Mycah and Ashley were high school sweethearts. They met and started dating as freshmen in high school 15 years ago in 2000. Ashley says, ”We went to the birthday party at the church, we danced, we kissed, then he dragged me out to meet his Mom in the car.”
Mycah and Ashley describe their teenage romance as profound, intense, and emotionally nourishing. Mycah says, “I feel like we skipped the part where we were crazy in love with each other at the age of 15 – like the kind of reckless-stupid puppy 15 year-old love.”
Things got progressively complicated for their relationship after this. Mycah and his family moved away, and Ashley faced tumult in her family life that lasted into her adulthood.
They stayed in touch, visited a few times, but ultimately a long distance relationship wasn’t tenable.
They each attended college and continued to reconnect from time to time. Ashley says, “One of us would always reach out when the other was dating somebody.”
After nine years of growing up separately, in 2009 they started speaking again, but with a change. While they clearly hadn’t rehearsed this, they told this story seamlessly, finishing each other’s sentences:
Mycah: “It was a similar pattern. We’d have these epic huge long conversations about where we were and what’s going on -“
Ashley: “but the difference this time was, we never talked about our feelings -“
Both: “for each other.”
Ashley continues, ”Every other time there was this rush to be like, ‘I’m so in love with you, you’re the only one’ … 6 months of talking on the phone happened – and writing emails.”
They were married two years later in 2011, a long winding road having led them back to each other. Of course, their teenage romance from fifteen years ago is not enough to make their marriage work today:
Ashley: “Even though I love him more than anything in the world and I’m so grateful that it worked out, there’s still – it requires being present every day – in order for it to stay good. It’s not just easy because we loved each other for so long.”
When we asked them what they do to make their marriage work, Mycah said, “I think you never say anything that’s below the belt when you’re in a fight. There’s just shit you never say. You know so much about a person – you’re so intimately connected to them … Even at the end of a really long day, and we’re really tired, and we have kind of shitty long days, you do your best to really, like, be with that person and really listen and not talk.”
Ashley added: “When we got married we had stupid fights for a few months: trying to figure out how to live together, what it meant to be husband and wife … how much of an individual am I gonna be, how much of myself am I gonna devote to being a couple, who’s gonna do the dishes. Like there’s all these weird things and I feel like at a certain point, part of what we realized – now matter how mad we are in the middle of the fight – in an hour it almost doesn’t matter … We started trying to make each other laugh in the middle of the fights … it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, THIS?!’ and somebody will make a joke or do an impression.”
Mycah: “I’m much more aware of my bad patterns and habits since w’e been together. It’s been easier for me to sort of see them ‘cause Ashley’s been like, ‘That’s interesting. What’s that about?’ and then the next day it’s like, ‘You’re doing that thing again.’”
Ashley added: “It’s also with positive things – you become a mirror … I like his perspective, and I trust it, and I know that he knows me better than anyone else, so all those things combined means that if I’m struggling to make a decision about my career or a friend or something going on with my family, I know that he’s gonna reflect to me either the parts that I’m doing really well or the parts I’m good at and hep me figure out the parts that are not as easy.”
Mycah: “You learn what the other person needs and how to give it to them – my impulse in that situation is to be like, ‘alright let’s talk it out, I got some ideas, we’ll make a spreadhseet, it’ll be good,’ but then that doesn’t – that didn’t work for us … you have to know how to get the person where they wanna be – that’s what they deserve.”
Seamlessly again, and with humor, they told us a story of an everyday small thing that epitomizes this dynamic:
Ashley: “I feel like you’ve really learned how to help me when I’ve lost my keys or can’t find my wallet … I often wont know where my glasses are and I can’t find them because I can’t see – they blend into everything -“
Mycah: “It took a year or two for us to figure out, ‘Where are your glasses?’ ‘I don’t know’ ‘Well just go get your glasses.’-“
Ashley: “And it would escalate really fast -”
Mycah: “So now I look for the glasses all the time, like peripherally, ‘Oh there are the glasses,’ so as soon as she’s like, ‘where are my glasses?’ I’m like, ‘oh there they are.’-“
Ashley: “It’s true love.” [laughs]
To conclude the interview, Ashley said, “I never actually felt like I had a choice. I felt like from the time I was 15 until now I had no choice but to love Mycah. I choose to actively love him every day, but it’s always felt like something that was just a part of me. There’s like a mystical quality to it for me in that sense.”
Mycah added, “In the same vein I just feel really lucky … I feel really lucky to come home every night to Ashley and to be able to share my life with her – it’s awesome.”
Do you ever feel like you can’t help but love your partner? In what ways do you choose to actively love them anyway?
Discuss it in the comments below.
Daniel is a founding author of How Love Lasts.