05/16/2013 05:41 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2013

Love Is a Garden

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As I'm gardening, analogies to marriage often pop into my head, and today the similarity was clear: it takes time to grow the garden of love. We have a deeply-entrenched belief in our culture that love should be easy; that when you marry, you should know how to love and be loved; that you should understand your partner's needs, likes, and dislikes and he/she should understand yours immediately. We think it should "just work" (just like you should "just know" if he or she is "the one"), and when it doesn't "just work" we wonder what's wrong. We think we made a mistake. We worry that something's missing.

Like plants, love needs water to grow.
Like soil, love needs the right nourishment to flourish.
Like flowers, love needs light to thrive

But perhaps it wouldn't take years to grow a garden if you had been taught the skills of love before you got married. We can find our way by floundering and learning from our successes and failures, but it would be so much less scary and so much more effective if we had someone to show us the way. Perhaps we're not meant to garden alone.

And perhaps we're not meant to navigate relationships alone.

What if someone could tell you exactly what your relationship needs in order to thrive? What if you could learn the "Love Laws" that would help you open your heart so that you could feel more love, attraction, and connection with your partner? With water, nourishment, and light, a healthy relationship can turn into an exquisite garden, but how much? When? How? Most people are thrown to the wind when it comes to relationships and have no idea that Love Laws even exist, let alone knowing which ones to follow.

We tend to have this idea that loving couples are just naturally loving with each other because they're "well-matched" or "meant to be." The truth is that loving couples exude the air of love because they practice the Love Laws and consequent loving actions, either consciously or unintentionally. Some people are more primed to act in loving, positive ways while others -- generally the half-glass empty folks -- have to put more effort into loving. This point was addressed in a beautiful comment on my post, "So Much Love", by a woman named Andrea:

What we pay attention to in life grows and expands. The trick is to grow and expand the loving, good parts of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Doing so ultimately feeds and fuels the goodness in our relationships and enriches our lives.

I like to remind myself in my darkest hours of relationship anxiety that everything in life follows a predictable pattern... including love. If I neglect my car, it will break down. If I only feed my body bad foods, I will get sick. If I stop watering my orchid, it will lose its lovely flowers. Predictable pattern. Love is no different. If I don't feed and fuel my love by recognizing the good things about my partner and our dance, the darkness will grow like a virus and eventually kill what is in its path. So when the negative thoughts come up, I have to remember to ask myself, "Do I want to feed this love or starve it?" It is up to me.

To which I commented:

This is the reason why some couples make it look so easy and loving and others struggle. It's not that the loving couples are inherently more loving or "right" in some way but that they probably naturally water their marriage garden through loving action. For those of us that don't do this naturally (usually glass half-empty thinkers), we need to learn these love laws and practice them more intentionally.

Wouldn't it be nice if we learned how to love like we learned how to drive a car? What a different world we would live in and how different our marriages would be had we learned the skills of loving like we learned math, reading, and science! Yes, love is a skill that must and can be learned and practiced, and for many people, this is exactly the mindset they need to hear in order to start watering the garden of their relationship instead of assuming that it should be thriving easily and naturally without any effort at all... just like in the movies.

Sheryl Paul, M.A., has counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, her e-courses and her website. She has appeared several times on "The Oprah Winfrey Show", as well as on "Good Morning America" and other top media shows and publications around the globe. To learn more about growing your love garden through Love Laws and Loving Actions, check out her new program, "Open Your Heart: A 30 day program to feel more love and attraction for your partner," which will begin on May 25th, 2013.