Relationship Gardening

Two seeds, watered, in good soil, with enough sunlight and care might yet yield two different crops. A rose is beautiful, a zucchini edible; both will flourish in tended earth. Each will grow, but if you plant a tomato and expect tulips, you will be disappointed regardless of how pretty the bloom.

In relationships, you are transplanting fully developed growth: way past a seed, a relationship begins with two mature plants. You aren’t starting with a naked seed, so expecting your love to yield a pumpkin crop when they met you covered in orange blossoms means the error is in the gardener, not the garden.

In relationships, too, we start off taking very good care of our new relationship: we guard our words, ask each other about hopes and dreams, and share in experiences that fuel the other. Over time, we can forget that the rooted garden still needs us, and the relationship withers. Sometimes, it isn’t both partners who fail to tend the relationship; one still chooses their words, asks about plans and hopes and initiates experiences … still, the leaves will turn brown if BOTH people are not invested.

When a couple starts counseling, the therapist will likely try to assess three things right away: what are both partners’ beliefs about love, what are their beliefs about the other person, and how invested in the relationship is each person? We look at both the results of assessments that help us measure aspects of love and also at the investment each reports having, and the other having. To think this through on your own, ask: who do I know who is really in love, how do I know they are, and is their partner as in love with them? How do I know this? Then turn the exercise inward now that you’ve practiced.

At some point, once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, you might choose to share them with your loved one: Do you share beliefs about love, how well do you know each other and your beliefs, and how invested are you both in nurturing the relationship? In short, is your garden growing, flourishing? Or has it eeked along for a while, alive, but not thriving, and most importantly, are you both interested in seeing it bloom again?

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