An Ode to the Talking Stage

Words by: Chanttel Forbes 

Now how many times have you been telling your friend about a new guy, and it goes something like this? 

Example A: omg he’s so amazing he says good morning to me

Example B: omg he checks up on me throughout the day

To which she replies: I can literally do that for you, that is the bare minimum.

That was the wake-up call I needed to realise I was accepting far too little, forcing me to take a deep dive into why that is and just how influential seeing positive relationships around you can be. 

In some ways, having divorced parents is a blessing — my mum has shown me what it is to be a strong independent woman who should be uncompromising in her standards and boundaries. However, my experience is undercut by the lack of representation of a healthy relationship — what are my boundaries and standards when I’ve never seen a mutually beneficial relationship in action? I think subconsciously, to an extent, we all know when we aren’t being treated right, but the problem lies in the excuses we make to justify our partner’s behaviour. Countless times I’ve found myself saying they only did A because of B and it’s not who they actually are, just because the version of them in my head is so much better than the reality. When there is no role model relationship, there is a completely clean slate, which means that with every talking stage or relationship you learn a little more about what you will and won’t accept — through experience rather than observation. 

Not only do you not know how to recognise immediate red flags, but sometimes recognising green flags is just as difficult. When a person wants a relationship with you and to treat you right, it is hard to know what to do to be ready for that level of commitment. ‘Treating you right’ means that you laugh at the behaviour you used to tolerate from other guys because he just sets the bar so high, and he shows through not just his words but importantly his actions that you are his priority, not just an option for whenever he gets bored or lonely. However, sometimes putting up with bad guys is almost easier than talking to a good guy, because speaking to a good guy means being vulnerable.  It’s almost as though I choose guys who I know don’t take me very seriously, or if they do take me seriously, I choose guys who I know I’m not going to take seriously as a defence mechanism. Hence why I have never been in a serious relationship; only a string of talking stages. Talking stages are easy, fun and require little emotional investment, meaning no one can get hurt or attached unnecessarily. Having divorced parents almost makes you fear real commitment because, at a finger snap, they could leave. 

Growing up, I was very detached from people and found it easy to cut them out of my life if it was necessary. Connections never meant as much to me. Now however I crave the validation of attention, not the actual meaningful connection due to the scary possibility of letting the wrong people in and becoming more damaged than before. Having divorced parents has made me scared to be vulnerable, because what’s it all for if not the happy ending? 

Even so, one key lesson having divorced parents has taught me is not to stay in relationships or talking stages that do not bring me joy just because I am scared to start over, or I feel like there won’t be anyone better for me out there. Sometimes you just have to choose yourself over anyone else and be confident in what you bring to the relationship. 

Relationships are tough and we all come with baggage. It’s just a matter of learning from your experiences and not letting the baggage, like having divorced parents, get in the way of writing your own story. Just because you were shown the narrative of divorce doesn’t mean you are unable to create a version of love that is right for you and share that with your children.

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