Communication Exercises To Improve Your Relationship
The importance of communication in relationships especially in a marriage cannot be overstated. In healthy romantic partnerships, it is more than just being able to sit down and talk to your partner about your day. Maintaining a high level of communication in a marriage is about being able to have open and honest discussions about every aspect of your lives as a couple. You and your spouse must be able to communicate with each other effectively – via a variety of styles, even written – to build trust and increase mutual understanding. If you and your spouse seem to have grown apart and you feel like you are experiencing communication problems, read on. This article contains several marriage communication exercises to help you discover new paths in building a healthy relationship.
Importance Of Communication In Marriage
It could be said that good communication between a couple is the foundation for a long and healthy relationship or marriage. Many married couples think that daily banter or lack thereof is not all that important for their relationship health. However, directly impacts many other aspects of your relationship. A lack of communication skills can negatively influence parenting decisions, a couple’s sex life, ability to resolve conflict when it arises, and coping with the stressors that most married people face.
What Is Effective Communication In Marriage?
Effective communication in marriage is about more than a simple exchange of words. Open communication also depends on reflective listening, spoken or written communication, touch, and emotion. Powerful communication with your spouse is not just about being able to say what you need to say in a way that they can understand and be okay with. It is also about being able to engage in active listening with your partner and read their context clues and body language so that you are aware of what is going on with them even if they are not communicating with you openly or actively.
Marriage Communication Exercises
If you feel that your marriage is lacking effective verbal communication, there are several exercises that you can practice with each other to remedy the situation. You have a lot of resources at your disposal, such as relationship help books and workbooks that you can purchase online or in the bookstores to help you and your spouse learn how to communicate more effectively. Yet if either of you find that the exercises and self-help books are not working as well as you would like, consider asking for outside help in the form of a counselor, therapist, or other licensed health professional. Input from a therapist or a counselor can help you not only practice communication exercises with each other, but also learn strategies that you were not aware of before that work towards conflict resolution and healthy relationship skills.
To start with, here are some marriage exercises to improve your communication:
President Franklin D. Roosevelt made Fireside Chats the commonality that they are today. These chats were meant to allow you to feel as though you were sitting with the president by the fireplace in a cozy room. This powerful communication exercise requires you to recreate that environment for a comfortable and safe place for you and your spouse to talk and eventually grow closer. Your fireside chats should last about thirty minutes once a week and can be a stress reducing conversation. You can start with safe subjects such as pop culture, or you can address deeper issues in your relationship. Make sure to maintain eye contact so that your partner knows they have your full attention.
This is one of the effective communication exercises for couples because it not only has you sitting down with your partner and giving them your undivided attention, but it also allows you to be in a space that is both physically and emotionally safe. This gives you a chance to feel freer and more open with your style of communication.
Highs And Lows
At the end of the day, after dinner or toward bedtime, you and your spouse should take a moment to talk to each other about your day. Each of you should pick a high point and a low point of your day and share these moments using active listening skills. When you actively listen, your purpose is to improve mutual understanding as opposed to just hearing the words that they say. Listen to what your partner has to say about their day and ask questions to encourage them to open up, only if they want. If their low point was something you feel you might be able to help with, ask them if they want help or advice or just an active listening ear. Plus, you can join them in expressing gratitude for the high point in their day.
This is listed as one of the great effective communication exercises for couples because it is a powerful allows both individuals to reflect on their day and share moments that occurred when they were apart. When you or your partner think back on your own day, you are practicing a type of self-reflection that can be shared while deepening mutual understanding.
This is another couples communication exercise that allows you to practice your active listening skills. One partner sets a timer for three to five minutes, and one partner speaks freely until the timer goes off. Whoever is doing the listening in a relationship must do so without interjecting or speaking at all. They can only use nonverbal cues to let the other partner know that they are listening and are empathetic. One technique in listening quietly is to maintain eye contact so your spouse knows you are not distracted.
After the timer goes off, you can discuss your thoughts and feelings about the exercise and what was said. Then you switch roles so that both of you have the same opportunity to learn and grow closer to each other.
Practicing nonverbal communication with your partner enhances your ability to attentively listen and removes the need for you to try to fix your spouse’s problems or talk about your own issues. You may find that listening without talking takes time develop, especially if you are a conversationalist or problem-solver. Remember that even when you’re listening silently – not speaking at all – you’re communicating with your partner. This is one of those effective communication exercises for couples that can help you and your partner improve the nonverbal communication that happens when you’re listening actively to each other.
Practicing I Statements
One of the problems that often arises in marital communication is when words like you, should, and could are used in personal expression. Instead of these words, consider using I statements to show your partner you are willing to own your thoughts and feelings. When your spouse is acting inappropriately or saying things that hurt your feelings, it can be very difficult to not confront the behavior with you. However, cultivating respectful communication patterns is an important first step to effective communication. Starting the talk with an I statement shifts the focus away from blame and works toward conflict resolution.
You can practice I statements in several ways, most of which involve taking time to sit down with your partner where both of you practice speaking from this personal perspective. Communicating without blame helps to build trust and the skill of assertive communication.
Remember that assertive communication exercises are not meant to make things more contentious. They are a way for couples to develop a style of communication in which both partners are heard and understood, without being ignored or shut down. It is also a strategy to break poor communication habits that would otherwise disproportionately affect one partner in the relationship.
Say It Again
If you and your partner tend to become heated when you have a conflict or disagreement, the chances are that you have said some hurtful things amid an argument. To avoid this in the future, this exercise for couples focuses on helping each other see how you can alter communication style to phrase things differently to avoid conflict and hurt feelings.
You and your partner think of two or three things that were said during your last argument. You then work together to determine how those thoughts and feelings could have been communicated in a more loving and nonjudgmental way. This activity can be thought of as an assertive communication exercise in which you can learn to still express your own feelings, but in a loving manner.
This made the list of powerful communication exercises for couples because it allows both partners to reflect individually on their behavior while also seeing how this behavior – and style of communication – affects the relationship. Beyond, showing how our negative behavior can affect our spouse in the heat of the moment, rephrasing past anger statements fosters understanding and patience between you and your partner, which in turn reduces stress and conflict.
Sticks And Stones
Most people understand that hurtful words and name-calling is not appropriate, but we often do it anyway when in a spousal argument. In this communication exercise for couples, you and your partner will each sit down and make a list of the disrespectful names you have called each other. When your lists are complete, you can sit down together and them. Discuss each name on the list and discuss how the negative language made you feel and give your partner the chance to do the same. In the future, think to yourself: Every time I comment on something my partner says or does, how does that make them feel?
This is one of those effective communication exercises for couples that will also help both partners to see the toxic communication patterns that might be lurking in their relationship. When you take a step back and consider the viewpoint of your partner, you are seeing their perspective and can relate how mean words hurt the both of you. This wider angle is a great way to identify further steps that you and your partner can take to improve your relationship.
In this communication exercise for couples, you will learn how to communicate with your partner by expanding your understanding of how they think and operate. Each person is unique, with their own history of learning how to communicate and perceiving the world. This exercise helps you learn how to communicate effectively with your partner on a level that takes into account their unique way of perception and learning. First, one partner builds a structure with blocks. Then, that partner guides the other partner with verbal instructions on how to build the same structure.
From this effective communication exercises for couples, you can see that communication building exercises do not have to be serious and non-playful. This is a fun, hands-on activity that often serves as a jumping-off point for deeper conversations about your communication patterns with your partner.
This couples communication exercise is like the previous “copycat” exercise, but in this instance, one partner creates an obstacle course with "mines" that must be avoided by the other partner. Then, the other partner is blindfolded, and the spouse that made the obstacle course must guide the blind partner through the course safely. This proverbial minefield is a great step in allowing for better couples communication without the necessity of eye contact while providing an environment for two people to grow closer and develop a sense of trust.
This trust-building exercise can be a great starting point for conversations about who takes the lead in conversations or conflict. After the minefield game, you can talk about who starts and carries the conversations in the relationship, what that says about each person’s role in the relationship, and how those roles might be manipulated (if necessary) to improve the relationship.
Give Me A Hand
This communication exercise is about cooperation and expressing gratitude. To begin, you and your partner will have to complete a task together, such as washing the dishes or doing laundry. The trick is that each of you will have one hand tied behind your back. This means that you absolutely must work together and engage in effective verbal communication to create a level of understanding allowing for successful completion of the task.
This is marriage communication game that can be fun to do while bringing enlightenment to certain relationship dynamics you both may not have witnessed before. It may reveal patterns of leadership in the relationship. Who is leading? Who is listening? Does this dynamic cause stress and lead to negative language, or does it lead to the successful completion of the task? With this effective communication exercise for couples, you will be able to see all those questions play out in real time, and it will hopefully lead to a conversation that breaks down those answers.
This exercise is about learning to listen to one another. Set a timer for three to five minutes. Either you or your partner will tell a story until the timer goes off. The other partner will repeat the story as they understood it back to the first partner. Then you switch and do the exercise again. This will help you to understand how well you can listen to each other and truly understand and regurgitate the information you are being given. Being able to listen to your partner and analyze their thoughts and feelings is an extremely important skill that will help maintain good mental health in married life.
Remember that active, compassionate listening is just as important as speaking when it comes to healthy communication in a relationship. You both also will hear new stories and experiences from your partner as you improve listening and communication skills.
One of the most powerful communication exercises for partners in married life is discussing future goals with your spouse. Discussing your goals and hopes for the future can help you both be on the same page about where your lives are being taken and how you want to get there. Your goals and your partner's goals might not be the same, but you both can compromise to build a life together that you nurtures mutual happiness. This assertive communication exercise helps married people express their future goals and dreams without feeling like they necessarily must agree with their partner.
Sharing your future aspirations is a form of communication that should be done frequently throughout the relationship. At the beginning of a relationship or marriage, it is important to know what your partner desires and expects for the future as it is equally important that they know what you want and expect for the future. As the relationship grows and develops, you can continue touch base with these future goal, to show mutual support and understanding at each step of your journey together.
This effective communication exercise for married life aims to help you and your partner understand each other through music. Music is a very powerful form of written communication as instrumentation and the lyrics to our favorite songs can hold deep meaning for many people. You can begin with you or your partner three favorite songs, and discuss how those lyrics make you feel, why they are important to you, and why you want to share them with your partner. This communication exercise can help you learn your partner's love language, improve communication skills, remind you of the importance of communication, and serve as a fun activity to enjoy during date night.
Looking for clues and words to express how you feel through music is a way you can appreciate the depth of your partner’s feelings. It is also fun and gives you the opportunity to sing and dance with each other.
Keep A You And Me Journal
This cerebral form of communication will help you and your spouse converse through writing while building your verbal skills. Often when you are writing your innermost thoughts to someone, you take time to carefully and wisely choose your words to convey your message without hurting or upsetting the other person. You and me journals are books that you and your spouse can leave messages for each other in so that you can continue practicing your written communication skills, expressing gratitude for one another, and promoting good mental health. These messages can be anything, but they should be an attempt to communicate thought and emotion without criticism or judgment.
This exercise made the list of effective communication exercises for couples because it gives you and your partner a concrete thing to hold and look at. When things get rough, or when you need a reminder of how much you really do love each other, your journal is there. It is also a great way to track progress, measure how far your relationship has come, and express gratitude for one another. This can be an encouraging tool as the relationship progresses, and it can give you and your partner the motivation to keep going with these effective communication exercises for couples.
If these bond-forming activities are not helping you get the communication in your marriage back on track, you might need additional outside help from a mental health professional. A licensed marriage and family therapist or another type of mental health provider will be able to help you and your partner learn how to communicate more effectively through couples therapy exercises. They can also help you to address other relationship that may be stemming from a lack of effective communication.
If you are unable to afford or find a marriage counselor in your area, you have other options, including virtual teletherapy or online therapy. This form of therapy is a convenient option supported by research to be just as effective as in-person therapy. Consider this study published Frontiers in Psychology that looked at the effectiveness of videoconferencing therapy for married couples. The study’s authors demonstrated that online therapy is indeed efficacious in developing a bond between therapist and client while also showing a high level of client satisfaction and positive therapy outcomes. In conclusion, the research reported the therapy was just as effective as in-person therapy for decreasing stress and anxiety between the couples along with increased levels of happiness and less depressive symptoms.
ReGain is an online counseling platform that connects you with a licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed clinical social worker, clinical psychologist, or licensed professional counselor who will be able to help you and your spouse when it is convenient for you. You and your partner can participate in couples therapy remotely, via phone/video call, text, or chat.
One of the most effective ways of improving relatability with your partner is through mutual efforts in practicing active listening and assertive communication skills. However, sometimes you need a professional to help support you through the process. A licensed marriage and family therapist can give you the tools you need to address the communication and intimacy issues you are experiencing. Through couples therapy, you can get an unbiased perspective on the relationship that may change the way you view things. And with online therapy, you can connect with a licensed marriage and family therapist remotely, from the comfort of your home.
Other Commonly Asked Questions
How can couples improve their communication?
There are many exercises couples can do to improve communication. For example, you could set a time each week to sit and chat about your relationship. You can use this time to express gratitude for each other by making two positive statements about the relationship. This can help you reflect and strengthen the bond between you and your partner.
Another great way of improving communication is through therapy. By meeting with a marriage and family therapist, or another type of couples counselor, you and your partner can identify the communication issues you’re experiencing and start to work through them properly.
How do you improve communication and intimacy in a relationship?
One of the most effective ways of improving communication with your partner is through therapy. A licensed marriage and family therapist can give you the tools you need to address the communication and intimacy issues you’re experiencing. Through couples therapy, you can get an unbiased perspective on the relationship that may change the way you view things. And with online therapy, you can connect with a licensed marriage and family therapist remotely, from the comfort of your home.
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