Relationships start off with high hopes.
But somewhere not very far down the road many fizzle out.
If this has tended to happen to you, maybe essential elements are missing in you
and/or in the persons you choose.
To look at what it takes to be good material for a lasting relationship,
please see my posts:
Working on yourself will make you more ready to relate well with another person.
Some relationship fizzles are positive. You discovered you’re not good for each other.
Other fizzles are sad. Your relationship had real potential, but you didn’t know
how to make it last.
We’re going to look at that question today.
Maybe I can offer you some new ideas!
Are you ready?
Let’s DO this!
I have a friend who is really good with plants.
I’ve watched him at work.
He really loves getting down in that soil!
He has taken the time to learn what each of his plants needs.
He knows how much water to give it, and when.
He knows how much sunlight it needs.
He knows the food that helps it to grow strong and always be at its best.
He makes sure it has enough space between it and the other plants.
He pulls up the weeds.
He keeps insects and hungry rabbits away.
He protects it from the cold.
Haha maybe he even TALKS to it! He certainly gives it lots of love.
So, how does he know that his little plant is alive and well?
It grows fresh new green leaves! And it flowers!
He sees that it is being the flowering plant it was meant to be.
That is how he knows it will last: it is flourishing.
He has made sure it will last by giving it everything it needs to flourish.
So, let’s take a look at our relationships.
What IS a relationship?
Answer: It’s a plant.
Yes. A relationship is a living thing!
It’s alive, just like a plant.
A tender and vulnerable plant.
Has a life of its own.
Two people create it together.
They create a new life which is their relationship.
And they tend it together.
It needs a lot of tending.
It’s their precious and vulnerable plant.
At all times, their plant is either busy being born or it is busy dying. (Dylan)
But isn’t a relationship more like a house that you build?
Well, a house we build once and we’re done.
If we think building a relationship is like building a house,
our wedding day will be the high point.
The pinnacle of our relationship.
It’ll be our Open House!
The day we show our relationship off.
Look at this beautiful house we built! We’ve got it made!
And it’ll all be down hill from there.
Because a house is not alive.
Just wears out over time.
If we build our relationship as a house,
it may give us some temporary security
but it will not grow and it will not flower.
What is the basis of a strong relationship?
A strong plant has strong roots. So does a strong relationship.
The roots of a strong relationship are:
Our emotional health and stability, and our partner’s
Our shared moral and spiritual values
Our shared life dreams (see my post : What is love?)
Our capacity for intimacy (emotional, spiritual and physical)
and our partner’s
What causes a relationship to grow?
A growing plant needs a source of water and nourishment.
The source of water and nourishment in a relationship is insight.
Deep insight allows each partner to know what the other needs and when.
Just as the gardener knows the needs of his plant!
How is this insight gained?
We gain it through open and transparent sharing of our heart and soul.
By trusting and revealing our self to our partner, we allow them to achieve
a full and profound understanding and knowledge of us:
who we are and what we need to be at our best and flourish.
A person who is good for us will be eager to achieve such deep awareness!
Then we ASK for what we need, and teach our beloved HOW to give it to us.
(Humans have a big advantage over plants. We can speak!)
A personal example
I am a person who needs a lot of comfort.
I cry often, because I feel everything intensely and have no protective shell.
News stories, song lyrics, Bible passages, the death of a moth…my tears flow.
Dolly Parton says she cries a lot, for the same reason: she feels everything.
Says she can’t change because she wouldn’t be able to write her songs.
I can’t change either, or I wouldn’t be able to write these posts!
So I ask my husband to comfort me, and he’s really good at it.
We teach our partner how to meet our needs.
We thank them when they do, and we speak up when they don’t.
We listen and we learn
Just as they listen and learn from us, we listen and we learn from our partner.
We seek deep insight into what THEY need.
Their needs are completely different from ours! (Be sure you realize this.)
We make sure they feel safe to tell us, without any fear of regretting it.
And we ask them to teach us how to meet their needs, and to tell us if we do.
What allows a relationship to last?
A plant needs room to grow. So does a relationship.
Healthy independence is needed for both of us.
And an even power balance. Neither of us manages nor controls the other.
Each of us has all the space and time we need to think our own thoughts,
work on our own work, pursue our own interests.
Neither of us is expected to be a constant companion.
We have mutual friends, but we also get together with our own friends.
A plant needs the weeds pulled up. Regularly. So does a relationship.
The weeds are the little issues that arise in daily life—the annoyances,
the unfortunate critical words, the hurt feelings, the anger…
As long as we are transparent and speak up right away, explaining our
feelings constructively, the hurt can be aired, dealt with, and quickly healed.
A simple and sincere “I’m sorry” is usually all it takes.
Partners who store up these hurts, then land with a “You always do X!!!”
make a lasting relationship impossible.
What is the question we really need to ask?
When we began this exploration today, we asked the question:
How do I build a lasting relationship?
But if a relationship is a plant — a living thing —
that question doesn’t make any sense.
You can’t build a living thing.
You can only grow a living thing.
Every idea I offered you today was about growing a living thing into its fullness.
Turns out we need to ask a very different question:
How do I GROW a relationship that lasts and flourishes?
The goal of a relationship is not only to survive but to flourish.
We want the plant not only to live, but to flower!
In a flowering relationship, we bring out the best in each other!
It gives us joy to see our beloved emerge.
Like Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, we declare:
“Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”
In a flourishing relationship, our mutual needs are being met.
Our love overflows, bringing new life into the world,
as individuals and as a couple.
Maybe even, down the road, in marriage and children.
Every day, we celebrate our joys and wins together,
individual and shared,
and we continue to water and nourish our lovely plant.
If you aren’t in a relationship at the present time,
do you want to get some practice being a gardener?
If you do, choose a family member or friend.
Tend them like a plant and see if you can bring on some new growth!
Let me know how it goes!