By Tymmarah Anderson
Here we go again — the talking stage. It’s a stage that has crept its way into the blurred lines of 21st century dating, and honestly, it’s getting old. While it’s often characterized as a stage men create and women hate, it’s safe to say everyone has become stomped by complications of this stage.
While not always a bad stage, talking has caused more confusion and uncertainty than not. The stage is often prolonged, forcing people into months, sometimes years of relationship-like interactions that lack commitment, certainty, and can ultimately mean nothing in the end. Not to say the talking stage can’t lead to an exclusive relationship: I, among many others, have experienced that it very well can. But at what cost? I spent nearly a year in the talking stage (not my idea lol) before finally getting into a serious, committed relationship with that person. While my patience had finally gotten me what I hoped for, entering the relationship with me was a lack of trust and feelings of inadequacy that ultimately ended the relationship before it really started. Looking back, it all came down to one minor mishap, the thing no one ever wants to do: Defining the Relationship (DTR).
The Talking Stage
Over time, terms like talking, dating, or exclusivity have shifted definitions, cross-lapping between centuries and eras. The urban dictionary describes it as “when two people are not exclusive with each other nor have established what they are as a couple, but have some sort of relationship.” This relationship lacks commitment, but there is some sort of consistent communication, attraction, and feeling. Some refer to it as the “pre-dating” stage.
But honestly, let’s call it what it is: a bullet-proof way to get to know someone while still exploring other options, without getting too close, and without wasting money/valuable time on dates.
While it certainly makes sense why this stage is valuable to some, the effects of such a relationship are not often considered. For those who are uncomfortable with the stage, the number one question that often comes to mind is, “What’s wrong with me? Am I not good enough?” Insecurities creep up with every interaction and before you know it, you’re blasting Session 32 by Summer Walker with a cup of red wine hanging off your fingertips. You’re wondering if there is someone else, if they are better than you, and what you can do to make your partner see you’re deserving of a relationship. But that’s just it. You are deserving, regardless of how it seems. It’s simply that your partner just isn’t ready.
And they’ve probably said it plenty of times before, right? Sure. People like to boast about how “honest” they were in these situations. But honestly, people are naturally swayed by behavior. If I finally get the courage to walk away from a relationship that wasn’t fulfilling to me, but my partner begs me to stay because they say they’re going to “get it together this time,” my first, second, and even third, inclination is to stay. Because they are who I want and they’re telling me they’ll deliver. And I mean last week they did tell their mom about me, and we did go out on a semi-date a few weeks ago…and then before you know it, you’re back. They give enough just to keep you around.
While everyone is capable of making their own decisions, feelings for someone can often cloud them. In the talking stage, the partner typically plays right into those feelings. Not to totally villainize the other person in the equation, but it’s quite unfair and selfish to string someone along with no genuine intentions on committing to them. If a person decides to walk away from you because they are not happy with the progress of the relationship, let them. Especially if you have no intentions on making them happy or respecting what they want. It doesn’t make you a bad person, just honest and fair.
Are you DTR?
First things first!
Decide what YOU want. Not what you think your partner wants, not what people around you tell you to want — but what you honestly see for yourself.
Openly communicate. After talking to yourself, talk to your partner. Don’t be afraid to have the conversation because you’re afraid it’s too soon or will run your partner away. Openly communicate what you have decided to be your ideal situation. Listen to their side as well, and then see if those things align.
Set boundaries for yourself. Sometimes things may still be vague after communicating with your partner. What if they say they don’t see themselves in a relationship at the moment, but that months down the road they may be open to it? It could be true, could not be. Regardless, this is a good time to set boundaries for yourself like:
- focusing on your personal goals, aspirations, and needs (the you party doesn’t stop)
- continuing to date other people (maybe they’re not the one)
- reminding yourself of what YOU are looking for and understand you can’t make someone want what you want (no matter how hard you try)
Stand your ground. If you become uneasy with the path a relationship is heading down, make a change. That may require you to leave that person behind. While it may suck, the consequences can be far less daunting than doing so months later after your feelings have gotten even stronger.
Nothing is necessarily wrong with no-label relationships. In fact, I’ve seen and experienced instances where they have been successful. The times they don’t are usually because one party is not content with the status or progression of the relationship, but stay complacent because of their strong feelings towards the other. You gotta DTR. No matter how uncomfortable it is. No matter how much of a nuisance you may feel like. Your feelings matter too.
Tymmarah Anderson is a contributing writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC.