For the last five summers, I’ve proudly displayed a cute little planter pot on the corner of our porch. Every summer, I start out strong, determined to keep the plant alive and blossoming. And without fail, every summer ends with me looking at a brown and crunchy plant, determined to do better next year.
I tend to forget about my plant. I rush past it in the mornings, on the way out of the door. At the end of a long day, I vow to deal with it tomorrow, when I’m not so tired and have more time. I convince myself it’s fine for a just a little bit longer. But weeks later, when I realize I’ve left my plant unattended too long, I scramble into fix it mode. I drown my plant with water and plant food, desperately trying to revive it after a summer of neglect.
Recently, I started to think about the parallels between my plant plight and relationships. Too often, we take this same approach with relationships. We make the mistake of leaving them alone for too long. We don’t stop to check on them. We promise to reconnect when life slows down and we have more time. And then, when we realize how disconnected they are, we think we can revive them all at once.
So I want you to think differently about relationships. Relationships are living organisms. They are made up to two living, breathing human beings, and therefore, by extension, the relationship itself is a living thing. So just like my plant, a relationship requires a specific kind of care.
A relationship needs consistent attention. Nearly every good gardener can be found outside in their garden, regularly. Because they know that for their garden to flourish and bloom, it needs consistent care. It’s important to note the difference between consistent and constant. Constant attention calls to mind round the clock, 24 hour care. And that’s not realistic. Things pop up, life happens. Your relationship can’t be front and center at all times. But it does need to be front and center consistently. Don’t wait until your relationship feels empty or on it’s last leg. Like a plant, make time to water and feed it regularly, making sure it’s getting consistent care.
The needs of a relationship change as the organism grows. Just as a child needs something different at ages two, ten, and twenty, the needs of your relationship change as it grows. What sustained the relationship in the early years will not be enough to carry you through the later years. What you need as a couple with children will likely be different than what you needed when it was just the two of you. Each person is changing. The relationship is changing. And so your needs will change. Make time to check in about the needs of your evolving relationship.
A relationship needs to be monitored. My husband keeps plants alive much longer than I do. You know why? Because he checks on them. He feels the soil. He notices small changes in the blooms and the leaves. He monitors the plant to know what it needs. How often do you stop to take the temperature of your relationship? How frequently do you check in, thinking about how the relationship feels?
Research shows that monitoring is one of the most important steps when it comes to habit development. There’s a reason Weight Watchers asks participants to weigh in weekly and why doctors take your blood pressure at the start of a visit. With monitoring, you’re able to gauge how on track things are. From there, you can plan and strategize about what you need and what to do next. But this all starts with monitoring. So when it comes to your important relationships, make time to check in and be honest about how things feel.
Relationships are living organisms. They require consistent care and monitoring. Their needs are always changing. In the same way we can’t expect a plant to thrive if we leave it forgotten about in the corner of our porch, we can’t expect a relationship to sustain itself.
Today, I’m challenging you think differently about relationships, seeing them as living, breathing organisms, rather than something that just is. Check in on your relationship, feed it regularly, and be sensitive to how the relationship and its needs evolve over time.
Relationships aren’t easy, but they’re worth it. Let’s take care of them.
PS: Want more relationship advice? Check out this post; it’s one of my favorites.