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Love is a Garden to be Cultivated

Valentine’s Day may be the traditional day that love is celebrated, but love really must be cultivated year ‘round.

Nashville, Ark. – 

older couple smiling and holding a rose for valentine's day
Building and maintaining a strong relationship foundation will help ensure years of love and companionship in the future.

Valentine’s Day may be the traditional day that love is celebrated, but love really must be cultivated year ‘round. Candy, flowers, poetry and other romantic treats or gestures are thoughtful ways to observe a relationship in bloom but are not likely to do much for a relationship that been neglected since the last gift-giving occasion.

According to Dr. Wallace Goddard, co-author of The Marriage Garden, there are five things you can do to maintain a healthy relationship 365 days a year.

1)      Practice humility.

            “Psychology tells us that what we as humans tend to see is what we look for. If we look for offenses against us or if we look for selfishness or faults in a partner, we’ll probably find it. If we look for graciousness, kindness and goodness, we’ll probably find them,” says Goddard. There is often a “hardening of categories” in marriage, meaning that people tend to see their partners in a certain way. Next they start to look for confirming evidence this is true and the cycle continues.

2)      Look for the good.

            “That means taking the time to notice the things our partners do that we appreciate, including the parts of our partner that inevitably, at times, will be inconvenient but that are still a blessing that we chose and would continue to choose if we had good sense,” Goddard explains.

3)      Speak your partner’s language of love.

            Gary Chapman, author of the Five Love Languages series, points out that nothing you do to show love for your partner will be effective unless what you’re doing matters to your partner. Even though, “Gifts” is one of the love languages, buying chocolate and roses doesn’t mean much to the person who has “Quality Time” as their top love language. This person would much prefer to spend a quite night together watching a movie or taking a walk together. The key is to find out which language of love your partner has and then doing things to address that particular love language.

4)      Do maintenance.

            John Gottman, one of the country’s foremost authorities in marriage research, says that a trip to Hawaii won’t heat up a relationship, if you haven’t kept the pilot light lit.

            “It isn’t the great big events that are the key to having a continuing healthy relationship. Instead, the little conversations, the spending 10 to 15 minutes a day to catch up on each other, the doing little things together, whether it’s working in the yard or painting a room or watching videos. Little things done together regularly provide maintenance that’s very important,” say Goddard.

5)      Foster companionship.

            Jonathan Haidt, talks about the idea that in the early stages of a relationship the romance initially skyrockets and then starts to decline within a short period of time. For a relationship to continue, it’s important for people to evolve gracefully from the electric jolt of early romance to the sweet satisfaction of being with someone whose company is comforting.

            Gottman recommends keeping a list of the qualities that we enjoy in our partner in a wallet, keeping photos of cherished times handy, or keeping a small scrapbook handy to page through every now and then and remind us of the good times and help us remember what we enjoyed about them in the first place. That is the key to a healthy relationship.

            If you are looking for something for your Valentine this year, check out the “free” publication, “Marriage Garden” available at the Howard County Extension Office. The “Marriage Garden” is a folder of fact sheets designed to help you and your spouse work together to develop a closer relationship. You can also access the information at

Recipe of the Week

            Here is a tasty recipe you can make this Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t require a lot of effort because you make it using the crock pot. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an extra special dessert!

Chocolate Brownie Pudding Cake

chocolate pudding cake
You'll please your Valentine if you prepare this deliciously decadent pudding cake for dessert!

½ cup brown sugar                                                     

¾ cup water                                                               

2 Tbsp. cocoa                                                             

2 ½ cups brownie mix (half a 21.5 oz. pkg.)              

1 egg

¼ cup peanut butter

1 Tbsp. soft margarine

¼ cup water

¼ to ½ cup milk chocolate chips, if desired

            Combine ¾ cup water, brown sugar and cocoa in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. In the meantime combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together or mix well with spoon. Spread the batter evenly in the bottom of a lightly buttered slow cooker. Pour boiling mixture over the batter. Cover and cook on High about 2 hours; turn off heat and let stand for about 30 minutes. Spoon into dessert dishes while warm; serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Serves 6 to 8.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


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