I remember what it was like to fall in love. When everything was fresh, new and exciting. That little jolt you’d feel when you looked at each other. How it felt to hold hands. To kiss for the first time. That on top of the world feeling. You ride that wave for a time, and then comes a proposal. All fresh and new and exciting. And then a wedding, honeymoon and newlywed life follows. Everything is bliss.
But…sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes you wake up and your life seems strange. The bliss is gone and all you know is never ending housework, making meals, babies and parenthood. It’s all jumbled up and messy and it seems that everything you knew once is gone. Lost forever in a memory.
People give up when sparks don’t fly. When it isn’t easy anymore. When you’ve asked your spouse to please pick up their laundry off the floor and it’s still laying there. When you’re the only one patenting the children. When you’re at work all day and you barely know the person that you’re married to anymore. People give up.
People give up and it breaks my heart. I hate seeing it. I hate hearing about it. I’ve cried over other people’s marriages ending. Maybe that’s crazy, but it’s true. It makes me ache for them because they quit and they haven’t even seen the best part.
I’m not a gardener. I have such a black thumb that I kill everything in my wake. But I do know that gardens are a lot of work. Like, a ton. You have to prepare your garden bed by tilling the soil and removing rocks and weeds. When the soil is ready, you shop for your plants. You pick out the prettiest flowers you can find, bring them home and then plant your garden. It’s so fresh and new and clean. But it doesn’t stay that way for long.
Before you know it, weeds have cropped up. You know that you need to get down on your hands and knees and pull those weeds out, because if you don’t they’ll take over. I had a garden like that once. I didn’t want to put the work into it, so I left it for a day or two. And then those days turned into weeks and my garden was overrun with weeds. It looked awful, and I gave up. I was left with a muddy, weedy mess.
Marriage can become a muddy mess when we give up. When we don’t work at it. When we struggle because we don’t know how to fix things. When our partner is deeply hurting and we can’t think of how to make it better so we just go through the motions day after day. When every day life is hard, it is easy for marriage to become muddy because a marriage is every day life.
After a year or so with a muddy, weedy messy garden, I decided I wanted to put the work in, so I put in a call for help. We upturned the soil, and removed the rocks. We laid out landscaping fabric to protect it from weeds. We carefully chose and planted the plants. Then we laid woodchips over the fabric we had laid down. In the end, the garden looked so much nicer than it had before because we’d worked hard at it. And every time I walked past my garden I smiled because I enjoyed how lovely it looked.
Spring is coming soon, it really should be here already. I know in a few weeks time I’m going to have to get out there and work on the garden. To remove dead leaves, to lay fresh woodchips down. To get rid of whatever might cause my flowers to die. Because having a garden means working to keep it happy and healthy. And when your garden is happy and healthy, it makes you happy too.
Marriage is a lot like gardening. It takes a lot of work to keep it happy and healthy. It’s not a one shot thing but you can deal with once and then be done with it. The continually changes and grows from season to season. And in every season, it needs to be tended to. Conflicts need to be forgiven, compromises need to be made. It’s never easy, and it’s always emotional. But hard work makes things beautiful.
The reward for hard work in a marriage is even better than a beautiful garden. From season-to-season things grow and change. When you first marry, your love is like a tiny rosebud you plant in the ground. Without care, it can easily die. With care, it can blossom and grow into something beautiful. Instead of the little jolt you feel when your look at each other, there’s depth and love. Tender caresses of the one who knows you best.
The best part of marriage isn’t the first year or two of marriage. It’s the every day, hard work that blossoms into a lasting love that can’t break. It’s a lifetime of never giving up. It’s a well tended garden.