Tips for Starting Fresh

Posted on January 26, 2012

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I recently wrote about emotional moldiness.  That, again, refers to the pattern we often get stuck in of becoming too comfortable or lazy in our relationships, which results in a slackening of our emotional boundaries and oftentimes causes us to treat our partners badly.  Couples really know how to make each other feel crummy.  Indeed, there’s nothing like being in a relationship to show you your own dark side, whether it’s being too mean or being too weak, too unrelenting or too indifferent.

If you’ve fallen into a pattern of being too “soggy” in your relationship, what better time than the beginning of a new year to try and start fresh?

Restoring a degree of emotional distance, by which I mean treating each other as civilly as any human being that’s not bound to us deserves to be treated, can be difficult.  I’m all for the fake-it-til-you-make-it philosophy: just TRY to treat your partner better (with whatever hokey method it takes), and eventually you’ll be able to do so more naturally.

In articles about couples, we hear a lot about “restoring the romance” in a relationship (or the passion or fire or what have you).  That’s important too.  But first, what I consider an oft-overlooked step is to restore the humanity in a relationship.  To that end, I offer you some ideas and small steps to set you on the right track:

  • Role play. Imagine your partner is a stranger, or your houseguest, or an important diplomat, or your boss … and treat him/her just as politely.
  • Ustedify.  If you speak Spanish with your partner, and usually refer to each other as or vos, try for a day to speak to each other in the Usted form.  The added formality implicitly adds a degree of respect, while also being fun to play with.  (I suppose calling each other Mr. and Ms. may have a distantly similar effect in English.)
  • Trigger words. There are certain insults or complaints that you know hit your partner’s buttons, powerful words that make him/her feel really terrible. Target ONE of these and eliminate it. Cut it entirely out of your vocabulary.  Sure, when you fight, insults will still come out — but discipline yourself to fight fair and not go for that lowest blow.
  • Infuse positivity.  Try, for a day, to compliment or express thanks for everything your partner does well.
  • Let things go.  Try, for a day, every time you feel an irritated reaction or complaint coming on, to just stifle it. Instead, smile and pretend like it simply doesn’t bother you.  Amazingly, within a little bit it probably won’t bother you, and your partner will feel much better for your not having caused a ruckus.
  • Proactively dialoging.  When you spend intentional time collaboratively and maturely discussing how to improve your relationship, chances are, it will indeed improve.  Why not be the one to suggest and lead an open dialogue?  Show that you’re willing to try to find solutions.

These are small ways freshening up your relationship.  It’s not about starting over, just starting fresh.  You’ll find that choosing a few implementable actions can get you out of the lazy comfortableness zone and cause a slow shift in the quality of your relationship.  Like working out: you don’t get in shape overnight, but you start doing something good and your body responds.  So think of the above as exercises to tone up the flab that has accumulated around the love handles of your relationship.

But that is ENOUGH metaphors for Jenny for the day.  I’ll leave you with just one last tip for starting fresh:  When in doubt, send an ecard:

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Posted in: Tips