Forget the house; this spring, clean up your relationship.
Start by taking a fresh look at your everyday routines as a couple. Simple things like mealtime, helping kids with homework, and even where you sit on the couch when you watch TV, all affect the way you feel about life and each other.
Some routines are a source of joy and comfort, but others can create tension or resentment, and who needs that? The authors of “The Normal Bar,” a book based on the most extensive relationship survey ever conducted, write that “habits often outlive their usefulness, but the good news is that most couples can, if they choose, rejuvenate their love at any age by creating a new normal.”
It’s important to clear out the routines that aren’t working for you. So throw open the windows and let in the air and light. With the help of David Klow, owner of Skylight Counseling in Skokie, you can spring-clean your own relationship this season.
Step 1: Identify the areas that need sprucing up.
What would bring more happiness and less stress into your life? Would you like more time with your mate or do you need more time for yourself? Are finances or household chores a source of friction? Do you long for more affection? You don’t have to overhaul your entire relationship, just pick one or two things to focus on. “Even small changes can make a big difference,” Klow says.
Step 2: Look at your typical day.
Pay attention to transitions: how you wake, how you leave the house in the morning, how you greet each other in the evening, and how you settle in at bedtime. Klow says that the times when “couples are moving in and out of different modes (like from business person to parent, or partner to lover) are important times to stay connected.”
If you’d like to spend more quality time with your husband, but you rarely see one another in the evening because you’re driving your kids to hockey practice, that’s a routine that’s in conflict with your goal. Just recognizing these barriers is helpful, says Klow, because once you know where the problem lies, you can clean it up.
Step 3: Clean from within.
This project begins with you. “Look at yourself first,” Klow says. “Ask, ‘What is one thing I could stop doing that would improve the relationship, and what is one thing I can do more of?’”
For example, the woman whose relationship is suffering from constant carpooling could trade off the driving with another mom or cut back on her kids’ sports schedules. She could also find more times to be with her husband throughout the day. Bring him a cup of coffee in bed before the kids wake up, or meet for lunch once a week. I have a friend who said taking long walks with his wife saved his marriage, because it provided them an active, relaxing way to be together.
Step 4: Work as a team.
Enlist the support of your mate and talk honestly about where you can both make improvements. “Do this collaboratively, without blame,” Klow says. “How can we make this work together?”
It may take some compromise. I stopped making plans on Friday nights after my husband admitted he was exhausted from the week and wanted nothing more than to chill at home. Now we stay in on Fridays and save events and invites for Saturdays. We socialize less, but he’s more relaxed and fun to be around when we do go out.
Step 5: Have fun with it.
Spring-cleaning your relationship doesn’t have to be a chore, although it can be an adjustment. “When you start making those changes, it’s going to feel weird and awkward, but that’s totally fine,” Klow says. “It may feel forced, but it’s not. A relationship can be a fun place to experience change.”
It’s your relationship, a completely unique collaboration in the world. Why not make it the one you want? If you have routines that have improved your relationship, share them with us in the comments below!
Now this is fun:
The Bedroom Chemist helps couples keep their sex lives fresh with sensuous kits delivered discreetly to your home. Their Spring Cleaning Kit comes complete with a feather duster and French maid’s costume. It’s a surefire way to inject some good, clean (or dirty!) fun into your love life. We are giving away this kit to one of our lucky readers! Enter here to win.