When your marriage needs a cover crop
Farmers, gardeners, botanical cultivators, what-have -you, are aware of the need to "rest their land", also known as "cover cropping".
Soil is the most valuable asset when it comes to growing things. I know this to be true; both from growing my indoor jungle of houseplants, as well as my outdoor fruit and vegetable garden. If your soil is healthy, your plants will be.
Cover cropping is the process of intentionally planting a crop with little to no yield. It's for the soul purpose of restoring the soil - typically adding more nitrogen back to the soil that most plants thrive off of and take up. It allows the soil to rest so that it can do it's job in the next season- creating balance and nutrients for a beautiful harvest.
We too, need rest. I am horrible at it; in fact it is a trauma response within me to buck at rest with every ounce of my being. That's why I enjoy gardening so. It is the mechanism that has conned my soul into rest. It causes me to slow own and take note, bring intentionality, and consider beauty.
I've recently discovered that marriages need rest too; as my marriage was seemingly on the verge of coming to a halt due to rest deprivation and nutrient depletion. I found myself shocked. It felt like everything was fine... until it wasn't.
My husband and I take big leaps. We go hard. We became a blended family on our wedding day and had a baby within our first year of marriage. Pandemic life. Severe mental health struggles. The plants in the garden of our relationship were wilting, signaling the need for water. The soil was diseased, screaming for a cover crop to come to bring rest and vital nutrients. This was Spring.
I had planned a week long getaway for my husband's 40th birthday in July- just the two of us. As Summer began our plants were still wilting; signaling imminent death. We were exhausted, fighting most days. The teen was struggling, taking most of our time and energy. The toddler was well, becoming a toddler- taking the rest of our time and energy. I found myself regretting booking our trip- I was consumed with worry- "What if we go and we still don't connect?", "Will the kids be ok?" "Will I be OK?", "Does my husband even like me anymore? Do I still like him?" We both threatened to cancel the trip in times of discord, but a still small voice encouraged us to hope. Encouraged us to rest. Encouraged us to believe in ourselves and each other once again. I know this voice, and I can't ignore it (thanks God),
We took the trip. We went to Palm Beach, Florida and spent 8 days away from our home, our kids, and the daily grind. It took at least 2 days for my shoulders to unwind from my ears, for me to breathe, to uncover who I am as a wife, and who I am as myself. I so quickly neglect these parts and exchange them for a hyper focus on the needs of my children and household management. My husband went through a similar process. We didn't fight. Instead we: napped in the middle of the day (gasp!), woke up late, held hands, ate out, and got all dressed up for an actual date night. We watched movies cuddled up on the couch not worried about when we needed to get so sleep because the baby wakes up early.
We invested in a couple of extra special things: my husband loves scuba diving and I intentionally booked the trip as a surprise knowing it was sea turtle nesting season in the area, He got to dive with mama turtles who were sleeping on the ocean floor after their long night of egg laying on the shore. We snorkeled; where my dreams came true swimming next to a nurse shark, sting rays and skates, loads of gorgeous tropical fish and we even spotted an octopus!
Here's the thing. It wasn't about all the fun or fancy things we did. It was more about what we didn't do. We intentionally invested the time and resources and planted a cover crop- that would produce nothing that you could physically see- we didn't bring back any large purchases, just a couple of shells from the beach- but taking that time added SO much back into the soil of our marriage. It gave us the means to rediscover both our friendship and who we are as individuals outside of being "mom and dad". It was an investment, yes; one we felt a little foolish prioritizing because there is a hundred other things we could have spent the finances on, but our souls kept pushing forward towards planting that cover crop of taking the time for us. It was not wasted, it was not in vain, it wasn't just a "vacation".
We rested. The wilting plants of our marriage are regaining color and dare I say there is fruit appearing. It was necessary for us. I am an incredibly grateful and relieved woman. We are a sobered married couple; shocked by how quickly we forget the how's and why's of our love story, how resistant we have been to God's command of "rest". He knows what's best and He's woven the need for rest throughout all of creation; we are creatures of His design, the need for rest is real, and sometimes we have to fight for it.. cultivate it into our lives in the moments and days we have.
Whether it's setting aside a couple hours in an evening, a day, a weekend getaway or longer; I encourage you to intentionally cultivate a cover crop in your most precious relationship, regardless of how long it's been, or how bleak your garden looks. This includes cultivating a cover crop for YOURSELF. You may be surprised how quickly things can spring back to life with some water and some rest.