Relationships. Contrary to what Mills & Boon and associated romantic narratives preach, relationships take effort. It’s not all flaming sexual attraction in exotic locations. Merging the lives of two people from wildly different backgrounds is a lot of things, but easy is not one of them. Enter couples therapy. A practice designed to help couples understand themselves, each other, and their relationship better in order to form a more perfect union. The problem is couples therapy is not always accessible or affordable. That’s where we come in. We have here a few exercises that therapists share with their patients that you and your partner can do from the comfort of your home as you work towards strengthening your relationship. Therapy is not just for relationships on the brink of ending anymore. So check them out and try the ones that resonate with you.
1. Write a letter
Write not type a love letter to your partner. In the handwritten letter, focus on positive, early aspects of your relationship. Talk about what attracted you to them, your favourite memories and other salient memories for you. Sharing the positives with them makes your partner more receptive to the things that are harder to hear. Also, remembering the victories and the joys is always a positive.
2. Hold “state of the union” meetings
Have check-ins best-case weekly or monthly to find out how you are both feelings. Weekdays can get really busy with minimal opportunities for connection. Be intentional about connecting.
3. Do breathing exercises together
It may sound simple, but doing simple breathing exercises together can reconnect you and your partner. Start by sitting comfortably back to back, then, focus on your own breathing, noticing the movement of your ribs and eventually, the movement of your partner’s. Bring your rhythm of breath in sync with each other for a few minutes, and close with a hug.
4. Watch and talk about romantic movies
Nothing like movies to get you talking honestly about relationship issues. It’s also great because you talk about the issues in a low-stakes non-threatening way that is not directly related to your relationship.
5. Write a wish list
Take turns writing down what you would like more of or less of in the relationship then take turns sharing with each other. Talk about how you would feel if your wish came true. When you listen, summarize what you heard and describe how your partner would feel if their wish came true.
6. Do a trust fall
A trust fall is a trust-building exercise in which one partner stands behind their blindfolded partner who then deliberately falls back trusting that their partner will catch them. Sounds easy enough, but it requires trust and blind faith which are not always present in a relationship.
7. Write an appreciation list
Most couples therapy exercises include restructuring how you think and feel about your partner. A great way to do this is to write an appreciation list. Each partner writes down five things their partner does that make them feel appreciated and that they could start doing that would make them feel more appreciated. This makes partners focus on the positive aspects of their relationship and their partner and how the relationship can improve. 7 Ways To Show Appreciation And Say “Thank You”
8. Unplug from technology
This is also a common couples therapy exercise. Eliminate distractions including televisions, phones, and other screens and take some time to reconnect without interruptions. Technology And Social Media – Time To Unplug
9. Consistent date-night
Date night is an opportunity to reconnect emotionally and sexually and every relationship regardless of the duration and the age of the partners stands to benefit from a regularly scheduled date night. Relationships: 5 Date Night Ideas To Try Out
10. Eliminate stress triggers
Stress is harmful to relationships. It’s important for partners to talk openly about their triggers. This is definitely not a one-time conversation as much as it is an ongoing one in which you identify and share triggers. This makes you conscious of each other’s triggers, minimizes associated conflict, and reduces resentment from said conflicts. Mental Health: 9 Ways For Men To Reduce Stress
11. Create a bucket list
Create a bucket list of activities and new experiences you want to try together. Couples who do things together build trust and cooperation skills and boost their happiness levels.
12. Leave it until Sunday
Conflict is to be expected in every relationship. Whenever there is a dispute and there will be disputes, it’s good practice to postpone the argument for a few hours or maybe even days. This will give you perspective, allow you to evaluate the situation further, and perhaps even calm down in the event that tempers had flared.
Weekdays may also not be the best time to handle serious arguments just because of how taxing and exhausting the work week usually is. Leave it till Sunday allows you to address it when there is less stress and more time and when you have taken time to evaluate the situation further and calm down. Also, issues that get forgotten by Sunday were probably not important enough.
13. Question jar
This is a great conversation starter. The idea is fairly simple: take a jar and add any number of relationship-building questions. In the event that you have difficulty coming up with in-depth questions, there are many crafted just for couples online for free and also for purchase. Questions as a conversation starter can work for other relationships including with parents, friends, and even children.
Working on yourselves individually and working on the relationship as a couple is the best way to strengthen your union. These exercises that are usually prescribed by couples therapists are a good way to enhance your communication, appreciate each other as a couple, remind yourself of the good things in the relationship and reveal the areas that could use improvement. Not to mention the fact that the activities can be fun as well.
Check out this piece, 7 tips for managing relationship conflicts.