Honest Valentines, for Married People

by Janelle Hanchett

[Those of you who’ve been here for awhile know that I wrote this post last year. But since I had about 9 readers back then (you know who you are), and I added some new Valentines for each stage, I feel it’s appropriate to publish it again, in an updated version.]


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 insists on passing gas in bed). 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:

Sometimes people ask where I come up with this crap.

In response, I give you one word: LIFE.

 As proof, I give you this…

My own real life Stage 3 Valentine.



  • Stacey

    Oh man. Enjoyed the hell out of this. I was just thinking about this yesterday as I stared at the card aisle. With a 2 year old and a 4 month old, nothing seems appropriate.

    Btw, I found your site via FB last night at 2am as I nursed my youngest. The link was to “I became a mother…” Thank you for those good words. I needed ’em. I’ll be back.

  • Renee'

    I was one of the first nine people that followed you when you wrote this. It was funny then and is still funny now! Thanks for keeping it real!!!

  • Dawn Pedersen

    This is wonderful and hilarious. We’re creeping up on our 5th anniversary, so I can probably breath a sigh of relied knowing that the hardest part is over (and it’s hasn’t been too bad, but I resembled some of those cards.)

  • sonia

    oh dear dog. so right.
    fortunately, my stage 2 seems to have been very short. think we had a prolonged stage 1, and a slightly early stage 3. i still love him 🙂

  • Jessica

    This. is. Perfect! My/Our stages were a little longer. We were 6 years in before our daughter was born. We’re 10 years in now and entering stage 3. I told him recently, “It’s cheaper to keep you.” I guess we’ve made it this far, why not keep going, right?

  • Claire g

    I am laughing so hard I am crying. It is partly from the prescription Xanax my shrink makes me take so I don’t physically harm people. But it is MOSTLY because this is so damn funny.
    Thank you for being you!
    P.S.- I totally went to CVS last night

  • Erika

    You are the funniest human alive. Period.

  • Samantha

    Yes! This was the first blog post I read! Your great. Hahaha just kidding you’re great. But I do use your the wrong way alot. Which I learned is actually a lot, last year, at age 26.

  • Caryl

    Fantastic. I’m spamming my girlfriends with this post. We are all stage 3. Haaaaaa muahahahahahhahaha muahahaha
    Sorry ’bout that.

  • Frugal Vegan Mom

    omg that is so fucking true. did you make up all of those yourself? I swear I could go through every single valentine and come up with an example from my own marriage. 5 1/2 years, 2 year old child. right now he’s putting her to bed and then we will eat manicotti (the special dish he made me) and have some drinks and watch tv. same as every other night except for the manicotti! I don’t exactly think it’s fun, but I also wouldn’t want to be out dancing because I’m fried from dealing with a toddler all day…

  • Erica / Northwest Edible Life

    Well that was freakishly accurate. Stage One Gift: some fancy crap restaurant with a bunch of overworked servers dealing with amateurs who dine out by obligation once a year. Stage Two Gift: weekend away. Possibly far too much time in the car. Possible grudges about destination choice. Stage Three gift: Best yet! 4 hours of Housecleaning Service: other people come clean your toilet. Awesome. Other Stage Three’ers get it.

  • Kelly

    My husband and I both laughed out loud and shook our heads because we both live for the kids to go to bed so we can watch Downton Abbey, after eating a crap dinner. Uncanny. As soon as we think we are remotely unique people, stuff like this brings us back to our senses.

  • Kiran

    I found you today through a good friend of mine who thought we might hit it off because of our writing styles. I was like, “yeah, will check it out,” but am so glad I did. Love your humor and your slight irreverence.

    Perfect. I will fight perfect parenting with you everyday with my very imperfect parenting. We can be like weird superheroes.


  • Sustainable Eats

    Tears streaming down my face now. Thank you to http://www.nwedible.com/ for pointing me here, and thank you for putting this together. It was a lot of work bu OH SO FUNNY!

  • Kristi'smomma

    Again I laughed so hard, this blog was me years and years ago. I am now divorced and I no longer search through the Valentine’s cards, for way too long, looking for the one card that says what I really felt… ” I HATE MY LIFE WITH YOU!!!” It’s just better not playing that game.
    More power to all you strong and wonderful mother-goddesses out there, may you power be doubled this Valentine’s Day. If no one else told you this Valentine’s Day, I love you, I honor you, I respect and think the world of you. May you be blessed a thousand times a day for all you do. You are awesome, truly awesome gals, and the world will be different because you are here.

  • siobhan

    Gah, I kind of hate you! I have stayed up til 930 the past two nights obsessively reading this blog. 930, yo! I have an 8mo old who wakes up every two hours still. See, I never taught him to self-soothe. 930 is the latest I’ve been up in months, and yes, that includes new years eve.
    In ironic news, I was linked to this blog by the only person I know who has had a baby sprinkle. I’m not sure she read very thoroughly before posting the link.
    anyway, love the valentines. Read the one about facial hair to my husband. He was unaware we are in like week seven of a mexican standoff over beard clippings in the sink. Now he knows. 🙂

  • Nicole

    Loved it!! We r stage 2 almost at stage 3. The cards were classic. Thanks 4 the laugh and the fact that my thoughts aren’t crazy!!

  • Knitting with Olof

    Thanks for a good laugh and the truth. Loved the cards. My gift to my husband after being married 10 years was that I helped my 3 and 4 year old make a card for him. LOL Lots of effort. Then by the time he got home with flowers and wine I went to bed with our 4 month old because I wasn’t feeling so hot. Yep. So sexy!

  • Stacey

    Well . . . that was eerily accurate. And what the hell is up with passing gas in bed? He was JUST in the bathroom brushing his teeth. Why can’t he do it there? I don’t buy that “Everything settles when I lie down” bullshit.

  • AfterMom.com

    You are absolutely hilarious!! I hope there is a book deal in your future. Thank you for giving me the laugh I needed today! Much appreciated!!
    – Meryl

  • miranda

    New reader, and I’m here to stay. You deserve your own comedy show. Thanks for helping me see the humor in my day to day.

  • MaryBeth West

    So, yeah, I’m kinda geeky, because after reading this I accidentally found this Shakespeare sonnet, and check it out, he’s saying the same thing!

    When my love swears that she is made of truth
    I do believe her, though I know she lies,
    That she might think me some untutor’d youth,
    Unlearned in the world’s false subtleties.
    Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
    Although she knows my days are past the best,
    Simply I credit her false speaking tongue:
    On both sides thus is simple truth suppress’d.
    But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
    And wherefore say not I that I am old?
    O, love’s best habit is in seeming trust,
    And age in love loves not to have years told:
    Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
    And in our faults by lies we flatter’d be.

  • Cath

    Honesty! How refreshing.

  • Jocelyn

    Seriouly I am laughing so hard I am crying and my children are so confused! You are halarious!!!!!!

  • Sarah

    DYING! I didn’t even pick up a card this year, or chocolates. Sex was his present and he was happy! Who knew! I’m now thinking if I hold off until the next holiday (his birthday is in July) he’d be perfectly fine with just sex and I could spend any and all money that I would spend on a gift for him, on myself! FABULOUS!

  • Sheila Pai

    This post is dangerously funny! I almost choked laughing! The timing of finding this is on point. The humor, deadly accurate and much needed. Overloaded with gratitude for you and your willingness to write as you do. YES. More of this please.

  • Jackie

    There is a Stage 4. When all the kids are now teenagers or grown and out of the house but the parents are threatening to move in. I’m in that stage. Can you write a card for that one?

    • Diane

      Oh, Jackie! Please be very careful. right now I’ve got my father-in-law and my 23 year old son living with us.They somehow seem to think that it’s okay to pass gas not just in bed, but anywhere in the house! Sometimes they say Oops!as an excuse. How did this happen to me!?

  • Gabriella

    I love you. I honestly love you.

  • amy

    “children of the corn” has me in tears!

  • Mark Thistel

    I’m feeling the need to contribute a male perspective to this otherwise (it appears) female dialogue. Stage 1 from our perspective: “I’m thrilled with our marriage, but I was under the impression that occasional sex was a part of the arrangement.” Stage 2: “I’m a guy. We don’t get inferences. Can you please just tell me what I’m doing wrong?” Stage 3: “Well, here we are. Let’s set up some lawnchairs, I’ll get a beer for me and wine for you, and we’ll just watch this bunch of freaks and weirdoes go by. By the way, I love you lots.”

  • Casey

    Fantastic. Finally…..someone who speaks my language.

  • Suckkaaa

    Holy crap, you have pinned the tail on the fucking donkey!!!!! This is EXACTLY EXACT!! round of applause to us, assholes living with one. Yay for Vday!!! I already put my shoprite vday flower order in for myself as a surprise to my husband who wont get me anything.

  • Kathryn

    The cards were hilarious- and I did smile and laugh. I read all the comments too- you are ALL amazing women! To put up with these weird creatures called men- I really do NOT understand them! I am 52, single, never married and have no kids of my own and my bio clock is running out of time fast! Maybe I am supposed to be glad I am not married – maybe I am just as insane as you all are. Who knows!? I sometimes wish I had a man to have manicotti with and get drunk watching Downton Abby! I watch it with my mother. I once had a man in my life who gave me a valentine written on a scrap of paper…after I spent my last 35 bucks on a rose, a photo of me in a frame- and cooked him dinner. So single at 53 is not what I thought I would be doing. Joke is on me. It is what it is. Sorry I sound so down….I am truly happy for you all- married, kids, arguments, make up sex, cards, sick kids- healthy kids who make your lives RICH and FULL of LOVE and light! At least last year I got roses form a man. Made my week! I still love the guy but he is too chicken to commit. YOU Are Hilarious- the woman who wrote this blog- found it posted on FB. This year on V- day I will be house/ pet sitting for friends (married couple- no kids) going to the Dominican Republic for a week. I’ll be with a dog who loves tennis balls and a cat who may lie on me and purr. Even with all the crap you all deal with daily- you have blessed lives! Be happy in each moment. Count your blessings. Again- sorry I am debbie downer. I am glad my fears about marriage are confirmed. We are all a little bit insane!

  • Leah S.

    Ha, we’ve been married 15 years this year and when our 5 kids are in bed we sit and eat cheese curls and drink beer and Coke and watch Call the Midwife.

  • Life is short

    These stages are funny and true. However, after 22 years i am ready to move on. I refuse to settle which to me is stage 3. Too many women settle. But i understand change is hard. I have three great kids whom i love. Marriage has been a disappointment.
    I also need to share that it is ironic to me that the woman who posted this husband is cheating on her. What stage is she in? Denial!

  • Jen

    16 years in here. This valentines day I’m taking the kids to the beach for a long weekend and letting him have the house to himself. That is our gift to each other.
    Real marriage vows should say “to love, tolerate, and not murder”. I love him, but man he makes me crazy (and then wonders why I’m crazy).

  • Nonnie

    I was married for nearly 20 years when I got divorced and now I am going on 10 years remarried to an amazing man. Having gone through each of the stages (and then some), I laughed so hard. I could relate to about every single word! I am done with Valentines Day…I had my disappoints (self imposed) about what did or did not happen on that day. This year we volunteered to have our 3 grandchildren over night so my son and his wife can have the night together. Thank you for writing this – you gave me the best chuckles.

  • Lorraine Weir

    So funny and soooo true!

  • Still Laughing

    Loved kt but affer 43 years of marriage, I am at stage 4 entitled Haven’t killed him yet but it’s not over. thanks for the real view of marriage.

  • LONG Stage 3

    Loved it!! A good laugh after a trying day! I am way way way into stage 3. This is year 21 of marriage and year 23 of being together. My husband and I laughed and I said..”oh no you are the husband that plays the video games” (no tribal tattoo or open marriage thank goodness). Also at the wet towels and toothpaste deal. I will continue to squeeze in the middle until he can learn to pick up the towels, socks, and underwear. We all must do what we need to in order to survive. Survival of the fittest. I must be amazingly fit to manage 21 years. That or I have thrown in the towel and am convinced there is not hope..lmao. He has assured me he will still be playing video games into his 80’s. Until he can no longer see the t.v. or the arthritis sets in. I am thinking maybe he will forget and I will convince him he already played 5 hours that morning.lol. Old age will be fun!!! Happy Valentine’s Day!!

  • Mind the Step

    My best friend sent me a link to this in support of my not so successful Valentine’s Day. Begrudgingly (because it’s all true) chortled my way through it.

  • Jackie I

    this is a great site! I cracked up laughing as i read some of these that hit so close to home. After 40 years there are no Valentines cards that seem appropriate! Someone should publish this whole line of cards! I would stand in line to buy them!

  • Melissa

    I found your website tonight by googling “what the fuck is a gender reveal”? I have been laughing so hard that tears are rolling down my face now. This blog is totally awesome, and this post is The Truth. The Way It Is.

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