As a dating coach, Neely Steinberg knows all about the unrealistic expectations singles have for their future mates. And she knows — from her own experience dating, marrying and giving birth to her first child — what qualities are actually important. (Hint: Finding a good match has nothing to do with how much money he makes or how good-looking she might be.)
In an essay about how her husband, Dave, helped her recover from a C-section, Steinberg writes: “I’ll never forget the way Dave helped me into the bathroom and onto the toilet. Taking my hands as I rolled myself out of bed, he repeated the words, ‘slooooow, deliberate.’ … At the time, I thought: This is why I married this man. Not for his fabulous head of hair or his beautiful, light-brown eyes — though those things were certainly bonuses. But no. It was his gentleness, his thoughtfulness, his loving heart, his caring nature that sealed the deal for me.”
When Nicole Jankowski got divorced, she lost custody of most of her friends. So she made some single, divorced friends. But once she remarried, Jankowski no longer wanted the crazy nights out she enjoyed with her single ladyfriends — and she found that making couple friends was hard. “The neighborhood that we moved our blended family into was filled with couples our parents’ age, empty-nesters who had affinities for bird-watching and early-bird specials,” she writes. “They were lovely people to call on when we needed jumper cables to start Michael’s car one cold January morning, not so lovely to sit with on the back deck and share margaritas.”
Last fall, Jacklyn Collier matched with someone on Tinder who looked familiar. It turned out to be Martin Shkreli, the 30-something “Pharma bro” who’d recently been arrested on charges of securities fraud. They made plans to meet up, and her expectations were low. “Like nearly every other American, I was outraged when I heard that Martin’s company had raised the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill,” Collier writes in her account of their first date. “However, I wanted to be open-minded and meet the man behind the hype.”
And you know what? The date went pretty well. “Throughout our date, I saw occasional glimpses of the cocky Martin I had expected, but those were the moments that seemed the most false to me, as if putting on a confident-dude front,” Collier writes. “He seemed the most genuine when he was acting like the guys I hung out with in high school (I dated the president of the chess club); that’s probably why I felt so comfortable on our date.”
Michael Ellsberg wrote about his sometimes-rocky relationship with his father, Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s and then devoted himself full time to activism. “One of my clearest memories as a boy was waiting for dad to walk through the door after a long trip, off saving the world,” Ellsberg wrote. “He would always bring me a stuffed animal, which made me ecstatic. I was proud of what I saw as his heroism. And I was proud to have the greatest stuffed animal collection of any of my friends. Yet there was a bittersweetness to this delight: Why did I have so many of them?”
Years later, at a lunch with his father, Michael found out why his dad had been distant during his childhood. “He told me that, despite loving each other deeply, [my parents] had a very challenging marriage for about the first 15 years of my life. They managed to keep this hidden from me. He said there were times when he just couldn’t take any more of the challenges, and was ready to leave. But he stayed, because he just couldn’t bear hurting me by leaving. … They went on, after that period, to have decades more of a wonderful marriage, and they’re still happily married today.”
When a marriage doesn’t work out, what happens to the other relationships sparked by that union? Erinne Magee is still close with her mother-in-law, even though they’re no longer legally bound. “If divorce speeches were a thing,” Magee writes, “mine would go something like this: ‘I didn’t lose a husband; I gained a mother.’ ”
While Danny Groner’s girlfriend, Mo, was in medical school, the two of them had to work hard to find the time to hang out and stay in touch with each other — even though they technically lived in the same city. “At times we had to go 10 to 12 days without seeing each other, because her schedule was so demanding,” Groner writes. “When the big exams were creeping up, I would hold back and give her space. If she had a few minutes at the end of an exhausting day, I’d have to be sure to hit all the right topics. I began to write them on a Post-It note I would permanently keep in my pocket, just in case something happened or a stray thought popped into my head that I wanted to share with Mo when I had my chance.”
A year later, Groner is happy to report that he and his girlfriend are still together.
Who was your first love? Are you still pining for them, or still looking for the kind of connection the two of you had? My colleague Ellen McCarthy looked into why our first loves maintain such power over us. “The relationship embeds itself in us in a way that all those who follow never can,” McCarthy writes. “Not that the subsequent loves aren’t as good. For most people, hopefully, the ones that come later, that last, are ultimately more nourishing, steadier and more solid.”
Have you ever stared down the aisles of the grocery store, paralyzed by what to purchase? “Grocery shopping for one person is not as easy as shopping for, say, a family of four,” food writer Gabi Moskowitz writes. “You buy too much or your plans to cook change, and you end up with a lot of wasted food.”
Her strategy for shopping for one is to start with perishables: produce, dairy, eggs, meat or fish and finish with non-perishables. For a more detailed shopping list, read here.
Many singles date for months without putting that boyfriend-girlfriend label on things. But that doesn’t mean these casual relationships are completely casual.
Danielle Sepulveres dated someone for a year without making things exclusive. And when she ended the relationship because she did want a commitment this guy wasn’t willing to give, she was surprised by how much the breakup hurt. “After all, if he wasn’t my boyfriend, it didn’t make sense to be that upset, right?” Sepulveres writes. “But even casual relationships, when they go on long enough, become more serious, regardless of the titles attached.”