Vulnerability is okay

Emily Pavlik, co-editor in chief

I don’t understand. Are we together? Are we not? What is this? Is it too early to have this conversation? I don’t want to come off desperate.  

As a teenage girl, I can tell you that almost every girl, including myself, has asked themselves one of these questions when in a confusing relationship. I’m here to say: don’t be ashamed of being confused. When it comes to relationships, how much do teenagers really know?  

The “talking stage,” as Gen Z calls figuring out a complication of feelings, is a time when no one really knows what’s going on between two people romantically; they may banter, flirt, or even already have the foundation for a great relationship, but there isn’t a specific point in time to call it a “relationship”.

The “talking stage” can last for as long as you want, but at the end of the day, the lack of labels can lead to an easier exit to the connection. Saying you meant no harm, or you “just weren’t feeling it anymore” can lead to an absence of addressing conflicts in a relationship. Communication is essential in a relationship, and when the time comes to have these tough conversations, the comfort of defining how you feel about one another will lead to a more positive outcome. 

For me, putting a label on a connection has allowed me to open up and be myself more freely. I have the comfort and security to have difficult conversations because I have more faith and trust in the individual I have my bond with as well. 

However, how I got here wasn’t easy.    

I’ve experienced the moments where I’m about to pull my hair out, crashing and burning, struggling to comprehend what goes on in other teenagers’ heads. You never truly know what others are thinking. Whether its getting ghosted or receiving conflicting signals from someone, it has been a journey to find a connection that is healthy and content.

So, when you find someone that gives you validation and doesn’t leave you lost and confused, that’s when you may realize you have found someone suitable for you. 

This person could be anywhere, whether they are someone in another country, at another school, or even in the classroom next door. My most valuable piece of advice is to not be afraid to make your emotions known. 

Conversations can start on social media, but make sure you take them off the screen as well. The foundation of a relationship will only be able to grow when you make an effort to get to know one another. Once reaching a point of comfort and trust within your bond, you will be able to have deeper conversations leading to a relationship status. However, if you feel uncomfortable having these conversations later on, it may be a sign this person isn’t the one for you in the long term.

The “talking stage” is a stereotypical term people use when they’re afraid to commit to someone, but my question is: why just refer to them as someone you’re talking to? Although by now, I am sure many teens know the terminology, Gen Z lacks the confidence to be upfront and daring in relationships.

My mom has told me the stories of her high school boyfriend, and the number of people in her class that weren’t afraid to be daring and ask other classmates out on a date. The dating culture was different. Now, with the flip of a switch, many have found themselves stuck between what could become a great first love story and a “situationship”.

The “talking stage” is a boundary, full of unknowns and questions between two individuals, and only you can get yourself out of it. You’ll have to be vulnerable, and it is completely normal to feel anxious, but if you’re asking someone to be in a relationship that you are comfortable with and happy with, then it should only be a hurdle in the excitement within your newly defined relationship.