It wasn’t until I was about three and a half months pregnant that my husband of five years finally admitted to me that he’d never held a baby.
“What?!” I practically screeched, my soaring hormonal levels making it difficult for me to keep an even tone on any subject, let alone one of such primal important to me. I stared at him much like I might if I’d just discovered he was, say, an undercover CIA agent who’d only been *pretending* to be a high-school world history teacher but was really jetting off to fight international crime—though only during the hours of the school day. I pointed emphatically at his briefcase. “Are there really exams on the Reformation in there?”
“Uh, yeah.” He shot me a worried look. “Why?”
“Because I’ve known you for almost eight years…but I don’t really know you!”
Granted, I was an exhausted, irrational mess at the end of my first trimester (as my very patient husband could certainly attest), but I wasn’t exactly wrong in my accusation either. Truth was, in that precise situation—that of becoming first-time parents—my husband and I didn’t know each other. There were a thousand tidbits of knowledge we’d accumulated, of course, but it came as a shock to me that I could still be surprised with unknowns.
My husband and I had, after all, dated exclusively for a couple of years before getting married. We’d traveled together for months at a time and talked A LOT. We’d never been apart for more than a few days in our entire acquaintance, and we prided ourselves on how much care we’d taken in getting to know each other’s backgrounds, goals, dreams. Yet, much like that feeling you get when the rollercoaster you’re on plummets down a scary incline, my stomach dropped to my toenails at this latest disclosure, and I could barely catch my breath well enough to get in a good scream.
What fascinated me, though, was that, while this situation felt to me like a really major “Who the heck are you?” moment in our now twenty-year history, it hadn’t been the first time one of us had stunned the other with a revelation of some kind, and it was far from the last. In some cases it was just a matter of an attitude one of us had on a subject that made the other one blink in surprise. Or a value one of us placed on a certain celebrations or events that were not nearly as important to the other. Or simply the fact that one of us was a true night owl (me) while the other was, unbelievably, an early, early bird (him), and that knowing this discrepancy intellectually was a very different animal than actually living with it and organizing a schedule around it.
These sporadic, eye-opening disclosures still happen on occasion, particularly when we have a new experience that stretches us in some way. But I’ve come to accept that my understanding of my spouse is a dynamic, ever-expanding thing…and that this long-term relationship ride wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if I could predict every twist, turn or spin along the way.
Stay tuned for next week's post, "Know Thyself, Ms. Grasshopper."
Marilyn Brant is the award-winning women's fiction author of ACCORDING TO JANE (2009), FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE (Oct. 2010) and a still-untitled third novel (fall 2011), all from Kensington Books. She's been a classroom teacher, library staff member, freelance writer and national book reviewer. Since turning to writing, her novels have won the prestigious Golden Heart Award, Single Titles Reviewers' Choice Award, Booksellers' Best Award; and selected as Doubleday Book Club and Book-of-the-Month Featured Alternate Selections. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and son, surrounded by towers of books that often threaten to topple over and crush her.