A few weeks ago, I sat in my office across from two people who loved each other but were tired of fighting for their marriage. The challenges they faced seemed insurmountable to them. In our first hour and a half together, this couple laid out for me all the evidence that they were in a broken marriage. Each of them thought that their relationship was dead, but from my side of the couch, it looked like it was just really wilted. It wasn’t that they odds weren’t stacked against them; they were. As I listened to their hearts, it just seemed like there was still a tiny bit of life begging them to not yet let go, so I told them story about the plants in my kitchen.
I have three mason jars of bamboo on my kitchen window sill. I’m actually very proud of that bamboo because I have something of a black thumb. (Sitting here writing this just reminded me of the hanging plant I bought this morning that is still in the back of my hot car. Be right back.) I always have the best intentions that the flower garden in the grown up space of our back yard will bloom into a beautiful oasis. Typically, it takes about two weeks of gardening before I give up and convince myself that the weeds are actually Texas wildflowers and I didn’t really want the flowers I bought at Lowes. My bamboo plants have managed to survive for about five years though. It’s basically a plant miracle.
The thing about my bamboo plants, is that while they have survived, they have not always thrived. The mason jars aren’t just a product of our country style, I had to transplant the bamboo because I knocked all of them off the counter and shattered a couple jars. On multiple occasions I have forgotten to water them long enough that they all turned yellow and started wilting.
This really is related to relationships.
When I first told that couple about the plants in my kitchen, they looked a bit confused. I explained though, that love is like bamboo. It really wants to survive but it needs some attention if it’s going to make it. When you first come to therapy or you tentatively hold out a proverbial olive branch after weeks, months or even years of fighting, that is like the first time you give those wilted plants the water they so desperately need. The problem is that sometimes we expect everything to be lush and green as soon as we give it that first drink. In reality that was just enough to keep them from toppling over but not enough to pull them back from the edge.
After a drought, your plants and relationships both need consistent attention and care. Not every relationship can or will survive but many couples come through the fire and find love again. When that is the goal, it is critical to take the time to consistently water our relationships and carefully peel back the dead leaves so that life can find its way back in. We didn’t get into this mess overnight and we won’t climb out that quickly either. Learning to communicate and working through the wounds of the past often happens tediously. We provide nourishment and love moment by moment for what seems like forever, but eventually there comes a day when you stand at the kitchen sink and notice that your plants are bright green and full of life.
A note on authenticity: I really did realize that I had left plants in the car mid blog. You can see my pretty flowers here.