Leandie Buys Realtionship Therapist & Clinical Sexologist

10 ways to spring clean your relationship this season

My family knows that I get into “spring clean mode” every September. I start throwing out clutter, old clothes, and looking for ways to make the house look fresh and new.

Last year in September, I discovered the Annie Sloan chalk paint – so all my furniture got a makeover! My husband even joked that if he didn’t get out of my way, he’d also end up getting painted.

My spring clean madness is actually a joke in my family. They know that it’s the time that the entire house gets turned upside down – curtains and carpets washed, and all the old ‘junk’ turfed out.

This is also the season where I get back into my garden – planting seeds and fertilizing the grass. I am always so excited to see the garden start flourishing again after winter.

But this year is going to be different

It has been a tough year financially for my family. We have had a lot of expenses, and unexpected debts to pay off, and the economy has affected us. Although my practice is still thriving, and we are far more blessed than the majority of South Africans, we know that we need to be a bit more careful with our finances.

So this year, my husband and I have decided that we really don’t NEED to do anything new to the house.

Even though I look at my lounge, and think that some of the décor is out-of-fashion, my family thinks that my home is cosy, and welcoming. They describe my garden as a ‘fairy garden’, and they say that if I add anything more, it will look tacky, and the garden will be spoiled.

Why do I need a spring clean every year?

This got me thinking. Why do I find myself needing to do a spring clean every year? It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but am I focussing on ‘cleaning out’ the wrong stuff?

I don’t have a final answer yet, but I have realised that focusing on cleaning up the external environment takes away my focus from the not-so-beautiful inside. I may be feeling stressed and frustrated, and re-painting my kitchen cupboards helps me feel good again temporarily.

But I can’t just paint my relationship a different colour. I can’t throw out my frustrations in the bin. I can’t hide my finances behind a new cushion, and I can’t maintain my relationship with my family just by planting some new flowers in the garden.

On the other hand, my cupboards won’t resent me for painting them the wrong colour!

I have realised that it is very easy to ignore what is going on inside, and to cover it up with some new curtains and a splash of paint…

A new approach

This year, I’ve decided to do something different. My ‘spring cleaning’ this year will be focused on my relationship with my husband and my daughter and all the other people that mean so much to me. Instead of polishing the silverware, I’ll be polishing my relationships… out with the old and in with the new.

I’ve put together a few tips below on how to spring clean your relationship. I will be following these too! Here’s to a fruitful spring!

1. Give your partner a proper greeting

Don’t let your dogs be more excited to see your partner than you! When your partner gets home, don’t shout “hello” from behind the computer, rather get up from where you are and walk to your partner to give them a proper greeting.

2. Show your appreciation

We often end up taking things for granted in long-term relationships. This season, try to be more conscious of the things your partner does, and show them your appreciation. This can be a simple “thank you” when they’ve cooked a great meal, or “I appreciate how much you provide for us” when your partner has been working very hard at the office.

3. Quality family time

Have a family evening once a week where all sit down together and eat dinner. NOT in front of the TV! Let the kids lay the table and try to get everyone to talk about their day. If you are tired of the usual, “it was fine” answers, then come up with a different way of asking. Instead of saying “how was your day?” ask, “what was the best thing that happened to you today?”

4. Time-out!

A regular date night is always recommended as a great way for partners to reconnect, but sometimes all you can manage is a few minutes. During those chaotic days, take 10 minutes to reconnect with your partner emotionally.

Find a quiet space where you can just sit together, and talk about anything – except for your responsibilities! And the kids and work! Talk about your dreams, your favourite band, or a movie you’re keen on seeing, but keep the focus on the two of you, and your quality time together.

5. Encourage and praise each other

Did you know that men need affirmation more than women?! A researcher proved that women often receive external affirmation from friends, like “I love your hair today! That outfit looks amazing on you.”

But men don’t share this kind of bond. Men get their affirmation mainly from their partners, and those who get a lot of encouragement are twice as likely to describe themselves as “happily married” than others.

6. Be more aware of what makes your partner happy

Remember when you and your partner were dating and you went out of your way to try to find out what they liked just so you could share it with them… their favourite chocolate, band, food and movie.

Once you’ve been with someone for a long time, it’s easy to forget about making an effort to make them happy. Pay attention, see if they mention anything that they are keen on that you might be able to help with. For example, if they mention that a band is coming to play in your home town, why not try to organise tickets?

It doesn’t have to be a big effort, you could even pick up their favourite chocolate when you go grocery shopping, just as a sign to say “I was thinking about you, and I care about making you happy.”

7. Never give up on romance!

Your life might be chaotic, but there is never an excuse to give up on romance. You might have to schedule your date nights (at least twice a month), and give up on the spontaneity, but you can still enjoy an intimate evening with your partner.

Don’t spend your time together watching TV. Make sure that you go out and enjoy an experience together. Even if it’s a low-budget ice-cream and a walk through the local mall, or a take-away which can be eaten in your car overlooking a beautiful view.

8. Keep your sex life spicy

Try different positions, different locations and don’t forget to throw in a “quickie” every now and then to keep your relationship spicy. Buy some new sexy underwear once in a while, and make sure your partner knows that you are still physically attracted to them.

9. Apologise

Everyone messes up. But make sure that you don’t try to minimize or justify your behaviour. Take responsibility for your actions, apologise and move on. Make sure that you don’t do the same thing over again!

10. If you need help, get it

We don’t get a manual on how to make relationships successful – sometimes, we need a little bit of outside help to point us in the right direction. Investing in your relationship is worth the emotional and financial outlay. If you and your partner are struggling, and you can’t figure out how to get your relationship back on track, book an appointment with a psychologist. It will be an investment that you won’t regret as it is an investment into your future, and your happiness.

My good friend and colleague Elna McIntosh gave me these four words of advice for building healthy relationships:

  • Lie - Lie in bed a little longer 
  • Steal - Steal some time and get together 
  • Cheat - On the budget and go away for a weekend 
  • Divorce - From your office

My wish for you this spring is that you experience lots of love, intimacy, communication, commitment, equality and respect, compatibility, companionship, and emotional support in your relationship and that your relationship will blossom and thrive in the year ahead.