Thursday, September 25, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Recently, I did some gardening. It was really a forced activity. You see, last year I had this grand idea of creating a flowerbed in my front yard. Not just any flowerbed. No no. It had curves and bordered over half of the yard. It was intricate, and when it was done, it was beautiful. I was so happy to see it completed and almost exactly what I had pictured in my mind. Then I realized a year later that you can't just plant a garden and hope it turns out okay. Hope doesn't tend gardens.

So needless to say, my flowerbed turned into the eyesore of the block. We're talking weeds taller than my knees, root systems so complex that a 4th grader could do an amazing science experiment on 'em, and a scene so unsightly that I refuse to post a before/after image. While I was toiling away, I began thinking of how much this flowerbed was like marriage. I began saying things to myself that couples commonly say in my therapy office. Things like this:

"I didn't know it was this bad."

I seriously didn't. There was no way to prepare me for what was ahead when I finally decided to take care of my garden. I started, and I seriously almost quit right after I realized how much work there was to do. I didn't know it had gotten this bad. At times, I was yanking out weeds, and I was feeling better. The flowerbed looked better, but unless I got the root, I knew it was going to keep coming back. Good therapy addresses the root of marriage issues, not just teaching communication skills and address surface level issues. It's hard and takes longer, but those weeds didn't grow overnight either. Pulling them all out is tough stuff.

"If I had known, I would have done this sooner."

So many times I walked to the mailbox or pulled in the driveway and saw weeds coming out of the ground. I was embarrassed then but thought that I'd just get to it later. How much easier it would have been for me to just pull a few weeds out of the ground months ago rather than putting in all the work I did after it had gone way too far. Research is clear that couples wait and average of 7 years before attending therapy. Sometimes by then, it's too difficult to move on together after so much hurt. If you're in the River Valley, click here to begin that process with me in counseling. I'd be honored to join you.
"This is really hard work." 

Like... really hard work. Props to all the gardeners out there. You all have my utmost respect. I have been so sore that I have woken myself up at night just by turning over. I am sore in muscles I didn't know I even had. My legs were shaking like I had just left my barre class while I was yanking weeds out of the ground just 30 minutes in. Just like gardening, working on marriage issues is tough business. It's not for the faint of heart and requires perseverance. As mentioned before, it's not enough just to pull out the green stuff and leave the roots behind. As hard as it is, nothing will have truly lasting change until you address the roots. 
"There was never a good time to work on it."  

Yeah, there really wasn't. It was either scorching hot this summer or raining endlessly or I was really tired from a long day or my allergies were acting up or whatever excuse I had until my flowerbed turned into a big ugly mess. There's never a great time to weed the garden, and it doesn't really ever feel like there's a great time to work on your marriage either. I actually tried one day a few months ago to pull out a giant weed while walking back from the mailbox, and some stickers jabbed and stuck into my fingers. Probability went way down for me to try that again. Sometimes you try to address something in your marriage, and you get hurt; it's not worth it to let that continue to grow even though it makes sense why you'd shy away from something that hurts. (See Four Reasons Why You Won't Go to Marriage Counseling). If you wait for perfect conditions, you'll end up waiting forever.

"I can't believe all the work I put into this turned into a big mess."

This was hard for me. I was so proud of my flowerbed last year. It literally took ALL day to complete. Multiple trips to Home Depot, Walmart, Lowes. Supplies. Help from my family. Sweat. Possibly tears. But the end was so great. I was so happy to have checked off that project and have it be something so beautiful in our yard. I found myself disappointed in my lack of responsibility in between my handfuls of weeds and bugs. I could relate to couples who had great expectations and hopes for their marriages and suddenly realized the mess they were in. 

But hope is not a plan. Marriages, just like flowerbeds, require work... and not just once a year. They require care and the decision to pull "weeds" up from the root, even when it's risky and hurts. They deserve the hard work, even when it's inconvenient, difficult, and messy. Take a lesson from me and tend to your marriage before it gets too far. 

It might not be too late. 

im thankful.
carrie anne


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