Love is a Garden

13summerWhen we moved into this house and I finally had a large plot of land where I could plant a real garden, someone said to me, “It takes seven years to grow a garden.” At the time I had no idea what that meant. I passionately and naively threw myself into planting our garden: a few tomatoes here, a row of peas there, pole beans planted around a bamboo teepee, some peppermint around the borders to deter the pesky mosquitoes, strawberries in the back. I watered and weeded as best I could with an almost four year old underfoot, and for a while it all looked lovely and hopeful. Then, as the heat intensified and my time shrunk, the weeds took over, some plants dried out, the tomatoes sagged and turned black on the bottom, and things didn’t look quite as sweet. By sheer luck, the peas and pole beans did well while everything else withered away, except the peppermint, which took over like wildfire.

Now, in our fifth year of being in this house, I understand: It takes seven years to get to know the soil, seven years to let the perennials take over, seven years to understand the climate, seven years to learn which plants I enjoy tending and which I don’t, seven years to realize what I’m capable of given my time limitations. Each year I’ve learned more. Each year I’ve had successes and setbacks. Each year, as my kids grow older and my time opens up, I have more time to spend in the garden and, thus, more time to get down into the dirt and pull out the weeds (as opposed to paying someone else to do it) and understand the ground that I’m planting in.

As I’m gardening, analogies to marriage often pop into my head, and today the similarity was clear: it takes time to grow the garden of love. We have a deeply-entrenched belief in our culture that love should be easy; that when you marry, you should know how to love and be loved; that you should understand your partner’s needs, likes, and dislikes and he/she should understand yours immediately. We think it should “just work” (just like you should “just know” if he or she is “the one”), and when it doesn’t “just work” we wonder what’s wrong. We think we made a mistake. We worry that something’s missing.

Like plants, love needs water to grow.

Like soil, love needs the right nourishment to flourish.

Like flowers, love needs light to thrive

But here’s the caveat: Perhaps it wouldn’t take seven years to grow a garden if you had a wise master gardener guiding you along. We can find our way by floundering and learning from our successes and failures, but it would be so much less scary and so much more effective if we had someone to show us the way. Perhaps we’re not meant to garden alone.

And perhaps we’re not meant to navigate relationships alone.

What if someone could tell you exactly what your relationship needs in order to thrive? What if you could learn the “Love Laws” that would help you open your heart so that you could feel more love, attraction, and connection with your partner? With water, nourishment, and light, a healthy relationship can turn into an exquisite garden, but how much? When? How? Most people are thrown to the wind when it comes to relationships and have no idea that Love Laws even exist, let alone knowing which ones to follow.

Perhaps it often takes seven years to grow a healthy relationship, to learn how to give and receive love in a way that feel nourishing and fulfiling for both of you… but perhaps it doesn’t have to take that long. And the truth is that many people can be in relationships for ten or twenty years – or a lifetime – and never grow a thriving love garden.

If you have a healthy seed (a loving partner), you can grow your love, cultivate your attraction, and nurture your intimacy

if only you know which love laws to follow.

Most people know that following Love Laws like connecting to gratitude and expressing appreciation help open your heart and water your garden. But what are the other Love Laws? What are the secret texts that lay hidden beneath the soil of healthy, loving relationships? Do some people know what they are and naturally follow them? Yes, they do. But all is not lost for those of us who didn’t have loving action modeled or for whom it’s more challenging to access the positive mindset.

Next week I’ll be opening registration for my new program, “Open Your Heart: A 30 day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner,” in which I’ll be your head gardener as I teach you the Love Laws that will grow your relationship garden into the beautiful, nourishing place that you’ve always dreamed it could be. We tend to have this idea that loving couples are just naturally loving with each other because they’re “well-matched” or “meant to be.” The truth is that loving couples exude the air of love because they practice the Love Laws and consequent loving actions, either consciously or unintentionally. Some people are more primed to act in loving, positive ways while others – generally the half-glass empty folks – have to put more effort into loving. This point was addressed in a beautiful comment on my last post, “So Much Love“, by a woman named Andrea:

What we pay attention to in life grows and expands. The trick is to grow and expand the loving, good parts of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Doing so ultimately feeds and fuels the goodness in our relationships and enriches our lives. That takes a conscious approach of daily mindfulness, which you lovingly provide us here with this forum. Thank you for the blessing!

I like to remind myself in my darkest hours of relationship anxiety that everything in life follows a predictable pattern… including love. If I neglect my car, it will break down. If I only feed my body bad foods, I will get sick. If I stop watering my orchid, it will lose its lovely flowers. Predictable pattern. Love is no different. If I don’t feed and fuel my love by recognizing the good things about my partner and our dance, the darkness will grow like a virus and eventually kill what is in its path. So when the negative thoughts come up, I have to remember to ask myself, “Do I want to feed this love or starve it?” It is up to me.

To which I commented:

This is the reason why some couples make it look so easy and loving and others struggle. It’s not that the loving couples are inherently more loving or “right” in some way but that they probably naturally water their marriage garden through loving action. For those of us that don’t do this naturally (usually glass half-empty thinkers), we need to learn these love laws and practice them more intentionally. This is also what I’ll be teaching in my new program, “Open Your Heart: A 30 day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner.”

Are you ready to learn? I’ll be opening registration next week for this exciting new program and space will be limited, so if you’re interested in learning more and being added to the list, email me directly.

25 comments to Love is a Garden

  • Brianna

    Sheryl,
    Is it normal to feel empty? I’ve been waking up feeling so empty. Today I thought it was the end for my boyfriend and I, but then for three hours straight I was hysterical crying, asking myself why did I do this? why did I let it get this far? I felt so out of control. A good cry usually makes me feel better but I was with my boyfriend after that and I was still feeling empty. When I think of us, sex or our future (all things that would make me excited before the anxiety) I get anxious. Even when I hear his name. Is this normal?

  • Brianna

    When I was with him I just looked at him and started to cry and told him I’d be so lost without him. I feel so lost without those loving feelings, it upsets me so much.

  • Sarah

    A beautiful article. It always seems that good marriages get better as time goes by…I hate hearing comments like, “Oh just wait until_____years go by….” I have hope that I’ll know myself better, know my husband better, and have a better idea on how to express love the further we go!

  • Karen

    Brianna, in the two years leading up to my wedding (which were supposed to be five months), I had to trust that somewhere underneath I still had loving feelings for my husband. I was on some sort of treadmill of extreme anxiety about marriage, guilt, numbness, contempt for my fiance about random things (which I know now was a trick my mind was playing to do anything to avoid the unknown intimacy of marriage), and then extreme anxiety about the possibility of breaking up because I knew I would regret it if he moved on and married someone else.

    The trap was deciding my feelings must mean something about the direction I “must” choose. Instead they meant I was scared of marriage, of intimacy, of who marriage meant I was and whether I would disappear.

    It is scary not to feel for your partner what you used to feel, but once you work through more anxiety and can let down some walls you have built to protect yourself, you will be able to practice what Sheryl is talking about here. You do not have to rely on chance; you can cultivate feelings toward your boyfriend.

  • cer

    Karen,

    I love what you wrote. My engagement period was supposed to be 13 months, but will end up being about 22 months. Longer than I expected, but a lot of good work has been done. I am working on bringing down those walls and going on faith. I really like what you wrote.

  • Isabella

    Do you have to pay for this program sheryl?

  • Sarah

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thank-you so much for this website, it has truly been helping through some tough times. I have been having doubts about my boyfriend for nearly a panic about having them, the more they come into my head and therefore i have made it mean that i believe those thoughts. I question the love for my boyfriend and i know it’s all of my anxiety but the last couple of weeks my mind has just been telling me to break it off, and now i can’t stop visualising/thinking this. Now i’m beginning to feel like my body is telling me this relationship is wrong because i keep coming back to it and all i keep thinking is to break it off and work through my stuff by myself. (even though i’d also like to create balance in my life and work the stuff out alongside him–)

    Now i just keep focusing on the fact that i’m messing him around and that it’s bound to break off because my whole mind and body is telling me to do so. EVEN though, we have a really great relationship, there is nothing really wrong with it, but maybe it’s just that it isn’t right. People tell me that sometimes there can be nothing wrong with the relationship but that sometimes it doesn’t feel right anymore. How do i tell if this is it? I don’t want to hurt him as i care about him so much, but i’m definitely pushing him away (for some reason-maybe to protect myself)

    anyway thanks so much for the site

    • Keep reading through my site, Sarah, and you’ll understand why, as long as there are no red flags, I don’t subscribe to the mainstream message of “doubt means don’t” or “maybe it just isn’t right”.

    • Toni

      Hi Sarah

      I just wondered how you’re doing? I feel exactly as you do, everything you wrote is how i i feel. It’s like i’ve thought these things for so long now i believe them and i have no idea how to get off this thought path, the only thing stopping me from breaking things off is the thought of how good we were before all of this started, and the occasional times we share when i know ho much i love him. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like we’re together because it’s like i’ve talked my way out of the relationship. I feel awful, every day i wake up sad and crying and i can’t handle it anymore, i tell myself every day that i don’t love him enough, there’s not enough attraction, we’re just best friends, i can’t see a future with him, i don’t care enough and we’re just drifting apart. It’s like theres two of me, one that wants this to work and the other that doesn’t. It’s terrifying, but i just know i’d be devastated without him in my life, he’s the best thing to ever happen to me and i really don’t want to feel this way anymore.

      It would be great to know how you’ve got on with things? I hope you’ve made progression and are feeling more positive about everything.

      toni

  • Isabella

    My boyfriend and I got into an argument over my anxiety. He says I don’t act the same and that I’m trying to be loving and covering up my sadness and anxiety with being obnoxious (loud,weird) and he is right. I told him yesterday that I get anxiety because I wake up empty. I told it that it scares me and makes me think. He says how do you know you love me? I told him when I cry over losing him and he said it can’t be like losing a parent. I told him that I cry over not ending up with him in the future. I also told him that I’m jealous his love comes so easy and I am struggling. my life is nothing unless I have him. I just want the emptiness away an to enjoy my relationship. I have no desire for sexual things anymore and I try to be loving but it is so hard because I don’t feel it. That is what upsets him.

  • Jenny

    Thanks for the great blog Sheryl.

  • Brianna

    These past few days I have been doing better. I still don’t feel those loving feelings and still a bit empty, but I look at my boyfriend and just know that I love him and that I am crazy about that face! Anyway, today I go on facebook and look at my love horoscope and it says, “This can be a time of leaving, separating from a relationship and choosing a new way. This withdrawal maybe be a warning sign to you from your instinct just letting you know that off feeling you have is curing you to do something much better. This is a situation you may be better off without.” Now I’ve never paid any attentions to these horoscopes, nor have they ever been true, but of course it says that and with my situation it spiked some anxiety and gave me a sick feeling. The anxiety only lasted a few seconds, but I’m trying to not think too much into it.

  • Isabella

    Sometimes when I’m talking to someone about my anxiety they will say only you know the truth and when they say that sometimes I’ll think it is that I don’t love my boyfriend but then ill get anxious. Is this normal sheryl? Is that the fear talking? We’ve always had a great relationship there was nothing wrong when the anxiety started.

    • kendra

      I’ve been having some of the same issues Isabella. I know how you feel about having doubts about loving your boyfriend. I’ve done the horoscope checking and such. I just keep reminding myself that loving someone is a choice (I think an article on here somewhere mentions something about it-I just got out of the honeymoon phase after anxiety attacks and emotional numbness so I’ve been trying to learn about love). I’m going to talk to my boyfriend tonight about how i want to commit to loving him, supporting him, trusting him, being honest with him, building intimacy, etc. I’m going to tell him that i love him, because i choose to, because i believe he is worth it and that we could be great together, not because of a fleeting feeling caused by hormones. Hopefully it will all go well. We’ve been together over a year now.

      • Isabella

        I even read my horoscope and it said “be honest with yourself” and it gives me a lump in my throat and I hear a voice saying “You don’t love him” but I try to push it away cause I know how the anxiety started and I’ll just start crying when I see that things are different and that I’d be lost without him. Does that happen to you? I just want it to go away!

        • kendra

          It definitely happens to me. Have you talked to your boyfriend about this? I just talked to mine last night. I told him that i love him because I choose to. And that I would want someone to love me because they want to, and because we could have a great life together rather than because of a random feeling that could suddenly change due to a lot of things. I can imagine you’re reading love horoscopes as well (I do that too…) but there are many sites that you can go to and get a different horoscope. If love was a feeling, then nobody would ever stay together. That’s why I think it is a choice to love someone or not (after the honeymoon/puppy love/infatuation phase).

          • Isabella

            I want nothing more than to love him because he is worth it. For me, it is hard to be so loving and intimate when I can’t feel it. It upsets me.

          • kendra

            Me too Isabella, but if he’s worth it then try to be loving. That’s what I’m doing.

  • chelsea

    Great article,to know that a relationship an marriage take time an work it isn’t just given an understood right away.

  • alice

    I’m desperate to love my boyfriend because when I’m happy and feel ‘free’ I get so excited about our future and I can feel how much I love him or would love him ‘more’ if the walls would all just come down and I could stop thinking or analyzing. Sometimes I feel so numb towards him and I feel like I’m being fake! Sometimes I think about us not being together and I feel fine then other times it makes me panic the thought! Anxiety confuses me so much, I just want to be normal 🙁