Daniel Jones should know a lot about love. He's been the editor of the Modern Love column for The New York Times for most of the past decade.
He says that, during that time, he's read and heard some 50,000 laments and questions about love — heartache, yearning, searching and marrying. He says the stories arrive by email around the clock, pouring into his laptop, dribbling out of his printer and spilling across the tables of his office and home.
Surely this makes him a bit of an expert on love, right? Well, maybe or maybe not.
"I've not been mastering love all these years so much as marinating it it," Jones writes in "Love Illuminated — Exploring Life's Most Mystifying Subject (with the Help of 50,000 strangers)." "Asking me what I've learned about love is like asking a pickle what it has learned about vinegar."
Even so, Jones has been privy to the deepest personal revelations of tens of thousands of strangers. That might not make him an expert, but it certainly gives him a lot to say about love in this modern age.
Daniel Jones, editor of The New York Times' Modern Love column. Author of "Love Illuminated — Exploring Life's Most Mystifying Subject (with the Help of 50,000 strangers)." He lives in Northampton, Mass. and tweets at @danjonesnyt.
On the magic — or lack thereof — of searching for love in the modern age:
Daniel Jones: "Especially for people in mid-life or even anyone from almost 30 years old on, the search becomes so fraught. Is it better if we work really hard at it? Or should we truly just leave it to fate? We want this connection to be magical, but all the work that we're able to do to find love doesn't feel magical at all, so we grasp onto these — she believed this thing like in that book, 'The Secret,' where if you just believe hard enough and wish hard enough your wish will be fulfilled."
On the danger of using modern tools to find love:
DJ: "Part of it is that we're putting off that one serious relationship until much later. The typical person these days does not want to get married at 21 or 24 or even 26. The average age is pushing closer to 30 but our biological clock has not gotten the same extension so it's turned into this bottleneck of people between the ages of 28 and 34 and they have to work hard. They just don't feel like they have enough time to laze around and wait for that magical moment to happen. So, people are making use of every tool out there. I think you have to be — and what I write about in the book — is you have to be just aware of what those kinds of systems are doing to you and the ways in which they make you choose and rule out people and, are those really people you want to rule out? Do you want to rule out people by income and by height and by weight and by age? Do you want to be that cautious, in other words, in your approach?"
On Esther Perel's TED talk, "Are We Asking Too Much Of Our Spouses?":
DJ: "I'm completely on board with her take on this. And I think the reason for it is we are all more independent spirits these days. Marriage used to be for more practical reasons. We really needed each other for our complementary skills and now we don't really need each other anymore so instead we load up a marriage with this sense of soul mate and love and connection and that may sound nice — it is nice if it works — but it's also a lot of pressure to think, 'I've got to love this person all the time for the next 50 years and I've got to feel turned on by them and we've got to have a passionate marriage or why be together? Because we don't otherwise need each other.' That's tough. It can work out well, but as she was saying, to have one person fulfill all these roles in your life is just a lot to expect and that's what we think, going in, that we're going to get."
On the proportion of happy endings to sad endings in Modern Love:
DJ: "That's a really interesting question. I'm going to say, it depends on what your definition of happy or sad is because the most common comment we get about columns is 'Why are they always so depressing?' and 'Why do they always have happy endings?' To some people, a sad ending is when someone breaks up. To me, a sad ending is when someone is as dumb at the end of the piece as they were at the beginning. If someone is able to learn something and really see how they behave in a new way and be able to move on, it doesn't matter the circumstance if they lost love but they gained knowledge, to me that's a happy ending. In that sense, I only publish stories that have happy endings."
- "Couples who continue to be sexually active over the years report higher levels of satisfaction in their marriages, the sociologists reported last month."
- "At 42 I had never loved someone who loved me back. Recovering (still) from childhood sexual abuse by a neighbor, I couldn’t transcend romantic failure."
- "I eye Modern Love warily between that second and third cup of coffee on Sunday mornings, calculating how much of a push I need to get through the day’s unhurriedly earnest saga of heartbreak and recovery. How, I’ve wondered, does the man behind the curtain—Daniel Jones, the editor of the feature for almost a decade—do it?"
This segment aired on May 5, 2014.