Turn on the radio, see a movie, read a best-selling novel, walk into a card shop, and you’ll be convinced that everyone, sooner or later, is swept up in the magnificent passion of their one, true, happily-ever-after relationship. Roses, red satin, and moonlit strolls. That’s love. But look at your love life, and those of your friends. Diapers, distractions, and serious disagreements. That’s the reality of relationships. So how do we reconcile our fevered expectations of true love with what really happens between couples? With this cover story, we’ve created something of a “morning after” primer for those interested in making love last after Cupid has fled the scene. Novelist Jane Smiley, recounting her life through three marriages, questions why we walk down the aisle at all and arrives at some surprising answers. Sobonfu Somé, a native of West Africa who married a man she’d never met, scrutinizes Western mating customs and offers a compelling vision of how we need to redefine intimacy. And Sasha Cagen identifies a growing trend among young men and women to forgo traditional patterns of romantic attachment. Whether you’re coupled, single, or in-between, we hope these articles will help you uncover the true meaning of love.