The other day I was talking to somebody about their marital sex life, which, in itself, isn’t so unusual.
The unusual part was that, as I found myself explaining my usual spiel about needing to build a foundation of Emotional intimacy before Physical intimacy could happen, I unexpectedly found myself describing flower gardens vs. vegetable gardens.
Let me explain.
Life is full of business that needs to be taken care of.
From the time we are in grade school, we jump onto the treadmill.
Then, the next thing you know, we’ve become these educated, motivated, productive, goal-directed, and stressed out adults.
We are pressed for time, pressed for patience, and seemingly always just plain pressed.
Of course, all of this momentum bleeds into our marital lives as well, and you can observe it most easily in three specific areas: Tone, Content, and Intention.
It’s almost inevitably true that, in most of our marriages, these three things have deteriorated from the days of courtship.
That’s because dating is all about building flower gardens. It’s about beauty, experiencing emotions, and learning new things; it’s not so much about efficiency, bottom-line thinking, distraction with the pressing matter-of-the-moment, and, well, the general busy-ness of life.
It’s about building something from the ground up that is beautiful and pleasing to the senses, even if you can’t use it for that salad you need to make later.
Tone was sweet, kind, and measured.
Content was quite pleasing and full of energy and exploration.
And Intention? Love, baby. Pure flower garden.
Most marriages? Vegetable gardens all the way, baby, ’til the ground below them eventually becomes depleted of all nutrients and burns out.
Marital Tone is often curt, business-like, and reactive, depending on current life stressors. And it’s not uncommon for some resentment or even contempt to eventually color Tone. Warmth? Gone.
Content becomes very bottom-line, productive, and goal-oriented.
Marital Intention gets whittled down to pure business and the immediate, convenient discharge of whatever negative emotion or life hurdle that is currently in front of us.
…distraction, worries, hurdles, business, goals, reactive, business, worries, distractions, goals, business, on and on and on…
This is how you build a very successful and productive vegetable garden.
Too bad we humans aren’t tomatoes.
For the human spirit, building a vegetable garden does not lead to the same things as does building a flower garden. In fact, it eventually kills the spirit, and you can forget about sex.
If you want to re-introduce intimacy–both Emotional and Physical–into your marriage, you have to start building that flower garden.
Remember, we’re going for beauty and aesthetics here, not efficiency or production:
Say nice things that may seem pointless or awkward to say. (“I like that when you smile, your eye sockets almost disappear from the side view.” Yes, I’ve said that.)
Compliment one another.
Make each other laugh, and try hard to look as silly as you can doing it, trust me.
Build each other up.
Think about each other, for no particular reason and with no particular goal or agenda.
Notice and remember things about one another. (I keep a list of my wife’s favorite truffles in my wallet.)
Have inside jokes with one another.
Support each other’s interests and goals like a good friend would.
Validate each other. (Those who know me definitely saw THAT one coming.)
Help each other out.
Good luck switching gears and building a beautiful, emotionally pleasing flower garden with your spouse.
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
Author, Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand a Few Things First)