When I was a little girl, my parents had a garden. The garden was rather large and filled with cabbage, sunflowers, strawberries, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, etc. The garden itself was encased in a large fenced-in area to keep out the dogs, especially the large and loveable Newfoundland Ginger. Then inside the garden space, you had perfectly tilled dirt with the garden separated into sections using boards. The distance of each plant was precisely measured out. Each fruit or vegetable had its own corral. In other words, my engineer father had made his garden an perfectly symmetrical gardening masterpiece.
A really bad mock up of Dad’s garden.
I remember going over to my godparent’s house to play with my god-brothers and being secretly horrified of the zigzagged rows of beans and corn with stray weeds growing up between the rows. Weeds never lived in our garden; in my head, gardens were meant to be neat and not dirty. So you can imagine the mental expectations I had of our future garden when Trae and I moved into our very own house with a large backyard.
Our garden is not as big; it did not have nice fence around it. Tomato plants were not planted exactly 28 1/2 inches apart. We underestimated how big squash plants grow. Trae has to be careful when his mows because our butternut squash has escaped the confines of the fence. We have weeds; heck we even lost our collards to pests. Our garden is not an engineering marvel. I freaked out. We had to keep the weeds out; we needed to fence the garden off better. We weren’t doing it right. Our garden did not look like my dad’s garden. We were looking more like my godparent’s garden and that wasn’t right.
Guess what…I wasn’t right in my assumptions. One of the most important things to remember before going into a marriage is not go in with expectations created by other people. A marriage is something you build together as a couple, not something you build with yourself, your spouse, and everyone else.
Facebook is one virtual garden that I had to learn how to navigate. I see pictures of happy couples with wonderful messages of “So blessed” or pictures of couples traveling the world. I have always wanted to travel, and while I have been blessed to travel, I found myself feeling that I was not traveling enough and started to get jealous. My husband and I weren’t watching a sunset in Africa; we weren’t wine tasting. We were at home eating a frozen pizza. I started to measure my marriage against these pictures and statuses. Compared to these relationships, my marriage was sub-par and full of weeds.I started to dwell on the fact we didn’t go places; we didn’t do exciting events or outings.
Then I talked to one of my friends who I was envious of her Facebook persona. We were talking about her latest trip, and she mentioned–out of the blue– how while she loved traveling, she was jealous of my life! I was shocked. She longed for frozen pizzas on a screened-in-porch at a recently purchased house. Apparently we were lusting after each other’s gardens. In this case, the tomato on the other side is always redder. The Bible says, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30). If you dwell on jealousy, the roots of your marriage plant will rot. Take joy in the produce of your marriage. Your right, I am not in Africa. But every morning, my husband has a cup of coffee waiting for me when I get out of the shower. I am not doing wine tastings, but I went to a pot-luck “fancy” dinner party the other night. I focus on the positive things of my marriage, which in return gives us strong roots.
You can get help from others, even plants need bug spray once in awhile. But ultimately your marriage is your garden, not someone else’s. Our garden doesn’t look like the garden from my childhood, and that is ok. My marriage is what I make it. I cannot measure my marriage by someone else’s yard stick (or in this case, tape measure).
Bonus picture: This is my dad measuring out his garden.