As a 23-year-old adult who has yet to fall in love, it has always been hard to wrap my head around the notion of romance. If someone were to ask me to describe love as I see it, I would probably just blurt out: “Anong love? Nakakain ba ’yan? Mabubusog ba ako d’yan?” In my defense, though, what do you expect from a person whose closest experience to being “in love” was a game of FLAMES with her parasocial crushes?
Plus, let’s just say I’ve already heard enough “perfect-partner-turned-pain-in-the-ass” relationship stories from my friends that I’ve decided not to engage myself in one just yet. Questions at the back of my head surface whenever I see someone crying over an ex, ranting on social media about how they would never fall in love again, only to end up in either of these situations: They meet someone new or they welcome their ex back into their lives because “they promised they’ve changed.” (Marupok, it’s what Gen Zs call it.)
But seriously, how does one know they’ve fallen in—or out of—love? Is it a linear process? Maybe a cycle? Is it really as all-consuming as most people say it is? Will it bring you pain? How the fuck does one even recover from heartbreak in case it doesn’t work out?
Filipino R&B singer Jess Connelly’s sophomore album “Bittersweet” didn’t answer all of these Qs but it somehow gave me a clearer picture of what romance may or may not feel like. The record has perfectly captured the process of falling in (toxic) love, starting from the spark you feel when you first meet someone to the stage where your feelings start to develop into something deeper, eventually leading to a relationship that’s bound to fail.
Stage I: Exchanging
When you start taking an interest in someone, especially when they’re a total stranger, you also start sharing common things with them: names, phone numbers, social media handles—anything that could help you get to know each other better. You ask them questions about their lifestyle, wondering if you’re compatible enough before trying anything with them.
And according to “Bittersweet’s” second track “Exchange,” it’s the stage where you start developing a happy crush. (Not gonna lie, the laid-back, borderline flirty production of the song can get you in a flirty mood.) They invade your mind 25/8, making you blush at the mere mention of their name. You begin wanting to be the reason behind their smiles. You want to make their day even if it means making a fool out of yourself. In short, it’s the beginning of your inevitable doom.
Stage II: Risking
Ah, the no-label talking stage. It’s the most confusing (but low-key exciting) time in a potential romantic commitment. You unconsciously start acting strange around them, getting shy at the littlest efforts (a.k.a the bare minimum) they exert for you. Despite the mixed signals and the possibility of them not reciprocating your feelings, you’re still willing to take a risk. And third track “Risk” couldn’t have worded it better: “Said I’d never fall but I’ll give my all for you / If I’m falling for a risk then I’ll take it.”
You know you’re free-falling, but you’re just letting it happen. As Jess wrote on “Bittersweet’s” eighth track “Ride,” “You know I’m indecisive / But baby, I decide to put it all on you.” Yup, you’re down bad.
Stage III: Becoming an absolute fool in love (high-key blinded)
Fourth track “Body Language” encapsulates this phase best. Your feelings have officially gone beyond physical attraction. At this point, you’re really putting yourself out there—blatantly showing how much they mean to you. You’re convinced there’s no one better than them and that they’re the only one who can make you feel the way you currently do.
You’re so (stupidly) in love that you can no longer see straight: “If we cool off and go our separate ways / I’m quick to circle back.” And this unhealthy obsession could lead a relationship to heartbreak.
Stage IV: Lying to yourself (feat. overthinking at wee hours)
“2AM” (fifth song off “Bittersweet”) essentially describes the feeling of overthinking a relationship that has gone off track—specifically the time when the honeymoon period has worn off and conflicts have started to arise. What used to be a sweet dream has now turned into a nightmare, so you find yourself awake at ungodly hours, thinking about what went wrong.
It starts with convincing yourself that you could still work things out with your partner until eventually, you question why you even liked them: “I’m over cryin’ to you / I know I need to move on / Don’t know why I fuckin’ care to want you / I think I could do without you.” But newsflash: It’s just a coping mechanism—a fat lie you tell yourself to make yourself feel better.
Stage V: Bargaining
At this point, you know deep inside there’s nothing you can do anymore. But you’re not ready to let it all go yet, so you hold on to the off chance that maybe, just maybe you two can get back together (or at least see the relationship through). You start bargaining for things that could possibly bring your partner back, similar to what Jess wrote in her song “Over You”: “Don’t need to buy me things / Fuck all of the fancy clothes / I want nothing but you.”
Sure, it reeks of desperation, but who the hell cares? Although they come off as irrational and embarrassing, you’re allowed to have these feelings. It’s all part of your healing process.
Stage VI: Getting your shit together
When you finally accept the fact that your relationship has gone to shit, it’s important to gear up for the next huge step: fixing yourself up and moving on. You start reflecting on everything that happened—how you wasted time deluding yourself that you could work out.
“Forever’s over now / But you don’t hold me back now / And you don’t owe me that now,” wrote Jess in “Better.” This song serves as a reminder to maintain self-respect while in a relationship. While it’s practically unrealistic to leave a failing relationship unscathed, staying in tune with yourself and knowing your worth will help you project your situation in the most positive light possible.
Extra stage: Walking away (even when they want you back)
For starters, this stage doesn’t really apply to every relationship. But just in case your ex suddenly shows up, begging you to take them back, even after all the trauma they inflicted on you, Jess crafted the perfect response in “Chatter”: “Fuck love, fuck you, fuck us / Let’s admit we were toxic.”
Nah, but seriously, make sure to weigh your options rationally before making a decision. And if you’re actually considering taking them back, ask yourself first: “Is this really worth another try?” Some battles are not worth fighting, so better choose them carefully.
Still from “Chatter” music video