I’m 50 years old. I have lived in Washington, DC, my entire life. I’m a DC dude. DC dudes don’t usually farm or grow our food. We go to the grocery store to buy the food we intend to cook at home. What can I say? After 50 years, I’m definitely living within a food procurement pattern.
About a year ago, my sister came by my house and put together a garden box for me. I think that’s what it’s called. The box is rectangular, made using two-by-six wooden pieces. Sis gave me the instructions to fill the box. “Fill it a little over halfway with dead leaves, pinecones, wood, and other foliage. Just don’t include grass. If you do, grass will grow in the box, and we don’t want that. Then get ten bags of potting soil and use that to fill the rest of the box. Also, pick up the crops you want to plant. After you do that, call me.”
My sons and I followed her instructions. She returned and planted everything with the assistance of my daughter, Esi. Within a week, life began to show itself in our beautiful garden. I reported the progress to my sister. I was excited and pleased. She was the great mentor. About two months later, there was food to harvest. We had actually grown crops to eat, right in my backyard. A DC dude.
Here’s where the story takes an ugly turn. We grew the crops, but we didn’t harvest them before they were no longer good. If it sounds absurd to you, you are in good company. It sounds absurd to me too . . . and I was the person doing the absurd. I’ll add to the illustration of the absurdity: during this time, we actually went to the store to buy romaine lettuce while ripe romaine lettuce sat in our garden. I couldn’t make this story up if I tried.
What does any of this have to do with relationships? Often, in our relationships and marriages, we know there are things we need to, should, or are best served by doing. But we don’t do them . . . for whatever reason. Most of the time, these changes require a shift in our habits or our culture. And given that we are creatures of habit, changing them can take real focus and effort. It can be tough.
In addition, we are also partners of individuals who are creatures of habit. Individuals who are working to break a pattern and may struggle. And when this happens, we get to work together. This begins with patience.
I was reminded of this with the garden story. Fortunately, my sister was patient with me. Sis could have said, “You are wasting time, money, and my efforts by not eating the food I helped you grow.” And she would have been absolutely correct. She didn’t say that though. She just smiled and said, “I understand. It takes some time to get into the habit of picking the food that you have grown. But it’ll come.”
Her approach was remarkably refreshing and comforting.
Most of us are aware that we are in a cycle that isn’t serving us, but we often have trouble breaking it. This can be frustrating for us (as we watch ourself flounder in unproductivity) and for our partner (who is also watching and perhaps dealing with their own stuff). We can be hard on ourself; our partner may be hard on us too. At other times, our partner may be hard on themself and we may be hard on them too. This is not how a loving culture is created in a relationship.
A loving culture begins with the compassion we show ourself as we work to traverse our challenges. We don’t beat up on ourself. We give ourself patience and compassion. We also transfer that same patience into how we deal with our partner. This is the start of a loving culture. Hopefully, our partner will feel and experience the compassion we show ourself and them—and do the same for themself and for us. It’s the start of a beautiful culture that can reverberate into the many generations that follow us and into our entire world today.
This does not absolve us of the work we are charged with doing. I am not off the hook as it pertains to harvesting the proverbial food we grew. I can and should be held accountable. I would prefer that to happen with patience and understanding. If I keep letting the crops rot, I might need my butt kicked. And that’s ok too.
Please, as we deal with our own absurd behaviors and witness the same in the people around us, let’s understand that change takes time. Impatience or irritation won’t change that. Instead, let’s keep our eyes on creating the loving culture that is going to feed ourself, or partner, our children, and our community.
And that’s loving,
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Frank Love coaches individuals toward creating a loving culture in their family. He is also the author of Relationship Conversations You Don’t Want to Have (But Should Anyway) and 25 Ways to Be Loving. To schedule a free consultation, contact Frank at Frank@FrankLove.com.