Modern Love’s lessons on affairs of the heart

The New York Times column now boasts a podcast, book and, most recently, a TV series courtesy of Amazon. As it celebrates its 15th birthday, we speak to its creator Daniel Jones about why its stories of heartbreak, happiness and humanity have stood the test of time

It’s been 15 years since Daniel Jones started editing a column of real-life love stories for The New York Times. At the time, the art of the confessional essay was becoming big business, helped by the emergence of taboo-busting shows like Sex and the City. Fittingly, the column was born out of a low point in Jones’ own relationship with fellow writer Cathi Hanauer. “We were married with two little kids at the time, and it was just that very common struggle of not having time for marriage and kids and work, and the frustration of that,” he says.

After discovering that a lot of her friends were going through similar experiences, Hanauer released a tell-all book of essays by 26 different women, titled The Bitch in the House. It was so successful that Jones decided to write his own follow-up to the book called The Bastard on the Couch, or “27 men trying really hard to explain their feelings,” he says.

From the essay Two Open Marriages in One Small Room. Illustration: Brian Rea

The couple caught the attention of The New York Times Style editor Trip Gabriel, who suggested that they should start a column together expanding on the work of their books, with a weekly first-person essay discussing all things love and relationships. But before the column had even launched, Hanauer dropped out to focus on the novel she was already working on at the time. “I took it over thinking it would be a one, two or three year thing, and I’m stunned at how long it’s lasted and how it’s sort of become my life,” says Jones.