating other people because you are serious about each other and want to focus on each other.
5. Don't be reticent about communicating exactly what it is you want or expect in a relationship
The other person may come from a different background and/or have different expectations or a different understanding of your dating. Don't leave things to chance- clearly communicate your desires.
6. You don't necessarily have to get the timing exactly right
Don't hesitate because you think you need to ask at exactly the right time- there may be none.The other person may be as uncertain about your intentions as you are about theirs and you and may be waiting for you to take the lead. Someone has to do it- let it be you! Most of all, don't fear failure- this person likes you or they wouldn't be on a third or fourth date with you.
I hope this helps some of you a bit.