Marriage: Beyond the Toothpaste Cap


megan gahan -marriage beyond the toothpaste cap-3

The pastor assigned to conduct our pre-marital counselling tilted back in his seat and smiled wryly at us. He must have known, looking at our young, eager faces. How very unprepared we were. How little we knew about making a life together. Perhaps he thought we wouldn’t heed his advice, in our freshly engaged, love-soaked bubble. He was probably right. So he talked about things that seem utterly ridiculous now. He described the little spats we could expect to have over who left their clothes on the floor or who didn’t put the cap on the toothpaste. We tried so hard to appear wise beyond our 21 years, solemnly nodding and mmm-hmmming as he described petty scenarios we were sure wouldn’t affect us.

Fourteen years later, I wish he had been honest. Maybe even tried to scare us a little. We would have laughed behind our hands, thinking our relationship was above his warnings. But I still think if he had looked straight into our dancing eyes and told us the truth, it would have done us a world of good.

We thought we were grown up because we were getting married. We had no idea we hadn’t even begun to grow up. We had no idea that the boy in the ill-fitting suit and the girl in the white dress were about to slowly, radically transform. There would be a slightly changed person sitting across the table within five years, a very different version by year ten, and a veritable new spouse by the time we entered our mid-thirties.

There was so much we didn’t know. We never considered the possibility that we would walk through devastating death and loss. We never imaged that one would lose a parent far too early, or that I would spend a year and a half in the terrifying grip of postpartum depression, completely shut out from life. We didn’t know a career choice would separate us for months each year. Or that we would experience dramatic shifts in faith.

I know we didn’t realize how very easily we could become roommates. Especially once we had children. That we would get so consumed with keeping our respective balls in the air, we simply wouldn’t check in with each other, and drift apart. And because we weren’t angry or fighting, it would happen without us even noticing. We simply cultivated separate existences. Me tapping away at the keyboard, stringing words into stories. Him spending hours in the shop, turning ordinary scraps of wood into beautiful, functional pieces. Both content in our spaces. But not together.

We certainly never expected to despise each other at times. Or that we would ever want to throw in the towel. More than once. No one ever talked about that, especially in church. I’m quite sure it was a sin to even mention it. We didn’t know that when we did fight, it was going to be about much, much bigger things than toothpaste. It would be about addiction and sex and finances and falling out of love with each other.

We thought love would carry us smoothly through the tough times. But the truth has been far less sexy and romantic than expected. The reason we are still together is because we have had to make the choice to be together. We face that decision every darn day. And gosh, we mess up a lot. We lose each other for a time, and then have to start all over. Reintroduce ourselves. Choose each other again. Decide to sit with and understand the softer, broken soul the other brings to the table. We bear precious little resemblance to those idealistic twenty-year-olds. Bless their uncomplicated hearts. They could never have done this.

But I do wish they had been just the tiniest bit more prepared.

We have been in the trenches alone, and with each other. We have weathered storms separately and together. We have been achingly lonely sitting on the same couch. And felt remarkably connected on opposite sites of the continent.

We have changed; we have shifted. We are way beyond toothpaste caps and clothes on the floor.

But still, we show up. Still, we make our choice.

Still, we are here.


Megan Gahan
After over a decade in the fitness industry, Megan now spends her days chasing two pint-sized tornadoes disguised as little boys. By night, she is a writer and editor for SheLoves. A proper Canadian, Megan can often be found in the woods or at Tim Hortons. She writes at
Megan Gahan
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  1. Heather says:

    “No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.” That’s an old saying from way back in the day when I got married 38 years ago. In this world of sharing the good and hiding the bad, it is so important for you to shine a light on the reality of marriage. I believe that the most important point you make is about “choosing” to stay with it….this thing called marriage. “For better or worse”…..I think most people don’t even use that in their vows anymore! Marriage is not a straight line. It ebbs and flows. It cracks and heals. And just so you know……your writing is real and amazing…just like you! xx

    • Megan Gahan says:

      Oh Heather, you found me! Thank you so much for your always kind, always encouraging words. I so appreciate you. xx

  2. Megan, this is so awesome! I want to say this often to young couples, because my husband and I see them all the time and they have all the answers, and they know more then we do and they just know everything – when they hardly know each other or anything about life. It’s tough. My husband and I were also unprepared, thoroughly. We almost never made it through the depression, through the hurting, the broken, the church split, the failed dreams, lost jobs. But Yes, God I believe and know held us and helped us. I just wish people about to be married, would listen and learn more, then they would be more equipped. Thanks for being a blessing Aliyah

    • Megan Gahan says:

      Wow, what a gorgeous, honest story Aliyah. Thank you so much for sharing. I completely agree. Much love

  3. Helen Burns Helene Burns says:

    So good Megan… xx

  4. Robyn Rapske says:

    It’s so funny that prior to being married, ‘romance’ in marriage seemed like it would be moments of pure joy, receiving and giving gifts, travelling together, flirting, sex. But now, as my husband and I have gone through tough times together too, when I see the fact that you both commit to the raw difficulties of life together, that is pure romance to me now. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    • Megan Gahan says:

      I so appreciate you sharing your thoughts in this space Robyn. Such good wisdom in your words. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

  5. Ganise C. says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this hard truth about marriage. Lots of food for thought.

  6. Amazing insights for all the years and all the challenges of living married. It’s always so good to hear from you, Megan.

    • Megan Gahan says:

      Thank you so much Michele. This was a tough topic to write about (and condense into 800 words!)—your support means so much <3

  7. Meg, I needed this today. It’s been a tough tax season for us and we are having to be so intentional about everything, which is exhausting. After April 17, I know we’ll have some work to do, in ways we haven’t in years past. But it’s worth meeting that head-on, isn’t it?

    • Megan Gahan says:

      It’s always worth meeting it head-on, though its much easier meeting it with with Netflix and avoidance! I can totally relate to the season you’re in, and will be praying and thinking of you both come the end of the month. You’ve got this, friend. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and encourage <3

  8. Gosh this is so good and true. I remember my mum preaching a very ‘real’ marriage sermon at our wedding… I thought it was a bit ‘too real’ and squirmed but so many women further down the marriage road than me on that day said afterwards they could have cried with relief. Only 2 years in, but I’m also starting to get it now! THANK you for being brave, I’m sure you will prompt tears of relief today too xo

    • Megan Gahan says:

      Oh goodness, I totally would have felt the same way if my mom had preached on my wedding day! But what a tremendous gift she gave to your guests. As always, thank you for your kind words and lovely encouragement, Naomi. I so appreciate your voice in this space. Much love.

  9. sandyhay says:

    Oh Meg. There is such wisdom here. So many couple NEVER look at marriage this way …usually until it’s way too late. My husband and I have been married for 50 years. We still experience exactly what you described here . Yet we made a huge choice back in 1968…”The reason we are still together is because we have had to make the choice to be together. ” Amen

    • Megan Gahan says:

      Sandy, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your thoughts and encouragement in this space. I want the honesty—the hard, sobering honesty—about this topic so desperately. So thank you for offering it so graciously, and with such love.

  10. Gosh. You are such a stunning writer. I hear all of this and I hold all of this with you.

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