Springtime in the garden is a reminder that your marriage needs regular attention and upkeep if you want it to be strong, healthy and beautiful.
Spring is here, despite that fact that a large swath of the US recently endured a huge mid-April snowstorm. With spring, whenever it makes it appearance in your area, comes the return to the garden.
I’ll admit I like having a nice garden and yard much more than I like making and maintaining one, but I know I can’t have one without the other.
It’s kind of the same with your marriage. It’s great to have a strong, healthy, and beautiful marriage, but we don’t always want to put in the work to make it so. It’s easy to let the years go by without doing the regular maintenance, upkeep, and investment that it takes to keep your marriage blossoming.
But if you want your marriage to bear fruit like intimacy, passion, freedom, trust and abiding love, you have to tend it pretty consistently. Just as health, resilience, and beauty don’t just happen on their own in your garden, it’s the same in your marriage.
So with that in mind, let’s look at how we might tend our marriage gardens this spring. Today we’ll start by looking at what needs to be removed or cut back. Next time we’ll consider what might be added.
Clear out the dead stuff
I don’t have much of a green thumb, and every year I end up with dead stuff in my yard that has to be cleared away.
Is there dead stuff around your marriage? Are there activities you pour your time into, maybe out of habit, that are not seeing any return in your relationship or family life? Are there relationships that you need to let go? Are there bad habits that need to go? Habits such as criticism and negativity need to be dug out and disposed of. Pray and ask the Lord to show you anything that needs to be dug out of your marriage garden.
Another form of dead stuff in your relationship is dead works. In our relationship with God, dead works are anything we do to try to earn God’s favor and approval. They are “dead” because there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and there is nothing we can do to make him love us less. So we choose to believe and accept the love of God.
Dead works in your marriage occur when you act in order to earn love and approval from your spouse, rather than acting from a place of being loved and accepted by them. But what if I don’t feel loved and accepted? Except in the case of an Ill-willed or abusive spouse, I am willing to bet that your spouse wants you to feel loved and accepted. Maybe he or she just isn’t so great at showing it all the time. What if, instead of trying to earn the love your spouse already wants to give you, you just believed that they do love you (however imperfectly) and you act “as if” they were better at it than they are.
What if you believed you are loved and accepted without any doubt? I promise it would positively change your confidence and behavior.
Prune for New Growth
Whereas it’s pretty clear when a plant is dead and needs to be cleared out, when you prune you are actually cutting off seemingly healthy growth. But for many plants, flowers bloom best on new growth. Some plants won’t bloom at all without pruning.
Pruning is a necessary part of keeping a plant healthy, beautiful and thriving by making room for new growth. Are there places you can simplify your life to make room for what really matters, like each other? Where are the areas you feel stuck – where growth is no longer occurring? Has sex become rote? Has the romance fizzled? Is your friendship no longer what it should be? If there any part of your marriage that is no longer bearing fruit like it used to, think about what behaviors might be trimmed back in order to encourage new growth.
Whenever you feel stuck in one area, it’s time to change your approach. It’s time to prune out what you’ve been doing that isn’t getting you anywhere and find a new approach. In Part 2 of this post, we’ll look at what you might do to encourage new growth in these areas, but for now, pray and ask the Holy Spirit for a revelation of the parts of your marriage that have the potential for new growth, better fruit, and enhanced beauty. Ask first for the Lord to show you areas in yourself (not in your spouse).
Take some time to talk through these questions together.
Pull the Weeds
I seem to be really good at growing weeds! Every spring I do valiant battle against the unwanted foliage that seems to pop up everywhere.
The weeds in marriage are those persistent issues that crop up time and time again but never seem to get resolved. Can identify a few weeds in your marriage? Where are your constant battles? Money? Sex? In-laws? Which way should the toilet paper face?
The issues that keep appearing usually point to a lack of genuine understanding. And lack of understanding usually is a joint problem. Are you both listening to really understand, or are you listening to prepare your defense? Are you accusatory in your approach or do you make liberal use of “I” and “me” in your conversations? Are you approaching this as jointly trying to solve the problem or do you see your spouse as the problem?
Try this. Write down the title of one major recurring issue on a slip of paper. Place the paper on one side of the table. Now you and your spouse sit next to each other on the opposite side of the table and talk about the issue. It may seem crazy, but it’s a small physical representation of the two of you working together against the issue rather than against each other. It visually places you on the same team. Make it a goal to find a resolution together!
Another thing about weeds. An ounce of weed prevention is worth a pound of weed digging. This year I was timely in applying some weed prevention to my yard. I’m also putting down weed blocker and mulch. It’s going to save me a lot of work later on.
Stay on top of issues in your marriage, and don’t let them fester. Don’t stuff down your concerns in an effort to keep the peace. It will come out sooner or later and usually in some kind of explosion. Have regular conversations about your relationship and how things are going. Dedicate a date night every few months to reflecting on your marriage.
A Cautionary Note
No doubt there is plenty of beauty in your marriage, and it’s important to take note of those things for two reasons. One, you want to remind yourself of the many good things you’ve got going. Two, you don’t want to hack out something beautiful and fruitful as you are doing your springtime renovations. One person’s weed might just be the other person’s wildflower!
Before you start yanking out weeds and dead and stuff from your marriage garden or begin pruning out less fruitful areas, start first by listing things that are going well and that you are thankful for.
Once you’ve identified what’s going well, you can talk about areas of your marriage that could be improved. It’s important to remind yourselves that you are for each other and for your marriage. The purpose is to honestly and openly discuss opportunities for growth but not to accuse each other or yourself.
Give and receive lots of grace.
Next time, Part 2: Enhance Your Marriage Garden