The Secret To The Long Haul Of Marriage

by Jennifer Gregory
Originally Published: 

Five years ago, my husband gave me a pair of electric toothbrushes for Christmas.

I know what you’re thinking: Epic gifting fail.

Believe it or not, I happen to be the type of woman who enjoys receiving an appliance for a gift. Luckily, my husband also happens to be the type of guy who can pull it off. He once gave me a label maker for Christmas, and to this day, it’s one of the best presents I ever unwrapped. If I were to wake up on my birthday this year to a new dishwasher with a big red ribbon on it, I’d be delighted.

The toothbrushes were a welcome convenience because, at the time, we were sharing a single electric base. With two of them, we’d have the freedom to brush simultaneously or whenever we so pleased. Still, it was an oddly practical gift, and I was noticeably underwhelmed.

“Now we have two,” he said when he saw the disappointment on my face, “and someday we’ll have two bathroom sinks to match.” Then, he added, “I’m in this for the long haul.”

It takes a special man to transform a pair of electric toothbrushes into a romantic gesture and a promise for the future.

Today, as we celebrate our 13th anniversary, we’re finally doing it in a home with double sinks. The sinks by no means represent our happiness—we’d be content living in a tent (maybe…okay, probably not)—but they and the pair of electric toothbrushes demonstrate perfectly what makes our marriage work: brushing side-by-side but spitting separately.

My husband just lost his father to a long and unforgiving battle with dementia. As we navigate this new and unfamiliar terrain of our shared journey, I’m keenly aware that the secret to the long haul is that togetherness and solitude are equally important. My connection to my husband has never been stronger, and if he falls, I’m his net, but he must grieve his father’s death on his own.

The beauty of our first 13 years of marriage exists in our collective accomplishments—making a family, creating traditions, filling a home and building a community of support. In the years that lie head, the magnificence will come from our enduring faith that when life inevitably sends either one of us down a path alone, we’ll know how to find our way back to each other.

Ironically, my husband has recently hinted that he wants to buy a new electric toothbrush that has one base and a UV sanitizer for the brushes. I’m hesitant, but he’s always had a knack for picking appliances, so I’m going to follow his lead. After all, I’m in this for the long haul.

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