Just as a home needs a thorough spring-cleaning, so do our marriages. As we sweep out the cobwebs in the neglected corners of our lives, we’ll discover a new sparkle and shine. Here are eight ways to freshen up your marriage:

Develop a plan for your cleaning ritual. What areas will you attack first? Personal disciplines? Attitudes? Neglected appearances? Habits? Expectations? Communication? List the goals you want to accomplish in your marriage. Be specific. Without a detailed plan, you’ll miss some hidden corners.

Sort through accumulated expectations. Most marriages begin with hidden agendas of his or her expectations. If a wife expects her husband to continue romancing her after the honeymoon and he fails, resentment may follow. A husband who secretly longs for a wife like his mother may set himself up for disappointment when his wife exhibits the opposite behavior. Be realistic with each other about meeting needs. Although God is the only one who can meet your total needs, a mutual exchange of longings and wishes will encourage give and take and help avoid unnecessary hurt.

Discard old habits. Keep a journal of old personal patterns and childish behaviors. Note negative emotions and describe your feelings. Ask yourself, “Could I be taking this situation personally? What does God want to teach me here? Did I in any way cause this?” Even housecleaning experts need extra help to destroy unwanted, moldy habits and to filter out compacted dirt.

Mend the tears of broken relationships and hurt feelings. A stitch in honesty and forgiveness will save years of unraveling. Love is eager to settle differences. Godly love is neither blind nor faultfinding. True love sees weaknesses but rallies to cover them with strength, compassion and encouragement.

Clean out forgotten closets. Family therapist Dixon Murrah says, “Secrets destroy family unity.” Though you may hesitate to reveal hidden skeletons to your mate, remember that marriage intimacy is based on honesty and trust. As you share your family background, open your heart to the negative hurts as well as to the joys of your past. It is always easier to deal with the known than the unknown. And when you understand the “whys” of your mate’s compulsive behaviors or peculiarities, you’ll find a greater capacity for gentleness and love.

Replace worn-out clothes of bitterness with new garments of praise. This will require time for personal discipline with the Lord in prayer and Bible study. Meditate on His Word daily, and you will find your marriage adorned with new beauty.

Vacuum up the spills of harsh words and thoughtless deeds. During emotional or physical stress, even the best of marriages suffer temporary dysfunction. Women can chart monthly cycles if necessary, and plan their activities accordingly. After years of premenstrual suffering (I used to call it pre-monster syndrome), I finally learned to program my schedule around high energy days. And husbands, before you explode your frustrations from work on your wife, think about the aftermath of clean-up.

Polish your marriage often with generous coats of compliments and caring behaviors. Continue this maintenance program daily, not just at once-a-year spring-cleaning time. Catch your mate doing something noteworthy, and give word gifts of praise. Exchange caring behavior lists with each other… the things you’d each like your spouse to do for you.

No matter how great your housekeeping skills, stop and spring-clean your marriage often--together. You’ll improve its value by 100 percent.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT).

What about you? What areas of your life or marriage need spring cleaning? What other “spring-cleaning” tips would you suggest? Which ones are the hardest to do?

For more from Rebecca, please visit www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com

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Publication date: June 24, 2013