If you think about it, spring is a pretty awkward time of year for couples. We’ve just spent four cold months cuddled up watching Netflix with our S.O., and as much as we fell in love with some winter-themed date ideas, the chilly weather (and okay, laziness) kept us inside. Relationships can suffer from the winter blues too. But therapist Zach Brittle doesn’t think spring is just the transitional season between winter and summer. He sees it as an opportune time to spring clean your relationship. Here are his seven steps to freshening up your romantic partnership.
1. Think about self-care within your relationship. Brittle says improving yourself and your life together in practical ways will strengthen your relationship. Take some time to think through your goals for the next month, season and year. Then try to identify joint goals or find creative ways to include your partner in things that are a personal priority. This can mean starting a new house project, working out together or creating a new budget that puts you on track to save for that awesome vacation you both dream about taking together.
2. Make changes that are realistic enough to become habits. Taking regular, small steps towards creating a healthier relationship will help them become habits. Don’t try to create something perfect overnight! A few ideas: Try to give your boo one compliment a day, or turn your phone off during dinner together (working up to turning it off when you’re in bed too).
3. Opt for output over outcome. When setting goals, be as specific as possible and focus on elements you can control. “You shouldn’t say, ‘I’m going to lose 20 pounds,'” Brittle said. “You can say, ‘I’m going to go to the gym three times each week.’ You can’t control your weight, but you can control going to the gym.” Instead of setting a relationship goal of getting more serious, commit to planning four dates a month, for example.
4. Compartmentalize. When you clean out your apartment or house, you don’t do it all at once; you go room by room. This same approach can be applied to improving a relationship. Instead of looking at bad habits as a whole, focus on improving one trait at a time.
5. Invest in your friendship. Brittle says his training at the Gottman Institute taught him that friendship is considered the first area of “relationship competency.” This means investing in “habits of connection” like date nights and asking simple questions about your S.O. to help your friendship grow.
6. Manage conflict. Spring can be a great time to air out your relationship’s dirty laundry. Brittle says that one way to do this is through setting up a meeting with a relationship therapist. Although some people view therapists as a last-resort for a relationship, Brittle says that “having a therapist is a lot like having a dentist. It’s all about cleaning and fine-tuning.”
7. Dream big. When thinking about where to improve your relationship, don’t be afraid to think about what you really want. Unlike tidying your house, Brittle said, there’s no “finish line” to a relationship, which means you have endless opportunities to grow into the person and couple that you want to be.
What habits have kept your relationship fresh? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)