Love. It’s a word that brings out the sappy in some, the shivers in others and a steely-eyed determination in still others. For everything it is (and everything it isn’t), love is rarely portrayed very realistically. Most of our pop culture—which, really, is where many of us have learned what love “is”—depicts love either at the beginning, during that stage of all consuming romance, or at the end, in the final throes of soul-crushing monogamy. But we don’t live every day in the extremes; like so many things, love is simultaneously more complicated and simpler than we think. Love is mostly about the mundane, everyday, pragmatic details. This realistic guide to love offers tips and advice on the nitty-gritty in every period of romance, from those early dates, through the “I do’s,” then on to the first child and the inevitably challenging long haul. We don’t want you to give into rom-com fantasies—but we also don’t want to crush your spirits. Our credentials? We’ve been married for more than 10 years. We have two kids. And we still love each other.
Call it “courting” for the Victorian allure. Call it “chronically hanging out.” Call it “mate-hunting.” Or just call it dating. Christmas is over, and romance is in the air as the Big Day of Red, White and Roses approaches. Throughout the years, some have kissed dating goodbye, while others have kissed marriage goodbye. But dating does give you a chance to check people out, see whether you might be a match or if you find each other annoying. On the other hand, chronic short-term dating holds its own challenges and risks, including an unhealthy and unhelpful consumer attitude to relationships, less regard for the needs of the other person and more temptation to touch where you shouldn’t. If you do decide to date, keep a few things in mind.
First off, don’t be Seinfeld. Over the course of that old sitcom, Jerry, George and even Kramer dropped more than a hundred girlfriends, most for little things like shushing or napkin-doodling. Get over these. Realize you will annoy one another. Whatever—love isn’t about finding someone who meets your laundry list of a thousand perfect details.