How Relationships Grow, and How They Break

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Written By Pinang Driod

This is an edition of The Wonder Reader, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a set of stories to spark your curiosity and fill you with delight. Sign up here to get it every Saturday morning.

“The reason my marriage fell apart seems absurd when I describe it: My wife left me because sometimes I leave dishes by the sink,” Matthew Fray wrote in 2022. “It makes her seem ridiculous and makes me seem like a victim of unfair expectations. But it wasn’t the dishes, not really—it was what they represented … It was about consideration. About the pervasive sense that she was married to someone who did not respect or appreciate her.”

“She knew that something was wrong,” Fray explained. “I insisted that everything was fine. This is how my marriage ended. It could be how yours ends too.” His essay is a heartbreaking but helpful example of the power of hindsight; reading others’ reflections of past relationships, romantic or otherwise, can help us navigate the complexities of love and care. Today’s newsletter rounds up some perspectives from our writers on what strengthens relationships and what threatens them.

On Love

The Marriage Lesson That I Learned Too Late

By Matthew Fray

The existence of love, trust, respect, and safety in a relationship is often dependent on moments you might write off as petty disagreements.

The Gender Researcher’s Guide to an Equal Marriage

By Joe Pinsker

In their personal lives, sociologists attempt to ward off the same inequalities that they study at work.

Masters of Love

By Emily Esfahani Smith

Science says that lasting relationships come down to—you guessed it—kindness and generosity.

Still Curious?

  • The type of love that makes people happiest: When it comes to lasting romance, passion has nothing on friendship.
  • Marriage isn’t hard work; it’s serious play. Yes, love requires some labor. But that shouldn’t define the relationship.

Other Diversions

  • Eight novels that truly capture city life
  • Always have three beverages.
  • Why don’t we teach people how to parent?


You still have time to incorporate some of our writers’ lessons before Valentine’s Day—even if you’re not in a romantic partnership. The holiday is now coming for all of your relationships, Joe Pinsker reported in 2020.

— Isabel

Isabel Fattal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees newsletters.


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