The Other Significant Others: Reimagining Life with Friendship at the Center (Hardcover)
"Rhaina Cohen’s moving, intimate portraits of people in unusually devoted friendships upend our cultural narratives about which relationships matter . . . an arresting work of compassion and insight." —Lori Gottlieb, New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone and co-host of Dear Therapists podcast
Why do we assume romantic relationships are more important than friendships? What do we lose when we expect a spouse to meet all our needs? And what can we learn about commitment, love, and family from people who put deep friendship at the center of their lives?
In The Other Significant Others, NPR's Rhaina Cohen invites us into the lives of people who have defied convention by choosing a friend as a life partner—these are friends who are home co-owners, co-parents or each other’s caregivers. Their riveting stories unsettle widespread assumptions about relationships, including the idea that sex is a defining feature of partnership and that people who raise kids together should be in a romantic relationship. Platonic partners from different walks of life—spanning age and religion, gender and sexuality and more—reveal how freeing and challenging it can be to embrace a relationship model that society doesn't recognize. And they show that orienting your world around friends isn't limited to daydreams and episodes of The Golden Girls, but actually possible in real life.
Based on years of original reporting and striking social science research, Cohen argues that we undermine romantic relationships by expecting too much of them, while we diminish friendships by expecting too little of them. She traces how, throughout history, our society hasn’t always fixated on marriage as the greatest source of meaning, or even love. At a time when many Americans are spending large stretches of their lives single, widowed or divorced, or feeling the effects of the "loneliness epidemic," Cohen insists that we recognize the many forms of profound connection that can anchor our lives. A rousing and incisive book, The Other Significant Others challenges us to ask what we want from our relationships—not just what we’re supposed to want—and transforms how we define a fulfilling life.
About the Author
Rhaina Cohen is an award-winning producer and editor for NPR’s documentary podcast, Embedded. Her work, often focused on social connection, has aired on numerous podcasts and radio shows, including Hidden Brain, Invisibilia, and All Things Considered, and her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New Republic and elsewhere. The recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Cohen is a graduate of Northwestern University and Oxford, where she was a Marshall Scholar. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, friends, and her friends’ children.
"Rhaina Cohen’s moving, intimate portraits of people in unusually devoted friendships upend our cultural narratives about which relationships matter. A perceptive and vivid reporter, she reveals that there are far more pathways to deep connection and fulfillment than we’ve been made to believe. The Other Significant Others is an arresting work of compassion and insight." —Lori Gottlieb, New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone and co-host of Dear Therapists podcast
"In her lovingly written The Other Significant Others, Rhaina Cohen does crucial work by questioning easy social categorization and the hierarchies of recognition and privilege that too often put romantically coupled pairs at the top. The Other Significant Others is energetic, open, considered, and beautifully reported. It thrums with a passion for the subject, and is powered by a historically rich, intellectually serious curiosity about the relationships that provide backbone and ballast to so many of our lives, but which have only recently begun to receive the consideration they are due." —Rebecca Traister, New York Times bestselling author of All the Single Ladies and Good and Mad
"An absorbing overhaul of everything you thought you knew about friendship. The Other Significant Others is a platonic revelation and a revolution." —Marisa Franco, New York Times bestselling author of Platonic
"I feel like I've been waiting for this book for my entire adult life. The Other Significant Others is a radical and deeply persuasive argument for prioritizing the best friendships that ground us, that complete us, that make us feel loved and allow us to love others so deeply in return." —Anne Helen Petersen, author of Can't Even and co-author of Out of Office
"We have seen society can broaden its definition of love, and The Other Significant Others shows we can go further still. Through unforgettable stories, Rhaina Cohen makes a crucial case for expanding the range of committed relationships we recognize. A captivating call to embrace love in all its profound forms." —Jim Obergefell, lead plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges and co-author of Love Wins
"[An] illuminating debut . . . a smart and heartfelt testament to the power of social bonds outside 'compulsory coupledom.'" —Publishers Weekly