A lot of the advice I find myself administering, whether by request or not, seems to be centered around relationships. I’m at that age where I have found myself to be one of a very small collective of bachelors who have never been married. Seeing, as I’ve never been married, one might assume that me giving advice on love would be akin to a shark giving advice on how to correctly climb a mountain. The truth is, I’ve loved and lost more than most people I know, and have picked up a bit of knowledge along the way.
In one such conversation recently, I described a relationship as a garden. At the time, it was more or less a passing analogy, and I didn’t give it much thought. Since then, I’ve realized that I’d made a pretty profound observation and have decided to expound on it.
A garden starts off as a patch of dirt. Its viability is determined by the sunlight, the soil conditions, the climate, the weather, and a whole slew of other factors. Relationships start off the same way, as a set of determining factors like chemistry, compatibility, and circumstance that determine viability. Just because two people seem compatible on the surface, doesn’t mean that they are suited for a relationship together. A relationship, just a garden, can seem like it is perfect on the surface but is destined to fail.
So once the garden is established, seed are planted. Weeds are pulled. Seedlings are watered and cultivated, and with time and effort – the garden is flourishing. Relationships are the same way, in that the effort required to cultivate them is what makes them what they are. Plants have a way of growing on their own with little to no interaction, but that is not a THRIVING garden. That is just a patch of grass.
And then comes the environment. Rain, and wind, and heat, and cold bombard the plants in the garden and they begin to experience the stresses that the planet has to hand out. Just like in relationships, where changes, external factors, money, stress, and all of the bombardments of life begin to wear on them. The foundation on which the relationship is built will determine whether or not it will hold together, just like the quality of the garden will determine whether or not the plants can hold on.
Maybe in some cases one of the people who once tended the garden diligently – pulling weeds, watering, turning the soil, decides they don’t want to do it anymore. Suddenly there are weeds where there used to be perfect rows of plants. There is wilting and dying in plants that were once vibrant. This happens in relationships, too. When one or both parties quits tending to the needs of the relationship. It is that point that the gardeners need to come together more than ever to revive their garden. That’s when the work needs to be done, to save what they have created. Relationships work the exact same way. The work has to be mutual, compromising, and equal.
That is love. Taking a wild patch of dirt, and building something out of it that you can cultivate and care for. Relationships take cultivation, too. It takes the right combination of timing, effort, admiration, respect, and above all else – love.