Honest Valentine’s, For Married People (Vol. III)

by Janelle Hanchett

Alright at this point it’s just a tradition. Happy Valentine’s Day, lovebirds…


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:

val3a val3c


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 (from last year, but not much has changed).



10 Comments | Posted in cohabitating with a man. | February 14, 2014
  • Katie @ AMotherThing

    Never gets old. As someone who made it to stage 3 with first husband before divorcing his ass and is now in stage 2 with second husband, I find these entirely relatable. 🙂

  • Lesley

    Ah ha ha ha! Rockin’ stage three right here folks! Our awesome plans for the day? Watching Downton Abbey while the kiddos are at school.

  • Stephanie

    I haven’t quite given up on him cleaning out the sink yet, so I suppose I haven’t reached Stage 3 yet…

  • Roxanna Smith

    love these

  • Kristina

    I love all of these and realized I am not alone:
    1. I also refer to my kids as the children of the corn, and know I could not deal with them on my own.
    2. I retaliate by not washing ANY of this clothes – last stand off went 18 days.
    3. I fucking hate Valentine’s Day and every year my husband jokes he is going to go to CVS and buy me some crap I don’t need.

    So, thanks!

  • Savanna

    This is awesome and so true! We are in the last stage… lol

  • Ansley

    Is it bad that I’m technically in Stage 1 but feel like a Stage 3er?

    Oh well. At least my students brought me lots of chocolate.

  • Axelle the french reader.

    You made me laugh so hard !!!!! I love LOVE this post !! If I don’t get divorced this year, maybe, I’ll offer him one of those cards, the next year … !!

  • Leilani

    These are genius! Did you write these all yourself? If so, I need your permission to print them off and give one each year to the hubs. And I’m not even the card-giving type. 🙂 I’m not a mother–in fact I’m overwhelmed by super-mom moms so it’s good to have discovered your site by a friend who is also a mom but not creepy about it. Does that make sense?

  • Ruth

    Just found this today, so a little late. But I’ve been married 29 years and, although we’ve been through all of the thoughts expressed, we’ve really come back to the years 0-2 cards. It ain’t always easy, but if it’s the right person, it’s always worth it. Of course, counseling helps a lot.