Winter\’s come and gone. And now, how does your garden grow?

No doubt it\’s survived some difficult times during these past months, and yet it\’s still there waiting for you to grab some seeds, a bag of mulch, the trowel and your flowered gloves so you can get busy transforming it into this year\’s special garden. If you think about it, that\’s not unlike how romantic relationships progress.

They, too, go through challenging weather conditions followed by new times of growth and expansion.

So while, at this time, the grounds surrounding your home may be calling out for special care and attention, we want to take this time to invite you to stroll with us through the flower beds of love that live within your home. You\’ll be pleased with how just a little relationship gardening can create such marvelous magic right there.

Please join us as we start by introducing the two plants that live in our home. When we met, Jim was 45 and twice divorced. Judith was 43 and never married. We weren\’t each other\’s type and there wasn\’t instant chemistry. Yet, on our fourth date, when we touched for the first time, the energetic intensity of merely holding hands announced the presence of a deeply connected soul-meeting. It scared us—and it was thrilling.

Several nights later when we kissed for the first time, Judith began to weep. It was an involuntary release of joy—for reasons too profound to understand at the time. So, despite finding ourselves in the wilderness instead of a predictably romantic rose garden, we couldn\’t deny that something remarkable was happening.

Rather soon, we began to discover how very different we were. Judith was like a neatly tended Bonsai and Jim was more like a wildly ranging Grapevine. We each had deeply entangled roots from our early years in separate nurseries and the hot house pressures of trying to coil ourselves up trellises invented by others.

While each of us was physically healthy specimens, neither of us had received expert and care-filled pruning. Judith had been excessively trimmed back, while Jim had never been given appropriate direction. This was hardly stuff for the best cross-fertilization. Yet, we knew it was in our differences that the soil of love could best be fertilized.

The test would come with our first real fight.

Four months into our relationship we went away for a wonderful weekend in the mountains. As we paid the hotel bill, Jim saw a notice for a jazz concert a few months later. He asked Judith if she\’d like to come back for the event. Judith was silent. Rather abruptly and a bit sharply, Jim said, “Okay, we won\’t.” Judith, shocked and hurt, shot back, “What\’s wrong with you? I didn\’t say no.”

That did it. We were in our first fight. We stalked out, angry and scared.

Judith: Why did you snap at me? I didn\’t do anything.
Jim: You were silent for so long, I thought . . .
Judith: (defensively) I was just thinking!
Jim: Well, why didn\’t you say so? I thought you hated my idea.
Judith: You didn\’t have to take my silence personally.
Jim: You looked sullen, it made me feel insecure.
Judith: Insecure! Really??? I thought you were punishing me because I didn\’t respond immediately. I felt attacked.

Root rot and parasites had burrowed up from the depths—Jim\’s insecurity and Judith\’s fear of attack. How would we respond to the pain that now flooded the beautiful blossoms of just a few moments ago? How would this tender exposure, wrought by the fierce hurricane of misunderstanding, kill or fertilize the new love we had so embraced?

It took a bit more curiosity and clarification, but then our hearts opened to the real romance of compassion for one another\’s injuries and the old wounds accompanying us on our adventure into deepest intimacy. We\’d opened a can of worms, but just the kind every gardener hopes for — to create rich fertilized soil for whatever new life is being grown.

Sadly, most people avoid fertilizing their love with healthy conflict. They never learned how important conflict is to their own self-development, healing and cultivation of new life together. A conflict is just an SOS. It says, “Listen, your relationship needs to change and if you change your love will be weeded and pruned and your garden will be even more beautiful and larger than it was before.” And no conflict is one-sided. When the beans and zucchini feel invaded by each other\’s expansive growth, they each have a solid complaint. Likewise, each person in a conflict has a point of view that needs to be taken seriously. But most people try to force the other to change against their will, like trying to get a rose to become a pine tree. It never works.

Yet, when you use conflict to get to know one another better, especially at deep emotional levels, you both feel recognized and understood. You want to change, to help your relationship grow. Fertilize the garden of your love. Fight well. Fight fair. Fight to grow the love you share. Only then can you continually turn over new soil, creating spiritually rich, growing conditions for you both.

So be sure to take advantage of Judith & Jim\’s Bonus Program “The Promise of Conflict” www.judithandjim.com/conflict