If only we still sought romantic relationships like they did in the 1950s — simple and serious. But in the modern world, you’ll most likely experience the dreaded talking stage. Why did our generation start this confusing phase prior to actually dating the person you’re interested in? Beats me. But the talking stage—along with its skepticism, love, overthinking and anger—exists. Unfortunately, we must all put up with it before getting serious with someone. While the talking stage can feel like a never-ending journey, College Magazine has got you covered.
Read our tips for the 10 questions you ponder during the talking stage of a new relationship.
What Are We Right Now?
“Hello everyone, so I’d like you to meet… ugh… my friend?” Yeah, nothing feels more awkward than introducing your not-so-significant other to other people you know. Like, you’re not exactly my friend, but you’re also not my girlfriend or boyfriend, so what the heck are we? Although labeling a relationship shouldn’t come off as that big of a deal, our generation decided to turn it into a big deal!
But let’s focus on reality right now. In what direction do you see this fling going toward in about three months? If you sense this person will stay in your life, then at least you possess a reason to stress about the label, or lack thereof. However, if this actually seems like a fleeting affair, then you probably shouldn’t worry too much about how others will perceive your fling. Trust us, the more casual it remains, the less drama—and unnecessary tears—it will attract.
How Much Should I Prioritize You?
I like to compare the talking stage to a Monet painting — seems alluring from a distant perspective, but looks confusing, if not messy, from up close. While talking to someone might sound casual, it feels exhausting trying to figure out how this person truly feels about you. What are their intentions? Obviously, if the talking stage seems motivated by eventual commitment, you’d probably devote more priority to this person; but if it appears as just a temporary fling, you might not contribute more effort than you receive.
“I like to prioritize someone based on how much effort they put in during the talking stage,” Northeastern University junior Lauren Mendez said. “I want to know if they’re on the same page as me because I’m not going to try hard for someone who doesn’t put in the same effort as I do.”
If you don’t want to exceed your partner’s generosity during the talking stage, make sure you figure out the purpose behind it. You can do this by proposing a “curious” question to your person about how much they like or care about you. Now’s the time to act savvy and get your answers.
What Are the Current Physical Boundaries?
The talking stage looks unique for everyone because we each allow different physical boundaries when interacting with a new partner. If you haven’t settled this unspoken conversation already, then you should probably speak up about it. You might encounter your fling asking for more wine after the first glass, but realize you’re not willing to pour them more of your wine. In that case, or vice versa, find yourself a partner who feels content with the amount of wine you serve them.
“With my current partner, communication is really important,” FIU junior Karen Fisboin said. “We communicate a lot, and we’re very open with each other about what we want and what we’re leaving on the table for the future.”
Unless you want your partner spontaneously coming onto you with new moves, clearly set the boundaries of what you’re willing to give and take. After all, the talking stage centers around finding out more about the other person. So, definitely discuss with each other when you both feel comfortable pouring that second glass of wine (if you haven’t already).
Are We Exclusive?
Ah yes. The pressing question that most people feel too afraid to ask. But if you sense yourself developing some serious feelings for someone, perhaps you better bring up the elephant in the room — are we exclusive with one another? While some people could care less whether a fling hooks up with someone else, others do care. Essentially, ask yourself if it bothers you to think about this person with someone else. If so, let them know! It’s better to know their intentions early on, rather than finding out later and getting your feelings hurt. The lousy reality kicks in when you desire exclusivity with someone, yet they still crave attention from other people. Instead of getting your heart broken (or if you already did, cry and shake it off… we all deal with it at least once) set your priorities and guard your heart.
What About the Lacking Responsibility?
On Monday, you can go all day talking, flirting and exchanging coquettish banter with one another. Tuesday arrives and boom — not a single peep from your fling! Then comes Wednesday and Thursday, and still no word. Naturally, you might feel annoyed about these actions—or lack thereof—but the unfortunate reality about the talking stage means these things are normal and okay to do.
“What frustrates me the most is the lack of accountability for other people’s actions. You have to act like you don’t care about someone when they do something, when in reality you do,” FGCU junior Lauren Chin said. “You can’t really show your anger because they’re not responsible for the way you feel because you guys aren’t together.”
While you can’t exactly get upset or expect an explanation, you can definitely share your thoughts with them. This doesn’t mean pouring out your heart necessarily, but simply communicating that you enjoy the regular conversations you share with one another (or whatever you feel bothers you). While that’s the healthy solution, the naughty alternative involves playing the game. Don’t get me wrong, jealousy can feel empowering, especially when it’s on your side, but you might not reap the final rewards you so desire.
When Should I Post Us On Social Media?
Imagine you capture a wonderfully aesthetic, Instagram-worthy picture with your “boo,” but do you post it? During the talking stage, you might find yourself juggling whether it feels too soon to post pictures together, or if posting pictures too early will make people assume that you’re in a relationship. If you weren’t overthinking before, say hello to this little demon on your shoulder now.
“For me, I feel ready to post about someone on social media when I see a future with them,” Georgia Tech junior Sebastian Llano said. “If I’m going to show you off, then I want people to know I care about you.”
If you both sense an eventual relationship, then start showing off your partner! Regardless, if you really love the photo and wanna post it, then heck, go for it. Of course, let your not-so-significant other know you’re posting the picture. But if you worry about what your partner will think, just play it safe and post them on social media when they decide to post you. After all, we like reciprocal social media presentations.
What Do I Tell My Family and Friends?
While your friends will most likely understand the nature of your talking stage, your family—particularly your parents—might appear initially confused. When bombarded with questions about your new fling, come prepared with answers about how often you two hang out, what you both do together, how much you like this person and where you see it going. After all, you probably feel something special for this person if you’re actually enthusiastic about telling other people.
“If I have true feelings about you, I’m going to talk about you to everyone around me whether we talk, date or are just friends,” UF junior Frankie Brea said. “People are going to think we’ve been married for years.”
Of course, don’t feel pressured to tell your family if this talking stage seems too early, too casual or if you simply don’t want to. The same advice applies for your friends, but keep in mind that your besties are there to help! Whether they help you blow off some emotional steam or give you advice, when you decide to tell them remains your choice.
Will My Family and Friends Like You?
If you’re one of those people who like to aimlessly contemplate a future with the person you’re talking to, you’ve probably already imagined how your family and friends will receive your not-so-significant other. After all, moving into the more serious phase of the talking stage means a new form of apprehension will take over your mind — will my partner mesh well with the other people I care about? Perhaps cultural clashes or personality distinctions might create a barrier to starting a smooth relationship.
Whatever doubts keep tugging on your heart, remember the reason why you began talking to this person in the first place. Assuming this person means more to you than a quick fling, your family and friends should understand why you chose this person out of all the single fishies—also assuming you’re not a homewrecker—in the sea.
What About Factors Hindering an Eventual Relationship?
While many factors exist that can hinder an eventual relationship, this question dedicates itself to the factors that you and your partner cannot control. Perhaps you both attend different colleges located too far from each other, or maybe you both carry responsibilities that leave no time for a serious relationship. Instead of moping over the whole “right people, wrong time” dilemma, set your priorities about your partner and consider how they will squeeze into your life. Will they occupy enough room for a healthy relationship, or are your lives just too crowded for each other?
“Be clear with your intentions because if it’s someone you feel is truly worth it, I think you should be comfortable taking the next step into a relationship,” FIU sophomore Carolina Sanchez said. “Make sure you both understand what you’re about to get into without there being unclear expectations for the future.”
If it helps, recall the good and bad things about this person. AKA, make a pros and cons list to weigh these factors out just like the conflicted characters end up doing in those romantic coming-of-age films. While following your heart might seem like the desired path, remember to also listen to your head, because making a sensible decision now can save you from a tangled future.
Do We Actually See a Future Together?
This question earns the medal for provoking the strongest form of overthinking. While this question sounds pretty broad, it now requires you to employ the most rational form of thinking. Heck, we should put this question first on our list, but better not to jump to conclusions at the start of a story. Simply put, are you talking to this person because you crave sex, entertainment, a desire to feel loved or real love? And yes, those last two options fuel separate intentions.
Besides what you desire, do you feel ready to take the next step toward a relationship in college (and beyond) or do you feel satisfied remaining parked in the talking stage? Seriously, ask yourself. Finally, find out what your partner feels. Do they seem ready to develop a relationship with you? If so, don’t let yourself drown in doubts — calmly allow that talking stage to blossom into something quite beautiful.
They say love is complicated, but it’s really not when you’re with the right person. The talking stage might welcome loads of chaos, but it sometimes leads to a heavenly match made in college.