Relationships, just like gardens, require care and attention to flourish.
We typically hope, imagine, and expect that our relationship will naturally become a source of safety, endless joy, peace, and comfort. In reality, unfortunately, this is unlikely. Often and typically, relationships become the pit of the worst sides of ourselves being lashed to the other worst sides of our once beloved one.
Why! Why is it that way? How come a romantic and beautiful shared experience becomes a place of agony fear and agitation?
Love is what creates relationships to start with. Normally falling in love marks the first phase of being together. And then… the expectation that the love will remain as it obscures the truth of our falling from it. Falling from love into the pit of unseen, implicit expectations, disappointments, fears and blaming. The road to separation is paved! So what did we miss?
How to grow a garden
When we want to grow a garden, to be able to enjoy the shade, fruits and flowers – what is it that makes it successful? Firstly, we choose the spot for it, prepare the soil, buy the seedlings, and plant them in their chosen place. Then, do we go home to rest and forget about it until the fruits, flowers, and shade are ready to be enjoyed? No, of course not. That would be an erroneous expectation!
The seedlings need regular watering, as well as protection from insects, birds, rodents, fungi, etc. Also, weeds will come in uninvited and compete for the good stuff in the soil, and we need to identify them and pull them out as soon as possible! This is the only reliable way we can expect to actually get any produce and enjoyment from our garden.
Relationships are no different from gardens. Yet with relationship and marriage, often people don’t take the time and put the thoughtful effort in to nourish them to the point of fruition. We find the partner, make a grandiose vow, and then sit back hoping to find the fruits falling on our heads every day.
While we sit back and expect the fruits, invasive weeds spread across the ground, hindering the original nurturing love. Harmful fungi tint the leaves with a film of sadness, hurt, and blame. Finally, hungry animals break through fences in disrepair and steal the unripe fruits of joy, peace, and mutual understanding.
Growing a relationship, cultivating a marriage, and nurturing a home all entail putting in the hard work, the great effort and dedication, to the other, to the self, to the relationship. Cultivating communication skills by expressing positive thoughts about the other and positive feelings of oneself in relation to the other, noticing the other and every little colouring on their leaves, can tell us much about the relationship. If we become curious and interested in the experience of the other without taking it on as blame or pain, then we start to see things for how they are.
When we see the other, ourselves and the interactions clearly, is when the choice to act in a fruitful and constructive way will nourish the relationship. Relationships are not about me or you, but they are about the interactions, the symbiosis, the mutual creation of our life experience.
As I work with many couples, repeatedly I see how irrelevant personality classifications or diagnoses of all kinds are! Yet how central is the style of relating, the way of relating! Are we playing the game of being childish, blameful, irresponsible, and manipulative? Or are we being mature, clear, honest, respectful and direct? That is all that makes the difference.
From my personal and professional experience, I offer you this to consider: personality arises and is created by the relational interaction. So it is the interaction that brings about the personality, and not the personality of the sides that creates their interactions!
Therefore, meaningful and fulfilling relationships are not the product of ‘natural happening’. Rather they are the fruits of intentional, thoughtful, and carefully chosen cultivation of relational skills and capacities.
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