The Marriage Garden
Cultivating a good marriage is like two people growing a healthy garden. To achieve a full and satisfying harvest, the gardeners must work in harmony with one another, using the right tools, gardening wisdom, and a willing spirit. The gardening process teaches us vital – and sometimes painful – lessons about life. The struggle is worth it: both good marriages and healthy gardens can enrich and delight us. But neither happens by chance. Let's break ground!
Commit: Make and honor promises
We start our gardens with great visions and bold enthusiasm. But, weeds, bad weather, pests, and distractions threaten our hopes and dreams. It takes more than initial enthusiasm to get from a vision of possibilities to a healthy reality. It takes steady commitment and effort. If we are unwilling to deal with problems and differences, we will never enjoy a bountiful harvest. Each of us can commit regular time and energy to caring for our garden.
Grow: Cultivate your strengths
The health of the garden is rooted in the health of the individual gardeners. If we do not nurture our personal strengths and abilities – or if we fail to manage our personal weaknesses – we will not be well prepared to take on our gardening tasks. The most successful gardeners know that they must invest time in reflection, learning and improvement. They then have more strengths to bring to the garden and to their gardening partnerships.
Nurture: Do the work of loving
Marriage can grow from a handful of seeds to a garden filled with colorful, radiant life. But this won't happen by accident. It will require careful attention to the well-being of the plants. We may need to increase the light of encouragement, the fertilizer of time spent together, and the water of kindness. We need to weed our destructive thoughts and actions while encouraging healthy growth. Steady investments in the relationship will assure a bountiful harvest.
Understand: Cultivate compassion for your partner
Gardening can be both rewarding and challenging. At times each of us will get sunburned, poked by thorns, and bitten by bugs. During these difficult and painful times, we can be gardening partners who compassionately respond to each other's pains rather than scold our partner for not using sunscreen or being more careful. We can be gardeners in whose gentle hands our partners heal and grow strong.
Solve: Turn differences into blessings
We may have very different visions for our shared gardens. One gardener may favor colorful flowers, while the other insists on tomatoes and peas. These differences may not simply disappear with a calm discussion. Each partnership will have unresolvable differences. If we choose to stay calm, listen attentively, understand our partner's view, and use creativity, it is possible to turn differences into strengths.
Serve: Give back to your community
When our gardens are productive, it's good to share the fruits of our labor with others. Just as you might share your tomatoes and zucchini with neighbors or gather a bouquet to cheer up a friend, so too should you work as a couple to contribute to your community. Our marriages are strengthened by serving one another and those around us. Sharing our time and resources can make our world blossom.
Enjoy the harvest - To have a healthy marriage garden we must nurture the best parts of our relationship while guarding against pests. If we neglect our garden we get a tangle of weeds and bugs. If we do the wrong thing (even with good intentions), we get exhaustion and failure. (This is like watering the weeds and pulling up the tomatoes!) With a little planning, a steady effort over time, and the warmth of our best selves, we can harvest sweet and enduring companionship.
Purchase the book
The Marriage Garden
Go to http://pubs.uada.edu/PubsWebPublic.asp, enter your zip code and search for Marriage Garden.