Sandy settled into a chair in my office and told me, “I spent most of the weekend looking out the window and thinking to myself—Here it is, the first Saturday in spring. The sun is shining.
It’s green and beautiful out and I don’t seem to want to do anything except sit here and feel sorry for myself. I didn’t have any energy at all. Am I getting depressed?”
Sandy and her husband, John, had been seeing me for several months and now that their problems were clearing up she wondered why she was feeling so lethargic and sad.
She said, “It’s like we don’t have endless arguments anymore, but I just can’t get excited about our relationship.” I told her, “Maybe you have spring fever and the best treatment is to do some spring cleaning.”
Spring is the world’s way of starting out new with refreshed vital, energy. Spring cleaning celebrates that transformation.
It begins by opening the windows to get rid of the stale winter air. We clean rooms of cobwebs and clear drawers of old clothes. Then we welcome the spring by buying new brighter and lighter clothes.
The same is true for relationships. To spring clean your relationship you need to become aware of leftover patterns from your parents and from any previous relationships.
Then you need to change the patterns that don’t work for the two of you and clean out old resentments. That way spring fever will be gone and you’ll have a renewed, vital relationship again!
You can start your relationship spring cleaning by listening to yourself. You may hear yourself telling your partner, “You always do that.
You should do it the right way. You never listen to me.” Stop and listen to yourself. Maybe you can hear your parent’s voice along with that message.
Then remind yourself that your partner is not your child and you are not Mom or Dad.
Likewise your partner is also not your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. You are each unique. There is no one exactly like you anywhere in the world and we each think differently.
The challenge of a relationship is to figure out how two unique people can live peacefully, lovingly and powerfully together.
I had Sandy and John begin their spring cleaning project by making a list of those places where they clashed. At the top of one list was the title, ‘Parental Pattern,’ and at the top of the other list was the title, ‘Previous Partner Pattern.’
They began seeing those old conflicts from a new point of view that gave them a opportunity to see what might work for the two of them. I tell my couples to work together as though you are on the same team instead of opposing teams.
One area they took a close look at was housekeeping. John was much more bothered by messiness than Sandy was. He hated clutter while Sandy wasn’t bothered by dust bunnies under the bed and piles of paper on the desk.
Of course, John’s parents were very neat and Sandy’s kept a very “relaxed” house.
Instead of trying to be like their parents, they decided to find their own unique way of handling the problem. John accepted that “out of sight is out of mind” and Sandy found creative ways of hiding those messy piles of papers.
Sandy was having difficulty enjoying sex with her husband due to leftover feelings of guilt about sex from her religious upbringing.
I recommended that she do some housecleaning by using a special CD I produced for getting rid of old guilt feelings associated with sex.
It’s one in a series I produced for improving your sex life through self-hypnosis.
Not only did Sandy benefit from the CD, but John told me how much he appreciated the effect of the CD on her. Sandy was feeling good about herself and they both liked the positive effect it had on their love life.
Say Good-bye to Trying to Win an Argument
When it came to arguments both Sandy and John still were trying to win. I told them, “When you try to win you are also trying to defeat your partner.
So would you regard the ideal relationship as the one where you always defeat your partner?” They both agreed that wouldn’t be a good idea. So then I said, “But that’s what you are trying to do!”
Now it’s one thing to make a good argument for your position and for your partner to do the same.
But then if you keep on trying to win, you are wasting energy and hurting your relationship in the long run. After each of you gets your point out and makes a good case, then it’s time to work on things together.
I gave them two cards to use. One said, “This is what I think.” and the other one said, “Let’s work it out.”
Their assignment when they had an argument was to put out the first card and take five minutes or less each to state their position. Then they were to put down the second, work-it-out card and talk about what they could both agree on.
It was a little difficult at first and felt somewhat artificial. But it was better than yelling at each other.
Then they went on to actually work out some long-standing issues and eventually they could do it without using the cards.
The new approach had become a beneficial habit.
Get Rid of Taking Each Other for Granted
This is where you get rid of old clothes and get some beautiful, new clothes. When we first fall in love with someone, it’s easy to do nice things and say sweet nothings.
But when we get past that initial rush of feel-good hormones there is a strong tendency to begin to take your partner for granted.
It’s nice to feel comfortable with each other but unless you keep your Love Bank account full, you are going to get in trouble.
It wasn’t enough for Sandy and John to stop being nasty to each other during their arguments. They had to make some positive deposits in their Love Bank.
I started by having each write down a list of things they appreciated about their partner. But they weren’t to share the whole list at once.
I had them share one new thing they appreciated about their partner every day for two weeks. At the same time they were to add new things to the list as they thought of them.
Each one shared with me how nice it was to get a complement or to be told how something they did was appreciated. And it led to doing more things that would get appreciated.
They both learned that praise and genuine appreciation was much more powerful than attacks and demands.
And it does have to be genuine appreciation, not just manipulation to get a particular result. It’s that warm feeling inside and soft eyes while you express appreciation that really works.
I also had them set up one date a week. This was a time when they were to enjoy each other’s company and they were expressly forbidden to work on problems.
It was to be a date just like when they were first going together.
The first couple of times they went out on their weekly date it was a bit difficult not to discuss problems and the topic of their last argument, but they managed to do it.
Then, as Sandy put it, “Going on a date without working on any relationship issues is like a real vacation. It’s like going somewhere that you can’t get phone calls or watch TV.
We really are getting away from it all and we have a chance to catch our breath and like each other again.” This gave them a chance to develop a deeper appreciation for each other.
Their love for each other and their excitement about the life they shared really grew. They said “It’s like the old us came out to play and we remembered how much we enjoyed being together!”
I strongly recommend an annual relationship spring cleaning for couples. The more old dysfunctional patterns, you can get rid of, the happier you will be together.
Especially when you replace the old one’s with rewarding new ones. It really is out with the old and in with the new!
About the author
Dr. Karen Gless has over 20 years experience as a Registered Nurse and since 1985 she has worked as a Marriage and Family Therapist.
Because she specializes in sexual problems, her experience as a Registered Nurse gives her a unique understanding of the physical side of sex, while her specialized training in human sexuality and counseling enables her to work with the emotional side.
She also specializes in couples therapy and has guided couples to the satisfying sex life that is naturally part of a good relationship.
She has advanced training in hypnosis and its use in treating sexual problems. She has spoken before local groups and has been interviewed several times on television about the sexual problems modern couples face.
Dr. Gless has written numerous articles on A Communication for Couples@ for Living Better Magazine and has been quoted in articles about sexual issues in Cosmo Magazine.