Once upon a time, you found a rose bush that produced the most beautiful and rare of flowers. You could always count on that rose bush having one singe rose that always bloomed, vibrant with color, redolent of the most extraordinary fragrances imaginable. You planted that rose bush in a carefully chosen spot, and cared for it with true devotion, day after day. You watered it, nourished it with nutrients to its soil, and protected it from the harsh elements. Day after day, month after month, that most rare of roses bloomed.
Then at some point, life began to divert your attention from that rose bush, bit by bit. There were days you would forget to water it; perhaps you might think, “the rain will take care of it,” and sometimes the rain would. There were weeks that you forgot to add nutrients to the soil. There were months in which you forgot to shelter it from the vicissitudes of the seasons. Yet all the while, that rose still bloomed.
You were distracted, perhaps, so you didn’t notice that the rose had lost a bit of its luster. Some of the petals had frayed or dropped off. The foliage was not as verdant or abundant as it formerly was. But overall, the rose looked healthy, and was a reminder of the wondrous bloom it once was. After all, don’t all things fade with time?
One day, you walked past that rosebush and noticed a weed. It was a truly noxious looking weed, that had entwined itself into the bush, and looked to threaten to choke it off. Perhaps you tried to disentangle that weed, but it wouldn’t come loose. Or perhaps you tried to cut the weed off at its stem, only to watch it regrow. Or perhaps you tried to uproot the weed, only to find that it seemed to be intertwined with the roots somehow, and the rose bush would be uprooted as well.
It could be that you applied toxic chemicals, and this caused the weed to wither, or perhaps even outright to die. I could also be that those chemicals poisoned the rose bush as well, causing it to lose even more of its foliage, and perhaps even to die as well.
It might be that you eventually reached a point, quickly or slowly, at which you decided the only reasonable course of action would be to uproot the bush and the weed, and to banish them from your sight.
But the wise gardener knows why the weed is there in the first place.
The weed was opportunistic, and took root because the conditions were right. The soil had changed in composition such that it favored the needs of the weed. The foliage on the bush had died back enough that the weed could get sufficient light. The soil was dry enough for the weed to grow, for it didn’t need much more than a few drops of water every now and then.
The wise gardener also knows the solution to the problem.
The weed is a temporary phenomenon. It is not a perennial plant like the rose bush. It cannot continue to grow and thrive for years and years. It will be gone with the next season, and can simply be expected to fade away as the natural order of things unfolds. It appears to be so entwined with the rose bush that it could choke it off and kill it, but in reality this is mere appearance.
The solution lies in tending to the rose bush once again. Nourish the soil so that it can regain its foliage. Water its roots so that it can begin to regrow. Shelter it from the harshness of winter to which it is now more susceptible. Do all of these things unfailingly and with patience.
After a season, the miracle of nature can unfold. The rose bush is once again verdant with foliage. Its rose blooms with a renewed vigor and vibrancy that is heretofore unparalleled. Its aroma is redolent of all of the most rare and fragrant flowers known to man.
And that noxious weed is nowhere to be seen. It has no room to grow, and that verdant foliage has blocked out any sunlight it might have gotten. It finds the deeply nutritious soil abhorrent, and it drowns in the abundance of water. It has vanished, according to the order of nature.
This is how a marriage crisis takes root: slowly and surreptitiously, as a result of years of neglect. Yet it can manifest suddenly and noxiously, like a weed that threatens to destroy that most precious rose. It could come as a barrage of arguments that leads to a more serious situation. It could manifest as an affair, or it could come in the form of separation, or the even threat of divorce.
Regardless of how it manifests, the remedy is the same: Be the gardener who tends to the rose bush.