It all began so innocently: snow falling at dusk, a crackling fire, an embrace between three old friends. Soon, I was floating away on a river of love with my husband and our friend. Both men insisted that everything was aboveboard, open and non-possessive. Still, I worried: What would our friend’s girlfriend say about our ménage à trois? “How could you do something so stupid?” she said when she came home later. “We just, uh, fell into bed,” he stammered. “You fell into that bed?” she yelled, pointing to the ladder leading to the high loft. Oops. — Pamela Jane

My husband takes me camping near Yosemite after I lose my 12th pregnancy. Feeling hollow, I think of the New Year’s Eve we celebrated early on in our relationship: We were half-drunk, giddy, full of possibility. My husband doesn’t know that lately, I’ve been trying to find a reason to exist in the world if I can’t be a mother. But here, in the shadow of ancient mountains, he turns, smiles, and I remember how loved I felt that New Year’s when he reached for me. “Don’t leave me now,” he said as the crowd counted down. I won’t leave. — Hanna Bartels


My wife orders takeout with her iPhone, but it rejects her card. She snaps at me as I try to help. I collapse into silence, a protective shield. When we’re wounded, our tendency is to get small. Snippy. Mean spirited. In these moments I wonder how the world’s conflicts will ever be resolved when we two who have committed to loving one another would rather find fault than mend relatively minor transgressions. She asks for a hug, so I hold her. I make two cups of tea. Drape a blanket over shoulders. Small gestures, perhaps. But my heart feels giant. — Nicole R. Zimmerman

My husband and I never had children. Yet, in our late 60s, we inherited a teenager. He’s my friend’s son, conceived through I.V.F. When she, a single mother of this 17-year-old, died unexpectedly during cancer treatment, he asked to live with us. We said yes to this tsunami of a life change for all of us. Together, with his extended biological family, we navigate these deep, uncertain waters. We’re a new kind of family now: the one he never wanted to see come true, the one we never expected, the one we all grieve and celebrate. Together, from this day forward. — Bev Mondillo Wright

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