Yo, Hallmark, I got some Valentines for ya.

by Janelle Hanchett


The other day, while scowling at the absurdity of one of those feel-good chocolate hearts and roses Valentine’s ads, I placed my pointer finger against my face in the classic thinking posture and asked myself… “Hmmmm…what would an honest Valentine’s Day card say?”

And then, as this thought rolled around in my [acutely insane] brain, I realized that this is no simple question, but rather depends entirely on how long the couple has been together.

Because as you probably know…that shit CHANGES. (Relationships, that is. Men, not so much.)

So this small, profound monologue got me thinking about the fact that there are (in my opinion) three stages in a relationship/marriage, each of them obviously necessitating a different Valentine, were it to be honest and real and able to speak the truth of the insanity. Err, I mean “budding love story.”

Wow. Deep.

Anyhoo, I give you this. I ask that you please enjoy the clip art.

Stage 1

Years 0-2: The “I haven’t Been With You Long Enough to Realize How Much You Annoy Me” stage, comprised of long walks and hand-holding, starry-eyed dinners, cocktails, discussions, movie-watching, reasonable arguments, cuddling and pet names. Also, smug looks directed at women who are in Stages 2 and 3 with their men, and a distinct feeling of superiority, having obviously been deemed the first woman in history to not wonder if she could turn herself into a lesbian to avoid further intimacy with the male population. Also, women in this stage rest easy in the comfort and surety that they will never, ever want to pummel their little love kitten with a meat cleaver. Because he’s PERFECT. Duh.

A Stage 1 Valentine looks something like one of these:





And now…

Stage 2, Years 2-5: The “Holy Shit I had no Idea You Had These Sorts of Habits” Stage, also known as the “I Must Mold You Into Something More Like What I Had In Mind” Stage, characterized by a lot of discussions with girlfriends regarding the man’s deficiencies, as well as a decent amount of wonderment and awe as the female discovers The Male is not at all perfect (and may actually have some sort of disability, as evidenced by the fact that he can’t find stuff that’s 3 inches from his forehead and leaves hair in the bathroom sink after shaving). This stage also involves the surfacing of all other incomprehensible tendencies, causing the female to realize she’s going have to fix this character if they’re ever going to make it. And therefore, she begins to WORK, which of course results in long, long, long discussions, unreasonable bickering, maybe therapy but for sure tears, cajoling, threatening, flailing and general malaise, and, most likely, the arrival of an infant or two.

Honest Valentines at this stage may look like this:




And then, if the couple in question makes it past Stage 2, they enter Stage 3 (years 6 – ?), commonly known as the “Well Obviously You are not Going to Change and I’m Tired of Fighting so I’ve Accepted you and your Weirdness” Stage. (Yes, these stages have awkwardly long titles. Not particularly catchy, I know. Don’t blame me. I didn’t make it up.) Oh wait.

As you can see, this is something of a deal-breaker stage – since it’s pretty much Stage 3 or Stage Bye-Bye. Stage 3 is characterized by a lot of glaring but less complaining, fewer divorce threats and a surface-level acceptance of small, irritating habits (such as buying odd gadgets that will never ever be used EVER, or eating onions before bed). It also involves some strange compromises (“Honey, if you pick up your bath towel from the floor every day, I’ll start squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom.”) and subtle retaliation (as opposed to the long, long, long discussions in stage 2 (or therapy)). On the plus side, this Stage results in a weird peace and vague sense of serenity and, occasionally, some intense relief  regarding the fact that you didn’t throw in the towel when things got rough (and therefore, thank god, you don’t have to deal with these hoodlum children alone). Women in this stage feel a little like badass survivors of some great calamity, like a tsunami, or fire. “We almost didn’t make it, kids. We really had to work HARD to make this marriage work. Ah, but look at us now…”

And we feel a little victorious. And yeah, alright, I’ll say it: A little in love.

Enough of the sappy crap.

Real valentines in this stage may look something like this:

And with that, let me just say: Happy freaking Valentine’s Day, ladies.


  • Karen Hug-Ngy

    Hilarious! And there’s so much truth to all of it. I enjoyed the cards too, thanks for the laughs.

    • renegademama

      Thanks, Karen! There is pure truth to it. This is what I lived. 🙂 I make it extreme but it’s actually 100% my experience. Cheers!

  • Regina

    This just made my day.

    • renegademama

      Glad to hear it, and thanks for the share!

  • Shan

    Just what I needed to start my day!

    • renegademama

      I’ll be honest, this was the best V day I’ve pretty much ever had, since I got all my shit-talking outta my system… 🙂 Kiss.

  • Marisa


  • kim

    Holy fuck, Janelle. This is the most perfect thing I’ve ever read.

    • renegademama

      Ah, shucks, Kim. You kill me. Ain’t it crazy that we were JUST talking about this sort of thing, though?!


  • Michael Ann

    You are a genius. Why don’t you submit these to Hallmark? 🙂 Okay, maybe a more progressive card company….

    • renegademama

      Ah, thanks Michael Ann. Well…maybe I should, except that I think the only people crazy enough to buy them are Renegade Mothering readers (and we’ve already seen ’em)! Hahahaha!

  • Stephanie

    Hee hee. I just read these out loud to my husband.

  • sherilinr

    oh man, i love the stage 3 cards!

    • renegademama

      Glad you enjoyed…I loved the pooping one. We’ve had that convo, Mac and I…sometimes he talks to me while pooping with the door open. the first time it happened we realized we were officially “close.” and old, perhaps. let’s go with close.

  • Nessa@CasaBraaflat

    i love that one about not washing the underwear in retaliation. where do you come up with this stuff? hysterical. i guess i’m in that 3rd stage!

    • renegademama

      Being in my head is like visiting a nuthouse…only less pills and slippers.

      See what I mean?


  • CL

    This SERIOUSLY just made my day. Thank god for you, sister, or else I would just burned my entire office down.

  • Amy


  • Shelly

    OMFG this was so funny and all soooo true! Thanks for helping me realize I’m not the only one who feels this way…and thanks for being way more articulate than I am. hehehe

    • renegademama

      OH, you so aren’t. As I was writing it I was like “um, I hope I’m not alone in this…” clearly not!

  • Jo Eberhardt

    This is the funniest thing I’ve ever read. You are a genius.

    Also, I think I may be developmentally challenged, because Stage 1 lasted us for four years and Stage 2 lasted another six. But we’re well and truly into Stage 3 now, and I can look back at all those people in Stage 1 and just laugh and laugh and laugh.

    • renegademama

      Thanks, Jo. Stage 3 is amazing…if somebody would have told me 6 years ago I’d be as happy as I am with my husband…I woulda laughed in their face.


  • Mac

    I don’t mind having dirty underwear, when they all get dirty I just stop wearing them. I am pleased to say you are the least annoying of all the wives I know.

    • renegademama

      Oh hi, husband. Welcome to your wife’s blog.

      Don’t tell anybody what a sap I am.

      It’ll totally ruin my street cred.

      In other news, I love you like a hipster loves his fixie. Happy V Day, darlin’.

  • Jennifer

    You are ridiculous in all the right ways. (That was a V-Day shout out to ya.)

    • renegademama


      That’s the joy of this blog thing. I get to be insane and over-the-top and ridiculous…and people like YOU read it and LAUGH!!

      (shout out to ya right back.)


  • Kristi'smomma

    OMG! Someday I simply must meet you. What insight, what wisdom, you are a very old soul, probably Eve reincarnated! I was married for 32 year and now realize why I couldn’t buy a Valentine’s Day card at the end. None of them could say what your cards do. They were all liars! I needed a card that told the truth. Girl….go into the card industry. You will make a million, or not.

  • Samantha

    Oh my god I laughed so hard I snorted and then I ran to tell my hubby about it. Also thanks for defining the stages!! We have hit stage three in like the last month 🙂 we have only been together 4 years but we got pregnant two months in so we skipped the first stage bahahafa loved it!

  • Dee

    Funny, b/c they’re true. Heh.

  • Grace

    Anyone who has multiple children, knows the last card is absolutely true!

  • Kate

    God, so funny. At year 20 I am definitely in the stage where I can yell for TP. Brilliant! Kate

  • Catherine@happinessafterheartache

    This just made my day, and makes me feel justified in never buying hubby a card. The cards that are out there are just NOT RIGHT. The last one is my favorite….I just need him around so I’m not outnumbered by the psychic twin powers. And I definitely do feel a nice sense of pride that I’ve been in Stage 3 for a couple years now.

  • Selina Rupers

    You are freakin hilarious!! My hubby & I have been married for 5 years… and we’re right in between Stage 2 and Stage 3, based on the gorgeous little valentines you made. 🙂

    • renegademama

      Thank you, Selina! Appreciate it.

  • Jen L

    CRYING with laughter. Husband wants to know what I’m up to over here. You are freakin hilarious!!!

  • Erin Nguyen

    OMG… Tears!!!! Tears streaming down my face!! Screaming with laughter!!!!!
    My husband thinks I’m not completely insane!!
    THANK YOU!!!

  • mon an yeu thich tai sai gon

    Hee hee. I just read these out loud to my husband.

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