Spring Clean Your Relationship!
Caption: Photo of Carolyn, her husband and their two dogs, standing under a tree full of Spring Blossoms.
It’s pouring rain one day and bright sunshine the next. We race outside to play and to be in the sunshine or get our hands in the dirt. The buds are poking through the ground and the trees are bursting with color as everything is getting ready for growth.
Inside our homes, many of us are eager to shake off the hibernation that the two-year-long winter has brought. Feeling cooped up after so long stuck inside, our relationships need the same jolt of energy and the same shake-out that our gardens and closets are needing.
Couples spent the last couple of years in survival mode. The tumult of the pandemic and political crises, and the changes in our day-to-day lives dealing with work from home while parenting kids at home left many couples struggling.
Many coped by shutting down. Others by being polite and avoiding difficult conversations. Further still fell into patterns of bickering and blaming. Some found challenges they had managed decently before the pandemic become very painful during these crazy times.
This was an extraordinarily difficult time for most couples. If your relationship is still standing two years on in this pandemic you are to be congratulated. Many couples did not make it through.
All of the coping strategies you used may have helped you survive the two-year winter, and hopefully, even bring you closer. But for some of us, there is a need to shake things up and prepare for the joy and fun of summer with a little clean-up and clearing out of our relationships. Residual injuries, stored-up frustrations, and unproductive fighting all need to be cleared out to make room for habits and connections that will serve us better. Have you ever thought about a Spring Clean for your relationship?
“Spring Cleaning Your Relationship” looks like taking stock of your relationship's habits, routines, and rituals and assessing which ones are working and which ones need a trip to the dump. It also means cleaning up messes that were made in the attempts to get through difficult times, whether in the pandemic or prior.
Following the inventory of what needs to be cleaned up, taking the time to thoughtfully make a plan to repair the injuries that have been caused creates the road map to a relationship without so much baggage. Going through a meaningful repair for each of these will allow them to truly be put away so that they do not get recycled in our daily life over and over again.
We often make repairs that do not adequately heal the injury but call it good anyway. “I apologized!” is a refrain often repeated in my coaching sessions. Saying the words and healing the wounds are not the same thing. Learning to fully heal wounds will make sure they do not revisit you in disagreements. “This is just like that time you…” referencing an injury that is months, years, and even decades-long ago indicates an injury that has not been completely healed.
Couples get understandably frustrated when we hear this. But we misplace that frustration in the wrong direction onto the injured person, with “Why can’t you let that go?!” This refrain is a form of gaslighting and inflames the injury and worse, deteriorates the safety and trust in your relationship.
Instead, taking the time to fully heal each injury is a healthy part of the Spring Clean idea. It is what our relationships need and creates space for more positivity, connection, and trust. When we invest the care and energy into fully cleaning out the junk of old wounds and challenges in our relationship, we reap the benefits in the time we no longer have to spend in unproductive fights.
So how do you do this?
First, create time together away from your other responsibilities. This could be a weekend away together or just time where you offload kids, take time off work and just spend time together. Plan an expanse of time—several days ideally—where there is time to have fun, relax and do this work together. Alternatively commit chunks of time to do this, where you break it up over several weeks to the process, making this process as important as getting your home or garden ready for spring, planning a vacation, or preparing a work project.
Next, bring with you your commitment to your partner and to the life you share to this process. Go in with the determination to create health together, and set out with the shared goal of connection and vitality. Like a physical challenge or a professional goal, prepare for the work needed to achieve it, so that when the process becomes challenging, you do not retreat and give up.
And then, when it begins, focus your attention on creating a healing space for your partner. This instruction is to both of you. You both need this care and attention. Think about what you know helps them feel loved and safe. Come into this process ready to give this care to them, so you create the most loving environment so they feel safe being vulnerable to clean up and take care of you. For success, this process needs both of you to look out for the other.
This is a time intended for healing and care, not for shaming or punishing each other. Any dynamic in a relationship takes two people, and while each of you has made mistakes that you are responsible for, the pile-up of issues was contributed to by both of you. So adopting an attitude of care and humility will help you both feel loved and supported.
Throughout your Spring Clean, whether all in one chunk or spread out over time, take turns LISTENING to your partner’s experience. Listen and ask questions, without challenging their experience so that they feel fully understood. Encourage them to share their experience until they feel done. Once they are complete, thank them for sharing and reflecting on what you understood.
In taking turns back and forth you will develop a clear idea of the experiences you each need to repair and release.
Follow the processes for repair until each of you feels heard, understood, and cared for. See the article for an explanation about a proper repair. For more, view this Instagram live replay for more about a full and healthy repair.
Following the repair process, use the experience to evaluate what you have learned from the mistakes or patterns in your relationship. Determine which need growth or change and which need to go altogether. Pick one thing at a time to work on together so that you can fully resolve and release one habit at a time. Make sure you come up with a replacement for it, so it does not sneak back.
Most importantly, taking that initial time to evaluate the parts of your relationship and making a plan to sort, heal and release them is the critical piece of the process. Many couples just continue to sweep their baggage under the rug, which deteriorates our relationship over time. While it may seem overwhelming to roll that rug back and look at the junk that has built up, taking the time to do this is an investment that pays off both immediately and over time.
And, remember, do not hesitate to reach out for support in this process. Relationships are hard, the pandemic made them harder, and asking for support is another way of demonstrating your commitment and care for your partner and your relationship. Opportunities for support abounds. Please reach out if you want more ideas.
If you want to learn more about this process, join me on Instagram or on my Facebook page. Join my Facebook group, Kickstart Your Romantic Connection, for even more support and an opportunity to ask questions as you go through your Spring Clean.
Or join my workshop: “Spring Clean Your Relationship: The Release And Renew Masterclass” on May 21 from 9 am to 1 pm PST, on Zoom. The class will be recorded and available for replay. More Information here: