Couples Counseling Exercises That Strengthen Your Marriage

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated May 2, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Wondering how couples counseling exercise can help your marriage?

Strengthening a marriage requires you to put in the time and effort. Regardless of how strongly you and your partner feel about each other, the simple act of two individual personalities spending significant time together means that, at some point or another, friction is likely. This can come up in any number of different ways, some more common, and some a bit more unique. Whatever the case may be, even healthy relationships often have areas that can be improved. This improvement requires you to want to better your relationship and to be dedicated to doing so.

With the right couples counseling exercises, you can start to improve with or without the assistance of a therapist at the same time. After all, you may want to get started on the process completely on your own, before you consider couples therapy or bring a therapist or anyone else into it.

Exercises to try

1. Fix the problem before bed

If you ask couples who have been married for thirty, forty, fifty years or more what the "secret is to a successful marriage," you will most likely get one of two answers. Honesty is probably the most popular answer, and not far behind may be the adage, "Don't go to bed angry."

At night specifically, before falling asleep, most of us have a period during which our brains are processing and rehashing the events of the day, and if an active issue or argument is going on, that may play over and over in each partners’ mind with no input from the other person. 

Each time you think about the argument or the thing that is making you upset, your perspective may shift slightly towards why you were right, or why you're justified to be angry, etc. And as you feel more and more strongly that your partner has done something wrong, for example, the negative emotions surrounding it can become more and more intense. So by the time you try to revisit the issue, in some cases both parties have riled themselves up and dug their heels in, making it all that more difficult to find common ground or compromise.

Of course, this applies to smaller things that can be reasonably expected to be, if not solved, at least calmed within one day. Larger and deeper-seated issues will need more time to be put into them and may not be able to be solved by simply talking before bed, but this can be a solid place to start. 

Please note that if emotions are charged, it may be best to take some time for both of you to cool off and reflect on what you’d each like to address, even if that means not doing so before going to bed for the night. Every relationship and situation is different, so use your best judgment.


2. Make a date night

Having a date night for you and your partner can be a great way to feel more comfortable together as well. It may help to improve the intimacy that you feel together and can also encourage communicating more regularly and effectively. 

By making an effort to go out (or stay in) and engage in an activity that breaks up your day-to-day routines, it may shed light onto the types of things that brought you and your partner together in the first place. This should be a regular thing. The more often the better (because we're talking about spending time with our significant other after all!) but if kids or scheduling pose an issue, it can be once a week, or once a month; what's more important is to establish that spending time enjoying each other's company and being emotionally focused on each other is a priority.

Even if plans change and date night can't happen this week or this month, you want to keep in mind that aside from the experience of spending quality time together, you can still take the opportunity to show that even if you must work late and can't make it, for example, that your partner and connecting with them is a priority. For example, letting them know, “Since I have to work late, how about we do date night tomorrow instead?” can convey to your partner their importance to you. Similarly, from the other side, instead of assuming that your partner is making you and your relationship less of a priority, allow them the opportunity to show that they will work around what life throws at them to make sure the relationship stays at the top of the list.

3. Have an honesty hour

Honesty hour can be a little difficult for some couples, but it can be one of the most valuable couples counseling therapy exercises. With this, you and your partner can be entirely honest with each other about anything and everything without having to worry. The important thing is to be true to that requirement, making sure no one gets hurt by what you want to talk about.

As mentioned, this can be one of the more difficult exercises to do successfully without someone like a couples or marriage counselor but is still worth a try. The difficulty often comes from a breakdown of communication. 

When attempting this exercise on your own, it is imperative to keep at the forefront that you and your partner are a team trying to resolve a problem or issue. As mentioned, once communication breaks down, it is unlikely that any productive discussion will take place, and increasingly likely that what discussion does take place exacerbates the problem or can even create new ones. This can be avoided if communication exercises for couples are implemented and followed by couples.

In honesty hour, partners should encourage each other to speak honestly using the "I message" structure - starting sentences with "I feel" or "I think" rather than focusing on one's perception of what they believe the other person did or how they feel. While this may be difficult, it is worth it when executed properly because you then have the same opportunity to have a forum to make your partner aware of their responsibilities without seeming like you are attacking them.

This takes practice. It may seem fruitless at first, but if you stick with it, it should become clear whether your relationship is equipped with the communicative tools to make use of this exercise. If you notice that it continues to make things worse, it's okay to need someone present to keep things from getting too heated and going off onto other issues without adequately addressing the one at hand.

Wondering how couples counseling exercise can help your marriage?

4. Try new activities

This ties into date night but doesn't necessarily have to be the same thing. Dinner and a movie can be a wonderful experience, and exactly the break you and your partner may need to recalibrate and remember why you're together in the first place. But like anything else, the novelty may fade. Going on the same date every week or every month can quickly start to have less and less of an effect, to the point where date night is just the two of you going through the motions.

You want to take the time to try new things, and that requires both of you to make lists of things that you want to do together. Make sure that you make lists of different things to try and that you start at one end of the list and keep working your way through it. The activities that you do together can help you to improve your relationship overall as you bond through sharing new experiences.

5. Be more intimate

Being intimate with your partner isn't just about sex (although it absolutely can be or doesn’t have to be at all) It's about being close to your partner and just spending time together. Even sitting in a room together in silence can be intimate if you and your partner are comfortable together in that silence. Again, you and your partner got together for a reason. Anything you can do to rediscover those feelings and reignite that flame can have a positive ripple effect throughout the relationship.

6. Tell them what you love

While relationship and marriage problems can manifest in all different ways, oftentimes they boil down to the same simple concept: we want to feel loved and appreciated by our partner. Tell your partner what you love and appreciate about them in a letter. This can help your partner feel more appreciated and loved, and help you remember why you fell in love with them in the first place and why you want to keep the relationship going.

Get relationship support with online therapy

Relationships often come with complex dynamics and issues to wade through, which can be daunting and difficult without understanding some tools for productive communication that a therapist accumulates throughout their training and experience working with couples. Even if you are finding success using these exercises, attending therapy sessions can help you be even more successful. You can find the therapist you're looking for by simply going online to Regain and filling out a quick questionnaire to match you with a therapist who suits your needs and preferences, or by requesting a particular therapist. For example, if you want a mental health professional who has experience working with couples like yours or who offers a specific type of therapy, like emotionally focused therapy, the Regain platform can help.

Research indicates that online therapy is an evidenced-based option that’s just as effective as in-person therapy for a variety of conditions and concerns, including aiding relationships. A 2022 study on relationship counseling held via video conferencing found that therapeutic alliance (the degree of trust and comfort between client and therapist) did not differ between online and in-person therapy. Additionally, the study “indicated improvements in relationship satisfaction, mental health, and all other outcome scores over time” that were comparable to those of couples who received in-person therapy.


So how do you get started with these exercises? Well, if you can bring up the conversation, start trying some of these techniques and see what does and doesn't work. Often that conversation and taking that step can have a significant impact in and of itself.

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