Spring has arrived! (At least that’s what the calendar says, despite all the wild back-and-forth weather we’ve been seeing here in the Pacific Northwest lately.) And in our house, the change in season signals one thing for certain: it’s time for spring cleaning!
With the arrival of spring, I always remember how my mom would do the spring cleaning each year: windows open, screens out, rags and buckets in hand, all the kids would get involved. We’d move all the furniture and clean out from underneath it. We’d wash winter clothes and ski gear and put it away into storage — and haul out the spring and summer stuff. With holidays like Easter and Memorial Day, we’d start making plans for gathering with friends and family to brunch and grill out and enjoy the longer, brighter days.
The shift to spring signaled a move to brighter, fresher things after a long, wet winter.
As a therapist, I often wonder what it would look like for each of us to do some spring cleaning in our relationships. What would you freshen up, put away, or let go of?
Think of those clean windows that let so much precious light in. What has gotten grimy or collected dust in your relationship? So often, year after year, we ignore certain areas of our relationship. That can leave space for resentment and bitterness and frustration to build up.
Eventually, all that compounds and builds walls between you and your partner. Sometimes, addressing those walls can require major interventions, like going to therapy; sometimes the damage is irreparable.
But what if you made time to give your relationship some regular TLC, just like you would your home? What if you took a moment each week to have a State of the Union Meeting, like the Gottmans suggest?
Appreciate your partner deeply. Call out five or six things that they’ve done for you in the last week that you appreciate. Recall some of the goodness to lay a foundation of camaraderie and care.
Then, choose one event from the past week that you want to discuss or process together — a conversation that went badly, an incident that you regret, or anything else you’re concerned about. Bring up just one thing that may have gotten pushed under the rug.
Consider, too, that the conflict you bring up could be a gridlocked one that you revisit from time to time. What if you could come to a deeper understanding of your partner’s stance on that issue by recognizing something like dreams within conflict?
Take the time to make the window between you a little bit clearer. Doing this sort of thoughtful “spring cleaning” in your relationship can help you find meaning behind the grimy buildup of film that’s gotten between the two of you.
And if you’re a bit hesitant to look under the couch cushions of your relationship, so to speak, it can help to reframe the difficulty of the yuckiness of dealing with some of the messes in your relationship. Consider all the unexpected goodness that could come from your spring cleaning! Pull the cushions off the couch to vacuum everything out, and you very well may find forgotten treasures waiting there for you!
Like anything good, this work requires some effort and planning. Set aside time for these deeper conversations. To keep things productive and meaningful, I recommend going to a public place to have these talks with your partner. Approach the work with kindness and integrity, and keep negative emotions in check.
Open the windows on your relationship. Let in the light. Clean out the dusty, forgotten corners. You’ll both be better for it.