1. They’re weeds.
  2. I didn’t plant them.
  3. I don’t want them there.

The same thing can happen in our marriages if we’re not careful. Little irritations crop up. Doesn’t everyone know to rinse dirty dishes before leaving them in the sink? Resentment festers. I have to do everything around here. Stubbornness takes root. Something needs to change around here, but you’ll have to go first. The ugly weeds of selfishness, disrespect and taking each other for granted start to make themselves at home.

We need to uproot the little annoyances in our marriage before they grow too large and crowd out our love and marital harmony.

Tend the garden

It is an unromantic yet undeniable truth that relationships need maintenance. It’s easier to pull weeds on a regular basis than to wait till they are overgrown. Vigilant care of our garden allows us to address issues before a tender shoot becomes a toughened twig.

Seemingly innocuous weeds can ruin your garden: neglecting time for physical intimacy; using a harsh tone; refusing to compromise on small issues; allowing routine to dull the passion and adventure of marriage. Pull these up as soon as you can. But pull gently, speaking the truth with much love, because yanking out a weed leaves a hole that will have to be smoothed out and filled in later.

Enrich the soil

Little courtesies nourish a growing marriage. We often lavish them on our spouse during courtship and the early days of marriage, but we may use them too sparingly as the years go by. Say "please," "thank you," "you’re welcome" and "with pleasure." Open the door for her. Greet him with joy when he comes home.

Compliment one another sincerely. Acknowledge the unique contributions you each make to your household. A generous dose of kindness will keep your garden healthy and productive.

Water the flowers

Deliberately focus on what’s right with your marriage. He snores like a freight train, but he’s a wonderful father. She doesn’t keep the house as neat as you’d like it, but she’s thoughtful. He’s not conventionally romantic, but he always remembers that you like a slice of lime in your Diet Coke. She’s not a great cook, but she never overspends.

Overlook small annoyances, and remember the positives. Ask yourself, Will this issue matter to me tomorrow or next week? If not, let it go. Sprinkle the plants you want to thrive with grace, forgiveness and gratitude.

Enjoy the beauty

Just as a garden can be over-tilled, plucked bare and trampled, we can overanalyse, compare and mow down our spouse’s feelings for the sake of "improving" our marriage. We demand the reading of the latest best-seller on relationships; we compare the creativity of another couple’s date nights to the woeful ordinariness of our own. Yes, there are times when you need to pull weeds and nourish your garden. But sometimes you just need to make a picnic beside the blooming plants and take in their springtime fragrance.

Give thanks for the harvest

A farmer’s wife once spent the day cooking to surprise her husband with his favourite meal. With her friend’s help, she scrubbed the kitchen till it shined and donned a new dress. Candlelight flickered from tall tapers on the table.

Her husband tramped in, weary from a hard day in the fields. Large clumps of mud fell from his boots onto the freshly mopped floor as he crossed to the sink before removing the boots.

Ready to leave, the friend turned to the wife and whispered in disgust, "Ugh! Look at all that mud!"

The wife smiled. "Yes, his boots bring the mud in, but they bring him in, too."

She knew the value of a picnic – of resting from the hard work of pulling weeds in order to enjoy the budding flowers. So go ahead. Unpack your blanket and spread it wide next to your thriving garden.

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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