Emotional Health · Marriage & Life Partners

Is Living with You a Bed of Roses?
Six Garden Analogies for Self-Improvement

What are you are like to live with? Is it a “bed of roses” to be your partner or spouse? Or, is it more like an unmade bed of roses? Are there dangerous thorns lurking beneath the sheets?

There’s an old song that says, “I never promised you a rose garden.” It intimates what we all know: life is full of disappointments. People don’t live up to our expectations and often we don’t live up to theirs.  We discover that cohabitation is challenging and works best if we are able to compromise.

These garden analogies like “bed of roses” or “thorn in my side” abound because they are useful when thinking about how we behave in relationships and how we can better tend to them.  Life is an organic process and some of the most resistant plants and shrubs (like people and relationships) can be given new life and direction with proper care. It might be helpful then to consider where you would put yourself in the  lexicon of plant life below and use it to reflect on how you could make your partner’s life bloom a little sweeter.

 

Hothouse Flower

They are beautiful, but fragile. They require lots of careful attention, and unless you are an expert, there are many ways they can fail to thrive. This  delicate flower is a thing of beauty, but hard to live with. Partners must be attentive and watchful caretakers, and willing to invest a considerable amount of time and effort ensuring  living conditions are just so.

If you are a hothouse flower, ask yourself if your partner is the kind of person who enjoys being a caretaker, a hero even. While such men and women do exist, others may be ambivalent by the exhaustive effort it takes to meet your needs. Do you behave like a nervous thoroughbred, one that can be easily spooked or put off your game if things don’t go your way? Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your charm and beauty will always make it worth the effort. The hothouse flower needs to learn to compromise, be more of a good sport, and less demanding.

 

Day Lily

Also a tough person to live with, the day lily is just fine much of the time but fades quickly and is prone to dark  moods. Even if they are predictable, moods can be upsetting to a relationship if they are too wild. If they are inconsistent as well, this kind of emotional unpredictability can wreak havoc on a relationship. On the other hand, a partner never quite knows where they stand, which  can serve to keep them interested. Up to a point, however.

Moodiness is treatable, especially if  it is due to a psychiatric disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder. Unlike the delicate hothouse flower, whose issues may be due to a character disorder such as selfishness, the day lily has potential for change.

 

Climbing Vine

These plants are hardy and strong, but not necessarily in a good way. They insinuate themselves everywhere, and often have trouble  with “boundaries.” Unable to stand alone, vines depend on a host for support and often invade another’s personal space.

Usually, this type of person wants to be involved in every aspect of their  partner’s life. They do not  know when to back off, and can become very agitated if their partner tries to step away. Again, while there are some people who enjoy this kind of dependency, it can be stifling to the point of danger to the relationship. Vines can strangle a whole garden—they even kill trees.

If you recognize yourself in this pattern, you might want to consult a therapist. Often people like this suffer from unresolved separation anxiety. Learning to stand alone can actually enhance a relationship, and will definitely enhance your life in general.

 

Hardy Houseplant

This type of partner can be easy to live with—again up to a point. They are sturdy, independent, and robust, but often don’t sport blooms that others can enjoy. They are busy maintaining their independence and their pragmatism can take the spark out of life.

Many see dependency as a threat, but that can impede intimacy. Again, self-reflection might be in order to help you find ways to let your partner share more intimate, spontaneous moments.

 

Blooming Rose

Considered one of most exquisite flowers, the rose requires work, but they are worth it. They need to be cultivated and tended, but if they get what they need, they will bloom year after year. Not only that, but their beautiful buds and glorious scent bring joy to those that live with them.

If you are a rose, be glad, but make sure you are not the type that is too prone to thorns  or diseases. If you are on a pedestal that is too tall, there can be a rough crash if you are not careful.

 

Weeds

Every garden is prone to weeds, and a carefully tended one needs work to consistently remove  them before they flourish. An intimate partnership, no matter how successful, will always have areas of conflict and disappointment. If these are not sorted out—most of them time, and regularly—resentments can fester and grow, much like weeds can overtake a garden. Once they take over too much space, the whole garden can be at risk.

Just as you would take a little time each day to water your garden or tend your plants, it is essential to keep your partner’s comfort and happiness in mind on a daily basis. We all fall into routines and habits that make us hard to live with sometimes. Take inventory from time to time. Ask yourself, would I like to live with someone like me? It can be an impetus to important growth and your marriage or relationship might flourish and thrive.

Join the conversation

  • Diane Dettmann March 15, 2018 at 8:45 am

    Thank you Dr. Ford for sharing these insightful garden analogies. They helped me identify a few of areas to work on in my marriage and also affirmed areas in our marriage that are going smoothly. The question, “Would I like to live with someone like me?” is very helpful. I plan to jot it down in my morning meditation notebook as a reminder for the day. Love the beautiful garden photo. I’m looking forward to spring and blooming flowers in Minnesota!

    Reply
  • Dr. Pat March 15, 2018 at 8:07 am

    Dear Dr. Ford,
    Of course many of your readers (self included) will consider themselves beautiful roses!
    Thanks so much for this charming and very spring like way of reconsidering the roles that we play in relationships.
    Dr. Pat

    Reply