Marriage is a garden: a couple's friendship, love affair, and repair of injuries nurtures the marital garden.
Have you ever had a garden? You love it, tend it, water it, and shape it like the work of art it is. When you do, your garden becomes beautiful and fruitful, delivering whatever you desire—beauty, pleasure, rest, nourishment, purpose—a complex living system to love and cherish. People invest more time and money in gardening than any other hobby in America.
No matter how beautiful and verdant your garden becomes, if you neglect its care, it slowly degrades and perishes. The beauty fades, the plants wither or become chaotic, and the nourishment diminishes to the point it depresses and distresses you and anyone else who truly sees what your garden was and what it has become. Gardens need constant care to be healthy and flourishing.
Marriages are gardens. They need constant attention, and degrade with neglect. The three foundations of marriage are the marital friendship, the marital love affair, and repair of injuries.
- The marital friendship is the time, energy, love, attention, and play you share with your spouse. Like a good friend, you value time with your spouse and plan fun activities. Like a good friend, if your affection fades you are concerned and take action.
- The marital love affair is the yummy, sexy relationship that probably bloomed in the romantic infatuation birth of your marriage. Romantic infatuation is an altered state that fades after 6 to 18 months, but often morphs into the intimate bonding stage that generates families and shared lives. The marital love affair needs special attention when romantic infatuation fades, when children are born, when life demands of career and family stress us, and when age takes its toll. If we consciously invest the time and energy our love affair requires to thrive, we can extend it forever. If we allow it to fade, it can become a symbol of love lost and pleasure denied.
- Injuries always occur in marriages. Wounds arise from misunderstandings, selfish mistakes, and the intrusions of others as well as our own defensive programming. Everyone has trauma histories from big T and little t traumas, and our trauma histories inevitably are triggered in our marriage—the relationship that feels as close and personal as our family of origin. If we take on the responsibilities to repair injuries back to love, our marriages deepen and we value our partners more as we mature. If we allow injuries to fester, neglect our own growth and our spouse’s needs, wounds accumulate and metastasize to destroy marriages.
So, in the garden of marriage we have a friendship, a love affair, and needs to recognize and heal wounds. Neglect these three dimensions at your peril! Honor them to maintain love and bliss! If you and your spouse both consistently attend to these foundations, your garden can bloom and grow for a lifetime.
Seven hundred older couples, happy with each other, were asked about their lives. All of them said the best and luckiest thing that ever happened to them was meeting their spouse, and that marriage was hard. It wasn’t just luck! They were all good gardeners.