Gardening

I’m looking forward to the weekend more than usual. Weekends almost always trump weekdays for the important reason that Ben is around. Unlike many people who cite that they relish in the time off work, I typically enjoy my job so much that this isn’t necessarily a boon; moreover, I work some of both weekend days, though less than during weekdays.

Although this removes the complacent facade we all like to portray about our lives and relationships, in all honesty, there were periods in our marriage that were so tenuous that I actually rather dreaded weekends because of the extended forced togetherness. In hindsight, while these tough times partially manifested in relationship problems, they were rooted in massive, unaddressed individual issues, largely my attack, angst, and communication difficulties. Instead of getting any sort of psychological treatment for the attack in particular, I draped a metaphorical clear plastic shower curtain over a grotesque, raw, gaping wound, and tried to carry on as usual. Logically, this covering did nothing to heal the severe ramifications. It did not fill the hole with viable land, it did not erase or conceal the problem, and it did not stop more things (difficulties and feelings) from plummeting into the crevice.

We tried to plow forward at my insistence, ignoring the significantly physically and psychologically traumatizing effects, and found ourselves stumbling left and right upon doing so. I take full responsibility for this rough patch in our marriage and I’m beyond grateful that Ben stuck by me, forgave me, and actively participated in my eventual efforts to repair myself and our marriage.

I’ve learned that good partnerships require constant attentive work. Much like a garden, they need to receive ample water and sun at regular intervals. This is akin to building the relationship with positive experiences, improving communication and understanding, supporting one another in each person’s interests and needs, and nurturing your love and intimacy. These “fuels” help develop supple roots that extend deeply and broadly in the nutritive soil, so that strong, tall, and fruitful plants and flowers can burst up. They also need to be weeded fairly frequently. This process removes the debris or things that interfere with healthy growth and desired thriving of the garden plants (the ideal parts of the partnership). Metaphorically, weeding in the garden is equated to developing conflict resolution strategies, honing communication and listening, and trying to extricate interfering obstacles that crowd out or poison the beautiful plants. Sometimes, a terrible blight infests the garden, causing the previously fertile soils and vibrant plants to shrivel and die. Weeds may overtake the healthy plants (as issues between spouses multiply), or the sun and water supply may be insufficient (not enough positive work, love, and care is added to nurture growth). In the case of our garden, which had become rather depleted and peppered with too many overcrowding weeds, it almost started to look like an abandoned lot. However, with renewed attention and some added fertilizer (therapy or dedicated repair work), the garden can not only be restored to its former vitality, but it can become even more beautiful and rich with life.

That’s where we are now, and I couldn’t feel happier and lucky to be on the other side of our dying garden. We could have easily abandoned it and looked to part ways and regrow new separate gardens. That, likely, would have been easier, but we had enough loyalty, devotion, and love for one another that had been cultivated over the years and had germinated into a vast, healthy rooted network. Even though our outward plants were desiccating and no longer producing vibrant flowers or delicious fruits, the seeming tangle of roots concealed under the soil was actually so expansive and salubrious that it was quite realistic to regenerate growth. Every joule of energy given to the garden serves as an investment in its ability to withstand frosts, pests, weeds, droughts, etc. and still bloom. Not all of the goodness going in is readily visible; some, for sure, goes into the underground, fortifying roots, but this is necessary for a heartier plant.

I’m happy to be in a place where our garden mostly needs routine care and attention, rather than a massive salvaging overhaul. Ben is a true partner, and I love watching him thrive and enjoy his hobbies. Even though we do spend a lot of the weekend together, we also value our individual time and pursuits, sometimes doing them in parallel harmony. So although our weekends aren’t a 24/7 fest of collaborative activities, we engage with one another in quality chunks of time and respect the value of focusing some time on our own pursuits too.

Most weekends, we don’t make major plans. I’m transparent in the fact that I’m a creature of habit and feel drained, rather than invigorated, but significantly social activities. Ben, too, is introverted and often quite tired after the work week and his long daily commute. As such, neither of us really have a hankering for big plans or get-togethers. We enjoy the relaxed, low-key weekend schedule of predominantly at-home companionship. This weekend should be no different, that is to say, there’s nothing inherently exciting on the docket in store that I’m eager for. I’m not looking forward to the weekend because of some thrilling event or glamorous date. Instead, I’m simply excited for the coveted quality time with my husband, the more laid back vibe of the two days, and more opportunities to nurture what we are growing.

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