Crabs continue to form a new shell when they grow; except the female crabs, they stop growing when they reach sexual maturity. The male crabs are allowed an infinite amount of growth. They are allowed to get bigger, stronger and nature just keeps providing them with a new, larger shell. It is not that the male crabs have told the female crabs not to grow. For whatever reason, the ocean has told them they are done growing and they are expected to stick with the same shell for the duration of their lives.
At times, marriage can begin to feel like the world is requiring you to stay in the same shell. That your light has been dimmed by the shadows of motherhood. Endless days of jobs, kids activities, bill paying, errands… It is unavoidable and the monotony and mundane activity of each day can start to allow restlessness to set in. Maybe this feeling is just the soft whispering of life telling us it is time to grow so we may comfortably fit into our new shell. We have learned and mastered the lessons of those days and now is the time, as a couple, for learning new lessons and new growth. To enter a different stage, together.
My husband and I celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary today. 16 years of high tides and low tides. 16 years of growing and protecting one another’s soft exterior while awaiting our new shells to harden. That is what marriage is about, allowing each other the space to continue to grow and patiently awaiting for that growth to happen. Growth makes everything stronger. Most living things struggle to survive when their growth is stunted and marriage is no exception.
Not accepting the lessons in the mistakes you have made as a couple, will almost always guarantee the weakening of anyone’s shell. We have made plenty of mistakes. We have yelled, we have bickered and we have remained silent, at times. I have always wondered who came up with the rule “never go to bed angry”. Nothing can bring reflection and fresh perspective like a good night’s sleep and the light from a new day. We try our best though, to not repeat the same mistakes. Like the words of one of my favorite writers, Maya Angelou “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, you do better”
We are not successful at this all of the time. My husband still has yet to learn the lesson of not leaving all of his personal items spread out on our bathroom sink every day. I still have hope one day he will absorb this lesson and “do better”, before we enter a retirement home. For now, I try to love him for the man that he is, not a man that puts away his deodorant, shaving cream, floss, and aftershave. The same way he still loves me and all of the blonde hair he finds daily in his brush.
I do not have the secret to a lasting marriage. Just like the ocean, it can be scary and unpredictable and other times, calm and steady. What I do know, is that my husband and I are at our strongest when life gets rough and choppy. When the storm brings the tide waters crashing into our house, we do not wait and watch it flood our lives. We start shoveling sand, bagging and building a wall together. When that water finally recedes, we always find we have not only grown; but have found a deeper bond between us; the way the best seashells present themselves on the shoreline following a bad storm.
Upon first meeting my husband, one of his first questions was my birthday. When I told him the date, he replied “Ah, you’re a cancer. That’s the best sign. I am a cancer too.”
Thank you for walking with me on gray beaches, when you prefer the contrast of black and white. For teaching our children the truest meaning of the word father. For sacrificing so we would never find ourselves needing to. For always having the patience to see my light, even when it is at its dimmest. For pinching me, when I deserve it and for always handing me a new shell and reminding me to grow.
There is no one else I would rather crawl sideways through life with.