Most people think of a relationship as two people, two entities. But the entire emotional landscape of the couple shifts to vast proportions when the relationship can be thought of as its own entity, the third organism, additional to the couple. Some say it is helpful to think of their relationship as a ‘garden’, with its own individual needs and boundaries. A garden requires lots of water and feeding, thoughtful attention, nurturing and a consistent infusion of positive energy, not easy in this frenzied full life demanded of most of us. Most things, if left to their own devices, follow the law of gravity . . . And shrivel up and die!
We say that, of course, we are committed to our relationship, and that our partner means everything to us. And yet, when we look at the hours we spend on the web, on our work addictions, on our competing relationships, or even watching reality tv, it is not surprising that our relationship may be fighting for its life. It is all too easy to let the hours, days, and weeks fly by, controlled by the rhythm of our unconsciousness. And in addition to our work and our habits, I often see the children becoming the couple’s striking preoccupation, with time and energy far exceeding what may be optimal. These “helicopter parents” barely have time enough for themselves, never mind their relationship, and the children, in turn, often feel smothered and controlled.
Let’s say that both people are exhausted after a long day at the office or staying home caring for a family. After dinner, both feel like retreating to the couch after kids are put to bed. But if they can muster up enough gumption to tend their ‘garden’, arrange for a babysitter and go out on a date, they have successfully reached beyond themselves, and have chosen to infuse their relationship with much needed attention and reconnection. Even a 10 minute walk around the block or a 15 minute quiet breakfast together before the children wake up are examples of conscious choices that give the relationship what it needs.
It is sadly surprising to see how many couples just do not make any separate time to tend to their couplehood where “mommy” and “daddy” can turn back into a woman and a man. They somehow expect their garden to take care of itself without any water or sunshine! No wonder sex gets lost in the shuffle and it is only time before the partners start feeling like roommates.
But if regular date nights and daily check-ins can start replacing our many unconscious choices, our garden can once again blossom. These constant efforts at reconnection not only becomes a source of loving energy between the partners, thus sustaining the relationship, but at the same time, this garden becomes a vehicle that nurtures the individual partners themselves. And the children are next on the list of beneficiaries!