Couples Counseling Exercises That Strengthen 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, no relationship is going to be without areas that can be improved. This improvement requires you to want to better your relationship and to be dedicated to doing so.
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. A
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 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 a valuable exercise. 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.
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, seeing a therapist 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.
Research indicates that online therapy is 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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Is The Success Rate Of Couples Counseling?
Couples and families who participate in couple therapy have been shown to have a great success rate: up to 93%. This is wonderful proof that marriage therapy and the best couples therapy is a great way to work towards a great relationship.
How Do You Do Couples Therapy At Home?
The most popular ways to do couples therapy at home is via phone or video chat. With these options, you and your partner can receive personalized therapy, help with substance abuse, and exercises for couples that are designed and tailored to help you improve your marriage. These activities for couples can be done from home and then reviewed via online couples’ therapy.
What Questions Are Asked In Couples Therapy Exercises?
In couples therapy, you can expect to be asked a lot of honest and straightforward questions. Most of these questions are focused on more serious subjects like roles in your marriage, money, raising kids, and long-term goals for the future. It’s important that both you and your partner feel free to answer these questions honestly and openly.
Can Couples Therapy Make Things Worse?
If your marriage is already feeling strained or stressed, then this might increase when you first start couples’ therapy. This is usually because the couples’ counselor asks strong emotionally focused questions that might dredge up difficult or repressed topics in the romantic relationship. However, this is usually only at the beginning of the therapy process. For most romantic relationships, as time goes on, it becomes easier to get through the sessions without feeling stressed or feeling like things are getting worse for your romantic relationship.
How Can Couples Improve Their Communication?
The most fundamental way to improve communication in a marriage has nothing to do with improving how you speak to each other. In fact, the best way to improve communication with your partner is to work on the way that you listen!
Active listening is the best way for couples to improve their communication. This means that when you listen to your partner, you should make eye contact and use your body language to show that you are open to all that they have to say. It also means that you shouldn’t judge what they say immediately or assume that you automatically understand what they’re trying to express. Instead, ask follow-up questions and don’t pass judgment on them or their ideas until you’re clear on what they’re expressing to you. Always be ready to learn something new every time that you talk to your partner!
Of course, these are good qualities for all communication, but it’s especially pertinent for a marriage. You should feel free to express your positive and negative emotions to your partner. Just like when you’re listening, it’s important to keep good eye contact when you’re speaking as well.
How Can I Save My Relationship?
One the best and most effective ways to help your relationship is to see a couples’ therapist with your partner. The therapist can act as a mediator who is trained specially to give advice on how to improve your relationship given the specific facts of what you’re experiencing as a couple. With a marriage therapist, you and your partner can feel free to bring up any problems that you perceive in the relationship, and the therapist can do their best to help equip you to solve these problems.
While there is no miracle question or simple solution to saving a relationship, there are many different experts you can talk to. If you don’t want to jump straight into marriage counseling, you can also look for books, podcasts, and online resources that are geared toward helping couples improve their relationships. There are many evidence-based courses and exercises that are offered for free online. Couples counselors can be expensive, so make sure that you and your partner are on the same page and both willing to learn something new before you start counseling or therapy together.
How Do You Fix A Broken Relationship?
The first key step in fixing a broken relationship is to see each other through each other’s eyes. Try to focus on the good qualities that you find in your partner, and encourage them to look for your good qualities, as well. This way, you always have that positive image of your partner to fall back on when things get tough in the relationship.
You can also try some cuddle time. Cuddle time is a great way to improve intimacy with your partner without having to talk. However, one of the best ways to help a struggling relationship is to commit to being open, honest, and as non-biased as possible toward one another. If an issue arises, you can try both taking some time to reflect on things, write out your concerns, and take turns genuinely listening to one another share your concerns. You can also take notes as your partner speaks.
While there’s no miracle question or blanket solution to everyone’s relationship issues, these small steps and considerations can put you on the right track when it comes to fixing a broken relationship.
What To Talk About In Couples’ Counseling?
When you’re deciding what to talk about in couples’ counseling, you should always keep in mind the goals and aims of the relationship counseling to begin with. Some people expect some sort of miracle question or answer that will open their eyes to how exactly to fix things. But the fact of the matter is that it’s a process. You’ll talk about a whole range of issues in couples’ counseling, and it’ll likely take some time to work through things.
The best thing to do is to make a short list of topics that you’d like to cover in the first session or two. Make sure that the therapist knows that you have such a list. Encourage your partner to write a list, too. Then, with help and direction from the therapist, go through these topics and see where the questions and answers take you.
What Happens At The First Couples’ Counseling Session?
The first couples’ counseling session is usually used to get to know you and your partner. You might also do a couple of exercises together so that the therapist can get a better idea of your dynamic together. The therapist will help you establish and define clear goals for your counseling, so that all of you are on the same page in terms of what to expect for the future sessions.
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