I drove by a cherry tree on Winonna Drive today that was just beginning to bloom. And it reminded me of my all time favorite, most inspiring quote ever about marriage:
"I want to do with you, what Spring does with the cherry trees." -- Deb TalanThis is a line from a song written by one of my all time favorite artists. And it is the single most meaningful phrase that I've ever applied to my marriage relationship. The idea that, just as Spring renews the cherry trees, just as Spring brings forth new growth on the spindly ends of gray branches, just as Spring causes there to be new life where there was just dormant quiet all winter--so, too, can we bring about renewal in our relationships with our spouses.
Also, I love the idea that Spring renews cherry trees every year. It does not skip a year. There is no year when Spring just decides to stop working at it and let the cherry tree lie barren all summer. So, too, are we to be vigilant about working to renew our marriage relationships regularly, consistently.
I think that too often, we have unrealistic expectations of our relationships. We expect them to keep running smoothly and beautifully no matter how much we neglect them. We expect our partners to love us unconditionally no matter how little time, attention, care, or concern we show them. We expect our marriage to take a back seat to our careers, our children, our friends, our hobbies, our extended families.
And then, too, the moment it becomes clear that this is impossible--that our marriage cannot flourish without at least some attention and focus--we begin to feel anxious or guilty. To question the quality of the marriage. To wonder why our marriage needs help. To look with jealousy at friends with happy marriages, who never seem to have to work at it.
But that's a lie we should not entertain. Anyone with a good, solid marriage works at it.
Anyone with a good, solid marriage realizes that we must renew our relationship with our spouse regularly. That we must dig our heels in and talk about important things and be honest and open and work hard to make a connection. That we must be like Spring, not letting conflict or disconnection keep the cherry tree dormant and gray--but instead allowing a good cleansing rain, a warm sun, a hard conversation, a weekend away, to work quiet miracles.
I remember once, I read a book about the "Four Seasons of Marriage" (by the author of the "Five Love Languages" book), hoping that it would clarify this vision I had of how marriage relationships cycle from intense romance, to affectionate love, to respect and admiration, and on back to intense romance, etc. But instead, the book actually scared the bejezus out of me! It described the four seasons of marriage as:
Spring: renewing, hopeful in love, excited about the future.
Summer: happy and in love, connected, contented.
Fall: becoming disconnected, disillusioned.
Winter: completely out of touch, disconnected, living two separate lives in the same house.
The author actually talked about the grave danger your marriage was in if you were in the fall or winter phase of marriage, and how most marriages in the winter season of marriage would end in divorce if nothing drastic and significant changed. Scary stuff, huh? (By the way, the author has an online quiz you can take to get a general idea of which season your marriage is in if you're interested. But don't freak out if you're in fall or winter! Just keep reading!)
But I can see how this is true. If most of us think that marriages should just work well without a lot of focus and attention paid to them, then of course we are not going to get back to the Spring and Summer seasons of the cycle. It turns out that not many of us realized when we got married that when hard times come, actual action has to be taken to renew the connection, or Spring won't come.
So, if I want to do with my husband what Spring does to the cherry trees? If I want to renew our relationship, grow our connection, change with him, get better at this marriage thing? I've got to take action. I've got to be Spring. I've got to work hard to make the connection. Seek out the rain showers; call on the sun to shine on us. And not just once, but every year. Consistently.
What's funny, is that it sounds so serious and intense here. But it's the best responsibility I've ever taken on, actually. Because doing what Spring does--taking time to renew my connection with my husband--is the most rewarding and fun way I spend my time these days. And giving myself permission to make date nights and loving actions and deep conversations a priority, really just lets me have fun with my true love, my best friend, again.
And when you're having fun? That's when you know that Spring has come.
What about you? How do you work to renew your connection with your partner? Do you have a regular system in place to help yourself focus intentionally on your relationship?
(Also, I'd love your input on whether this was interesting to you, or whether you'd rather not have me blather on about my ideas about marriage here. Please comment if you have a second and let me know what you think!)