It’s the time of year where many of us begin spring cleaning, a time of renewal and change. We’ll tackle the house, the garage and the yard, but what about our relationships?
Yes, you read that correctly.
Relationships need attention too – especially after all the stress we have endured during a pandemic and quarantine this past year. Not to mention all of us in the military, with how often our spouses are deployed or working odd hours.
Now is the perfect time, as spring is all about renewal and revitalization. These tips from my practice as a lead divorce lawyer can help.
Marriage Tips from a Divorce Lawyer?
Surprisingly, this may be one of the best sources! Before starting Mediated Online Solutions with my partner, I spent 27 years as a New York attorney, half of that specializing in matrimonial and family law. Not only that, I can say I myself have endured both a divorce and a second marriage which has lasted over 20 years.
And now as an experienced mediator and collaborative divorce practitioner, you could say I’ve seen it all when it comes to relationships gone wrong. I’ve learned some things along the way, like how big of a difference regular “spring cleaning” in a handful of specific areas can make.
5 Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Relationship
Just as clutter can build in our physical spaces, the same can happen in the emotional space of our relationships as well. Resentments can fester, miscommunication can cause strain, and busyness can cause connection to fade. It can happen to anyone, if you let it. Here’s what you can do instead:
Make Time to Connect
With careers, kids, and any number of other responsibilities, life can create distance between you. That’s why you must make it a priority to have quality time together. Go on dates, meet for coffee, or simply steal alone time at home. It’s important for you to connect, just the two of you, on a regular basis. You’ll foster a sense of togetherness, will be less likely to take each other for granted, and can continue rediscovering each other as you evolve and grow as people.
Agree to Disconnect
It’s not really quality time if you’re both on your devices and/or staring at the TV. That’s not to say you shouldn’t ever look at a screen when together, but remember a key to intimacy is being focused and present with each other. And let’s be honest: technology can be a crutch when things feel awkward, you don’t know what to say or you simply don’t want to make the effort. Going device free during your alone time makes your relationship the priority.
As the years go by, relationships often become less flirty and more business-like. You’re trying to keep your head above water with life. We get it! But by putting the flirt back you’ll likely realize how much you’ve missed it. Hold hands, kiss hello and goodbye, hug, leave sweet notes – it’s these gestures that make you feel seen, loved, and cherished. A little creativity never hurt either in keeping the passion alive!
These last two tips have to do specifically with communication, a key in any relationship.
In fact, I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washington who found, after researching couples for over 20 years, that the best predictor of divorce is when one or both partners show contempt in the relationship. This often comes through loud and clear in communication whether intentionally or unintentionally. These tips can help you avoid it.
Nag Less (And More Effectively)
While the temptation may be there to mention ALL your partner’s irritating habits when they occur, it’s important to pick your battles. However, when you do communicate these frustrations, make sure to avoid universal statements that use words such as “always,” “never,” and “every time.” For example:
“Why do you always leave food in the sink?”
“You never put the toilet seat down!”
“You leave your dirty clothes on the floor every time you take them off!”
These statements not only discount the potential for change but actually discourage it by putting your partner on the defensive. Not to mention they are easy to contradict. You can bet your partner will remember that one time they picked up those clothes, right?
Naturally, couples disagree from time to time. But how you do so can either bring you closer or can wreak total havoc on your relationship. To fight fair, avoid “you” language that passes judgement like, “You need to fix this!” Also, avoid personal attacks (“You never do chores!”) and instead focus on the issue (“I notice you didn’t do the chores yesterday”). And never invalidate your partner’s feelings, even if you think they are overreacting. It will only cause hurt and anger, not to mention they may shut down emotionally to avoid feeling belittled again.
Should you need support navigating divorce and/or co-parenting, we’re here to help! Our experienced team offers fully virtual coaching and mediation services. Contact us today to learn more or for a free consultation.
Debra Whitson has been practicing law for more than 20 years, delivering focused solutions guided by compassion and trust. For the first half of her legal career, Debra was a special victims prosecutor, pursuing justice for crime victims, particularly women and children. She was the first female Assistant District Attorney serving Essex County and is a recognized expert in the fields of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. This passion for helping families led Debra to family law, and to pursue collaborative divorce and mediation.
Today, Debra works hands-on with her clients to learn their short-term objectives and long-range goals. Through this, she develops tailored options and explores how/if those options align with the client’s values, budget, risk tolerance, etc. She then co-produces strategies with her clients that will offer the best chance for advancing the client’s objectives/goals. Debra believes that there may be many paths to get you to where you want to be and advises clients to choose a path that aligns with their values. Through Mediated Online Solutions, she puts her passion for peaceful dispute resolution to work for couples who seek a dignified and self-directed way to separate, divorce, or co-parent. That same spirit guides Whitson&Tansey’s commitment to fighting for social justice and human rights by focusing on the firm’s practice on domestic violence, matrimonial, and family law.
Debra’s driving goal is to let her clients feel heard, cared for, and respected, and get as many people as possible to resolve conflicts in peaceful, respectful ways—in all spheres.
Awards: Debra is a two-time recipient of the Excellence in Domestic Violence Awareness andAdvocacy Award from the Essex County New York Multidisciplinary Task Force Against Domestic Violence, and she has been recognized for excellence in appellate advocacy from the Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation.
In her spare time, Debra works with Zonta International to improve the lives of women and girls in her local community and around the globe. She loves to travel, good food and wine, tennis, and spending time with her husband and children enjoying all of the outdoor activities available in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State where they make their home.