For Kathy and Brandon Gunn, it had been the magical day they had dreamed of: food, family, and amazing wedding memories. The happy couple watched everyone laugh, drink, and dance the night away. The gift table was also overflowing with touching generosity, but there was one, in particular, that caught their eye.
The silver-wrapped box had a sealed envelope attached; the only thing written on it gave them very specific instructions not to open it until the first argument as husband and wife. It was so tempting, but they restrained themselves. Eventually, the gift ended up forgotten in their closet. Kathy and Brandon settled into domestic life and had two beautiful children, one boy and one girl.
But Kathy began to feel like something was missing from her life. It slowly became a small point of resentment that would bubble under the surface, insidiously growing in size over the years until it began to seep into her everyday life.
The box still waited quietly in the cupboard, forgotten, until one day, years passed, and they had their share of arguments. But it seemed pointless to waste the mystery box on a tiff about dirty laundry or dishes. It wasn’t until an unexpected email appeared in Kathy’s inbox that things took a serious turn for the worse, and the need for a lifeline became very real.
Kathy felt like she had sacrificed her career, exchanging her workplace ambitions for motherhood. She’d placed her love for her work on the back burner for years in order to raise her children. She watched her friends and ex-colleagues excel and climb the corporate ladder, but she was stagnating, stuck in place.
And once the tiny seed of resentment was planted, all it took was a single email to send her feelings and even her marriage into question. She had been offered a new position, the closest thing to a dream job and with a salary to match. But there were two major obstacles: first, it was on the other side of the country; second, Brandon wanted to stay where they were.
From there, things exploded. It was the worst low of their relationship. One wanted to stay, the other wanted to go, which sparked countless other disagreements. Nights turned to sleeping apart and crying when they tried to talk it out.
Both felt not only lost but also like the other person didn’t care. Suddenly, Brandon’s ex came into the picture again. Kathy had no idea who the gift was from apart from the instructions that forbade them from opening it right away. It was unmarked, and after three moves in almost 10 years, it still sat in the cupboard, collecting cobwebs.
But with their marriage feeling like it was really on the line, the gift was about to come to the front of Brandon’s mind again. Little did Kathy know, it had something to do with his ex. Kathy took one end; Brandon took the other, and they tore back the silver wrapping.
The next layer contained two gifts wrapped in pastel yellow tissue paper. There were also two smaller notes, one for each of them.
Kathy’s heart raced with dread. The first box revealed a cheap raspberry-scented bath kit, like something anyone could get at a pharmacy or discount bin. It wasn’t only offensive but confusing. The truth didn’t fall into place until they read the first note; the words flowed from Brandon’s lips, and he quickly broke down.
The second part contained a small vase and two wine glasses. Brandon’s long letter reminded him that he was scared of change; it had been one of the main downfalls of the last relationship.
“You’re wonderful together. Life can be hard; don’t let the little or big things ruin that.” The rest were specific instructions for how to reconcile. Brandon was to use the bubble kit to run Kathy a warm bath and put a gift of flowers in the vase.
The money was to buy a pizza and watch a movie while they drank wine from the new glasses. Around the entire gesture was the wise reminder of communication, compromise, and support.
They stared at each other; never in a million years would anyone think an ex would be someone to try and save the next marriage, but there it was: simple yet profound words that reminded them of things they had lost sight of.
After a long talk over red wine and a 12-inch pepperoni and plenty more tears, they came to a final decision. Brandon could work from anywhere, and Kathy’s new job would be great for them. Who knew that after 10 long years of collecting dust, one little box would save their entire marriage?
Kathy knew she had to share her story with others who may be facing similar problems. “For nine years and three moves, that box sat high on a shelf in various closets, gathering dust,” Kathy wrote in a Facebook post. “After opening the wedding present, yet it somehow taught us about tolerance, understanding, compromise, and patience.”
Then Kathy shared the surprising realization that the gift had brought to light. “Our marriage strengthened as we became best friends, partners, and teammates,” Kathy added. “Today, we decided to open that box because I finally had a realization. I realized that the tools for creating and maintaining a strong, healthy marriage were never within that box; they were within us.”