18: The Teamwork of Marriage

18: The Teamwork of Marriage

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

The Teamwork of Marriage

Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.

~Benjamin Franklin

Last summer, my husband and I stopped at a lawn and garden center and bought ourselves an outdoor fabric gazebo. It was something we’d wanted for a while, so when they went on sale, we took the plunge.

Driving home, I could already envision sunny days and balmy nights, spent outside under the gazebo’s shelter.

Back at the house, our enthusiasm was high, until we carried the box from the truck to the back yard and opened it.

For a moment, we didn’t move. Our eyes were fixed on this single box, containing 162 pieces, along with a few pages of instructions for assembling the ten-foot-by-ten-foot gazebo.

After the shock wore off, we looked at each other, as if to say, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”

I was designated the official instruction reader.

“Okay,” I said, and cleared my throat. “Step one says, ‘Fix the Panel A on the Panel B by using M6X35 bolts and nuts, which is Part L. Repeat this three times.’”

Our eyes met. I raised one eyebrow in a question mark.

Stan laughed. “Well, I guess we need to look for Panels A and B.”

Within minutes, my handy man had Panels A and B completely upright. That left the nuts and bolts, and since I was also the keeper of the plastic bag, which was officially called Part L, I cut it open and offered up the M6X35 nuts and bolts, precisely as directed. While I steadied the panels, Stan secured them with the hardware.

It got harder from there. We discovered a few of the parts were flawed, so Stan had to improvise. Then there was his tendency to skip ahead in his thought process, thinking he knew what was coming.

I found myself saying things like, “Wait on that part,” and, “No, that comes later,” or, “According to the directions, blah, blah, blah.” Other than these exchanges, we rarely talked.

At times, I could feel my husband watching me impatiently, as I fumbled in search of some elusive piece to the puzzle. I pretended not to notice. Putting together a gazebo required my total concentration.

Other times, I stood back and watched him work, admiring how he smiled whenever another step was crossed off the instruction list.

In our long marriage, this was not the first thing we had attempted to put together. Through the years there were dollhouses and baby doll strollers, swing sets, and an entertainment center or two. We knew the drill.

All of these occasions had taught us a lot about how a partnership is supposed to operate:


1. It takes two participating individuals to make it work.


2. There’s a right way to do things, and there’s a wrong way. (Do it the wrong way, and you’ll wish you hadn’t.)


3. If you want to see the end results, you have to stay with it. (And that’s the tough part — sticking it out when all you really want to do is split the scene.)


Marriage is a lot like that. It takes both of you to make it work. There’s a right way to treat each other, and there’s a wrong way. And if you give up when the going gets rough, you’ll never know the joys that come from having hung in there, even when you wanted to quit… especially when you wanted to quit.

Three hours after arriving home with a cumbersome box of assorted parts, my husband and I high-fived and stepped back to admire the fruits of our labor. It no longer mattered that Part F and Part J did not measure up appropriately, nor that one of the nuts fell through a crack in the patio. The gazebo was standing tall and firm. Together, we had made it work.

Smiling, we admired our creation. Finally, we had our very own backyard gazebo — a place to enjoy morning coffee and evening conversations, and every time I look at it, to this day, I remember that we are a team.


~Dayle Allen Shockley

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