When I was a little girl I could hardly wait til the last day of school. As the bus would near my home I could see Mamaw’s car in the driveway. My heart began thumping like a bass drum in my chest, and I could hardly choke the tears back as I jumped off the bus and sprinted home. I knew I was going home with her for the summer.
One of the many wonderful things about being with Mamaw for the summer was planting seeds for flowers, strawberries, beans, peas, watermelons, peppers and various other things.
As we dug holes in the ground, she would put seeds in my hand, and tell me how to know what kind of fruit, vegetable or bloom that the plants would become. It seemed so miraculous to me that I put those little bitty things in the ground and covered them up and patted them with my little hands … Expecting that in a matter of days, something with push-up through the dirt.
She would tell me stories about the pilgrims and how they brought seeds with them. She would talk about how that just like you put seeds in the ground and they become something, that when we put seeds into the heart of someone else, they also became something beautiful.
Little did I know that while we were planting seeds in the ground, she was also planting seeds in my heart. Seeds that developed into the beautiful things in my life.
The first time I learned about investments and compounding interest, I was reminded of what Mamaw taught me about sowing. If you invest (sow) wisely (into fertile ground), you could potentially get dividends and compounding interest (delicious fruit, beautiful flowers, and seeds to plant more next year).
The same is true about investing or sowing into relationships. If we invest our selves wisely into relationships, we have the potential to gain back beautiful things, and usually more than we planted. But somehow, when it comes to relationships, we too often forget this principle.
When you invest money into the stock market, you expect to get money back in the form of dividends and interest. When we sow watermelon seeds, we expect to have sweet watermelons to slice by the end of the summer.
Somehow in relationships we tend to think that if we sow (or invest) complaints, criticisms, and blame… That we will receive a crop of love in return. It doesn’t work that way. If you plant hot jalapeno seeds that burn your mouth (or heart), you don’t expect to reap a crop of fragrant roses!
When couples come into my office, it doesn’t take any rocket science to figure out what they are sowing into their relationships based on the condition of the relationship and their love (or lack there of) for one another.
When two people are being very intentional about their relationship and they are investing love, kindness, and respect into the relationship, the relationship cannot help but bear that same fruit. That fruit brings joy and fulfillment.
Somehow we mistakenly think that relationships are different than the seeds we plant into soil. But the concept is exactly the same.
To my couples who are committed to a fulfilling and beautiful relationship, I advise that they make 10 (preferably more) little investments into their partner daily. The same thing holds true for friendships, relationships with your young children or adult children, coworkers, or any other important relationship.
These little deposits consists of things such as:
- Expressing a gratitude
- Sending a kind or loving text for no reason at all
- Doing something that you know would be meaningful to your partner
- An engaging smile
- A hug
- Sending them a card to their home or work address
- Making eye contact when they are speaking to you
- Acknowledging them graciously when they enter a room
- Telling them things that you admire about them
- Telling them what they mean to you
As you can see, the deposits can be things that do not cost a penny, and take very little time. But it does take intentionality.
We mistakenly may think if we invest nothing into our relationships because “they already know I care about them“… that things will be okay. Sadly, that thinking is the social norm (according to media), but it will never get you the results we all desire from our relationships.
Let’s press pause and consider the issue of sowing into relationships versus sacrificing for relationships. Of course there are times when we don’t feel loving toward someone and it actually is a sacrifice to deliver any of the acts listed above or something similar.
However I caution people from labeling their investments as “sacrifice,” even though the investments may be sacrificial at times. Why? Because when we begin to label things as a “sacrifice“, we are in danger of taking a martyr position in the relationship.
When we become a martyr, the other person becomes a villain. Even when very destructive things occur in a relationship, a martyr/villain relationship begins a negative downward spiral. It becomes me against you and you against me instead of “us“ or “a great relationship.“
Also sacrifice does not bear dividends or interest… But investments do, if we invest wisely.
I often have people ask me … but what if the “stock market goes upside down” (my partner leaves me) … and takes all I have invested in her/him with her/him?
It occurs all to often, I know! I invested some of my prime years into someone that left. And yes, all I invested seemed “trashed.” But I believe the investment still counts and will come back to you in different ways from different places.
I hope you will not allow investments that did not bear fruit in the relationship in the way you had hoped keep you from investing again! With every stock market fluctuation, the experts continue to say that research reveals it is still a worthy way to increase wealth. (I’m no financial expert, so I have no opinion on that!)
But I am a skilled relationship therapist/coach, and I can assure you that continuing to make investments into the lives of others pays HUGE dividends and interest!
How many investments have you made into your partner, your friends, your young or adult children, or anyone else important to you today? Remember a bare minimum of five is what holds a relationship at its current state. If you desire to have a growing, thriving, fulfilling relationship, it requires a bare minimum of 10 daily investments.
Research in this arena indicates that:
# of daily investments: = Results:
0 Failing relationship
It may not fail today, but it’s on a failing trajectory.
1 – 4 A relationship that is neutral at best, and at risk of failing easily should challenges occur.
5 – 9 An OK relationship
10+ A fulfilling, thriving relationship.
Let me caution you about thinking that if you start today that your relationship will thrive tomorrow. I wish it worked that way! But just as we expect a seed, planted, to take some time in the ground to develop and break through the soil, it takes a while for our investments in relationships to take root and produce fruit (results).
This is why we must invest regularly and intentionally in order to see the results.
A number of years ago, there was a movie (and a book accompanying it) that swept through the US. The book was called The 40 Day Love Dare. It simply outlined 40 things over a course of 40 days that someone could invest into their relationship. There was actually nothing “magical” about the 40 things listed in the book. It was simply was effective because there were 40 acts of love being invested over a period of 40 days… Which allowed the seeds sewn into the heart of the partner to take root, and to bear fruit (beautiful results). Relationships were rocked for the good.
However, if we really want ongoing fulfilling relationships, it should not be limited to 40 days. It should become a part of our daily protocol.
I challenge you to take on the Love Dare. Not just for 40 days, and not just one big thing daily, but 10 or more little Investments daily. It will bear fruit, it will bear interest, and the interest is compounding. Meaning the more consistently you invest the greater (and more fulfilling) the results.
(I’m writing this in the season right after Thanksgiving, but the results will be the same anytime of year!)
In this season when giving becomes a focal point in our lives, remember… The greatest gift you can give is not something that could be wrapped up in a package. But instead it is an ongoing commitment to invest consistently into the hearts of those you love.
Start today… Because the results will be evident by Christmas time!
Will you join me in an ongoing Love Dare?