marriage: an investigation

10 Pictures of What Marriage Is Really Like

What Their Kid Sees

Abner and Clare Nolan, Married 20 Years

Photograph taken in 2007. Photo: Peggy Levison Nolan

My parents hold hands and kiss and hug in front of me. Kind of a lot. It’s a little gross and embarrassing. I tell them that. They don’t listen, they still do it. My mom’s more strict sometimes, and if she says no to something, I’ll go to my dad and ask. When they find out I’ve done that, they side with each other. Frustrating! —Wyatt Nolan, age 11

She Took These Pictures Right After They Had Sex

Elinor Carucci and Eran Bendheim, Married 20 Years

Photographs taken in 2019. Photo: Elinor Carucci
Photo: Elinor Carucci
Photo: Elinor Carucci
Photo: Elinor Carucci

When I had the twins, it really took all of me. I was also physically and sensually fulfilled by breast-feeding and holding them and laying naked together. My husband at times would feel left out, and sex could be a source of disagreement, tension. But now that our kids are teens, they don’t want to be with us or they’re in their rooms, and it’s just the two of us again. It feels like, Okay, we have each other, and our togetherness is stronger now. So the sex is a metaphor for the marriage. —Elinor Carucci

After the Confession

Marvi Lacar and Benjamin Lowy, Married 14 Years

Photograph taken in 2019. Photo: Marvi Lacar

I thought, Is this gonna be the end of my marriage? He wasn’t faithful, and he came clean with it. But it wasn’t a fight as much as this revelation that for his entire life he’d needed external affirmation. It’s one of those things where he said, “It had nothing to do with you. I’ve never loved anyone else.” It was just this moment of weakness. It wasn’t so much [the sex]. It’s that he didn’t trust us enough to include me in this decision [to go outside the marriage], to make whatever decision he had to make to alleviate his pain. —Marvi Lacar

When You’re Together 24-7

Kevin Bailey and Willie Ballard III, Married 5 Years

Photograph taken in 2017. Photo: Zun Lee

We weren’t, let’s say, in the best financial situation, so going to the barber shop or doing manicures and pedicures, the things we love, we did for ourselves. We’re wig makers. We’re together every day, all day. It can be challenging; we’ve had to literally say, “After 7, we can’t talk about hair.” —Kevin Bailey

At 21, He Married a Woman Twice His Age

Alexander Deprez and Nathalie Nijs, Married 1 Year

Photograph taken in 2016. Photo: Alexander Deprez

I stayed at a friend’s place for the summer after a breakup, and Nathalie was his mother. We got to know each other having a smoke in the garden. In August, she gave a party for her birthday, and everybody was dancing when “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” by the Police, started playing. Nathalie and I looked at each other and kissed for the first time.

I was super-excited to get married. With her son, we’re chill. He lives abroad now, so it’s not like we have much contact. But he and Nathalie have a great relationship. The age gap isn’t really an issue. The thing is, Nathalie has [chronic fatigue syndrome], and that has more impact on the relationship. For example, we don’t live together all the time; half the week, I’m at my place because she has to be alone to rest. When she’s rested enough to go out, everybody’s like, “You look fine,” but it happens a lot that I have to carry her upstairs. —Alexander Deprez

Letter to Dad

From a Reddit Thread

He Knows There’s No Way He Can Understand What This Feels Like

Sarit Shatken-Stern and Adam Stern, Married 7 Years

Photograph taken in 2017. Photo: Alice Proujansky

He: When she first held Ramona, it kind of felt like a three-person hug. But they mainly want the mom to hold the baby.

She: Yeah, they just put her right on your chest.

He: Sarit always told me, “If for some reason I don’t make it through labor, promise me that you’ll do that for me, that you’ll take the baby and do skin-to-skin contact yourself.”

*This article appears in the April 1, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

10 Pictures of What Marriage Is Really Like