5 Therapist-Recommended Couples Therapy Exercises For A Stronger Relationship

by | Mar 28, 2023

Relationships are a journey of love and growth, but they’re not without challenges. Whether you’re in a new relationship or you’ve been together for longer than you’ve been apart, there comes a time when auto-pilot kicks in and working on your relationship can require more energy and focus than it once did.

Still, it’s energy that needs to be spent, because your relationship is one of the most important aspects of your life and it deserves your full attention! As a couples therapist, I know first-hand the importance of actively working on a relationship. That’s why I’m so excited to share with you some of my favorite exercises that have helped countless couples become closer, more understanding, and more supportive of one another.

As a firm believer in the incredible power of connection, empathy, and love as the building blocks of a thriving relationship, I’ve put together five fantastic exercises for you and your partner to experience together. Each exercise is accompanied by easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions, making it a breeze for you both to practice and integrate into your daily lives.

Active Listening Exercise

There’s no greater gift we can offer our partner than our complete presence and attention. Active listening enables us to genuinely comprehend our partner’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences, fostering a more profound connection between us. So, let’s delve into this impactful exercise designed to help both of you hone your active listening skills.

Step-by-step guide for the active listening exercise:

Choose a serene, comfortable space: Seek out a snug spot where both of you can unwind and feel at ease. This sets the scene for sincere, heartfelt communication.

One partner shares their thoughts: Taking turns, one of you will express your thoughts, emotions, or experiences. Speak candidly and sincerely, knowing that your partner is fully committed to listening and supporting you.

The other partner listens with care: As your partner speaks, dedicate your entire focus to them, refraining from interrupting or making judgments. This is your chance to authentically listen to and understand their point of view.

The listener then paraphrases: Once your partner has finished speaking, gently paraphrase what you’ve heard to ensure you’ve understood them correctly. This step is essential in demonstrating that you’ve truly listened and acknowledged their feelings.

Swap roles and repeat: It’s time to change roles, giving the other partner the chance to share their thoughts and emotions. Follow the same steps to continue practicing active listening and deepening your understanding.

Always remember that as you practice active listening, it will gradually become more natural, and your connection will continue to strengthen.

Tips for successful active listening:

Establish eye contact: Gazing into your partner’s eyes can foster a more powerful connection and demonstrate your genuine interest in their words.

Be aware of body language: Be conscious of your body language, aiming for an open and welcoming posture. This helps create a space where your partner feels secure and at ease sharing their feelings.

Minimize distractions: Switch off any electronic devices or remove any potential distractions that could hinder your full engagement during this exercise.

Cultivate empathy: Step into your partner’s shoes, attempting to grasp their emotions and sentiments. This practice will not only improve your listening skills but also fortify your emotional bond.

Incorporating active listening into your daily lives can bring about profound changes in the way you both communicate and understand each other. It may take time and practice, but the rewards of a deeper, more connected relationship are well worth the effort. So, continue to nurture your bond through the power of active listening and watch your love flourish.

Appreciation and Gratitude Journaling

Expressing gratitude towards our partner is an essential ingredient for maintaining a healthy and fulfilling relationship. Gratitude journaling is a simple but powerful exercise that can help both partners cultivate a deeper appreciation for each other. Let’s dive into this exercise and discover how to seamlessly blend it into your everyday life.

Step-by-step guide for the journaling exercise:

Individual journals or notebooks for each partner: Select a journal or notebook that both of you adore and can devote exclusively to this exercise. This will become a cherished space for expressing your gratitude and appreciation towards one another.

Dedicate 10 minutes daily for writing: Identify a suitable time during your day when both of you can spend 10 minutes seated and writing. You could opt for mornings before the day’s activities commence or evenings before bedtime.

Write down at least one thing you appreciate about your partner or relationship: Focus on something specific that your partner did or said that made you feel loved or appreciated. It could be something small, like making you breakfast or leaving you a note, or something bigger, like supporting you through a difficult time.

Share your journal entries with each other weekly or monthly: Take the time to share your entries with each other and discuss how they made you feel. This can be a beautiful way to deepen your understanding of each other and show gratitude for the love that you share.

Tips for maintaining this habit and making it meaningful:

Be consistent: Consistency is key in making this exercise a meaningful part of your daily routine. Try to set aside the same time each day to write in your journal.

Be specific: Instead of just writing down “I appreciate my partner,” be specific about what they did or said that made you feel grateful.

Celebrate the small things: Don’t underestimate the power of small gestures. These can often be the most meaningful and show your partner that you notice and appreciate the little things they do for you.

Gratitude journaling can be a beautiful way to acknowledge and celebrate the love that you share with your partner. By taking the time to express gratitude towards each other, you can create a deeper connection and appreciation for the wonderful relationship that you have together.

The Trust Fall Exercise

Trust serves as a crucial cornerstone in every thriving relationship. Fostering trust demands vulnerability and openness, and the trust fall exercise is an excellent way to nurture it. This activity revolves around releasing fear and relying on your partner to catch you. Let’s delve into this exercise and discover how to execute it safely and effectively.

Step-by-step guide for the trust fall exercise:

Select a secure, comfortable space: Look for an area where both of you feel safe and at ease. Ensure there’s ample space for you to fall without the risk of injury.

One partner stands behind the other: The person standing behind should be the one catching the other person.

The person in front closes their eyes and slowly leans back: The person in front needs to trust that their partner will catch them.

The partner behind catches them before they fall: The person behind should be ready to catch their partner and support them.

Discuss feelings and emotions experienced during the exercise: Take the time to discuss how the exercise made you feel. Did you feel scared? Did you feel relieved when your partner caught you?

Switch roles and repeat: Now it’s time to switch roles, allowing the other partner to experience the trust fall.

Tips for maintaining safety and cultivating trust during the exercise:

Clear communication: Prior to initiating the exercise, ensure both of you comprehend what will transpire and how the process works.

Begin with baby steps: If you’re novices to this activity, initiate with a small fall and progressively increase the challenge.

Rely on your partner: Bear in mind that this exercise revolves around nurturing trust, so have faith in your partner’s ability to catch you.

Exercise patience: Feeling apprehensive or uncertain during initial attempts is natural. Allow yourselves time and patience as you learn and evolve together.

The trust fall exercise offers a remarkable opportunity to bolster trust and intensify your emotional bond. By relinquishing fear and depending on your partner to catch you, a more robust sense of security and support in your relationship can emerge. So, embrace the leap of faith and trust your partner to be there for you!

The Love Languages Exercise

Do you ever feel like your partner doesn’t understand your needs or the way you express love? That’s where the concept of love languages comes in. We all have different ways of showing and receiving love, and understanding your partner’s love language can help you both feel more fulfilled and connected.

How to practice this exercise:

Each partner takes an online love languages quiz or reads about the five love languages: The five love languages are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Taking a love languages quiz or reading about them can help you identify your primary and secondary love languages.

Share your love language results with each other: Discuss your results and what they mean to you. Be open and honest about what makes you feel loved and appreciated.

Discuss how you can better express love in each other’s love languages: Brainstorm ways to incorporate your partner’s love language into your daily life. For example, if their love language is Acts of Service, you could surprise them by doing the dishes or folding laundry.

Commit to practicing expressing love in your partner’s love language regularly: It’s important to make a conscious effort to express love in the way that your partner receives it best. This approach can fortify your emotional bond and pave the way for a more gratifying relationship.

Tips for integrating love languages into your daily relationship routine:

Stay consistent: Commit to expressing love in your partner’s love language every day.

Be imaginative: Venture beyond conventional methods and seek fresh, distinctive ways to convey love in your partner’s preferred language.

Exercise patience: Integrating your partner’s love language into your relationship might take time, but the endeavor is worthwhile.

Keep in mind that love languages can evolve over time. Remain open to revisiting this exercise occasionally to ensure that you’re catering to each other’s needs in the most effective manner.

By comprehending and practicing one another’s love languages, you can deepen your connection and cultivate a relationship brimming with love and appreciation.

The Emotional Check-In Exercise

It’s essential to create a safe space in your relationship where both partners feel comfortable discussing their emotions, feelings, and expectations for the relationship. The emotional check-in exercise is a powerful way to cultivate this safe space, allowing you both to feel heard, seen, and supported. Here’s how you can practice this exercise:

Set aside time each week: Schedule a specific time each week to do an emotional check-in. It could be a specific day and time or when it’s convenient for both of you.

Take turns sharing your feelings: One partner shares their emotions and feelings from the week while the other listens without interrupting.

The listener provides validation and support: The listener acknowledges and validates their partner’s feelings, offering support without trying to fix the problem.

Switch roles and repeat: It’s time to switch roles, with the other partner sharing their emotions and feelings while the listener provides validation and support.

Discuss any action steps or support needed moving forward: After both partners have shared their feelings, discuss any action steps or support needed to move forward. This could involve making changes in your daily routine, seeking outside help or support, or simply being more intentional about showing love and support to each other.

Remember that this exercise is not about finding solutions or fixing problems but rather creating a safe space for both partners to share and be heard. It’s also an important tool to help break the cycle of negative communication patterns that might exist in your relationship.

Tips for creating a safe space for emotional check-ins:

Avoid distractions: Find a quiet, distraction-free space where you can both focus on each other without interruptions.

Listen with an open mind: Try to listen without judgment, avoiding criticism or offering unsolicited advice.

Acknowledge your partner’s feelings: Validate your partner’s emotions and feelings, letting them know that you understand and support them.

Practice gratitude: Take a moment to express gratitude for each other and the relationship, even during challenging times.

Incorporating the emotional check-in exercise into your weekly routine can help you both feel more connected and supported, building a stronger foundation for your relationship. So take the time to listen, understand, and validate each other’s emotions, and watch your relationship grow stronger with each check-in.

Conclusion

As we wrap up our journey through these five fantastic exercises, I’d like to remind you that nurturing a robust and thriving relationship requires time, dedication, and patience. Nevertheless, the benefits are priceless. These exercises aim to help you and your partner deepen your mutual understanding, improve communication, and forge a more solid bond.

By consciously engaging in these exercises, you’re making a commitment to invest in your relationship, and this investment will undoubtedly yield dividends in the long run. Remember, every relationship is unique, so take these exercises as a starting point and make them work for you.

I encourage you to continue exploring other relationship-building exercises and resources, including seeking out couples therapy or workshops if you feel you need additional guidance and support.

Thank you for joining me on this journey, and I hope these exercises have been valuable for you and your partner. Always remember to approach each other with kindness, empathy, and love. Wishing you all the best on your continued journey of growth and connection!

Mara Hirschfeld, LMFT
Mara Hirschfeld, LMFT
I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and the proud founder of Holding Hope MFT. I created Holding Hope as a space for individuals and couples to delve into their deepest selves, free from the fears of judgment or shame. Through my writing, I strive to cultivate a deeper understanding of mental health topics, breaking down barriers and fostering a more supportive and informed community.

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