As the cold weather reluctantly gives way to warmer temperatures here in Upstate New York, thoughts turn to spring cleaning. It’s funny how quickly neglect can take its toll and junk can pile up.

Just like houses, relationships need to be spruced up, too .  Spring cleaning is also a helpful metaphor to illustrate how taking time to clean up and toss out can fix the problems caused by neglect and the accumulation of emotional junk.  Without proper care and maintenance, romance can fade and get crowded out.  So, if you would like to improve the romance in your marriage, here are some things to clean up and/or toss out that will do the trick :

Resentment (Stop Sweeping things Under the Rug) By far the worst enemy of romance is resentment. Neurologically, anger blocks erotic feelings and passion for one’s spouse.  Most often this stems from the way problems are dealt with or, to stay within our metaphor, the way we “clean”. Sweeping under the rug , instead of dealing with a conflict or problem head on, simply avoids and delays coming to terms with the issue and builds up hostility in the process. When one is able to identify and directly address problematic situations, resolutions can be found and the problem can be finally thrown out.
Bad habits and Name Calling Closely connected to sweeping things under the rug is another source of resentment, bad communication habits of name calling and unfair criticism. In order to deal directly and effectively with problems, couples need to get rid of bad communication habits and learn how to talk in ways that do not trigger arguments and disrupt meaningful discussion. Learning how to speak using I-statements is a vital part of good marital communication.
Excuses and Overbooked Schedules One common mistake that couples make which leads to flagging romance is to over-estimate what they can do in a given amount of time and over-book their schedules. As a result, there is no time for romance. Couples need to examine not only their schedules but also their priorities and realize that their relationship has to be #1.
Taking Each Other and your Marriage for Granted Over time, the special energy that couples initially had for each other fades into complacency and worse being inconsiderate. No wonder the passion can fade as well. There is a common myth that if the marriage is good, that it just sails along naturally all on its own. FALSE . Good marriages take a lot of work. Marriage is a lot like a garden, left to itself the result is bugs and weeds. If you want beautiful flowers and vegetables, it requires tending and care. The same goes for happy and satisfying marriages. Tending the marital garden means taking time to make little considerate gestures, like sending flowers or making a phone call for no reason, expresses love and provides reassurance for your partner. And , by the way, we all are a little insecure in our relationships and need reassurance.
Boring Routines Even if you do all the things mentioned above, when it comes to keeping sex exciting, it is important not to get into a predictable love-making rut. Humans beings need creativity. When was the last time you asked your partner (while you are not in bed) about their fantasies or if there is anything different that they would like to try ?
Poor Personal Appearance Finally, one of the most common complaints I hear from both men and women about their spouses are comments about their personal appearance. Again, over time, folks get lazy and stop trying to look nice for their mates. Many times it involves wearing the same clothes over and over. Sometimes, sprucing up our appearance may mean something as simple tossing out that ratty tee-shirt. It is normal but not helpful to take our partners for granted and not pay attention to the way we look around the house. For men, shaving and looking nice can help keep the flame burning. For women getting rid of those old sweat pants or paying attention to your hair can make a big difference. Again, the issue is not about the way you look but the reassuring message that you care enough to take the time to be attractive for your mate.

It would be nice if all couples had to do was hire someone to come and get rid of all the junk that clutters up their marriage and interferes with romance. Since that isn’t possible, keeping the fires of passion burning bright requires a little work. But, it’s not that bad. Simply taking some time to remember how much you love your partner can remind you not to become complacent about the blessing of your union. Reviewing these tips, from time to time, can keep the emotional junk from piling up and make sure that your relationship has all space it needs to keep your marriage filled with romance and intimacy.

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC 4 30 2019

Image attribution : by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images and modified by Michael Heath