Couples at any stage of their relationship can benefit from counseling and therapy. While most people consider couples counseling as a last resort before a divorce or breakup, the fact is that happy, healthy couples can also learn valuable lessons from these sessions. If you’re trying to get closer to your partner, the techniques below may help you establish better communication and bonding in the future. Here are the top 10 at-home couples therapy exercises.
1 – Make A List Of Fun Activities To Try Together
One of the best ways to bond with your significant other is by trying new experiences together. This could be as simple as visiting a museum in town, or it could be as complex as going on a cruise to a dream location. Create a list of fun activities to try as a couple, and make an effort to do at least one thing from the list every month. You can make a separate list for family activities if you desire, but this should be a list just for you and your spouse. Spending some quality time together in an unfamiliar environment will help you connect in a whole new way.
2 – Resolve All Arguments Before You Go To Bed
By now, you’ve probably heard the phrase “don’t go to bed angry.” What may seem like a simple concept is actually a crucial part of at-home couples therapy exercises. By going to bed angry, you leave issues unresolved, and you allow yourselves to dwell on the matter throughout the night. If you simply cannot come to terms before bed, make a note to contact your couples counselor in the morning so you can schedule an appointment as soon as possible. The longer you let the issue sit, the more bitter you will both become about it. Fix the problem quickly, and you can move forward to a better quality of life.
3 – Have An “Honesty Hour” At Least Once A Month (Preferably Once A Week)
Honesty should always be a goal in a relationship, but sometime you may find yourself biting your tongue because you don’t want to upset your partner. That’s what the “honesty hour” is for. At least once a month, set aside a full hour of a day where you and your spouse talk about things that bother you – judgment-free. You must both agree not to get offended or hold a grudge over anything that is said during this hour. This is set up to give both of you a chance to speak out and truly be heard. When your spouse is talking, LISTEN. He or she will hopefully give you the same courtesy when you have something to say.
If you do not feel comfortable doing this on your own at first, you could practice with your couples counselor to see how the process goes. He or she will tell you if either of you is being defensive so you end up with positive results when you try it on your own.
4 – Set Aside A Special Date Night Every Week
Date nights are great for couples of all ages, no matter how long they have been together. It’s easy to forget about going out on a date when you live with someone and see him or her on a regular basis. Date nights are designed to get you out of the house and allow you to reconnect with your spouse in a fresh environment. If you cannot leave home, send the kids to spend the night with a family member, and cook dinner for just the two of you. As long as you make the night special and just about you as a couple, you can fall in love with each other all over again.
5 – Spend Intimate Time Together As Often As Possible
Intimacy is a fundamental component of a thriving relationship. However, it’s important to note that “intimacy” is about more than just sex. It’s about connecting with a person on a deep emotional level, more so than you do with any other person in your life. Every night before you go to sleep, spend some time talking to your spouse in bed – without the TV on, without your cell phone in hand, and without any other distractions that could take you away from this moment. Cuddle, hold each other’s hands, or look into each other’s eyes and take a moment to appreciate the amazing person you’ve chosen to be with. It’s these quiet moments that keep long-lasting relationships going for decades at a time.
6 – Unplug Yourselves For A Night
It’s amazing how much of a distraction electronics can be. As part of your at-home couples therapy techniques, try spending a night completely unplugged from the rest of the world. No phones, no televisions, no computers, and no tablets. Just you and your spouse spending quality time together. You may play board games, give each other a massage, take a relaxing bath or do anything else that does not require electronics. This will allow both of you to focus 100% of your energy on the other person, and it will ultimately make you stronger as a unit.
7 – “Leave It ‘Til Sunday”
The “leave it ’til Sunday” technique can help you see which fights truly matter and which ones are trivial and unnecessary. Any time you have an argument that you can’t seem to come to terms about, put it to the side and talk about it on Sunday. If it is still an issue by then, you can re-open the argument and move forward. In many cases though, you will both forget about the problem by the end of the week. Anything that gets forgotten clearly isn’t a priority, as a discussion about chores or a television show.
Of course, there is some controversy behind this practice because leaving it until Sunday could mean leaving issues unresolved for days at a time. You don’t want to do that. You still need to talk through issues that have a major impact on your relationship so you do not dwell on them for too long. If you find yourself in a “tiff” with your partner about something minor, that could be pushed off until the end of the week. You’ll learn how to prioritize your arguments as time progresses.
8 – Identify And Eliminate Stress Triggers
Stress is not healthy for your mind or your body. In a relationship, stress often leads to major conflicts because one person is irritable, emotional, depressed, etc. One of your goals for couple counseling should be to identify sources of stress in your life and your spouse’s life and then figure out ways to get rid of the stress for good. For instance, if one spouse is stressed about paying the bills for the household, the other person may decide to take on another job to provide additional support. If you are worried about your personal health, talk to a doctor, and see what treatments you can explore. Every stress trigger has a solution, even if it is not obvious at first. You can discuss all of this as a couple and come up with the best solutions for your situation.
9 – Use Trust Falls To Build Trust In Your Relationship
Trust falls are used in a number of team-building exercises. They are designed to help you trust the person you are with no matter what. To conduct a trust fall, all you have to do is stand behind your partner with your face toward his or her back. The person in front will fall backward onto the person in the back, and the person in the back is supposed to catch the person in front. The person in front must blindly assume that their partner will in fact “have their back.” Once you can learn to trust someone with this basic responsibility, you can open yourself to trusting him or her in all areas of life.
10 – Write An Appreciation List For One Another
Spend some time writing down all the things you appreciate about your spouse. One of the main reasons why people feel like they are in a one-sided relationship is because they do not feel appreciated by their partners. By clearly expressing what you appreciate about your spouse, you can help him or she feels a sense of value in the relationship. You can build confidence in yourself along the way as you read about all the things you do to make your partner happy.
PRO TIP: Turn your appreciation list into a compliment jar! Write down the various things you appreciate about your spouse on strips of paper, and have him or her do the same. Every day before you leave for work, you can take out one of the strips and remind yourself that you’re doing something right in the relationship. This is particularly helpful for couples who spend a great deal of time apart from one another. Short notes back and forth will keep the romance strong and remind you of the love that burns deep inside you.