Being part of a couple isn’t always easy. Part of being a pair is listening to your partner and sometimes putting their happiness and needs above your own. You miss the days when you would just goof off and start dancing in the kitchen, laughing at nothing. The world seemed so perfect. Until one day it didn’t.
Is being together not quite as easy as it used to be? You want to get your relationship back on track but you’re not sure how. Talking to a therapist is always a great first choice, but there are some couples therapy exercises you can try on your own. Don’t worry; you will find these to be more fun than work. Grab a notebook and pen and start with exercise #1.
#1 Make a Wish List of Fun Things & Do Them Together
One common complaint in relationships is not spending enough time together. You want to, but life gets in the way and you have conflicting schedules and interests, maybe even a couple of kids and a dog. When things are starting to get too crazy, make a list of fun activities you want to do together – a couple’s bucket list if you will. You can include some family activities on this list. Maybe you want to hit up a new indoor water park or visit Disney World. But make sure you include some couples activities. They can be big goals (visit the Eiffel Tower) or small things (try the new Chunky Monkey ice cream at the corner shop). Small things are obviously easier to achieve than the big ones and sometimes just as fun. Is there a new restaurant you’ve been dying to try or maybe a local museum with a new exhibit? The point is to make time for each other and have fun!
#2 Swap Your Favorite Book
This is a great chance to get into your partner’s mind and understand them a bit better. What makes this particular book special to them? Maybe the story is just great fiction or maybe something in the book resonated with them and changed their whole outlook on life. For example, maybe your partner’s favorite book is Invisible Child and you never knew that they were homeless for a brief period during their childhood. After you read each other’s books, talk about them. Discuss what you liked and didn’t like and why this story is important. You may find out something about your partner you didn’t know.
#3 Have a “Confession Time”
Wish you could be brutally honest about how you feel but don’t want to hurt your partner’s feelings? Or maybe you did something you regret, but don’t quite know how to share this. Set aside an hour each week for “confessions” where you can speak what’s on your mind. But you have to promise to let the other person talk, listen respectfully, and resist the urge to become angry or defensive. This should be your “safe time” when you can share your deepest feelings without being judged or persecuted. But remember, what happens in the hour stays in the hour. Don’t throw something they said up in their face two days later or they might not open up again next time. Also, take what they are saying into consideration. If your partner is telling you they are feeling isolated and not getting enough time with you, consider planning a special date night. And this leads us to #4.
#4 Plan a Date Night Once a Week
You’re married or in a long-term relationship, so you don’t need to go on dates anymore, right? Wrong. People in committed relationships still need to maintain that closeness, friendship, and silliness that comes with a fun night out. Dressing up and showing your partner that they’re important and so is the relationship is what will keep it healthy and strong for many years to come. Many couples complain they work alternate schedules or simply “grow apart.” That’s why it’s so important to keep igniting that spark and remembering why you love each other in the first place.
If you can’t go out due to sickness, finances, weather, or any other life issue, just turn off the TV, cook a nice meal, and enjoy time together. Date night can also be a night in, as long as you two are together and happy.
#5 Be Intimate as Often as You Can
Are we telling you to have more sex? Well, more sex never hurts a relationship. But remember that intimacy is so much more than that one physical act. Intimacy is hand-holding and kissing your partner on the cheek or stroking their hair. A touch of an arm. Snuggling up on the couch. It’s just spending that close quality time together. This may even include going to bed early and just talking and holding each other and falling asleep together. Sometimes you might find those nights to be even more intimate than rocking the headboard.
#6 Turn off Technology for the Evening
Turn off your phones. Shut down the laptop. Close out of your iPad. Take out your earpods. Unplug from the world and replug into each other. Sit and talk. Laugh. Kiss. Enjoy every moment with each other. Just relax and unwind. Not everything you do has to be posted on social media. It’s okay to go to a restaurant and not tell anyone. Don’t be scared. People did this kind of stuff in the 80s. Share the moment with each other, not your 398 followers who probably don’t care that much anyway. You’ll be amazed at how much more connected you’ll feel. Staying unplugged from the world can also improve your sex life!
#7 “Leave it Till Sunday”
If the matter is still important on Sunday, talk about it then. After a few days go by, maybe the thing you were so upset about is irrelevant now or you already found a way to work it out. If Sunday comes along, and this issue is still on your mind then talk about it again. Come up with some solutions to work it out. You will find if you put a discussion/problem off for a few days, things have a way of working themselves out. There are a few exceptions to this, of course. If you have something urgent that needs a quick decision, this method won’t work.
#8 Listen Without Interruption
It’s important to be a good listener. Put three minutes on the timer. One partner speaks about what they are feeling — anything that comes to mind or has been bothering them — without being interrupted. The other partner must remain silent. However, they can use nonverbal methods like gestures to show they understand or agree. A simple thumbs up would work well here or even making a heart with your hands. Make sure you switch afterwards so both of you get an equal chance to share and listen. This exercise works well because it focuses on verbal and nonverbal communication, and improves listening skills. After the six minutes is over, feel free to talk more about what was said if further discussion is needed.
#9 Try Trust Building Exercises
You want your partner to always have your back. You can physically test to see if they do. Conduct a “trust fall.” Stand in front of your partner so their face is looking at your back. Then fall backward and let your partner catch you. This is the most freeing exercise and the best one in blindly trusting your significant other to have your back at all times. You can switch places and let your partner be the “fall guy.” You will find if you can trust each other with this basic act, you can trust each other for their love and support throughout your relationship/marriage.
#10 Create a Gratitude List
Do you love that your partner makes your coffee every morning and hands you your mug with a kiss? Then they start your car on a cold day. Do they appreciate how you cook dinner on the nights they work late? Let the other person know how much you love and appreciate the little things. It’s always nice to know that the things we do matter. Everyone likes feeling valued and important. You should never take those little things for granted (or maybe someday you’ll have to make your own coffee).
#11 Repeat It
Does your partner often talk to you and you nod your head and mutter something like “yes” or “sure” while distracted by your phone or another device without having any idea what they actually said? Do you just absently give a thumbs-up sign without even knowing what you are agreeing to? Most of us have been guilty of this at one time or another. It often comes back to bite us in the butt because they will say “Remember the other night when I told you [insert important comment]?” And the answer is no. No, you do not remember because you weren’t listening in the first place. This exercise is similar to listening without interruption. Your partner tells a short story (3 to 5 minutes long) and you — guess what — need to repeat it. Not actually verbatim but you should know the general gist of what happened. Part of being a good partner is being a good listener.
#12 Write a Letter
Have a lot of feelings bottled up but don’t know how to express them? Try writing a letter. Sometimes it’s easier to be completely honest when we are not sitting in front of our partner. It’s just you, the piece of paper, and the truth. Let loose and share those intimate feelings, desires, and frustrations. Both partners should write a letter and then respond back to each other. Are there any common threads? Maybe you’re both upset that you don’t go up to bed together at the same time any more to snuggle. Maybe one partner has been staying up late to work or do chores and the schedules have shifted. It might be time to slightly adjust your schedules so you’re not missing out on this quality time together.
#13 What if…? Ask the “Miracle Question”
Most people believe in miracles. At least we’d like to. So if your greatest wishes were answered in your sleep by a pretty fairy with a magic wand, how would your life be different? Would you be in a new house, different city, have more money, or a child/another child? Ask your partner how they would know their wish came true? Hopefully, your answers are similar, which shows you are in sync with what you would like to see happen in the future. But even more important, hopefully you see your current partner in that vision! If in your quest for a miracle, you realize you are on a journey with the wrong person, it’s doubtful any amount of couple exercises will help.
#14 Remember When…Look Back on Memories
Look back on your good times as a couple. Remember why you fell in love in the first place. Think of places you have gone together and things you would still like to do (don’t forget to add them to your couples bucket list). You can get out an old photo album or scroll through digital photos to spark some memories. Or just ask each other random questions like, “Best trip ever?” or “what was our most special moment as a couple?” Maybe “ When was the time when we laughed the most?” Or even think of a sad time that made you stronger as a couple. It’s good to look back every now and then to see how far you have come and realize why you are on the journey of life with this person.
Other Tips for a Healthy Relationship
Now that you’ve tried these exercises together and are hopefully enjoying each other’s company again, let us offer some more valuable advice. These tips will definitely help build (and save) your relationship.
Tip #1 Never Go to Bed Mad
Your significant other pissed you off. It happens. All you want to do is slam the door, go into the bedroom, and go to sleep and not say another word. As tempting as this is and as tired and angry as you are, don’t go to bed mad. The argument will likely continue on into the next day or maybe even for multiple days, causing one or both of you to be bitter and angry and maybe not even want to speak to each other.
It’s best just to step away and pull yourself together for a few minutes and come back fresh and talk about it. Even if the particular issue doesn’t get resolved that evening (maybe your spouse planned a fishing trip that is nonrefundable but it conflicts with a friend’s wedding). This won’t be resolved at a late hour. Yes, he should have talked to you about it first. Yes, you should have marked that date on the calendar. Revisit it in the morning and come up with solutions. Maybe your spouse can switch the date of the trip or get someone else to go. No matter what the situation, talk it through and don’t go to bed mad. Tomorrow is never promised. It’s always best to go to bed with an “I love you.”
#2 Know Your Triggers
Life can be stressful, but you don’t want to take your frustrations out on your partner. Be aware of what triggers stress for you — maybe it’s figuring out how to make the car payment on time each month or a work meeting every Wednesday morning. Be aware of your partner’s triggers too. Maybe they worry about not having time to do all the chores or grocery shopping. Perhaps having a grocery delivery service bring essential items would help. Or try to put money aside from each pay for a large car or mortgage payment. If it’s health issues that are concerning you like getting too many migraines (which makes you irritable and can trigger all kinds of emotions), talk to your doctor.
Basically, if you know it is a stressful time for your partner, try to go out of your way to help them get through the situation. This is not a time to push their buttons and start a fight. Work together. If things get to be too much to resolve on your own, consider couples counseling.
#3 Discuss your Needs
A happy relationship stems from knowing your partner’s needs. Sometimes your partner isn’t intentionally ignoring your needs, they just don’t know what they are. Maybe you are a person that needs love and affection and a sense of appreciation. If your partner is aware of this, they can make sure they are telling you that they love you and how much you mean to them and not overlooking all the special things you do.
If you don’t care about your partner’s needs or simply choose to ignore them, the relationship is destined to fail sooner or later. One or both of you simply won’t be happy. Either make a list of your needs or share them verbally with your partner, so that way you are both on the same page.
Needs can change over time, so make sure you revisit this topic often. Maybe you got a new job and now you have to work late on Tuesdays and need your partner to make dinner and put the kids to bed. With good communication, you can work anything out.
Why Try Couples Therapy Exercises?
#1 Falling in Love is Easy, But Staying in Love is Not
Couples therapy exercises can be beneficial even for the happiest of couples. There are always little things that can be improved upon in any relationship. Falling in love is the easy part; it’s sustaining those feelings of love and commitment to each other over many years that is the hard part. People change as they get older and your needs will change as well. You have to adapt and grow with that person and not grow apart. Losing interest in your partner or relationship can happen over time but it doesn’t have to. Couples exercises can keep your relationship new and fun even after many years.
#2 Happy Relationships Take Work
We would all like to think back to one special moment and have our relationship be like that forever. Perhaps you can! You can improve anything with hard work and dedication and this is especially true with romantic relationships. Happy couples may make things look easy but if you dig deeper, they probably had some major hurdles in their way. Everyone has obstacles to overcome and that’s what makes us stronger as a couple. Couples therapy exercises are geared for couples in any stage of their relationship, whether they’ve been together for five days or 50 years. These therapy exercises work wonderfully for couples who are newly in love, those who plan to marry, or are simply satisfied just living with their partner, as well as couples looking to start a family or perhaps are blending families. Couples therapy exercises are suited for traditional relationships as well as same-sex couples.
#3 Prevent Relationship Problems
Prevent problems before they occur. These exercises will make your relationship stronger. If you do face a challenge down the road, you’ll be better equipped on how to handle the situation together. Couples therapy exercises give you the tools you need to combat a rocky situation, focusing on a positive attitude and learning how to work together and have each other’s back always.
What are the Benefits of Couples Therapy Exercises?
- Find new ways or create ways to share your feelings and needs with your partner.
- Avoid and/or easily solve conflict within your relationship.
- Spend more time with your partner listening and communicating.
- Dedicate specific time to improve your relationship.
- Learn techniques to enhance and promote both emotional and physical intimacy.
- Plan to make your relationship the main priority.
- Know your triggers and learn to work around them.
- Rebuild trust in each other.
- Discuss and establish healthy boundaries and stick to them.
- Develop important skills for conflict/resolution.
- Build skills to identify your wants and needs.
Couples therapy exercises done at home can be very effective, especially if you focus on your partner and listen to their needs and wants. Listening to each other and working together is essential in strengthening and rebuilding your bond. If the home exercises aren’t working for you or you would like to try a more traditional approach with a therapist, make an appointment for couples counseling today.