For centuries, marriage has been viewed as the cornerstone of society. Something solid; something permanent. An institution that will withstand the winds of time. Young men and women have been taught: choose your partner well and the rest will follow. Find someone who is honest, trustworthy, whom you enjoy, who also wants kids (or doesn’t). Who shares similar values, who enjoys similar leisure activities. Choose well and marry.
And the thinking continues: If I do my job and you do yours, if we pay our bills on time, sweep the kitchen floor, keep our kids clean and safe, go out once a week or so, are nice to the neighbors, and put a little away in savings, everything should be just fine.
Do what you’re supposed to do, keep your life in order, and life will be good. And if it’s not, “Well, honey, something must be wrong with you!” We blame ourselves.
Marriage, or a long-term committed love relationship, has erroneously been viewed as something that should survive on its own, without any assistance. Indeed, for decades it has been commonplace to think something is wrong if a relationship needs time and attention, if a couple is reading a book about communication, or worse, seeks counseling or attends a workshop.
I see it differently. I view a committed, romantic relationship as a living, breathing, evolving process between two people. It isn’t stagnant, it isn’t a chunk of concrete. It’s alive, it’s organic. It either lives and thrives, or it dwindles and shrivels up. Like any other activity (playing an instrument, raising a child, running a company, becoming a plumber, learning yoga), in order to be successful we must give that activity our presence, our time, and our attention.
Where we give our attention in life is what flourishes.
A committed relationship is like a garden. Gardens can certainly be ignored and still look pretty good…. for a while. A neglected garden over time becomes overgrown, thorny, and unwelcoming.
Gardens that are attended to regularly are a sight of beauty and food for the soul.