Planting Good Relationships

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Photo by Samuel Alvarado

By Samuel Alvarado

Relationships between people, whether platonic, romantic or even with oneself, are like plants. Relationships and plants both require care, maintenance, and space lest they stagnate and die. I have had a wonderful “garden” of relationships for a while, but it is no easy feat to maintain.

I find that relationships and plants share several key characteristics, and I have noticed these similarities throughout my life. A plant or relationship can grow only when it is properly taken care of with the necessary sustenance, room, and care. Our relationships provide us with the steady stream of care, love, and motivation needed for us to grow.

Plants need the right balance between rich soil, sunshine, and water as their primary sustenance. Relationships between people also require sustenance by having substance in shared experiences. The parallels are clearly seen when the sustenance of relationships and plants are taken away, as neither a relationship nor plant can last long without attention and care. Sustenance for a relationship comes from being rooted in the lives of others, just as sustenance for a plant comes from being rooted in the soil.  Just as plants need water regularly, relationships need regular attention to ensure their longevity. With sustained maintenance, relationships can last a lifetime.

Most plants need space to expand, or they will stagnate instead of growing as they should. Without space, plants may be forced to recede into corners or against walls while trying to grow in what little space they have. Relationships too need space, as every person needs the opportunity to grow personally and, by virtue, grow the relationship with deeper self-knowledge. Most people need some time alone to better understand themselves so they can better function with others. At times, a person may pull or push away from those closest to them, and this new space may make it easier to focus on deep personal issues. The time alone, however, should not be extended without purpose because the need for social engagement is just as important as the need for space and privacy. A little self-care can help a person thrive in relationships because better self-awareness can allow for greater contributions to the group of relationships.

Plants need care when they grow unevenly, have been hurt, or become diseased. By the same principle, a relationship needs care when it has been stressed, damaged, or unloved.  Care for a plant may involve adding more nitrogen, adding a splint, or transplanting it after its pot broke. For relationships, people need to communicate effectively about what has strained the relationship and what needs to be done to rectify any damage. It does not bode well when one friend pours out their heart to another with little reciprocation or recognition. This apathy, however, broadens a growing divide in a relationship. When trust is broken, promises are left unkept or feelings are hurt; these issues need to be remedied promptly for fear that they ruin both relationship and the person who had been cared for before. When properly implemented throughout the life of a plant or relationship, the effects of intentional care can be seen clearly. Intention care is a necessity to foster our health and the health of the natural specimens we foster.

Callous handling of plants and relationships leads to the ruin of each. Therefore, I hope people learn to treat their relationships as plants. A plant may provide fresh oxygen and fruit, just as a relationship may provide companionship and love that every person yearns for throughout this journey we call life.

I could say that my garden of relationships has always been calm and full, but that would be a lie. Coming to college, I came in knowing one person, and I felt more alone than ever. My garden was nearly empty from relationships falling into disrepair or being intentionally burned. Now, after a year in Pensacola, I have a garden of flowers, cacti, and herbs that I love to see grow as they have helped me grow.

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