Does Your Relationship Need A Spring Cleaning?
“The weirdest thing just happened,” my friend said.
This was just a few days ago. My friend and I were meeting up to go on a walk around our neighborhood.
As she had walked out the door to come meet me, my friend’s boyfriend had called out to her, “You never give me affection anymore!” His comment had caught her totally off-guard.
“I mean, I guess I don’t give him that much affection?” She mused. “Maybe? I’m not sure! I’m just not naturally an affectionate person, so I haven’t even thought about this in ages!”
I think a lot of us can relate to my friend’s story. Because in every relationship, there are two different people who have different ways that they like to be loved.
But most of us don’t always like to tell our partner how we want to be loved. We want them to just know, and just do it!
When your partner isn’t giving you the love you want to receive on a regular basis, it’s easy for frustration to build up, then come pouring out of you at an inconvenient moment, like when my friend was walking out the door to come meet me.
To help you prevent moments like this from happening in your relationship, we’re doing something special this month…
Helping you “spring clean” your relationship!
Every week this month, we’re going to give you tips about spring cleaning one element of your relationship. Because the truth is that pretty much every relationship needs a little refresh from time to time!
Today I want to talk about the ways you and your partner give and receive love from each other. I have two steps for how to refresh this part of your relationship.
Step 1: Make a list of the ways you want to be loved
Spend some time brainstorming five things your partner could do on a daily basis to make you feel loved.
The key here is to be specific!
For example, Xander also likes a lot of physical affection (like my friend’s boyfriend). I’m not naturally as physically affectionate as he is, so if he were to tell me, “I want you to be more affectionate”, I might give him a few extra hugs, but then I would quickly backslide into my normal, not particularly touchy-feely habits.
Instead, I ask Xander to give me specifics. He’s told me before that he really loves when I snuggle him in bed right when we wake up.
The specificity of the action makes it a lot easier to remember!
You also want to make sure these are things your partner could do on a daily basis. I’d love if Xander surprised me with a romantic getaway to Fiji, but that’s not something he could do every day!
If you’re having trouble starting your list, it may help to think about the Love Languages model that psychologist Gary Chapman created. Chapman says that there are five specific ways that we like to be loved. They are:
- Words of affirmation: giving praise, compliments, or verbal recognition. This is my personal favorite! I melt when Xander says something sweet out of the blue. The other day, he told me, “You’re an incredible wife.” Just those four words made me feel so ridiculously loved.
- Acts of service: doing favors, kind acts, and chores for your partner. For example, surprising them with a bubble bath or taking out the trash without being asked.
- Gifts. For example, buying flowers or chocolate truffles.
- Quality time: giving your partner your full, undivided attention. For example, going on a walk and leaving your cell phones at home, or cooking a meal together. (More on this topic next week!)
- Physical touch. For example, hugs, kisses, butt slaps, or cuddles. This is Xander’s favorite! Even when I feel like I’m smothering him, he still loves the physical contact.
Share your lists with each other!
Step 2: Remind yourself to take daily action
You and your partner need to actually follow through on loving each other in the ways you want to be loved!
It’s really important for you both to recognize that this is not going to come “naturally” to either of you!
Xander loves physical affection, so he naturally tries to show his love in the same way he likes to give it. He doesn’t naturally love words of affirmation, so he doesn’t think to say really meaningful things to me all of the time. Just like it takes an active effort for me to remember to touch him more often.
You’re both going to need to build in daily reminders to yourself to show your partner some love.
Here are some ideas to try:
- Set timers to go off on your phone.
- Set reminders in your calendar.
- Put notes up around the house.
- Create mental cues.
For example, I try to remind myself to cuddle Xander in the morning before reaching for my cell phone or hopping out of bed. But if I forget (which I often do), I have a mental cue that I’ve set up to remind myself to go back and give him a snuggle. When I brush my teeth, I ask myself if I’ve shown him affection yet. If I haven’t, I head back to bed as soon as I’m done. Brushing my teeth has turned into my cue.
So there are your two steps to this week’s spring cleaning! I suggest that you try this out for a week, then have a check-in with your partner about how it went. Then see if you want to make any adjustments to your plan going forward.