Whether a couple seems to be drifting apart or the desire to broaden and strengthen an already strong relationship, consulting a qualified couples counselor is rarely a waste of money and effort. Outside of this relatively formal environment, though, building a relationship is still a continuous process that requires the couple to take what they have learned inside of the counselor's office and apply it to their daily lives. Part of it means showing affection and consideration daily. Still, a few couple's therapy exercises can also help to improve communication and understanding between them or help them get more out of their relationship. Fortunately, because everyone who has taken couple's counseling realizes that the real work takes place outside of the therapy sessions, there is an abundance of tried and true couple's therapy techniques that can be done at home. To get you started, here are a few great exercises that will help you at any point in your journey.
Couples Therapy Exercises For Bedtime
Physical intimacy makes up a major part of most romantic relationships, and actual sex is just one component. Touching or just being near another person provides us with feelings of safety and validation. It helps us relax, thereby lowering our guard and allowing a couple to be more open with one another. (Keep in mind that this will only work if you desire to be closer to your significant other or if there is no issue with one partner being physically intimate with another. Attempting to be intimate when both partners are not ready or not willing can do more harm than good.)
Although it is good to get into the habit of not going to bed angry, every argument can't be resolved before 11 p.m. Still, it's important to show at least that you can appreciate your partner's viewpoint and you are willing to take it seriously. Allowing each of you to stew in resentment and anger until you're able to discuss the issue further will only make finding a compromise that much more difficult. With this in mind, try setting aside a time each day that will allow you to vent, listen, and resolve conflicts before you go to bed. If conflicts are typically small, this may not be necessary, and you can solve conflicts as they come your way throughout the morning and afternoon.
Another great habit to cultivate is to stare into each other's eyes for several minutes before bed. Most people find prolonged eye contact with strangers highly uncomfortable, but this certainly shouldn't be the case in a romantic relationship and is often a great way to connect with your partner after a long, hectic day. Sit or lie comfortably close together and look at each other for several minutes. A good way to measure this time is to do it for the duration of a song you both like, and of course, you are allowed to blink. Doing this can lead quite naturally to some cuddling, which in itself is a good way to deepen your bond. If you want, you can also turn this time into one of discussion to tell your partner all that you love about them.
Scheduling Special Times Together
Communication can break down in a relationship by just getting into the habit of biting their tongue or postponing hard talks to a time that never seems to come. Obviously, we don't want to launch into contentious discussions when our partners are tired or already upset, but if we don't make time to clear the air, this chore will end up never being done. It is, therefore, a good idea to set aside 30 minutes or an hour each week during which you promise to be entirely open with each other. The best way to do this is to choose a time when you and your partner are relaxed, such as on a Sunday morning. Listen instead of just talking, and remember to focus on behaviors instead of personalities.
Similarly, whether you've just gotten together recently or already have children, it's important to have some fun together without any distractions. There's something to be said for routine activities, such as going to a favorite restaurant once a month, because sharing novel experiences and adventures is a great way to reconnect and generate excitement in your relationship. This doesn't mean spending a week and thousands of dollars on an ocean cruise. Instead, you can pack a picnic basket and head to the park or go to salsa classes together when you have time. However, it is generally a good idea to make sure that you schedule date nights every week and make sure that there are no excuses that can get in the way. You must commit to your set time as falling out of this habit can result in you falling back into old habits. It is also important that you leave any other concerns or problems behind during this time. This is a time for you and your partner to reconnect, not a time for you to focus on external issues.
Make Your Affection and Appreciation Known As Often (and As Necessary) As Possible
Regardless of how healthy a relationship is, things can often grow stale over time for most couples, making it easier for the most important aspects of relationship upkeep to fall to the wayside as life continues. Whether you have quite a bit of your time is taken up by children, your schedule is packed with work, or you just have fallen out of touch, it can be hard to pay as much attention to your partner as you used to when there doesn't seem to be enough time in the day.
Whatever the reason may be, this lack of attention can greatly impact your relationship, and your partner may feel as they are not as appreciated or that you don't care about them as much as you used to or vice versa. If these feelings are not expressed or resolved, they can lead to resentment as the relationship continues and can tie into other arguments or problems that a couple is having.
Before this is allowed to happen, and once a couple of notices, it is important to get back into the habit of making your affection and appreciation known regularly. The biggest issue with this habit is that many couples believe that they have to put a ton of effort into their gestures, which can be quite time-consuming and take a lot of energy. While grand gestures once in a while can be amazing, you don't have to put in that much effort each time to show your partner that you love them. Love can be expressed in more verbal communications of the fact and in little gestures that mean a lot to your partner.
It can be a great idea for you and your partner to talk about what you would like to see more of from each other, what you guys have done for each other recently that the other enjoyed, and some of the highlights of your relationship that made the difference. Once you have a solid list of more things that you can do consistently, you can then make an appreciation list that helps you and your partner to track all of the amazing things that you have done and all of the effort that you have put out for each other.
Once each partner feels loved and appreciated in the relationship, it becomes easier to work on other issues and move forward. It also helps to eliminate some of the other stressors in the relationship.
Start From the Beginning and Rediscover Your Other Half
After a long time spent in a relationship, especially in a relationship with consistent conflicts or has lost its initial spark, you can feel as though your partner is a person you are merely tolerating rather than someone you still love. Unfortunately, the longer you hold someone in that light, the more difficult it is to find your way back to them.
Although not everyone can, one way to solve your issues is to wipe the slate clean. Find forgiveness for anything that they may have done, throw your resentment to the wind, and pretend as though you are just meeting them for the first time rather than having the history that you do.
Once you have decided to restart, treat your significant other as though they were a prospective date. What do you love about them? What attracts you to them? Could you picture a future with this person? More often than not, we forget about the things that we love about a person when we are with them for a long time, and looking at them as if we were meeting them can help remind us of why we ended up with them in the first place!
With a renewed sense of love and a fresh slate, you can then move forward and treat your relationship the way it should've been treated in the first place. Without the previous regrets and resentments that used to make it impossible to work out of your current state, you and your partner can now act more loving, more patient, and more kind towards each other as you adhere to new rules and tactics that help you both manage the relationship more effectively.
Sometimes, the best way to heal a bond is to move forward and to remember what made a relationship special in the first place. However, this is a piece of advice that you shouldn't force. If serious underlying issues hinder the relationship, these can't be ignored and must be properly dealt with before a couple can move forward.
Marriage and Family Therapists act as someone within the relationship dynamic who can look at things, analyze them, and identify the issues and the possible solutions to improve the relationship. However, the power of counseling can only go so far, and it lies on you and your partner to be the ones who take action and who have the motivation to see those relationship problems and work through them. If you are looking for practices outside the office that can help you achieve this, some of the tips provided above will give you ways to properly implement your knowledge so that you can foster and maintain a relationship that is loving once again.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A couple’s therapy will look different for every couple. However, there are certain couple’s counseling exercises that most couples will experience when they work with a couple’s counselor or a family therapy counselor.
The first couple’s therapy session will typically have the counselor ask the couple a series of questions to understand better what’s going on and what the couple is struggling with. Additionally, most couple’s counselors will ask the couple to prepare their own questions for each other. Some of these questions may include:
A couple’s counseling exercises are an intense and sometimes painful experience. Still, it is important to be completely honest with both your therapist and your partner to make it work. Make sure to make yourself heard, express your thoughts, emotions, and feelings, and make sure that you listen to the things your partner is saying.
On average, the success rate of couple’s therapy is 70-80%. This assumes that the couple’s counseling sessions include focused therapy, that both partners are willing to work for it and want things to work, and that they complete all the required exercises, including:
In addition to couple’s counseling, some therapists may recommend individual cognitive therapy sessions or talk therapy sessions if deeper issues need to be worked on. In these cases, the couple’s therapist should recommend other therapists to work with individually.
It is important to note that even the best couple’s therapy sessions won’t help a couple that isn’t interested in putting in the work to stay together. However, when led by a well-trained couple’s therapist and a couple who wants to stay together, most couples state that the couple’s counseling made their relationship significantly better.
A reputable couple’s counseling therapist will never suggest divorce or that a couple stays together. The role of a therapist is to help a couple determine for themselves where they want to go with the relationship. They are there to make sure that each party’s feelings are heard, that their viewpoints are respected and that they each understand what needs to be done and improved upon in the relationship.
It is considered completely unethical for a therapist to suggest divorce in any situation or suggest an obviously unhappy couple that they must stay together. The only exception is in an abusive relationship. In that case, the therapist may discreetly offer information to the abused party if they appear to want out of the relationship.
There is no guarantee that couple’s therapy or marriage therapy will save your relationship. However, in most couple’s counseling situations, the couple has a significantly improved relationship after attending counseling sessions.
If both parties want the relationship to work and are willing to put in the effort required to save the relationship, typically, counseling will be effective with a trained and expert therapist. It is important to go specifically to a therapist or counselor familiar with the issues you are dealing with and a neutral party.
This means that the therapist has never met or interacted with either of you and is not already either party’s primary therapist. This allows the therapist to be completely unbiased and provide the couple with honest evaluations and assessments of what each person needs to work on and what the couple needs to work on together. This also helps the couple to feel more comfortable, as neither person will feel like the therapist is already “against them.”
Ideally, it would help if you decided to see a couple’s therapist as soon as possible. When you first realize that the problems in your relationship are beyond your ability to solve on your own, but you still want the relationship to work, then it’s time to see a counselor. The sooner that a counselor can be involved, the better.
This is because it allows the healing to begin sooner and for the couple to get back on the right track before animosity, frustration, or anger can begin to set in. The longer a couple goes ignoring their problems, not discussing them, and letting them get worse, the harder it can be to reverse the process.
Additionally, you do not need to be married to take advantage of a couple’s counselor. You can take advantage of the knowledge and training of a counselor at any time in your relationship. As soon as you feel a breakdown in communication in the relationship, it is time to see a counselor. Things don’t have to be awful before you decide to take action.