THE BLOG
05/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How To Spring Clean Your Relationship

Now that Spring is in full bloom, many of us are motivated to do spring cleaning. From our closets to our cupboards, clearing away clutter leaves us feeling refreshed and reinvigorated. But after you drop of bags of clothes to Goodwill and toss stacks of old papers (into the recycling bin of course!), feelings of stress or discontentment may still be lingering. If so, consider the other "clutter" in your life.

Often we encounter people in our life who throw negative energy in our direction or are draining in some way. And there is no donation center that will take your negative friends, annoying colleagues, flaky people, controlling family members, commitment phobic boyfriends, or overly emotional girlfriends away. But do you wish there was?

Although we cannot control the families we are born into, classmates, colleagues, exposure to the media, or our overall environment, we can choose how we relate to our external environment and respond to the people in it. Put simply: we can't change people but we can change the affect they have on us.

People who drain you, treat you poorly, reinforce insecurities, or encourage your bad habits (like the friend who tries to get you to smoke when you are trying to quit) clutter your life with their toxic energy. Think about if there is anyone in your life who would fit into one or more of the following categories:

• You always feel crummy after you talk to him/her and guilty if you don't talk to them
• He/she is really hard on you or judges you harshly
• You walk on egg shells around him/her
• He/she is very negative, depressed, and/or does not take care of herself/himself
• You find there is not much room for YOU in the relationship - it's all about her/him
• You are incredibly bored, uninspired, stressed out, or unhappy in the relationship

If there is one or several people in your life that fit into the categories above, on some level you probably already know your relationship with this person is not ideal. Fears about shifting your relationship with the person, from having a conversation to perhaps stopping interaction with them, may keep you from doing it. Concerns about a relationship are like the miscellaneous junk in the first drawer of your desk - the more you ignore it, the more it piles up.

Relationship spring cleaning gets tricky when it comes to family members so remember that sharing DNA does not grant them an all access pass to your life. Shutting someone out completely may not be an option; however, reestablishing how you react to and interact with them is. Setting boundaries and lovingly sticking up for yourself are integral to creating a solid support system. For instance, say to a sister who always talks about your lack of a boyfriend, "I know you are trying to help, but I am happy with my love life and would rather talk about other things with you."

Or if you have an extremely opinionated or critical parent, try to have more small-talk type conversations. Ask questions about their life versus them interrogating you about yours. Consider everything they say is a "buffet." You get to pick and choose what you decide to take in. Each of us is on our own journey and we cannot fault people for being who they are or expect them to change. Yet we can accept that some people may not be the right fit for us in terms of a close relationship. Ultimately your peace of mind is up to you and living a clean, conscious life with healthy relationships supports that.

Remember that you have the tools within you to create change in your external environment. Create ways to amend the time you spend around those who drain you and reduce the mental energy you invest in thinking about toxic people. Replace the negative internal dialogue and worry with thoughts of loving individuals and the love you have within yourself. Then draw from this emotional bank whenever you are in the presence of a toxic person. And spend more time investing in the relationships in your life that feel balanced and supportive.

Spring cleaning your relationships may be a little challenging at first, but I guarantee that it will ultimately be more fulfilling that 409-ing your kitchen or reorganizing your shoe rack!

Send your questions to christine AT huffingtonpost.com.

Image permission by Michel Balasis. For more information, please visit www.michelart.net.

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