My husband squeezes the toothpaste out of the tube like a child. It’s a strange thing. It must be a habit he never outgrew. But I leave my coffee mugs and water glasses all over the house like a teenager. Sometimes his electric toothbrush spits toothpaste on the bathroom mirror. I also leave the cupboards open. He’s really bad at folding laundry. I leave my books and notebooks strewn about. Clearly, we have our flaws.

But after thirteen years of marriage, we understand that these things are not worth nagging the other person about. We don’t need to mention them or cause a fuss. But I’ll admit, it wasn’t always this way, though. Before having kids and a whole decade younger, we didn’t get it. We didn’t understand what being a true partner to one another truly meant. 

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I’ll never forget it. When I was about 37 weeks pregnant with our first, we had a couple of friends visiting us from out of town. I had asked my husband to clean the tub (because you care about those things pre-kids, of course—not after). Well, he kept putting it off. So, finally, my full-term baby bump and I crawled into that tub and started to clean it. And because my hormones were raging out of control, tears started sprinting down my cheeks. That was when my husband stepped in. It took tears to get the job done. 

So, I did what any hormonal first-time mother would do. I held a grudge the entire weekend with our friends in town. I let it ruin my weekend. Should he have gotten his butt in that tub when I asked first? Of course. But he was young. We were young. And still rather new at this teammate thing. 

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Thanks to the hard work of raising kids, we’ve learned that to be a good teammate doesn’t mean perfection.

Well, fast forward to a decade and two kids later—and our marriage has changed so much. I had a few friends coming into town for a girls weekend a couple of months ago and you would’ve thought I had hired a personal chef and nanny. My husband cooked for us and waited on us like we were queens. Oh, and for the record, he cleaned the bathrooms prior to them coming. He made sure to entertain the kids (9 and 7 now) so they weren’t in our hair, too. He made everyone feel at home because he knew it was important to me. 

You see, we now know that marriage is in the little things. The magic is found in the small gestures, not glamorous vacations or even date nights. Sure, those things are great, but a true partnership is found in the day-to-day grind. 

So, now, I clean up his toothpaste and he picks up all of my glasses and puts them in the dishwasher. He empties out of the kids’ lunch boxes while I prepare them for the next day. I schedule the kids’ appointments and he drives them there. When they’re sick, we take turns taking time off of work to help out.

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And we thank each other for the things we DO appreciate. Like my husband locking the doors and turning off all the lights every night before bed—or taking out the garbage. And he thanks me (in front of the kids, thank you) for cooking dinner or signing them up for their activities.

Thanks to the hard work of raising kids, we’ve learned that to be a good teammate doesn’t mean perfection. It means accepting one another’s flaws for what they are—humans being human. Humans doing their best to love one another. Humans making mistakes daily. Humans messing up and then cleaning up. Humans forgiving one another—even when they don’t scrub the tub before guests arrive. 

Yes, what I’ve learned in marriage is that an imperfect marriage can also be a pretty extraordinary one.

Not despite its flaws, but because of them.

A version of this story was published January 18, 2022. It has been updated.