Falling in Love verses Staying in Love

“Falling in Love” versus “Staying in Love”

     I was an impressionable teen in the 70s. My head was filled with Romeo and Juliet (1968 with Olivia Hussey), Love Story (1970, Ryan O’Neil and Ali MacGraw), Camelot (1967, Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave), The Way We Were (1975, Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand), and Grease (1978, Olivia Newton John and John Travolta). I had the feeling love was something that floated down from the sky and landed on you with a profound assurance it had found you and the journey was over.  

It’s not on the one, it’s not the mambo. It’s a feeling; a heartbeat.

{ Johnny to Baby from Dirty Dancing}

    Needless to say, I soon learned how naïve those thoughts really were. Falling in love is only the beginning. Staying in love is a whole different story. So when that singular and grand love everyone dreams about did find me, I was surprised to find the journey was far from over.  Throughout the years it has taken a lot of care to keep our love healthy and growing.  Like a garden there’s a lot of tending to be done. She taught me just the right lessons to help pull the weeds out of our relationship.

The ten important things my garden taught me about love:

Water often and deeply: Love needs to grow deep roots to avoid surface growth that can burn out easily. Love is hydrated with daily praise. Take the time to notice and compliment character traits you admire.

Beauty Fades: Over time beauty fades like the blossom of a rose, but the fragrance lingers. Give compliments and show admiration for things that will not fade in time. Appreciate your lover’s ability to solve problems, and to maintain patience with a fussy baby, a troubled teen or a sensitive child. Applaud their efforts to stay the course when others might not. If properly cultured, love grows and the bloom will leave its fragrance on the cultivator. So it may be with relationships that are tenderly developed.

Safeguard Consistently: It’s essential to protect the garden from enemies. Left unprotected, plants and relationships can be easily destroyed. Daily, pull out the weeds when they’re little and their roots aren’t as capable of destroying the main stalk. Speaking up in a relationship when strains are first discovered can create a perseverant partnership. Even seasoned growth needs boundaries and proper reinforcement. Consider the slug. His single-purposed is to devour everything in its path. Don’t think he’ll go after the weeds. He prefers the best the garden has to offer.  If allowed to run free, destruction is certain. Safeguarding love means keeping the slugs out of the garden to assure continued growth. Building boundaries safeguards longevity.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: Every gardener has their favorite flower for whatever reasons each one has. My friend loves lilies and I can’t stand the smell of them. I adore Lavender and my husband always asks “What stinks?” Behaviors and traits of our spouses come with spectator choices. We can either classify the habit as an endearment or an irritant. Be slow to decide the flower’s fate or the habits’ providence.

A time for everything: Plants need a time to grow, a time to flourish and a time to rest. Relationships need quality and quantity of time, likewise relationships also need time alone, a personal quiet time to internally grow.

Pay attention: Don’t be afraid to change the climate for a plant that isn’t doing well. It might need more watering, fertilizer or re-fortified soil to inspire growth. Rookie plants can often survive on very little, but once established the needs of the mature plant change; the gardener must adapt to the advanced needs of the older growth. To neglect the adult requirements could mean the death of a favorite bloomer. 

Two can be better than one. When grafting a cutting into an established host, the hope is that the two will become one. In the event that the cutting is rejected, its removal can cause the death of both grafted pieces. Choose carefully; once merged together, a pulling apart can harm even the strongest stalk. If the merge is successful, the new plant will be stronger than originally creating a partnership that will stand the test of storms and time.

Select Carefully; Some plants are show stoppers and some are supporting stage setters. Blend together carefully. I at times planted two show stoppers side by side only to have them compete with each other until I moved one of them. It was only once I relocated one of them that they both became all they could be. People can be like that; know yourself well enough to find someone who compliments you rather than competes with you.

Old gardens are beautiful. New gardens along with the anticipation of creating a garden, brings out an excitement and passion in the gardener. But it is the established garden that brings the surety of spring following winter. The long-established garden, though toilsome at first to create, self-perpetuates continued growth and beauty with much less effort. The roots are deep and much more able to sustain themselves during difficult times. Staying in love, once the hard work is completed, also perpetuates a staying power that new love hasn’t yet discovered. Although zeal and passion motivates new relationships, devotion, dedication and commitment build the staying power for the journey.

Celebrate the Beauty! Take time to enjoy the nuances of the garden. Don’t forget the little things individually and collectively that consistently perpetuate the garden to be its best. Frame the garden in the best possible manner you’re capable of. Speak of the beauty of your garden often. Remember you are responsible for being its ambassador. Sometimes you are the only way spectators may see the garden. How you tend the garden may inspire others to create their own strong relationships.

     When I was young, I believed love just happened and that I had no control of falling in or falling out of love. As the years have marched on by, I’ve learned that love happens intentionally. The staying power of love is based in knowing who I am through the creator of ultimate love. As I learn to embrace an unconditional love built on the steadfastness of the rock of Christ, I’ve learned to love myself in a way that allows me to give love away. This gift of love is like dropping a rock in a lake, the ripples reflect love’s natural outward movement. I never know where the ripples will end up and I guess I don’t have to know; it is enough that the movement extends outward rather than inward—demonstrating the power of “falling in” versus “staying in”.