As spring fever finally kicks out the winter blues many of us get the urge to purge. Clean out those things that are not serving us anymore. Traditionally this means our closets, our kitchens, our gardens, and our garages. However, I believe spring is also a good time to take off your rose colored glasses when it comes to your relationships. Take a fresh look at them, and like your clothes, sort them into three piles:
- What fits
- What used to fit and is worth the effort to make fit again
- What does not fit anymore and should be thrown out
Just like your closet this is not as difficult as it seems once you get started. Relationships should work for you, and if they don’t you are just wasting time and energy keeping them around. Sorting through them is a worthwhile process that will leave you free to find new, healthier relationships.
Relationships That Fit
A relationship that fits is one that is easy. You recognize it by how you feel when you see this person. It should be a time you look forward to. Early on this is the butterflies you feel in your stomach. In a more mature relationship it’s the calm excitement of knowing someone accepts you no matter what state you are in on a particular day. When trying to determine if a relationship fits, ask yourself these questions:
- Does being with this person make me feel good or better about myself?
- Is this person someone I share the good, the bad, and the ugly with?
- Do I trust this person?
- Does this person share both good and bad things with me?
- Do I look forward to spending time with this person?
- Am I really myself with this person?
- Am I always honest with this person?
If the answer is yes to all of these questions, it’s a keeper!
Relationships Worth Working on to Make Fit Again
We all know these relationships. For some reason you are not talking as much, you are arguing more over silly things, and you are avoiding much needed discussions. In these cases, the question to ask yourself is, is there a reason to keep this person in your life? In other words, do you still answer yes to many of the above questions. Or, think about how you would feel if this person was not a part of your life with these questions:
- Will I miss this person if he/she is no longer part of my life?
- Do I think the relationship would improve if we had an open and honest discussion?
- Am I willing to put work into this relationship?
All relationships take work, and the need to nurture or give particular attention is a natural part of the relationship lifecycle. Many things happen as a relationship matures. Just a few to consider:
- the newness wears off
- one or both people change or move away
- major life event such as a death, illness or both cause a shift in priorities
- a career change that reduces the time and energy you have to give
As a busy private investigator, mother, wife, and friend I find the question I ask myself about relationships that have begun to feel like heavy lifting is is this person worth the time and energy now needed? I hate to sound harsh, but it take a lot of effort for even the most casual friendships! Decide which ones are worthwhile and put your energy there. You have a finite amount of time and energy to spend on friendships and romance so make sure each one is worth it.
Relationships to Toss
In some ways this is the easiest. If it isn’t working for you why are you still in it? I know the answer. Leaving is easier said than done.
Tossing or ending a relationship, whether a romance or friendship, is difficult. It takes bravery. Spring cleaning gives you time to take a fresh look at your life and rid yourself of those things that are holding you back. We do it with our clothes, we do it in our houses, and we should do it in our relationships. The simplest way to begin is to step back and look at your relationships as a third party. Once you take the emotion out of it and become an observer you are able to give yourself some much needed advice.
If you see two people who once were so in sync are now so out of step that what they had is unrecoverable tell yourself what you would tell anyone else: it’s time to walk away.
In my opinion, staying at this point is unhealthy and can only end badly. Here’s how it usually plays out: one or both parties start to feel the other is a burden. Communication is reduced to hurtful one-liners. Anger builds and soon, the love or friendship once shared is virtually unrecognizable.
I see this every day. Partners seeking other relationships and just leaving the damaged one in the dust. This is when cheating or other forms of disloyalty come in. Some do not get as ugly as others, but whether it’s lying, cheating, stealing, or physical abuse, it all comes down to the same thing. It’s unhealthy, and it’s time to end it.
At this point leaving may seem difficult but it’s really not. Think about all you have to gain. As I said, we have finite internal resources and energy for relationships. Once you’ve cleared out the ones that no longer fit, you will have room for healthier romances or friendships. While I’m not a therapist I have many clients who were once very in love with their partner and who are now in a heated child custody case, or suspicious of infidelity. Sometimes much of this pain could have been avoided with a good spring cleaning. This spring make a pledge to yourself, if it fits keep it and take care of it, but if it doesn’t fit, toss it!