On a Cape Cod beach last January, I braced for my daily cold water plunge. “Can I join you?” asked a stranger. I hesitated. But her red hair and wide smile reminded me of my younger self. “Sure,” I said. Ashley is 29. I’m 47. For seven minutes in frigid water, we shared our stories: her chronic illness and career change; my failed marriage and struggles raising a child with cancer. Every day since our first encounter, we’ve met to immerse ourselves in the ocean. We bond in a daily baptism. I now can’t imagine braving water, or life, without her. — Amy McHugh

On a dating app, when I first asked Ximena if she wanted to meet, she replied, “Yes, we will.” Her response foretold the unwavering way she would show up in our relationship. It also indicated that English might not be her first language. Ximena is from Colombia. The only thing stronger than the coffee she brews are her emphatic “yes”es. Hot yoga? A weekend in a yurt? Hike Half Dome? Unsure of her English sometimes, but certain of us, Ximena is always game. When I proposed marriage, Ximena didn’t just say, “Yes,” but, “Por supuesto que si” (Of course, yes). — Kristin Pene

We met sitting on bar stools on a random Tuesday night. Two recently separated sad sacks drowning in booze, only looking for a casual fling. I like to say Bob saved my life twice: first by saying that he wouldn’t see me anymore if I didn’t go to the doctor (who discovered I had cancer) and second by suggesting that I get help for alcoholism after a particularly embarrassing episode back in that same bar. Twelve years later, healthy and sober, we somehow have transformed from lonely sad sacks to life partners and best friends. Life is funny that way. — Jeannette Boot

For weeks, I debated which Christmas event to attend with my sister. I finally chose a choir concert in my town. Before the performance, my sister entered my house without knocking and headed straight for the tin of homemade cookies she knew I kept in the dining room. She crammed one in her mouth before saying, “Hello.” I thought I needed the concert’s good cheer after the deaths, three weeks apart, of our 54-year-old sister and 85-year-old mother. What I really needed was someone so close to me that my house is her house, and my cookies, her cookies. — Jeanne Bonner

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