One of my favorite movies is When Harry Met Sally. I'm a sucker for romantic comedies and that movie is one of the best. I think my favorite part, though, is the interviews with couples about how they fell in love. (Did you know those were all true stories? I just read that Rob Reiner interviewed couples to prepare for the movie and hired actors to recreate those interviews.) I can imagine my husband Dan and I as an old couple telling the story of how we met at the grocery store and how our love story began with a conversation about Drano and clogged drains. Not very romantic perhaps, but true. And if they should then ask what the secret to a long marriage is, I know just what I'd say.
Toothpaste on toothbrushes.
Yes, I know, that doesn't sound very romantic either. It probably sounds downright strange, so let me explain. One night many years ago, one of us went to brush our teeth, and when we put toothpaste on our toothbrush, we also put toothpaste on the other's. I am certain it was Dan who started this. It doesn't really sound like something I would do, and he is the one after all who, on our first date, took the wrapper off my straw and put the straw in my drink. (Incidentally, it was this act which led to my accepting a second date!)
This year we will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary, and every night whoever gets to the bathroom first puts toothpaste on both toothbrushes. I'm not going to lie. There have been more than a few nights over the years when I have been so angry that I had other thoughts about what Dan could do with that tube of toothpaste. I am sure he's had many nights when he had similar ideas. Yet, we still manage to summon up the strength or the decency or whatever it is we need to squeeze out a little extra paste for our partner. Sure, it may come out a little globbier than usual. We may even slam to the toothbrush down on the counter.
But we do it.
It doesn't sound like much. It certainly doesn't sound like the secret to a long, happy marriage. If you look a little deeper, though, beyond the superficial act, then that is where I believe you will find the secret. It isn't about toothpaste at all. It is about commitment. It is about going through the motions on days when even that seems like too much. It's believing that the past is also your future. It's knowing that marriage is about more than just temporary moments.
I can only imagine how I felt the first time Dan performed this simple act of kindness. I believe that by continuing to perform this act night after night, we honor and build on that feeling. We honor each other and the marriage we have created together. It is always said that it's the little things that count the most. It is a little thing, but it means much more. So much more, in fact, I have honestly had the thought that I would know my marriage was over the night one of us neglected to do it.
I guess in a way it is fitting that a relationship that began at a grocery store is symbolized by toothpaste. And I am certain that there are many other facets of our relationship that make it an enduring one. We have had our ups and downs and our zig-zags and wild whirling around. But at the end of the day, we know just how it will all end up.
With toothpaste on toothbrushes. Together.