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Why should relationships need a spring cleaning?

If you think about it, in any area of our lives when we want better or want to be an expert in something, we often do something about it. If we want to be a better golfer, we take a golf lesson with a pro.  If we want to know more at work, we take a workshop, so why is it that when it comes to relationships, we often assume that they should just happen “naturally?”  That they are not a skill like many other things in our lives?
Well, this spring is your chance to invigorate and reorganize not just our closets, but our relationships, too!

Here are 6 tips that will freshen up your life’s various relationships!

Be Lance Romance

For those who may find themselves in an intimate or a “romantic” partnership, it is important to do a quality assurance test on the romance in your life and in your partner’s life this spring.

Why is it important to pay attention to, and improve upon romance in your relationships? Well, think of it this way, you are your partner’s only experience of romance in their life! So, it is very important to assess yourself on how well you are doing with creating the experience of romance in your partner’s life. How are you doing?

Romance is important because it is one of the qualities that makes your partnership different from any other relationship that you have. You don’t have romance with parents, friends, etc. This is a gift. Also romance is the opposite of taking someone for granted! It means thinking about what the other will like, what makes them feel warm and fuzzy, showering with affection etc.

Here are three ideas:

  1. Be a photojournalist: Put the same effort into your “relationship photo album” as you do your own profile on facebook. So, create cool albums of trips, date nights, home life. The process of looking back at a photo album of the two of you creates your own romantic love story, as opposed to simply browsing the edited versions of friends photo albums on facebook (a process that can make some feel like their own life isn’t as fun or romantic)! Create romantic narrative of you and your partner’s life together, it will enhance your memories of past events, and will make you feel that your life with your spouse is more romantic! We are visual people, we see love stories in movies and TV, so now it’s time to make your own! Set your pictures to music in a slideshow on your computer even!
  2. Romance is not always the Grand Gesture kind of. Sometimes it is more meaningful to take-on the other person’s perspective of what they like to do (football) or do something selfless and do that task they hate to do (clean kitchen floor). For instance, research has shown that women viewing pictures of an average looking man washing the kitchen floor rated those men as significantly more romantic and attractive than the most objectively, sexy, attractive man who was simply posing for the camera. So, wash the kitchen floor for your partner, or plan the next date (especially if you are not the one who normally plans) and you may be surprised what happens to the attraction level in your relationships!
  3. Be a Bragger! Brag about your partner in public and to others in front of them. Men want and need to hear this stuff, too!!! Compliments sometimes mean more when there is a witness. Showing off your partner in front of friends can be a very romantic gesture.

To improve ANY relationship, Be all ears!

In an age where we are bombarded with the need to win, to come up with the best answer, to appear the smartest, the most successful, it is no wonder that listening, really listening to others, is a lost art. We are too busy trying to be right and competing all of the time that we don’t know how to listen! We spend approx 60% of our time listening, but only less than 25% is retained! That’s a bad track record.

How can we improve our listening now?

To really listen is an activity on its own. First step, when someone is talking, avoid thinking about your rebuttal. We all do this. We also tend to stop the listening process as soon as they say something we disagree with and at that point begin to think of what we are going to say in response. Make a commitment to just hear when someone is talking and not to spend any time thinking of your response while you are listening. Compose your response when they are finished.

To be a good listener remember RASA (which is Sanskrit for “essence”)

R- Receive. Attend to them, pay attention, face them, sit and think as though you are receiving something)
A-Appreciate what is being said even if you don’t understand, agree or even when you are in competition. Honour that somebody is sharing something with you, and honour that there will be different points of views. Show appreciation by active listening. Make encouraging noises that suggest you are paying attention such as, “uh huh”, “right”.
S- Summarize- “So what I’m hearing is….”
A -Ask questions- “Did I listen correctly?”, “Do I have this right?” ,”Maybe you can tell me more about…”

Also, always look for what is not being said. The hidden fears, vulnerablities that are behind the words the person is saying. This will allow you to be in a more accepting listening space, and will help to stop you from simply trying to think of a rebuttal.

Forgive in your relationships!

It's time to spring clean your concept of forgiveness.

If there have been things said or done that you are holding onto in a relationship and such resentment is creating tension or stopping you from enjoying someone in your life., - Try forgiving!! To forgive someone does not mean that what they did was OKAY. Instead, forgiving can be a selfish act! It can be your way of taking the power away from the hurt that is hanging over you . Too many people say, I will forgive them, or I will be happy, when they say I’m sorry. Unfortunately, you can’t control whether someone will say sorry for something they did. You can hope for it. But, if you tell yourself that you will NOT be happy until the other says sorry, you are agreeing to have that pain have control over your happiness. So, try to think of forgiveness as a selfish and strong action, instead of a weak one. You WILL be happier in your relationships! Simple as that! Resentment and a lack of forgiveness= unhappiness.

Spring clean your appearance

One thing that is important when spring cleaning your relationships is to improve the relationship you have with yourself. This will boost self-confidence and anything that is novel or different will ultimately jumpstart all of those great chemicals in your mind and body that will tell you that you are happier and like yourself more.

So, what are some ways that you can spring clean your appearance?

Take a good look at your hair colour or style, has this changed in the last five years? If not, start to look online about new styles you can try with a flat iron or curling iron. Try a new colour or style in your wardrobe. Sometimes it’s as easy as tucking in the shirts that you normally always wear out.

Sometimes we put unnecessary obstacles in the way of changing up our appearance. Like, “I will buy new clothes and start to think about my hair, WHEN I lose those 10 pounds.” Start thinking instead about what small things you can do now, because chances are the small, painless changes will make you feel just slightly more invested in your appearance and happier, which in turns makes those ultimate goals (like losing 10 pounds) easier to achieve.

Write a love letter to your child

Perhaps you have received the, “You’re the best mom or dad card on mothers day or fathers day” written in child-like scribbles or  from your adult child that lists all the reasons that your child loves you and appreciates all that you have done for them. However, try writing a random letter to your child about all that you are proud of, all of the characteristics that you admire, all of the good times that you remember with them, all that you have learned through them, and all that they have given you in their own way. 

Be kind to those you love the most

When you think about the people in your life who see you at your best, or receive the polite or exceptionally patient or kind version of yourself, who are they? For many, they are the folks who you might not love or see the most in your life, those who you are not closest with or don’t know even very well, or they may be those with whom you have a more formal relationships like your boss or coworkers. Often the folks we love the most, the ones we are married to or live with, the ones with whom we feel the safest, get the worst or left over parts of ourselves.  We must consciously change that in an effort not to take advantage of the love in the relationships we hold most dear.

So, when you get home from your day instead of giving your spouse or kids the “leftovers” of yourself. Keep the words be kindest to those you love most in your head. During your dinner conversation or pillow talk, notice what changes when you are purposely kind! I often say to folks who come to see me in therapy…you have become used to not being kind to one another.  BE kinder to those you love most today! People in the happiest relationships have a ratio of 5 positive comments/gestures/ words to every 1 negative when they are speaking to each other. That means those who are happiest are kinder to one another on a daily basis.

So, compliment your spouse, you mom, you brother, be polite and say thank you for dinner, I’m sorry I wasn’t at my best this morn, leave a note of appreciation for them like you do when you send emails to colleagues congratulating them on a job well done. Give your best self, and be kind to those you love the most! It will change your relationships forever!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

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