Just like your closet, kitchen and that shed you've been avoiding in the past few months, your relationship could also use a "spring clean."
"Whether you’re a new couple or have been married for a while, spring is the perfect time to refresh your relationship," says relationship expert Jess O'Reilly of Sex with Dr. Jess. " Spring often brings a renewed discussion of family and children, which can pose new challenges for relationships – like trying to conceive – so remember to keep things as stress-free as possible and put the fun back into your relationship."
But before you start making a list of all the things your partner needs to improve on, this time of the year is also perfect for self-reflection. O'Reilly has also come up with a list of questions we should all ask ourselves when it comes to our significant other:
Greetings – Do you greet your lover with a smile? A warm embrace? A warm tone of voice?
Farewells – Do you take an extra 10 seconds to say goodbye in the morning? Do you hold one another for a few minutes at night before you fall asleep?
Attitude – Do you save the best version of yourself for your friends and colleagues or do you reserve some of that shine for your lover too?
Effort – Do you go out of your way to make your partner’s life easier? How could you brighten their day today?
For couples who already have children, O'Reilly suggests focusing on flirting, teasing and seduction, for example, to work around the areas of privacy. And if you're in a new relationship, you may have not figured out each other's bad habits yet, but O'Reilly says this is still a good time to start fresh.
"You do, however, have your own habits that will eventually impact your relationship, so go through this same list and see how you can help stay on track."
Here are O'Reilly's 10 tips for taking a fresh take on your relationship this spring:
When you first met, you likely used your tone, body language, eye movements and facial expressions to subtly (even subconsciously) convey your interest, says relationship expert Jess O'Reilly of Sex with Dr. Jess. "It’s time to step it up again, as flirting not only strokes your partner’s ego, but it can boost your self-esteem too."
Take 60 seconds a day to do something thoughtful for your partner — make them a coffee, chill a beer, steep a tea, warm up the shower, “butter” their toothbrush with toothpaste in the morning or lay out their clothes before you go to bed, O'Reilly says. "Other options include leaving a sticky-note with a few loving words on their windshield, packing a lunch, warming up their socks before work or massaging their hands. Sixty seconds is all it takes to offer a reminder that you care."
And we're not just talking about sex or making out. "A 20-second hug with no strings attached may be just what you need to boost oxytocin levels and deepen your bond," O'Reilly says.
If you've had a long, hard or terrible day at work, don't bring it to your partner. "Take a break and remind yourself that all the baggage from work has nothing to do with your loving partner at home," she says.
Add a small change to your sex routine: For example, if you usually have sex at night, make a new rule that sex once a week has to be during the day. Either sneak away for an afternoon delight or wake up early for morning sex. "Or you can ban sex from the bedroom — remember how hot it was to make out on the couch?" O'Reilly says.
When it comes to spring cleaning (and ongoing cleaning), do you feel you’re doing your fair share? Is your partner pulling his/her weight? Have a discussion on diving up your chores. "Perceived imbalance in division labour is a point of contention and stress for many couples, whether it’s over simple household chores or more intimate matters like baby-making. But regular check-ins can help to nip this in the bud," O'Reilly says. Remember to share the responsibility of not only the housework but also things like family planning and conception, so that it doesn't fall on to one person’s shoulders. “If you’re cleaning, do the chores together to help bond while also getting the work done, or if you’re aiming to get pregnant, try using an at-home conception aid together, like The Stork, or track fertility simultaneously using an app like Ovia,” O’Reilly suggests. Currently, she is working on projects for these conception-focused apps.
It’s not what you're saying — it’s how you're saying it. The next time you’re frustrated with your partner (or you’re simply taking your frustrations out on your partner because you ignored tip #4), check your tone, O'Reilly says. "If your mom, dad, boss or best friend was in the room, would you speak in that tone? If not, adjust it accordingly."
Along with division of labour, sex and children, money ranks as a top issue of conflict in relationships, O'Reilly says. "Be pro-active and talk about your financial situation, plans and goals over brunch or a nice glass of wine. Sometimes a simple conversation can help to ease tension by giving you a better understanding of why your partner makes certain financial decisions."
How often do you want it? How often does your partner want it? Is there anything new you’d like to try? Address these questions with your partner during one-on-one time.
Most of us don’t do this enough, especially to the people we love. "We may be thankful for all that our partner does, but we often fail to express this gratitude. Thank your partner more and ask them to do the same."