Marriage: Beyond the Toothpaste Cap

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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.

Together.

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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 megangahan.com.
Megan Gahan
Megan Gahan

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