In my Family Law practice, I see the results of extramarital affairs on a regular basis. A wife stunned that her husband and best friend had been meeting behind her back. A husband sent reeling when his wife leaves him for his brother. A spouse having midnight chats with an ex-flame on Facebook. Suspicions confirmed when a spouse who regularly “works late” is caught sexting a co-worker. Do any of these betrayals shock me? No. Sadden me, yes. Shock me, no.
If a spouse is determined to have an affair, for whatever reason, and they seek it out, it will happen. One can’t protect themself from such a deliberate act. But the I-didn’t-plan-it,-it-just-happened kind of affair is a different story.
First, the social media lie a spouse tells themself. It goes something like this: I just want to see what (fill in the name of the ex-boyfriend/girlfriend) is up to. I won’t even let them know I found them. I’ll just check their Facebook page. Look! There they are! I’ll just say a quick hello and let them know how cute their kids are.
All completely innocent, right? Well the test is, if your spouse was standing next to you, would you be taking that action? Or try this test: you walk into the room and your spouse is sitting in front of the computer reading stats about someone they had a romantic history with – just to see what they’re up to. Are you OK with that?
It seems so harmless. Just satisfying curiosity. But what is the real point? Why does it matter? Why do you, Married Person, want information about somebody who is no longer in your life? You will not be able to name a single good reason. If you choose to go ahead and look that person up (bad decision number one) it will lead to more decisions that have to be made.
Skip down the road a couple of bad decisions later to the point where you have had a few “just-catching-up exchanges.” It can be very flattering to be remembered fondly and spoken to admiringly by someone from your past. There can be some lovely sparks. The old high school stomach-flutter that you haven’t experienced with your spouse for years. (It’s so easy to forget how temporary that stage was before it deepened into something more substantial, isn’t it?) So the “harmless” written conversations expand to the point of deciding to meet to just have a quick coffee. Oh, by the way, is this wonderful person being deceptive to their spouse, too? This isn’t going to end well.
AFFAIR-PROOF STRATEGY #1: DON’T ENGAGE WITH EXES ON SOCIAL MEDIA OR IN ANY OTHER MANNER IF YOUR SPOUSE IS NOT DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN THE INTERACTION.
Second, let’s talk about why I don’t find it shocking that spouses run off with the other spouse’s best friend or sibling. Or that they develop a romantic relationship with a neighbor or somebody they work with. What’s the common denominator? FAMILIARITY. Which leads us to our second preventative strategy.
AFFAIR-PROOF STRATEGY #2: DON’T BE ALONE WITH A NON-FAMILY MEMBER OF THE OPPOSITE SEX.
And by “family” I mean direct family members such as parents, grandparents and siblings – in-laws and relatives that you weren’t raised with as siblings do not qualify for the exemption.
Work situations can be more difficult to control than family environments. Employees often have to work with opposite-gender co-workers one-on-one. Or in high-stress situations where they have to depend on each other for support, cooperation, or safety. It is imperative to plan ahead – before inappropriate feelings develop for another – how you will handle such situations. Have to have a working lunch? Invite others if that’s an option. Have a reason to drive separately and meet at the restaurant. Excuse yourself to check in with your spouse if things run long.
One friend, an emergency professional who is in a vehicle during his workday, shared his strategy when assigned female partners. He invites the new partner to his house for dinner to meet his wife and children so she sees what his family life looks like and his wife has an opportunity to get to know his partner. This, of course, is not foolproof – but it is behavior that makes it easier for both individuals to resist temptations that might otherwise be acted upon. It’s about being intentional about prevention. And intentional about protecting your marriage.
I’m not suggesting you take things to the extreme here – as in you can’t walk into the kitchen if only a sibling-in-law is there – and chat. Or you should refuse to go into your boss’s office when summoned to deal with business related matters. Obviously there are times when such interactions may be necessary or reasonable. But it’s about being vigilant. Recognize that just because you don’t feel that way about them, does NOT mean they don’t feel that way about you – or have the potential to.
So two simple things you can do to affair-proof your marriage: don’t engage with exes in a way you wouldn’t want your spouse to know about AND don’t be alone with non-family members of the opposite sex. Because affairs “don’t just happen.” Extramarital affairs evolve one step (and one bad decision) at a time. Don’t take that first step.
Little changes can have big impact. Case in point: You write a lovely note to somebody you like and tell them how pretty they are. Except you accidentally leave out the ‘r’ in pretty. Such a little mistake. Such a big difference in how your letter is received! Here are some common mistakes that married couples make – and the little fixes that can have big impact!
1. Thinking fair means 50/50. Trying to divide household chores and obligations evenly often leads to scorekeeping, finger-pointing, and potential disharmony if one spouse feels they are doing more than their half of the duties. The Fix: Each spouse should do what they do best based on talents, opportunity, and ability. One spouse may be good at organizing meal plans and the other may be a better cook. You both may hate grocery shopping, but one has time off on a week day when it’s easier to get in and out of the store quickly. Avoid the temptation to mentally assign the little onerous tasks that don’t require specific skills – think taking trash out and emptying the dishwasher – to each other. Just do them as they come up. While on any given day the chore split may end up something like 30/70, over the long run the division of labor will probably balance out.
2. Indulging your inner ostrich. Handing over the reins completely in any given area may be setting yourself up for problems. Often one spouse has the task of bill-paying, checkbook balancing, and other financial dealings because of talent, availability, or the other mate’s aversion to doing so. The result is one spouse is ignorant about what has to be done if the other one is ever out of commission for any reason. This same dynamic crops up in other household activities such as meal preparation, laundry, maintaining kid’s schedules, etc. The Fix: List the tasks that fall 100% to each spouse. Once a month pick one from the list and do it together so that the partner less informed has a basic understanding of how it works. Once you have covered the list, start all over again so that every few months each mate is being exposed to the task they would have to suddenly take over in pinch.
3. Neglecting outside interests. It’s easy to get caught up in daily routines and ending up with a social life that revolves exclusively around each other. While couples absolutely should spend meaningful time together and engage in social activities they both enjoy, they shouldn’t be joined at the hip. No one person can be all things to another. Continuing individual growth and bringing that element to the relationship can enhance a marriage. The Fix: Set aside time as individuals to connect with old friends, take a class you’ve been wanting to take, or spend time on a hobby you enjoy. The key to a successful fix here is balance – don’t schedule so much you now have to set aside time to fit in your spouse!
4. Sharing TMI. Telling friends, family members or co-workers details about your marital tiffs or gripes may give you a much-needed momentary release, but have long-lasting effects. Long after you have made up with your spouse, your confidant remembers the negatives. You may reasonably expect your buddy to keep mum about what you have shared, but you already know not all expectations are met, right? The Fix: Before you go venting elsewhere about the injustices in your marriage, ask yourself if it is a topic you can discuss with your spouse in a calm moment. If it truly isn’t, consider whether it is an issue that rises to the level of seeking some professional assistance from a counselor or your spiritual leader.
5. Reverse TMI. Couples should be able to talk about just about anything to each other. They should be each other’s safe place to fall. So, is it even possible to tell each other too much? Yes. If you are telling your mate about your day and his or her eyes glaze over, it may leave you feeling like they just don’t care. But it’s more likely a case of Irrelevant Information Overload. It’s not personal. The Fix: Unless it’s necessary to understand your point, leave out detailed descriptions, technical jargon they’re not familiar with, and too much talk about people they don’t know. We’re not talking about dumbing it down – we’re talking about speeding it up. Think about how long your own attention span is when listening to a fact-intensive narrative. Just because you sometimes wish your spouse would wrap up a story quicker doesn’t mean you love them less. Assume your mate feels the same.
6. Missing bedtime connections. Pillow talk is what evolves spontaneously when you’re both laying in bed, snuggled in, maybe with the lights out, sometimes almost asleep. A thought passes through your head that you wouldn’t get up and walk down the hall to tell the other, but the moment is shared because the other is a breath away. It is an intimacy we can’t recreate on our feet, in the living room, in the light of day. Sometimes conflicting work schedules, children’s needs or health issues keep us from going to bed at the same time. But often it’s a TV show, a video game or a Facebook chat that costs us that precious exchange. The Fix: If getting on the same nightly schedule is not practical or possible, be intentional about committing to how ever many nights during the week you can make that happen. Even one is better than none. But two is better than one. And so on. Make it happen – because you can’t get those nights back.
7. Embracing the “little white lie.” It’s not OK to lie about the “little stuff.” Shaving $20 off the price when asked about the cost, saying you mailed the bill you know is still sitting on the car seat, claiming to work late so you don’t have to deal with a visiting relative. The boundaries of what is “little” expand and blur over time. And, like anything else we practice diligently, lying gets easier the more we do it. This insidious tendency needs to be nipped in the bud before it blooms. The Fix: Ahhh, this one’s the easiest. Just don’t do it.
Current post is linked to MessyMarriage site
According to the results of a recent study from the University of Rochester, watching and discussing movies about relationships with your spouse is as effective in lowering divorce rates as more intensive marriage counseling programs.
While the study was done with couples married 1-3 years – one of the most vulnerable-to-divorce time periods – the study authors surmise it would be just as helpful to couples who have been married longer because some of the study participants had been together for significant lengths of time.
In the study, three forms of conflict management were compared. The first two more traditional models required substantial time investments and therapist participation throughout. The third, “Relationship Awareness Through Film,” included only about 10 minutes of lecture, a movie and discussion, minimal interaction with a therapist, and a homework assignment for spouses to watch a relationship movie once a week for four weeks and to discuss each movie after viewing using a provided discussion guide.
A diverse movie list was provided with 47 options to choose from. Comedies, dramas, classic and contemporary selections – From Funny Girl to Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner? – something for everyone! The one thing they all had in common was a focus on relationships.
The couples who chose that more portable self-help conflict management route had the same decline in divorce rates after three years as couples who participated in the two more traditional therapy methods.
Associate professor and lead author of the study, Ronald Rogge,offers this explanation for the phenomena: “The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships. Thus, you might not need to teach them a whole lot of skills to cut the divorce rate. You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving.”
When it comes to keeping your marriage on track, you or your spouse may not have the time, inclination or funds for traditional therapy. But who can’t squeeze in a movie and a chat?
NOTE: Dr. Rogge has a website that has interactive tools to try the film-related relationship awareness program with or without participating in the actual study. The site also includes an expanded movie selection list with accompanying discussion questions. Click HERE to check it out.
If you have been married any length of time, odds are good you’ve experienced some hurts, challenges, or obstacles to the marital bliss you envisioned when you murmured a dreamy “I do.”
Think of your marriage like a bottle. Any kind of bottle – plain, fancy, colored, clear, milk or wine. All are made from fragile glass. When whole, they are useful, serviceable, predictable in their purpose and capabilities.
Over the years your bottle will get dings, chips, and stress cracks. Tough times could cause it to break. Crisis might result in it being smashed or shattered in so many pieces it can never be put together as the same bottle again.
But broken glass isn’t useless. Ever heard of sea glass (a/k/a beach glass)? If bottles are tossed into the sea whole, they may float ashore looking very close to when they hit the water. But if the bottle is broken? The individual pieces are churned in the water, pounded by waves, and ground down by the sand. Jagged edges are smoothed. Once-ordinary glass has been transformed by turbulence into shining gem-like pieces.
Collectors compete to be first at the beach in search of sea glass to create with. Once-broken pieces can come together in ways that surprise and delight. The smoothed out glass can no longer cut. It’s weathered surfaces are more chip-resistant. The broken pieces that survive the raging ocean storms are transformed into beautiful mosaics. If the bottle had remained intact, it would still be serviceable, useful, and, well . . . nice. It’s only by enduring some breakage that it can be honed into a thing with character, strengthened by grout that holds the pieces together, and transformed into a thing of timeless beauty.
Which one do you think is more interesting?
Which one do you appreciate more?
Which one do you think will last the longest?
Which one do you think has the most value?
Related: 5 More With Broken Pieces
First of all, to spare potential disappointment, I want you to know from the get-go this has nothing to do with the Grateful Dead. So if you thought I was going to help you talk your spouse into taking a retro adventure, uh . . . sorry.
Let’s talk about my backyard. I took a look around the other day and noticed my once-lush marigold plants seemed to be withering. There were as many dried-up brown flower heads as there were yellow ones. So I set about deadheading them – snapping off crusty remnants of blooms. I was surprised at how much time had passed when the last plant was finally cleaned up.
I stood back to admire my handiwork and was impressed – lush plants had magically reappeared! Instead of seeing brittle flower heads that indicated an expiration date was a breath away, I saw the plethora of new buds ready to open up and keep the full blooms company. Kind of like marriage, I thought. Sometimes we look at our marriage and see more dried up flowers – disappointments, grudges, hurt feelings, nurtured anger – than healthy blooms. That’s when you know it’s time to deadhead! When we deliberately clear away those dusty areas, letting go of negative attitudes and complacency that settles in when our guard is down, we do more than freshen our marriage. We open up spaces for the new buds of kindness, gratitude and appreciation to bloom alongside the mature flowers that are still brightly hued. And then we can all live happily ever after, right?
Not quite yet.
The next day when I stepped out to savor coffee amidst my revived plants, I was dismayed to see numerous dried-up flowerheads had cropped back in while I slept. I immediately starting snapping off the intruders. Within a couple of minutes, the plants were restored to their cleaned-up vibrancy. And then it hit me. It only took minutes because I had done it so recently.
You know where I’m going with this, right?
As I see it, whether it’s gardens or marriages, we have three options:
Option 1: Ignore the situation entirely and let nature take its course. With no attention to the dying blooms, they will continue to absorb energy from the plant, thus causing the other blooms to die off quicker. Before you know it, the whole thing is one overgrown, brown, negative mess that can’t possibly be restored.
Option 2: Once in a great while deadhead so you can appreciate the huge difference of the before and after. Let it get rundown and then toss at it some effort and care so you can enjoy a special moment. Repeat as necessary to keep some life in it.
Option 3: Invest a little time in it daily to keep it always looking its best. You won’t have a dramatic ‘Before and After’ to prove to outsiders how much work you put into it, but you will have beautiful, well-cared for blooms that will flourish.
Let’s choose wisely.
Do you want to make your mate feel great? Here are 101 things to say to do just that!
1. You make me feel special.
2. You still make my heart go pitter-patter!
3. You’re hot!
4. I know you have my back.
5. I continue to learn from you.
6. Your smile lights my world.
7. Meeting you is the best thing that ever happened to me!
8. I admire your integrity.
9. I appreciate all the little things you do for me.
10. You are an excellent role model for our kids.
11. What I see you do for others inspires me to be a better person.
12. You look amazing in that!
14. You make me feel safe.
15. You’re the best teammate I’ve ever had.
16. I look forward to coming home to you.
17. I’m the luckiest spouse in the world!
18. I saw this and it made me think of you.
19. Here’s a little something for you – just because . . .
20. Let’s hold hands.
21. You are more important than you realize.
22. Go have an evening with your friends – I’ve got the kids covered!
23. Even when we disagree, I respect your opinion.
24. It is an honor to be married to you.
25. Your compassion has touched a lot of lives in a positive way.
26. The way you allow me to be myself is like a daily gift.
27. You make me excited about wearing that.
28. You’re more calming for me when I’m frustrated than a cup of green tea!
29. Tweet me, baby!
30. Each time I see you I remember how blessed I am.
32. You rock!
33. I love seeing you with the kids – you are an awesome parent.
34. I think of you often throughout the day – and smile.
35. I appreciate the way you ____.
36. A hug from you is my magic balm.
37. Let’s kiss.
38. You’re right.
39. Nobody lifts my spirits like you do!
40. You’re so special!
41. I love the smile in your eyes.
42. I love the fit of those jeans on you!
43. I am grateful you are in my life.
44. Thank you – for all you do.
46. You are my soft place to land after a hard day.
47. What can I do to cheer you up?
48. You are my best friend.
49. I love the way you make me laugh!
50. I am so proud of you!
51. I’m sorry.
52. You pick me up when I fall down – and if you can’t lift me up you listen well.
53. Surprise! I took care of _____ that you’ve been meaning to get to!
54. I enjoy hanging out with you.
55. You are cooler than unicorns and sparklers combined!
56. Let’s get a sitter so we can ______.
57. I’d like your opinion on this.
58. My mother likes you more than she likes me.
59. I picked up your favorite _____ at the store today.
60. I know you’re not looking forward to going to ____ – so I’ll go with you and keep you company.
62. My best memories have you in them.
63. You did a great job with that!
64. Would you like a massage?
65. You are so loved.
66. I pray for you daily.
67. I trust you completely.
68. You’re the zig to my zag.
69. I don’t have a headache tonight.
71. You have a generous spirit.
72. Why don’t you sit and put your feet up and I’ll bring you a _____ to drink.
73. You have a tender heart.
74. There’s nobody else I could tell that to.
75. You are so gifted in the area of ______.
76. Let’s jump in the shower together.
77. ‘Perfection’ is spelled [letters of their name].
78. I love the sound of your voice.
79. I am so impressed by the way you ______.
81. How about a foot rub?
82. I’m not afraid of the dark because you are so full of light.
83. I’m your biggest fan!
84. I love to watch you when you’re _______.
85. You handled that difficult situation with real finesse.
86. You do _____ better than [person they most admire].
87. I’ll take care of that for you.
88. You get better with age.
89. You are my hero.
90. I wouldn’t trade you for all the chocolate in the world.
92. Doing it two nights in a row is okay.
93. You are so well disciplined when it comes to _______.
94. You are the person I want to grow old with.
95. Waking up next to you is the best way in the world to start out a day.
96. You make me happy just by being you!
97. I am delighted you’re home!
99. You drown out the negativity in my life.
100. You make me feel loved.
101. Marry me again, please!
My husband looked over my list and furrowed his brow. I asked why. He said that 92 should say “great” instead of “okay.” I stand corrected!
Messy Marriage linked to my site as well as other posts about marriage
Competition between spouses can be fun, energizing and healthy for the marriage. Keeping score to determine who won at golf, racquetball, scrabble, or a favorite video game makes absolute sense. Keeping score in other areas of marriage does not.
But isn’t that just what we do?
We know that any sentence that starts out with you patting your righteous self on the back while saying: “I’ve told my spouse a thousand time to/not to [fill in blank with what they keep screwing up that you do so well] is designed to show the deficiency of your spouse. But it really shows a couple of things about you: (1) You’re a grudge-holding list-keeper (and possibly a nag) and (2) You either don’t know how to count or you are prone to wild exaggeration. A Thousand? Really??
Comparisons are helpful if you’re trying to decide what model washing machine to buy. But they rarely serve any productive purpose when comparing ourselves to our mate or other marriage relationships to our own – it’s just a way to create and nurture dissatisfaction. And it’s not like keeping score of such things leads to the determination of a winner. As a matter of fact, this type of score-keeping usually results in three losers: you, your spouse and your marriage.
“Destruction” is often thought of as a negative event. But destroying these mental lists we have made will result in a more “we” focused marriage. Here are some lists that you can put on your new Search and Destroy List:
Now that you’ve destroyed the old unproductive lists, there’s room for some rebuilding with new marriage-embracing lists. Such as:
Now there’s some scorekeeping that will result in three winners!
WHAT ELSE NEEDS TO BE ADDED TO THE SEARCH and DESTROY LIST?
Related posts you may find of interest: Shrew-B-Gone; Excuse Me While I Interrupt; Introverted But Not Shy – Does Your Mate Need Space?
Laugh, and the world laughs with you. More importantly, your spouse laughs with you. Just the words giggle, chuckle and chortle probably make you smile. Take it bigger with mirthful glee or bubbling laughter. Or over the top with a loud guffaw. Whether small, medium or large, laughter is good stuff!
Making your spouse laugh on a daily basis will not only add some fun to your marriage, it may make it last longer! Numerous studies show health benefits – both mental and physical – that result from laughing. Here are just few of the things that some hearty laughter can do for you:
BONUS: Laughter triggers the release of endorphins in your body. You know what that means? It FEELS good!
So get silly, watch a funny movie, text a joke, cut out a comic, or just tickle them until they beg for mercy – do what it takes to get your mate laughing. Join in the merriment and laugh your way to a healthier, longer marriage!
Tip: If you need help acquiring the skill of laughing more often (yes, it can be learned) tune in to any morning radio show that has more than one host!
I have already warned you how what happens in the bathroom – those little annoying habits that crop up – can harm a marriage. But annoying your spouse in the kitchen could be even more dangerous – there’s knives there!
It’s often the little things that cause the biggest spats. Here are nine of those little things – insignificant kitchen behaviors – that can cook up trouble in your marriage by causing tempers to reach the boiling point!
1. Not draining the dishwater. Sure you get brownie points for doing the dishes. But you actually lose points if you don’t drain the water. Saving the water in case you come across one more dish that needs washing or a missed counter sounds virtuous in the moment, but the virtue is gone once the water cools. There’s nothing quite so enjoyable as having to stick one’s hand in cold, now-greasy water.
2. Wadded up wet stuff. Once you’ve drained the dishwater, you must wring out the dishrag or sponge and put it in a position in which it can dry out. Unless you’re willing to be the one that deals with it hours later – thus, being the one that has that delightful mildewy smell clinging to your hands for the rest of the day.
3. Leaving dirty dishes in/by the sink. This is especially annoying if done within 2 hours of the kitchen being cleaned. It’s egregious if the dishwasher is two steps away.
4. Loading the dishwasher wrong. Please keep in mind ‘wrong’ is a subjective term and it’s meaning may differ from household to household. “Wrong” is defined in the marital dictionary* as “not being done in accordance with the procedure that the spouse who cares most wants it done.” Memorize that. If one of you cares less, I promise you doing it ‘their way’ is less time-consuming than listening to the chat that will follow (repeatedly) if you do not. If both of you truly care to the same degree, save your marriage by alternating weeks for dishwasher-loading duty.
5. Putting uncovered food in the refrigerator. Not only do surfaces of once-good edibles dry out and rubberize, there’s that whole absorbing odor thing. You know, the reason people put open boxes of baking soda in their refrigerators.
6. Leaving small portions. You can try to play off leaving a minute portion of food in a given container as not wanting to be greedy by finishing it or trying to help your spouse with portion control (be careful with that one). But good luck convincing the spouse that is pretty sure you just didn’t want to deal with cleaning or otherwise doing something with the empty container.
7. Eating/drinking right out of the container. There is a reason God made juice glasses and ice cream bowls – it was so we could all avoid the ewwwwww factor. And to help you avoid being griped at. If you know in your heart this is a habit you just cannot break, at least be smart enough to stop eating the ice cream with a fork – it’s such a dead giveaway.
8. Putting things away creatively. By ‘creatively’ I mean anywhere it fits because you’re not sure where ‘it goes.’ Initially, it seems easier to stash it somewhere than it is to ask your spouse where ‘it goes’ and get a lecture about how you should know where it goes by now.** You should just suck it up and get the quick lecture out of the way. Because the conversation that’s going to take place later when your spouse starts hunting for for it and you can’t remember where you put it is going to take WAY longer to get through.
9. Not emptying the dishwasher. This is a job that rarely takes more than 3 minutes. Yet we pretend we don’t notice it needs to be done. Even though we have to open it numerous times as we run out of dishes in the cupboard and silverware in the drawer. Just carefully close it back to the locked position and it won’t be noticed that it’s been opened since the dry cycle ended – three days ago. You’re determined not to be the one who always does it. It becomes a standoff. Much like the episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where the suitcase sat on the stairs for weeks after a vacation, each spouse pointedly leaving it so the other would take it up the stairs. Check out this brief clip to see who won their standoff and for an, um, interesting way to resolve your own “which one of us should do it?” conflicts!
HELP ME OUT HERE – DID I MISS ANY?
* The Marital Dictionary is a book I think should be written – I just may take it on.
** Shrew-B-Gone is a product I came up with for just such a problem
Related post that may be of interest: 10 Bathroom Habits that Can Harm Your Marriage
“Absolutely beautiful!” was the first thought I had when I saw the Tree of 40 Fruits. Then I read the behind-the-scenes story of how it came to be and listened to artist and professor Sam Van Aken, from Syracuse University, sum up his art-to-reality project. An actual tree that bears 40 fruits. How can that be? One step at a time. And the steps reminded me of how a marriage can end up with the same awe-inspiring results as that magnificent tree.
Step 1 – Planning. No matter how wonderful an idea, it doesn’t come to fruition without developing a plan that will take you from idea to final product. The tree started out as an idea for an art project, much like how dating begins for entertainment purposes. As Van Aken became more enamored with his idea, he wanted to develop something that was more real, more vibrant, more tangible than a piece of art. So the plan evolved into one that included something bigger. The dating evolved into planning for permanency in the relationship.
Step 2- To meld together two or more different species, we need a grafting process. As the additional fruit tree limbs were grafted on, the original portion of the tree maintained it’s own identity. But it was enriched by the additional diverse fruits that could also grow from a single tree. Doesn’t that sound like a married couple? “Two become one” in the sense that they are a unit. But they’re not suppose to morph into something that loses the individuality of the two components – each fruit shines on its own but is uniquely enhanced by being part of the same tree.
Step 3 – To enable the grafts to take, the components have to work together. There is tending, pruning, and maintenance to ensure the parts continue to grow together. The support must be mutual for both parts to thrive.
Step 4 – Patience must be developed so that the process is not rushed. Trying to change the tree too much at one time might result in parts of it rejecting the new additions. Our jobs as spouses are to support the other in their growth and to work together to overcome obstacles that get in the way of realizing benefits from new grafts.
Step 5 – Vision must be developed. Many have worked with grafts to combine fruits. Have you heard of the pluot (plum/apricot) or the tangelo (tangerine/grapefruit or pomelo)? And it’s probably not a rare thing for cultivators to try crossing multiple fruits. But one tree with 40 distinct fruits? That takes vision. What aspirations do you and your spouse have? What can be achieved if you work together to reach those goals? Can you see it?
Step 6 – Embracing each season. Fruit trees grow, blossom, bear fruit, withstand some withering of old fruit, and have bare periods before new growth begins. Each phase is necessary to develop the best fruit. And while most of the phases don’t have the wow factor of the blooming phase or the richness of the fruit-bearing phase, each has it’s own special contribution – from offering shade to preparing for more productivity. The same is true in our relationships. We can’t properly appreciate ‘wow moments’ if life is one big WOW. The daily routines, the obligatory tasks that must be performed, the seemingly mundane, can all be elevated by having joyful recognition that each serves a purpose. You’re in it with the one you love. It’s an adventure. You’re heading toward the vision.
Step 7 – Enjoy the beauty and the bounty. The amazing resulting tree, the myriad of colorful blossoms, the fabulous bountiful fruits, are the reward for going through the process of planning, executing, having greater vision, having patience for the plan to come together, persevering through the slow-growing periods, and embracing each phase for what it is and the benefits that will result. And so it is with marriage. While some phases are more challenging than others, what we are left with after each step is completed is, indeed, a thing of beauty!
If you want to hear Van Aken describe his amazing work on the Tree of Forty Fruit and it’s future, check out the video!