Relationship gardening: How to help yourself, your relationship and your marriage.
I learned about weeds before I learned anything about gardens. For my 40th birthday my husband built me a beautiful, secure deer fence and I was told to use straw to augment and lighten the heavy clay soil. The straw turned out to be hay and seeded itself heartily throughout the space. I was overwhelmed with weeds that I had inadvertently planted. Later, after the hay crop was removed, as a novice gardener, I planted several varieties of plants that I was told had "magical" properties. Although I didn't know them as weeds, they infiltrated throughout the flowers and vegetable beds with their sticky seed pods. For many years, weeding and gardening were synonymous. Removing the weeds was the prerequisite to creating the space to grow the garden I had envisioned. It also became a worthy metaphor for working on my marriage.
Even after 29 years of living with the same man, I still need to do the work of weeding out the thoughts that pull me away from experiencing my marriage as it is.
As in my gardening, often the worst case of weeds comes from an error in judgment I make within. In fact, over the years the single most threatening conflict to the stability of my marriage has been an inner one, which often arises when I have made some leap in my own development. Ironically, it is the moments when I have come through some challenge with my voice in tact and I feel really sure of myself, when the judgments about what my relationship isn’t most often overtake my thinking.
This voice is familiar and compelling, resounding in my head like the truth with a capital "T". Not unlike some of the weeds I have planted, these thoughts pollinate quickly and completely alter the landscape in what seems like days.
Often before I know it has even happened, my perspective on my relationship is completely altered and the smallest encounters between my husband and I become triggers, confirming my doubts about him and fueling my sense of entitlement about how I should be loved. I am unable to witness how my thoughts on what my husband doesn't provide overshadows all that he does. I am unaware of the ways that I hurt him and the marriage that I have worked so hard to build. This inner weed dominated the early years of my marriage, almost to its demise. I spent so much time comparing what was to what I though it should be that, not only could I never appreciate the ways that my husband was giving to me, I could never trust the ways that my marriage truly worked.
I know I am not alone, wrestling with this deep inner conflict of comparing what we want and what is, which inevitably grows between most partners over the course of their relationship. Years ago as I worked to right my perspective of the relationship I was in, I had to make myself turn my head from the thoughts that made my relationship unworthy. Pulling weeds in the garden was a worthwhile activity at that time as I came to realize that the garden’s failings were also it's beauty. Keep reading ...