Yahoo, it’s spring! It’s a great time to focus on the garden – and relationships. They are the same, aren’t they?

Imagine this…

As the grass began to grow, I knew it was time to connect with nature and get our garden ready for another productive year.

It was fun to work in the garden that sunny day. There was that distinctive rich, sweet smell. It was a very pleasurable experience to work the soil, plan where things would be, and to picture in my mind how it would look when we harvest and savour the veggies of our labour.

After the seeds were carefully planted, there was a period of waiting with anticipation to see what would burst through the soil first – lettuce, onions, carrots, or potatoes. Each emergence was a small victorious milestone and I thought, “Yes! We’re going to have a great garden.” And my thoughts and visions of a worthwhile and rewarding experience continued to grow.

BUT now I’ve noticed some other things growing as well. Those dog-gone weeds – they are undesirable species in my garden. I don’t want them! The weeds themselves aren’t bad. Young dandelion and chick weed leaves make a great salad, nettle leaves are like spinach and taste great in lasagne. Dandelion blossoms make great wine. But, I don’t want the dang things in my garden. They don’t fit my vision of a great garden.

I may choose to feel disappointed, frustrated, or angry. I may blame the weeds and the weather for spoiling my garden. I may criticize myself because I haven’t taken the time to pull the weeds. I may think, “It’s not my fault. I planted it so Carol should be weeding it.” Or a worse thought, “It’s easier to give up and cultivate the whole garden, weeds and all – it’s done for the year. It’s no use – I’m a terrible gardener.” Oh, poor me!

Or I may say to myself, “I want this to be a healthy, productive garden and I am willing to put some focused effort into nurturing and caring for it. It will take effort and it may not always be fun, but the long-term result will be far better than I expected.”

Whoever invented relationship-building must have modeled it after gardening – they work exactly the same way.

Here’s what I mean.

Imagine this: One fine day you meet someone, and you really like him or her – a lot. You decide you would like to develop a relationship with this person. Your goal may be to develop a close friendship, or to connect in a way that will lead to a long-term relationship as life-partners. You have fantasies about a kind, caring, loving, compassionate, fun, stimulating, respectful, and secure relationship. In your mind and heart, you can sense how it will look and feel to really “click” with this person.

With this in mind, you carefully prepare and plan for your future. You plant small seeds of trust, respect, and love. And then you wait with anticipation for the fruits of your efforts. You experience great milestones toward your goal with the first holding of hands, the first kiss, the first date, and all of those other fun times and wonderful memories. Your vision of a stimulating long-term relationship continues to grow and it seems as if it will all come together so easily. You may think, “This is perfect. We were meant for each other.”

But wait! In this story the tomato and the carrot don’t walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand, to live happily ever after. In the real garden of life there is competition.

All of a sudden you notice undesirables – lots of them! There are the big weeds: attacks of anger, sarcasm, ridicule, ignoring, berating, interrupting, and other forms of disrespectful behaviour. And there are those pesky weeds that sneak into the garden imperceptibly: little lies, unkept agreements, blaming, aloofness, avoidance, leaving the lid off of the toothpaste, and dirty socks on the floor.

On their own, each one of these may not be a big deal as a one-time event. But stack a bushel of them together and it’s a mess.

You may choose to feel disappointed, frustrated, or angry. You may blame the other person, your work situation, or the government (why not, we blame them for everything else). You may berate yourself because you didn’t handle the situations effectively. You may think, “It’s not my fault. He/she should be taking some responsibility too,” or even worse, “It’s probably easier to give up and leave the scene – this relationship is done. It’s no use – I’m a terrible person.”

Or you may say, “I want this to be a healthy, effective relationship and I am willing to put some focused effort into nurturing and caring for it. It will take work and it may not always be fun, but the long-term result will be exceptional and worthwhile.”

I have a gardener’s hunch you are thinking about one particular relationship – a really important one for you.

Wherever you are in that relationship, seedling stage, growth, or maturity, my challenge for you, should you choose to accept it, is to apply the natural laws of gardening to your relationship. Let these laws guide you. They work!

Prepare the soil. Become the best friend your partner could wish for.

Plan your garden. Envision a fantastic relationship 20, 30, or 80 years into the future. See it, hear it, feel it, taste it, and smell it – use all of your senses and emotions.

Plant good seeds: trust, respect, love, kindness, honesty, and integrity.

Nurture the seeds. Honestly and openly communicate about your shared vision for the future. Talk about the great experiences you are creating.

Pluck the weeds. Talk honestly and openly about the things you don’t like. Set aside your agenda, ego, and attachment to your own “right” way. Ask your partner to share his/her point of view. LISTEN to understand your partner – not necessarily agree, but understand. This understanding will eliminate most conflicts and help you to find an abundance of solutions for any issues.

Harvest a bountiful crop. Celebrate your successes everyday. Take time to become consciously aware of, and focus on your amazing results – notice how incredible your relationship looks, sounds, and feels.

Keep your eye on the prize. Daily reaffirm your goals and visions for the long-term, 10 or 20 years from now. Look beyond your daily successes and challenges.

In the past, I have tended to make things far more difficult than necessary but I’m changing my ways. I’ve discovered that building relationships isn’t that tough. It boils down to only 2 thoughts:

1. If what I DO gives me the relationship and results I want, I’m going to keep doing it – lots more of it.

2. If what I DO doesn’t give me the relationship and results I want, I’m going to stop doing that.

It’s simple! And with relationships, there is always room for improvement!

So, my question for you is this: What is the condition of your relationship garden?

I know you have the talents and abilities you need to grow a fantastic relationship garden. If the corn crop isn’t what you want, just say “pluck it” (the weeds) and realign the weevils between your ears.

Happy gardening!!

Copyright © 2009

Author's Bio: 

Dan Ohler helps organizations Grow Positive, Productive Teams. He is a speaker, author, and relationship coach based near Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Whether you experience a keynote, workshop, or seminar, Dan gets you “thinkin’ outside the barn.” You’ll be inspired to grow your teams, enhance your relationships, and create greater happiness and success personally and professionally.

Please visit his website: While there, why not buy his books or DVD. You'll be glad you did - and so will Dan. Or call him at 780-785-9479.