Love is patient, Love is kind, Love is like a houseplant.

My family is terrible with plants. My grandmother loves them and somehow has great success, from Lemon Trees to African Violets. However, she wasn’t so kind as to pass on her green thumbs to my mom, who therefore didn’t pass them on to me.

The problem is, I…forget. Most of the time with plants, the issue is in the remembering. Remember to give them sunlight—but not too much. Remember to give them water—but don’t drown them. Remember to keep them warm—but don’t leave them on the stovetop when you turn on the oven. (Shout out to my sister Cadi who managed to kill a bamboo plant in this fashion.) And I just… don’t. I love real flowers and plants, but by the time I realize that they need water, they’re already dead. I start to notice a browning leaf, and I think, “Crap! I have to get that some water!” so I pour it one glass and then forget about it for another 3 weeks. By the time I come back to it, it’s fried to a crisp and there’s nothing left to save. Someone gave us a small tin of flowers when we moved into our new apartment, and I let them sit on my dresser as brown, drab décor for far too long.

However, I hate fake plants because, well, they’re fake. They get dusty, they don’t smell good, they don’t look as good, and for pete’s sake they’re not even making any oxygen. As vibrant as their colors are, they can never sustain life because they were never alive to begin with.

So… where is all this going?

Tyler and I recently began taking a marriage class at my church. Not because we have any glaring marital issues (Trust me. Marriage is freaking fantastic.), but we saw it in the church bulletin and we thought, hey why not? We really want to meet some other couples, we want to get more involved around here, and we like the people who were going to be leading it. So we decided to jump in. While I was talking to a friend of mine who I was convincing to go with me, a co-worker overheard us talking. Immediately, she jumped to the conclusion that my marriage must be falling apart. “You’re going to a marriage class?! Are you having marriage problems???”

The thing about relationships—any relationships—is that they take work. If they don’t take work, they’re just like fake flowers. Easy to find, easy to maintain… but not life-giving. You’re not going to get anything out of them because they’re superficial. They may look nice, but they fall apart easily, and they’re not actually healthy. A good marriage, or friendship, or familial relationship, takes work. Not when they’re starting to have signs of decay, but while they’re still healthy. It takes dedication and hard work—but the result is something beautiful, with a sweet fragrance, that’s life-giving. I mean plants help us breathe. No big deal, right? Totally not worth the effort of pouring a glass of water into the soil. Yes, real relationships take real work (and as a general rule, more work than plants), but the results are so worth it. It’s an investment, and it goes a long way.

So instead of waiting until your relationships are crumbling, work. Sacrifice. Keep them healthy and thriving. Don’t wait for things to start to get rocky before you take action.

And as long as we’re using this analogy, it’s also probably not a good idea to leave a friend or spouse sitting on the stove while you turn the oven on. Just throwing that out there.