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Did you know that if you have bulbs in your garden, you’re supposed to pull them out every fall — and replant them in the spring? If you leave them in the ground, they just grow into bulb clusters and eventually stop flowering altogether.

There’s a lesson for relationships in this (of course there is, right?). Sometimes, we need to break. We need to leave the ‘garden’ and go sit in a cool, dry space to give ourselves some time to calm down. If we push through an argument when we’re feeling emotional, this can lead to what’s called a ‘harsh startup,’ where you bring up a topic in anger, and your emotional stress can lead to hurtful words that you can never take back.

But if you stop, take a break, and dig a little deeper into yourself to find the root of the anger — if you vulnerably unearth and expose the real issue — that can lead to what’s called a ‘soft startup.’  You give those issues real personal attention, calming yourself, then you intentionally choose a time and space to bring it up to your partner. You’re then both prepared to speak your truths in a healthier way.

During that break, make sure you process what you’re feeling. Write in a journal, meditate, or talk to a confidant who won’t be judgmental. Be ready to hear difficult perspectives. This brings more possibility to change — and to be really understood. Think before you speak; tend your bulbs before you plant.  

Just like good gardening, it all takes practice and time.