Winter’s come and gone. And now, how does your garden grow?
No doubt it’s survived some difficult times during these past months, and yet it’s still there waiting for you to grab your favorite seeds, a bag of mulch, the trowel, and your flowered gloves so you can transform it into this year’s paradise. That’s not unlike the path of progress for romantic relationships. They, too, go through challenging conditions followed by new times of growth and expansion.
So while the grounds surrounding your home may be calling out for special care and attention, we want to take you for a stroll through the flower beds of love that live within your home. You’ll be pleased with how gardening can create marvelous magic even there.
Please join us as we start by introducing the two largest plants in our home.
We met on a blind date. Jim was 45 and twice divorced. Judith was 43 and never married. We weren’t each other’s type and there wasn’t instant chemistry.
Yet, on the fourth date, when we first held hands, we knew something was happening that went beyond anything we’d ever experienced or even imagined. It scared us—and it was thrilling. We didn’t yet call it love. It simply announced itself through our holding hands—the heat, the intensity, the energy of a deeply connected soul-meeting.
It would be several more dates before we had the courage to kiss. And when we did, a tidal wave of emotion took over as Judith began to weep with joy—for reasons too profound to understand at the time. We couldn’t deny what was happening.
Rather soon, we began to discover how very different we were from each other—sort of like Neatly Tended Bonsai (Judith) meets Wildly Ranging Grapevine (Jim). We also came to our relationship with deeply tangled roots from our early years in separate nurseries where we grew from seedling to maturity, as well as the hot house pressures of trying to coil ourselves up the rigid trellises of others’ expectations.
Meanwhile, neither of us received expert pruning. Judith had been excessively trimmed back while Jim lacked appropriate direction. Hardly stuff for the best cross-fertilization. Yet we were old enough to know that it was in our differences that the soil of love could best be fertilized. The test would come with our first real fight. If only we could fight for the relationship and not to win.
We’d known each other four months when we went to Hanford, near the Sierras in Northern California. We had a wonderful time hiking through the redwoods, taking photographs of each other, and dancing and watching fireworks on the 4th of July.
As we paid the hotel bill, Jim saw a notice for a jazz concert a few months later and asked Judith if she’d like to come back for the event.
Judith was silent.
Rather abruptly and a bit too sharply, Jim said, “Okay, we won’t.”
Shocked and hurt, Judith shot back, “What’s wrong with you? I didn’t say no.”
Contempt curled around the edges. The fight was on.
We stalked out to the car, angry and scared, with hundreds of miles to go before the safety of our own homes.
Creepy parasites had burrowed up from the depths—Jim’s insecurity and Judith’s fear of attack. How would we respond to the pain that now flooded the blossoming of our togetherness? Would this tender exposure, forced into awareness by the hurricane of misunderstanding, kill or fertilize the new love that was taking root?
After we’d pouted and snarled a bit, we started settling into the demands of the storm,
realizing that we could either allow the winds to destroy what we had, or we could join together in discovering a new way to be together now that the weather had announced the need for change.
Judith: Why did you snap at me? I didn’t do anything.
Jim: You were silent for so long, I thought…
Judith: (defensively) I was just thinking!
Jim: Well, why didn’t you say so? I thought you hated my idea.
Judith: You didn’t have to take my silence personally.
Jim: You looked sullen, it made me feel insecure.
Judith: Insecure! Are you kidding!!?? Really? I thought you were punishing me because I didn’t respond immediately. I felt attacked.
The thorny nettles of deep truth were weeding their way into the open. Would we use them to hurt each other? Or would we treasure them as the kind of fertilzer necessary to help us grow the kind of love we wanted to share?
Digging into our conversation with curiosity and back-and-forth clarification, we slowly unearthed layers of compassion for each other’s injuries. Our growing awareness brought us much closer and eased the pain of old wounds that accompanied us on this intimate adventure.
What started out as a “stupid misunderstanding” in a hotel lobby turned out to be the profound seedling of deepest romance, richer love, and sweet sympathy for one another. It guided the rest of our trip home and informs our marriage all these years later.
We had indeed opened a can of worms. But just the kind that every gardener hopes for—those that produce rich, robust fertilizer from digesting whatever they take in.
| And conflict is like fertilizer—it may not smell good but in the end it gives you a really colorful and robust crop.
| Sadly, most people avoid fertilizing their love, afraid they’ll create root rot instead of revitalized soil. But that’s because they’ve never known how important conflict is to their own self-development, healing, and germination of new life. When people avoid clashing, they prohibit the growth of love and they avoid the spiritual learning that love was intended to provide.
You see, at the center of an established relationship, a couple’s garden plot will have well defined and agreed upon boundaries and support structures. Inside the garden it’s weeded, watered, and well tended. Everything is running smoothly and growing well. But out beyond the limits of their garden, it’s nothing but wilderness.
And when you get into the wilderness of your relationship, you don’t know what the lay of the land is, and you can easily crash into each other. That’s where most conflicts occur—where the wilderness needs to be cultivated to become more of your garden.
A conflict is like an SOS. It’s saying, “Listen, this clash of differences is just telling you that change is required. And the change will domesticate more of your wild territory, so that your garden can become larger and more beautiful.”
No clash is one-sided. When the beans and zucchini feel invaded by each other’s expansive growth, they each have a solid complaint. Likewise, each person in a conflict has a point of view that needs to be taken seriously. And each is similar to a plant species—it needs unique soil, moisture, pruning, and sunlight—and, to some degree, that’s always what each one is fighting for.
But out of ignorance, most people ignore each other’s differing needs and then try to force the other to give up being different. It’s like trying to get a rose to grow in the desert or a pine tree to take root in sand. It never works.
But when you use conflict as fertilizer, to learn more about yourself and each other— especially at deeper levels of emotional experience—then you both feel recognized and understood for who you really are. You then find yourself wanting to change, wanting to provide more appropriate conditions for each other’s development, and for the growth of your love.
When you love more fully through the process of conflict, you are changed. When you are loved as the result of healthy conflict, you are changed. Just like with nature’s spring flower festival, the more attention you pay to resolving weeds, mites, and beetle bugs, the more beautiful grows your garden of love.
Fertilize your love and the blessing of being together.
Fight well. Fight fair. Fight to know each other better and better.
Fight to grow the love you share.
Only then can you continually turn over new soil, creating and cultivating the very best growing conditions for your love.