Husband and wife doing housecleaning in your marriage.

Your marriage accumulates debris. Life’s just like that. Even after you’ve dealt with the major trash from the past more stuff happens. You and your spouse hurt each other, guaranteed. And neither of you may be at “fault;” outside stuff happens too. You have the choice to let that junk form an ever-growing wall between you, or you can do the necessary housecleaning for your marriage.

Have you ever moved into a new house or bought a new car? Fresh scent. Pristine windows. Spotless floors. Not a spec of dirt or clutter anywhere. It’s beautiful.

And then you happen to your new house or car. Your shoes track in dirt. Bits of food start showing up where they shouldn’t. Dirty sox, dirty dishes, and dirty windows seem to appear out of nowhere. And if you’ve got teenagers around all bets are off. You soon discover you’ve got to vacuum the floors, wash the dishes, and take out the trash regularly if you want any semblance of order and cleanliness.

What are the dirty sox, dirty dishes, and dirty windows accumulating in your marriage? If you don’t have a way of dealing with the “stuff” that continues to happen it becomes solidified into bricks forming a wall between you that becomes harder and harder to see over or communicate around.

Last time we focused more on getting rid of the old accumulation of trash you both brought into the relationship. Now it’s time to set up some regular housecleaning for your marriage.

Rhythms of Housecleaning

When my husband was alive we had regular “board meetings.” It was our way of checking in with each other and keeping the ground between us clean. Each night when we got into bed we’d have a board meeting. Sometimes it was a very brief “Are we OK? Yup. Love you. Goodnight.” And we’d snuggle as we went to sleep.

Other times it was a longer conversation. We couldn’t always solve the issue right then but we brought whatever it was into the light. “I’m worried about . . .” “This hurt me today.” “I really don’t understand . . .” Doing this helped us understand each other and know we were on the same page committed to working with each other in addressing it.

This requires a degree of emotional maturity in each of you. This is very different from dumping on your spouse or expecting them to fix you. You can’t do this when your emotions are heated; you will first need to do your own work in learning emotional regulation. It’s also hard to do if there’s significant unfinished business in your relationship. For that you may need some outside help.

Your ”board meetings” may not be at bedtime. It may be Saturday mornings over coffee, or 15 minutes when you both first get home in the evening. The point is to intentionally develop a pattern of regular housecleaning for your marriage where you sweep the ground between you clean. Do this often. Daily is great but that’s not always realistic. Just plan a rhythm that works for you.

What Housecleaning Looks Like

How do you know what to bring to these “board meetings?” Emotional diarrhea won’t help. Neither will stuffing your “stuff.” These ideas may help.

Check your heart. Pay attention to your interior world. Your frustration, sadness, worry, anger, or bitterness will impact your relationship. Notice what’s going on in your soul and deal with it with God first. If your heart is unsettled about something it’s likely worth bringing to your check-in with your spouse. Phrase it as, “I’m worried about . . .” “This really upset me.” Own your stuff.

Be curious. If you sense something is “off” with your spouse be curious about it. See yourself as creating a safe invitation for your spouse to express what’s going on in their interior world. “I’ve noticed you seem more sad (or anxious or frustrated) than usual. What’s running through your mind?” If you’re a talker, you must learn to shut up and listen when your spouse is talking.

Apologize quickly. Often consider “What’s it like to be married to me?” When you’ve done something that’s wounded your spouse apologize quickly. The point is not whether you were justified in doing what you did; the point is that you hurt your spouse and you’re doing your part to keep the ground between you clean. It’s not groveling or self-contempt; it’s again owning your stuff.

Invite connection. This kind of regular check-in is a bid for connection. If you’re someone who wants more sex this emotional connection could be a doorway to more physical intimacy. If you struggle with emotional connection it will require more effort on your part, but you must make that effort. You’re taking a step toward your spouse, and inviting them to take a step toward you. It might feel vulnerable; that’s where intimacy becomes possible.

If You Haven’t Done Housecleaning

It’s important to acknowledge that some marriages are toxic, and this kind of frequent check-in is not a safe option in those cases. If you sense toxicity in your relationship please get some help: a marriage counselor, a trained pastor, or someone similar. (This is one of the things I help people with. Check my coaching page.)

If you haven’t been doing housecleaning for a while this may feel awkward. Talk with your spouse about what you want to try and invite them into the process. And if the communication has broken down between you, our Guide to Healthy Communication in Marriage can be a helpful way to reset things and begin a better process.

The effort to do regular housecleaning in your marriage will be worth it.

When will you have your next “board meeting?”

Your Turn: Do you have a rhythm of housecleaning in your marriage? How do you keep the ground between you swept clean? Do you need to start doing this now?  Leave a comment below.

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