Cultivate Your Relationship Like a Garden

Anyone who has ever attempted to grow a plant in a pot or in the ground knows the basic steps needed to enable a plant to survive and thrive. You first select a good specimen, provide it with fertilized soil, water, sunshine, pruning and love as you witness your plant mature and bloom. The same basic method adapted to relationships can produce a healthy and blossoming love connection year after year! How can those who have lost sight of their original mission restore their blissful relationship?

In relationships, as in gardening, we first select the most appealing human specimen with whom we wish to establish a long-term relationship. We quickly forget that it will require ongoing efforts to nourish and nurture each other towards a mutually blissful union.  Regrettably, some of us lose faith in ourselves or in our mate, become remiss in our relationship-cultivating efforts and may even allow our love connection to wilt. How can we sustain our focus and keep our love blooming year after year?

Seasoned gardeners know that plants mature with time and go through seasonal stages in their life cycle. They accept that plants will have their dormant stages and trust that spring will awaken them and restore their vitality. In relationships, many couples expect their mate to sustain a constant, enthusiastic and excited emotional responsiveness. This unrealistic expectation does not allow for the normal flow of closeness and distance to fluctuate and may resort at times to concluding that their relationship has been irrevocably negatively altered.

Gardeners know that happy plants respond to ongoing, tender care. Leaving a plant unattended for long periods of time will cause the plant to wilt. Some spouses are not sufficiently aware that when they become excessively involved with their work and responsibilities and appear to take the mate for granted, their spouse is left feeling abandoned, rejected and lost. Doubts about oneself and the relationship may plague the partner as he/she is left to his/her fears and doubts.

Plant lovers know that they need to pay regular attention to their garden to assure it is in a healthy state.  Very few partners schedule a periodic discussion about their relationship and assess the options for improvement of their love bond.

Those who carefully attend to their plants accept that plants exhibit dead leaves and require periodic pruning. This process does not hurt the plant, in fact, it stimulates healthy new growth to sprout and then bloom. In relationships, discussing with each other habits, conduct or manners that are ineffectual can stimulate abandoning ways that are distressing to the partner and create greater accommodations and closeness between the mates.

Lessons from gardening:

  • Accept that relationships, like nature, go through phases of wilting and blooming.
  • Abstain from deducing that your partner is flawed. Ask about how you can help him/her bloom again and accommodate your beloved.
  • Provide attention, love, care and affirmation to your beloved to help him/her and your relationship continue to blossom.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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