Spring Cleaning Your Relationship: 4 Tips to Create Increased Meaning and Connection in Your Partnership(s)
As we enter Spring- a season of renewal, growth, increased daylight, and change, I invite you to pause and intentionally think of ways in which your relationship(s) could benefit from some spring cleaning or tidying up.
Just like the changing of the seasons, relationships are not static; they move and shift with time and circumstances.
Often, we may live on auto pilot and don’t always pause to take stock of what we have and what we want to shift. This time of year is a perfect time to create space for more meaning and connection in your relationships. Relationship maintenance and enhancement is important for the health of our intimate connections and can lead us to feeling more fulfilled and having more patience.
During springtime, we engage in rituals that rid us from excess clutter and clean our corners that have been neglected for a while. We may clean out the garage, put away winter clothes and boots, get a bike tuned up, or just simply spend more time in the daylight. So, why not invest time with your partner(s), wife, husband, or family members to start a new yearly ritual-one in which you intentionally thoroughly “clean” your relationship?
1. Assess what's working and what's not working: Commit to changing one thing
Here are 4 ways in which you may want to consider Spring cleaning your relationships:
1. Assess what’s working and what’s not working: Commit to changing one thing
I invite you and your partner to take some time apart to think of what’s really working well in your relationship and what’s not working so well. Try and keep the list of what’s not working so well to a minimum. The purpose of this exercise is not to find all the faults but rather come together to constructively make some shifts.
After you’ve done your thinking, come together and share your thoughts with each other. It’s important for all to be in a present space to be able to listen. Then, together, commit to one thing you want to change; something that is manageable and that you think you are able to do as a team. It doesn’t need to be something huge… after all, one small change leads to greater changes.
As you move along your days and weeks, periodically remind each other of that thing you are working on.
I encourage you to not discuss how poorly things may be going with that thing you are trying to change if someone is emotionally charged, upset, or not present. Rather, pick a time when nothing significant is happening and say something like “When would be a good time to chat about our shared goal?”. Continue noticing each other’s efforts toward your shared goal and tell them what you’ve noticed. Nothing is perfect and you may certainly encounter speed bumps along the way.
2. Weekly affirmations
Isn’t it wonderful how, when Spring comes along, we can be mesmerized by the beauty of nature: the vibrant colours of the tulips, crocuses, and daffodils, the buds on the trees, the forests growing more underbrush vegetation, the birds singing…?
What would it be like for you to allow yourselves to also be mesmerized by things you appreciate in your partner? It’s interesting how we often hear the critical things our partner may say and we can miss the beautiful things they say to us. This is the time to shift this dynamic and really hear what the other appreciates about us.
In invite you to set aside 10 minutes once a week-preferably a consistent time to take turns and share things that you appreciated in your partner in the past week or in general. Say your appreciations until you have run out of things to say (there are no “good” or “bad” amount of appreciations). I encourage you to not judge each other’s appreciations and rather see them as a gift.
It can be as simple as: “I appreciate you for making a lot of jokes lately” or more focussed on something you have been working together in your partnership, such as: “I appreciate you noticing that we were about to do that thing we do when we are about to fight and choosing to do something different” or “I appreciate you listening to me the other day when I was upset”.
Although appreciations may not feel natural for you in the beginning, give it a chance and you may be surprised at what your partner(s) notices about you!
3. Create connection time in the evenings: nightly check-ins
Culturally, we often pack so much in our days that nighttime for some is a time to disconnect and “zone out”. Couples with kids have often told me that they are so busy tending to others’ needs during the day, that once the kids are in bed, they just want to “do nothing”. Other folks may be busy with the demands of work, commuting, and activities. “Doing nothing” makes so much sense and we all need restorative periods of time. What might happen, however, is that the relationship needs for connection and closeness have not been met during the day and it’s tough to make it work at night time.
With a nightly check in, you can take the time with your partner to intentionally be present for a short moment and learn about their experience during the day. This check-in can bring couples to increasingly communicate, share emotions, and have something to look forward to.
One couple I worked with had a set of three questions they asked each other every night before falling asleep. They said that they looked forward to hearing about the other’s daily experience and liked how this short check-in seemed manageable. This was their check-in:
Whether you choose to adopt these 3 questions as your own or create your own meaningful questions, I encourage you to keep it brief to make it manageable to allow you to enjoy this time. You can also do this in your other relationships, with family, or with kids.
4. Seek support and reach out
Maybe springtime is the time to seek support with aspects of your relationship that you have been struggling with. Often couples wait until there are some serious problems in the relationship before getting some counselling support. If you feel it’s right for you and your relationship(s), why not seek support to help maintain the beautiful aspects of the relationship that are working and continue building a strong foundation by courageously addressing some things that have been bothering you?
Another way to get some helpful support may be through some online communities, articles, or family and friends. Please note that some issues including trauma and on-going violence in the relationship may not easily be solved through online resources or informal support systems and I recommend you to reach out to a professional in order to maintain safety in the relationship(s).
I am hopeful that implementing some of these changes may create increased meaning and connection in your relationships and that Spring may bring an increasing sense of energy and hope.
As always, I welcome you to contact me or book an appointment if you think I may be of support and to see how we can work toward what's important to you and your relationships.
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"It doesn’t need to be something huge… after all, one small change leads to greater changes."
I invite you to be gentle and patient (I know, it’s hard!) with yourselves throughout your process of healing (or whatever word resonates with you). It may feel like you are ok one day one day and then feel like you’ve gone a few steps “backwards” the following day.
Also, I encourage you to be compassionate and patient with your loved ones’ processes. Often times, we tend to wonder what is taking so long for someone to feel better, they should be doing A or B, or if they just could…
Perhaps best thing you can do for those whom you love is to acknowledge their pain and let them know you are there for them (if you feel emotionally capable to do so).
Whether you are experiencing a loss, challenges in your relationship, mental health challenges, questioning your identity, working through trauma, or any other challenge, it is important to remember that everyone’s experience is different and their journey toward feeling better will also look different.
Linear is predictable, consistent, and sequenced. Our society is so good at thinking of things in these terms. Anything that falls outside of this construct can be scary, anxiety provoking, and unfamiliar for some.
So, if this is a challenge for you, maybe ask yourself: What CAN I control in this? What is one small thing I can do to be ok through this? Is it ok for me to not be ok for a moment in time? What do I need when I am not ok? How can I remind myself that ups and downs are part of the journey and who can I count on to support me with this?
As always, I welcome you to contact me if you think I may be of support.
As the winter months are deeply anchored, we often find ourselves spending more time indoors and in our homes. This may bring more solitude and time for contemplation and can be tough for some of us.
Themes that I often hear from clients at this time of year are: feeling more “down” than usual, a lack of energy and motivation, more tension than usual, feeling tired, feeling more emotional, and feeling increased irritability in relationships. I’m wondering if any of these resonate with you?
During this time, I'm finding myself turning to music and sound to fill in the gaps of winter stillness and bring a little warmth. Recently, I listened to a song titled “An invitation” by Rising Appalachia, a musical group that sings stories of hope, healing, and renewal. I needed some of this myself!
"Hey; It's been a long time coming and I don't want to wait no more...Don't be afraid to call on your fierceness...A Call to Action, A Call to Action..."
I found myself thinking about the word “ACTION”, when there is so much stillness at this time of year.
Although I love the idea of the message in the song, I questioned the reality of this for some of us and what it means to take action when we may be feeling tired, run down, and perhaps have challenges in our relationships that may get in the way of doing so.
Action is often seen of as something we DO.
It only takes a quick Google search to see photos of bright red push buttons that say “TAKE ACTION NOW”. There is an immediacy and “in your face” quality to the word; a certainty and assuredness. It’s more stuff to do in our lives.
This is not the action I envision for you right now. I’m wondering: What would it be like if we thought of taking action as something we intentionally choose not to do? Or maybe, a small mini step that will lead toward that bigger change you would like to see?
Taking action is a continuum; it’s not just something you do and then it’s done. I see it as a process.
So, my invitation to you is to use this time of year to think of what it is you want to take action toward…
Is there something that you have been thinking about for a while but just can’t bring yourself to do it? What would it be like to envision yourself taking just a small mini step toward that thing? What difference might this make for you?
Is taking action that tough conversation you have been wanting to have with your partner? Or maybe it’s acknowledging to yourself that some things need to shift? Or imagining what it may feel like to bring things up? Or not?
What about taking more time to do things that are important to you? Is there something you think you need to do for you or your relationships?
What if choosing to take action was to choose to spend more time reflecting and contemplating? Perhaps it’s slowly and deliberately deciding what may be best for you in these circumstances? Maybe it's un-doing?
What if choosing to take action was to choose to do nothing at a particular time?
Maybe it’s something else… I would love to be there to support you in your process.
If you feel called to take action in your life and seek support that may create meaningful and lasting change, I invite you to contact me to see how we can work toward what's important to you.