‘By Melissa Charlene
In honor of February and the general lovey-ness of this season, I thought I’d highlight a few of my favourite stages of relationships (and the reasons why each is, arguably, the absolute best).
No matter what your current relationship status is, I hope that some of these joys ring true to you (or at least your 20 year old self). Grab a glass of wine, and let’s jump into Melissa’s Five Stages of Romance!
My girlfriends and I coined the term Intrigue in university to describe when you’re not quite smitten, but someone’s certainly caught your eye. Ex: “I have a new Intrigue in my archeology class! He’s a total Lucas Scott.” (It was a different time.) This stage is incredibly fun because it’s full of tummy jumps, blushes, texts to your girlfriends, and possibility. And listen, I know that we could easily just call this a crush.
Beware, though: this phase of a relationship can lead to a lot of co-dependence. In my early 20’s, my extremely intelligent, competent and strong lady friends and I were often at risk for being incapable of responding to a message from an Intrigue without dissecting every letter and punctuation point with support. Many a night was spent with four of us snuggled into one queen sized bed, constructing a witty, flirty, and coy response to “Wut u up to?” (Just kidding- we didn’t reply to that guy. Some of us were feeling pretty smug about crushing English 104 and had raised our standards.)
The early days are amazing for every reason: they are entirely insane, completely electric, and make us feel so alive. My favourite part of this just-starting-to-date stage of a relationship, though, is what I like to call The Cycle. You are familiar with The Cycle, I’m positive: it’s that intoxicating series of events that leads to bags under your eyes and constant grinning. The Cycle often begins with a date, which leads into late night chatting in someone’s apartment. The conversation is unstoppable: you’re getting to know a new, fascinating, sexy person who- for some wonder of wonders- also is hanging onto your every word, and can’t wait to learn the details of your grade four jazz routine or how hard it was to move to a new city right before high school graduation. After sharing such intimate details with someone you can’t help but cuddle, which leads to a bit of sexiness, which leads to more cuddles, and more talking and laughing and story sharing, which just brings you back to the cuddles and sexiness! The only hope is that someone thinks to order takeaway during The Cycle, and that there’s a coffee shop on your way to work the next morning.
Other than the delicious all-nighters, early days are amazing for both bringing out your best version of yourself, and trying out new things. I found, when I was dating someone who was truly a good fit for me, that the side of myself that I presented was my most electric. When my husband, Andrew, and I first started seeing each other, I was eager to show off my wittiest, most adventurous side. I also was up for trying new things that he was into. Obviously changing your own interests to match a date’s isn’t the goal, just that:
When A and I got together, my main goal was to date a few guys casually, and take some time to figure myself out. I had just come out of a couple of back-to-back relationships, and while I wasn’t sure what “finding myself” included, I had a good idea that it didn’t involve jumping into another serious relationship. I also was pretty sure that it was supposed to include figuring out some new hobbies, doing lots of yoga, and going on a trip to somewhere tropical. I actually told Andrew a few weeks in, “I’d love to date casually, but the idea of being someone’s girlfriend right now makes me want to jab my eye out.” What a catch I was! Obviously he wore me down (just kidding, it wasn’t that hard. He took me for a dilly bar on our first date, so…) and after a few months we settled into the adventure stage of a relationship.
The adventure phase is amazing for a million reasons! You’re dating someone seriously, so you can trust them, be your truest self, and are still learning new things as you grow closer. The adventure part of this relationship stage can be big or small: trying out a new restaurant, taking a road trip to visit grandparents, working out together, backpacking in Asia, hosting a dinner party as a team. Every little first (and second and third) can feel like an epic adventure when you’re with someone you love.
I ended up letting Andrew weasel in on my tropical trip. We learned a crazy amount about ourselves (ex: how we react to running out of money on a cash-only island, how flexible we are with hole-in-the-ground toilets) and each other (ex: that one of us should forever be in charge of tipping, that after a really challenging day of negotiating and travelling sometimes laughter and cuddles are the only way to restore faith in humanity). While part of me regrets never getting that independence building solo trip I had fantasized about, I believe that with a supportive and true partner it’s possible to continue to grow independently while being a part of a larger unit.
Ultimate Party Planning
As if I need to mention the reasons why being engaged is the best (sorry to everyone on either side of this stage, but it legit is.) It’s like your birthday every damn day, plus you get to flash around your hand, plus you get all the champagne ever and no one says anything, plus you get to dress up like a princess, and you get to plan a party with your best friend!
Ok, there are some crappy parts to it. Like the stress of planning a huge soiree, the inevitable budget challenges, and the fights over insane things. Our biggest one was over our color pallet- not what colors to choose, just which ones were technically part of the pallet and which were accent colors. Pure madness. Usually, though, those headaches are outweighed by the complete awesomeness.
Andrew and I chose to do two things to cut down on these stresses: we planned a destination wedding and we hired wedding planners (who – I’m pretty sure – were actual wizards). Obviously these choices aren’t for everyone, but through them we made our priorities clear to each other right from the start. With the planners dealing with logistics and holding our hands during planning, we were free to create a fabulous party with our family and friends. We truly had the most fun year planning it together as a couple, and look back on our week long celebration with so much gratitude, joy, and a lot of laughter.
When my now-husband and I had been dating for a couple of years and it was clear that we were headed somewhere permanent, we went to his co-worker’s wedding. I really only knew my date, but I was crazy excited: there are few things I love more than getting dressed up, drinking champagne (clearly), and dancing to crowd-pleasing wedding classics. Unfortunately, midway through the toasts Andrew came down with a fast and furious bout of the flu, and we had to sneak home. After I stuffed him full of Gravol and sent him off into a fevered sleep, I took off my makeup and slumped on the couch in self-pity.
My pouting wasn’t over the need to dance with someone’s great-aunt to “Shout,” but over the knowledge that this life-changing relationship was doing just that: changing my life. That in committing to A forever, I was committing to being in a mutual partnership, a part of a whole. And while that knowledge generally brought me all kinds of warm fuzzies, that night it gave me a bit of fear: that in embracing this commitment I might be saying goodbye to the electricity of the early days, and the self-serving choices in my life so far.
As Andrew slept, I had a hushed chat with a wise friend. She pointed out that The Cycle is an insanely fun place to spend time, but that it’s not possible to sustain. That eventually you need to take off your makeup and get a little sleep. You sometimes learn things about your partner and experience things together that don’t make you feel like making out. But, she assured me, that in the long haul there are even MORE amazing things to stay up talking till dawn about (or over morning coffee in your old robe, or in your Sunday afternoon cozies).
Today, some of Andrew and I’s best chats are as we are cuddled in- talks about what our dream jobs are and how we can support each other in getting there, about moving to a new city, a one-day family. They’re not fueled by the same intoxicating, desperate passion that runs through the early days, but the love and partnership that unites us now is so much deeper and more delicious.
And there you have it!
Also incredible? The joy, adventure, and growth that comes from being your own valentine. As much as I love love and the journey of a relationship, watching single friends develop their own stages and stories is pretty damn cool. Even if no one is intriguing you these days, embrace the complete awesomeness that is you as you gear up for whatever the world is tossing your way next.
I hope that – whatever your situation is this February – you are surrounded by magic, laughs, butterflies, and champagne!
Professional Photo Credit: Jeremy Marucot (@_jurr on Instagram)
Melissa Charlene loves cocktails, hotels, hosting, and filling her home with coziness. She is a primary teacher and lives in Saskatoon, Canada with her husband (where you’re invited to their next theme party. Bring champagne.)
You can follow her @melissacharlene2 on Instagram, and watch for her lifestyle and travel notes coming soon at www.glamorousretrospectblog.wordpress.com.