Rocky road ain't just an ice cream flavor.
Here's something no one tells you about relationships:
While each relationship might be a little bit different, the stages of relationships are actually totally identical.
Especially if you're headed down that glorious road to monogamy.
The problem is that the stages of relationships aren't clear, and nobody ever tells you that you have to go through them.
They are murky and strange, like playing a game of chess with a blindfold on.
You kind of just flail around hoping that everything works out.
That said, if monogamy is your end game, there are a few pretty clear stages of relationships that I can share with you.
Figuring out where you are on the path to monogamy might just make the path there feel a little bit smoother under your feet.
1. "We're talking"
This phrase drives me up the goddamn wall.
Mainly because it's so nebulous.
Like, I talk to my mom but we're definitely not in the early stages of a romantic relationship (sorry mom — it's me, not you).
The "we're talking" stage of relationships is the earliest possible stage.
It's when you know that you want to sit on his penis, and he knows that he wants to motorboat your boobs, but you guys are still sort of circling each other, trying to figure out if it's going to be a flirtation, casual sex, or a full-blown relationship.
When you're "talking" the relationship can go in one of many directions.
Either you make a friend with benefits, or you make a friend, or you make a boyfriend.
Hell, you might even make a total enemy.
Regardless, it's a heady time.
You're walking around just leaking pheromones and forgetting to pay your rent because you're so caught up trying to figure out what his "hey" text means.
Spoiler: It means hey.
When you're "talking" you're doing the first and most precarious dance towards becoming a real relationship.
It's like doing the tango only no one is dancing and you're trying to compose witty text messages and seem very cool.
The best way to survive this stage?
Know that it could go either way and stop trying to force anything. I know that's hard as hell, but it's also crucial to surviving the "we're talking" stage of a relationship.
2. "We're dating"
You aren't talking anymore. I mean, you're talking but you're not "talking".
You go out together, you have sex.
He comes to see your art show, you go to his best friend's house for beers.
People know you're sleeping together.
It's not weird to hold hands.
But you haven't had "the talk" yet.
You know, the talk about being exclusive, what the two of you are doing, where you see the relationship going, or any of that stressful but totally necessary stuff.
This stage can go on forever because so many couples hope they can just sort of ride this out into being a relationship.
In order to be in a relationship, you have to talk about your relationship.
So while it's great that you guys are getting close and enjoying spending time with each other, don't count your chickens.
When you DO have that talk, it might be he's not ready for a commitment or you aren't ready for a commitment and that's where the relationship ends.
Of course it could always (and often) go the other way too.
Regardless, it's a step you've got to get passed in order to reach monogamy.
The key to surviving the dating stage of a relationship is to try to appreciate it while you're in it (and don't rush it!), but know that at some point you're going to have to talk about things and make some degree of commitment — either to be together, or to be apart.
3. "It's complicated"
This is the worst stage of ANY relationship.
It's the stage when you're dating when you know you need to talk.
One of you gets weirded out and stops answering texts.
One of you lays on your floor moaning about how relationships are so complicated.
You're still hanging out, but when your friends ask you how it's going you scream "I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA" because you're relationship is in a holding pattern.
Often this is a great sign.
If you're both getting skittish and weird that's because you BOTH know the relationship is heading towards monogamy.
Of course you're being weird.
The key to surviving this relationship purgatory stage is knowing you aren't in it alone. You have this awesome person by your side could make it so much easier. Soon you'll be committed, or you'll be apart. It can't stay like this forever — or at least you shouldn't let it.
4. "This is my boyfriend"
And this here folks, this is the most annoying stage of a relationship ... for everyone who knows you.
This is when you are parading through town mentioning your newly established real boyfriend for no reason.
A waiter comes by your table and is like "how is everything?" and you respond with "I HAVE A BOYFRIEND!"
The waiter doesn't care. The waiter just wants his tip.
You're friends are happy for you, but oh my god if you mention your boyfriend in that sing-song voice one more time they will end you.
This sweet, giddy stage of a couple that's just agreed to monogamous is a delight.
Try to hold onto it when a year has passed. Because soon enough consider romance to be remembering to close the bathroom door when you have to take a monster poop.
And that, my friends, is how to survive the fourth (and, frankly, best) stage of a relationship.