By Brandy Lidbeck
A few years ago, my three-year-old son asked if he could water our grass. We were in the middle of a severe California drought, and our lawn was brown and dead. The city had mandated all residents to decrease their water consumption by at least twenty percent or pay a penalty. Most people let their lawns die. Our neighbors, however, did no such thing. Each morning at five a.m., their sprinklers gave their bright green, healthy yard more than enough water to thrive another day.
I agreed to let my son water the lawn. As he stood in the middle of our dead, crunchy grass, he continually pointed the hose toward our neighbor’s yard and watered their beautiful grass instead of our own. “Oh no,” I said. “Water our grass, son, not theirs.” He refused. He was drawn to their beautiful yard like a moth to a flame.
Isn’t this how we are in marriage too? We look at our friends’ marriages, and we begin to covet all the ways their relationships look healthy and beautiful and perfect. Rather than the old adage, “The grass is always greener on the other side,” perhaps we ought to pay attention to the notion, “The grass is greener where you water it.” I think this applies to marriage.
It is easy to look at other marriages and see the amazing cars parked in the garages of the perfect homes with perfect yards where beautiful, well-mannered children run around playing. We notice the way the couple looks at one another and think it is obvious how much they are in love. We see all the good in other marriages as an opportunity to point out what is missing in our own.If we, like our neighbors, had focused on our yard during the drought (even though it was frowned upon by the city) we, too, would have had a beautiful lawn. Instead, we let our yard die. We showed it no love, no attention. We let it go. If we do the same in our marriages, the results are similar. Marriages take lots of work. We cannot neglect our most important relationship and expect it to flourish. Marriage takes commitment.
We must be intentional with our time; create a safe environment full of trust, loyalty, and encouragement; and work on intimacy. Relationship therapist Tom Zegan once said, “Sex is only ten percent of a good marriage but it’s ninety percent of a bad one.” If we are not intentional about physical intimacy, we are merely roommates. Nobody signed up for marriage to be a roommate.
My husband and I are committed to watering our relationship like our marriage depends on it–because it does. If we take a break from being intentional with our time and energy, it begins to manifest as hurt, disappointment, impatience, and distance. When we invest in one another, though, it looks a lot like a healthy lawn in the middle of a drought.
Brandy Lidbeck is a licensed marriage and family therapist living in Northern California with her husband and three children. She is passionate about both truth and humor, and if she can get them both in the same conversation, it’s a win/win. She blogs at sipofbrandy.com for fun and thegiftofsecond.com for those impacted by a loved one’s suicide.