A lot of time, energy, and marketing dollars go into the concept of “Spring Cleaning” and there’s a reason why. It feels almost cleansing to get back that extra hour of sunlight each evening, finally see budding plants instead of bare branches, and be able to step outside without 17 layers and a rain poncho.
This year, I’ve decided to clean out more than my overstuffed drawers and dusty warm weather wardrobe – I’m going to take a fresh look at my relationships. Whether romantic or a friendship, brand new or long standing, any relationship can benefit from a fresh look because we all do unhealthy things and, if they’re anything like my desk junk drawer, it can get out of control overnight.
Step 1: Open up the door that’s been closed for too long.
Like that closet we don’t open for fear we’ll get buried under an avalanche of thrifted cardigans and SAT practice exams, the relationships we are most hesitant to take a deeper look at are the ones that need it the most. Situations, words and actions in our relationships that make us feel inadequate or anxious are better off brought into the light by having a conversation with our partner or friend. There is no doubt that it can be extremely uncomfortable to talk about these feelings, but I promise you – you will feel much better leaving unhealthy relationship patterns in last season.
Step 2: Polish Your Knowledge
It’s important to ask yourself questions about how you FEEL in a relationship. Using the 10 signs of an Unhealthy Relationship to form these questions is a great place to start:
- Isolation: Do they make the effort to spend time with my friends or family? Do they talk me out of meeting up with old friends or get upset when I do? How do I feel about that?
- Intensity: How do I feel when I check my phone and I see 3 missed calls from them? Does a barrage of texts from them excite me or make me feel anxious to read them?
- Manipulation: Do they ask me to do things like share my passwords or my location as a test to prove I don’t have anything to hide? How does that sit with me?
If you asked yourself any of the above questions and got an uneasy feeling – both what you thought in your head and how you felt in your body – it may be time to think about cutting ties with that individual safely because these unhealthy behaviors in a relationship can be a precursor to more abusive behaviors.
Step 3: Toss what doesn’t bring you Joy (trademark to Marie Kondo…?)
Our society can easily socialize us NOT to trust our gut – but if you do not like the way your relationship makes you feel, don’t talk yourself out of it. Trust that your gut is telling you what is best for you. Confide in a friend or an adult you trust and create a safety plan – a plan specific to your relationship that helps you avoid potentially dangerous situations that can arise during a breakup. Most importantly, know that you are not alone and feeling angst about any of the situations above (or any of the other Unhealthy Signs) is not the way your relationships have to stay.
Spring Cleaning is something that can easily be put off – it feels too daunting of a task, you wouldn’t even know where to start, you’ve been fine for this long so why change, or what if you just make a bigger mess out of things – but the possibly arduous task of cleaning out your relationships, or that closet, will undoubtedly create space in your life for happier days and relationships that lift you up, not bring you down.
Chelsea Leonard is One Love’s Director of Development for the California Region. Her “why One Love” – Relationship education is the information everyone needs but few have – it’s a no-brainer for me to be involved in expanding these resources to as many people as possible.
Chelsea’s favorite Healthy Sign is “Healthy Conflict.”