Romanticized and idealized preconceptions often lead us to picture marriage as a beautiful garden full of all that we long for in life: companionship, friendship, unconditional love, romance and intimacy. We tend to look to our future spouses as the source of our happiness and the providers of ultimate marital bliss. In reality, however, on the wedding day the couple receives the keys not to a beautiful garden but to a vacant plot of land. They must work the soil and sow something into it, before harvesting any blessings. There is no companionship in marriage – people are the ones, who can develop and nurture it. There is no romance in marriage – the spouses themselves have to infuse it into marriage. The couple must learn the art of giving, serving and loving, in order to keep their marriage garden always green and ready to yield the fruit.
We are not born as ready-made gardeners of marriage gardens. There are no books that can truly teach us how to ‘do marriage’, because we tend to learn as we go along. We can, however, take conscious steps to prepare for this duty: acquire some gardening tools, explore the different garden designs, decide, which plants we would like to grow and learn the skills of caring for them. For giving your marriage a good head start, it is vital to come to the point of wedding day with good understanding of yourself as the gardener, of your marriage garden expectations and of your future partner as the co-gardener.
The first task we must undertake is understanding our relationship with ourselves and learn to respect ourselves. If we will have a healthy, happy and holistic relationship with ourselves, only then we will be able to form fruitful relationships with others.
“Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right partner, but through being the right partner.” (Barnett R. Brickner)
Reflecting on our own selves may require good courage, as we would need to open up our depths and become vulnerable – to think about our flaws, faults and failings, analyze our life thus far and work on solutions for a better future. We would have to examine the behaviours and tactics that are driven by our Nafs (self, ego) and come to accept the reality of being human, which comes with realization that we do and will make mistakes and that we don’t and won’t know everything. If we live in the illusion of being perfect and knowing it all, our Nafs has won. However, the moment we understand how little we know about this life is when our Nafs has surrendered – this is the point, when we have attained a sense of self-freedom, have put judgments aside and are ready to grow.
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