Marriage isn’t always easy and it can be helpful to have some professional guidance and advice along the way.
But, not all couples are excited at the thought of airing their marriage difficulties to a stranger in therapy.
Thankfully there are many couples therapy exercises you can do at home to strengthen your relationship and build trust and communication.
These couples therapy techniques can help you communicate on a deeper level, teach you to fight fair, and create goals for your future together.
There are many benefits to practicing these couples therapy exercises both before and after marriage.
Strengthen your relationship and your love for one another by adding these 25 trust and communication-building exercises into your weekly routine. These exercises can work well instead of pre-marriage counseling, or alongside it.
1. Do a trust fall
A trust fall is a trust-building exercise that may seem small but fosters large results. We may have done it as a fun activity with friends but it can be a part of couples’ therapy at home.
To do a trust fall, one partner stands behind their blindfolded spouse. The blindfolded spouse will then deliberately fall backward and their partner will catch them.
It sounds like an easy game, but it requires trust and blind faith in the blindfolded spouse that their partner will catch them. This may cause the blindfolded partner to turn around, fearing that their partner will miss.
Note: When doing any kind of exercise like this, always practice safety by choosing a physically safe place to conduct this exercise.
2. Never go to bed angry
One of the couples therapy exercises that will soon become a “Code to live by” is that of never going to bed angry.
Beijing Normal University researchers Wanjun Lin and Yunzhe Liu performed a sleep study on 73 male students to see how negative emotions and memories would affect their sleep patterns.
The results showed the students were less capable of restful sleep and had a heightened feeling of distress after being shown negative imagery right before bed.
If these students were to be shown negative imagery hours before going to sleep, the brain would be able to subdue the distress response.
However, going to bed immediately after arguing or experiencing trauma causes the brain to protect that emotion, keeping it fresh and clear in the mind.
These findings suggest that the age-old adage of “Don’t go to bed angry” definitely has some merit to it. Negative emotions directly impact the ability to sleep. If you and your spouse are in distress, you should make nice before heading to bed.
Consider this and other activities that reduce conflict as couples communication exercises that will only make your terms of endearment better than before.
Even though it may be difficult to resolve all issues before bed, agree to table the disagreement, and both practice small gratitude exercises before bed.
This will allow you to focus on the positive aspects of each other leaving a positive image in the mind before bed leading to a better night’s sleep.
Review the concerns in the morning with a well-rested mindset. Your feelings may have changed and if you were unable to fix the issue before bed, it may be easier at this point.
3. Write an appreciation list
Some of the best couples therapy exercises have to do with restructuring how you think and feel about your partner. A great way to do this is with an appreciation list.
Partners will write down five things their partner does that they appreciate, followed by five things their partner could be doing to make them feel more loved, secure, or appreciated in the relationship.
By writing down and meditating on their spouse’s good qualities first, partners will be able to focus on the good in the relationship before looking at ways to improve love and communication in a constructive way, rather than accusatory.
You can also maintain couples therapy worksheets or marriage counseling worksheets with a more detailed analysis that can be used for self-assessment.
4. Unplug from technology
One of the best couples therapy exercises you can do is to unplug from technology and have a talking session.
Smartphones and devices are a great way to connect to the world, but they have a surprisingly bad effect on your relationships. After all, how can you give your spouse your undivided attention when you are checking your phone every ten minutes?
For this exercise, eliminate distractions such as television, video games, and smartphones for 10 minutes a day. Use these 10 minutes to talk to one another. Go back and forth telling each other the things you love and appreciate about them.
Do not interrupt one another. This feel-good exercise creates positive thinking and boosts self-esteem. Abstaining from technology and focusing on your partner is actually advocated by many marriage counselors among the relationship-building activities for couples.
You can go for a shared meditation experience as well!
Since you are working on bettering your relationship, it’s time for the team-building exercise. This fun step involves the two of you trying something new that requires you to rely on one another. You can make these couples therapy activities as fun or as challenging as you like.
Some ideas for team building exercises include learning an instrument together, hiking, learning a new language, making online videos together, and zip-lining, kayaking, or going to the gym.
Both of you can make a list of some activities that you would both enjoy trying together.
6. Honesty hour or “Marriage check-in”
If you are trying to find the best couples therapy exercises for communication then go for a marriage check-in.
This is a “couple exercise” that should be done once a week, face to face.
Couples will have an hour of honesty where they speak frankly, but kindly, about the state of their marriage.
Partners will then be allowed to talk about improvements they would like to see in the marriage or speak of things that are bothering them. The listening partner agrees not to get overly offended or overreact.
This arrangement allows both partners the opportunity to listen and to be heard. The calm atmosphere of this marriage check-in should encourage partners to speak freely to one another with a view to solving a problem, not attacking one another.
Experts vouch for this as one of the best trust-building exercises for couples as many emotional walls can be broken with this technique.
7. Consistent date night
No matter the age or duration of the romantic relationship, all couples will benefit from a regularly scheduled date night. These evenings allow you to plan fun relationship-building activities together, which foster positive emotions.
Date night is also a great opportunity to reconnect emotionally and sexually in a fresh environment. Consider it as one of the fun and romantic couple counseling exercises.
The closer a couple is, the better their communication and the physical relationship will be. Whatever you do on date night, make sure you are focusing on each other and having a great time with such “couple communication exercises”.
8. Eliminate stress triggers
Stress is harmful to a marriage. Not only does it cause couples to associate negative feelings with one another, but prolonged marital stress can also lead to clinical depression and other psychiatric disorders.
Identify stress triggers in your marriage. Examples of stress triggers might be bringing up past conflicts such as infidelity, health concerns, and financial instability.
Instead of bringing up stress triggers to argue, identify them to solve the problem so that resentment does not linger from these topics in the future.
9. Create a bucket list
Happy couples are kinder to one another. One study revealed that happy people are more likely to be kind to others, have higher motivational drives, and a sense of gratitude. Couples who try new things together build trust and cooperation skills and boost happiness levels.
One of the best relationship-building activities is by trying new experiences together. Create a bucket list of things you want to do together.
Include smaller and larger goals, so you have something to look forward to in the short and long term. This could be as simple as visiting a museum or a closeby town, or it could be as complex as going on a dream vacation. No matter what activity you choose, what matters is that the activity is something:
You can do together
Can be done regularly
Feels enjoyable for both
Promotes healthy communication
Make an effort to do at least one of the activities each month. No matter how busy your life gets, this gives you a sure way you will have something inspiring to do to reconnect.
10. Leave it until Sunday
Picking your battles is as important as how you handle them. It is not just what you say, but when and how.
Postponing something for a few days gives you perspective and allows you to evaluate if you truly want to have that argument. Additionally, it helps you come into the conversation calmly and with arguments.
You can use this exercise any time you dispute and can’t seem to come to terms with it. If there is a major dispute that cannot be postponed, by all means, address it. This exercise is not meant to help you put problems under the rug.
However, anything that gets forgotten by Sunday probably was not high on the priority list. What makes this one of the best communication exercises for couples is the benefit of learning how to prioritize your arguments as time progresses.
Some of you may cringe at the idea of the icebreaker since you might have been forced into doing them at work or back in school. However, this time around it will be with someone you love and cherish. If you attend marital counseling it will probably be one of the exercises you do in the beginning as it puts you more at ease.
The great thing about this is that you will learn new things about your partner. You may think you know all there is to know, but you are mistaken. Trying to ask them some fun icebreaker questions:
Tell me something weird about yourself
Tell me your favorite cereal brand
Tell me a childhood anecdote
Tell me something embarrassing from high school
Add more questions and you’ll be surprised by what you learn. These are bound to produce at least one or two new facts about your partner that you didn’t know before.
12. Music sharing
Music can be deeply personal and meaningful. Set aside some time and share the music you like without any judgment. You can each pick three songs that have high significance for you and explain why.
Furthermore, you can choose songs that remind you of each other. There are many topics that you can do this selection on such as – highschool, heartbreak, our relationship, etc. After each selection use questions to understand why those songs are in that category and what feelings they evoke.
Any marriage therapist would tell you that this can lead to meaningful insights about your partner and the relationship itself. This kind of sharing leads to deeper levels of understanding. Be gentle as they might be vulnerable and risking a lot by showing you something so personal.
13. Swap books
One of the best couple counseling exercises is swapping books.
What is your favorite book? How about your partner’s? If you have not read them so far, go out and buy them for each other. Write a thoughtful note so you each have a beautiful memory to keep.
Same as with music, what you chose to read says a lot about you. Couple counseling experts recommend this exercise and even suggest that it can become a new tradition for the couple.
No matter how well you know your partner you will learn something new about them since books over inspire the creative side in us. They will learn something new about themselves, acquire new perspectives, and share a window into their mind. Diving into something as profound as a favorite childhood book is a fantastic way to forge a deeper connection.
14. Soul gazing
It may sound like nothing, but this is an intense exercise that can have a huge impact on feelings of connectedness and intimacy.
It could be that due to mirror neurons in our brains this exercise has so much effect.
Those mirror neurons are a part of the reason we are fast-tracked for affection, sociability, and companionship. They get activated by looking into someone.
Instructions are simple, face each other, and set the timer for 3-5 minutes. Stand close to each other, so you are almost touching and stare into each other’s eyes.
Don’t worry, you are allowed to blink, this is not a staring contest. However, refrain from talking. At first, you might feel uncomfortable and laugh. However, as time passes you will feel more pleasant and connected.
15. More cuddle time
Make it a habit to cuddle more often. Turn off the distractions and simply cuddle. When we hug each other oxytocin is released. This chemical, also known as the cuddle hormone, is associated with lower blood pressure and heart rate. A study suggests this could explain why partners with emotional support are less likely to die from heart disease.
Sneak this exercise whenever is suitable for you – in the morning or evening while watching a movie.
The idea is to set aside time to practice it daily. Show physical tenderness, and improve your intimacy with your partner. This exercise is recommended in sex therapy as it can increase the erotic potential.
16. The 7 breath-forehead connection exercise
This close breathing exercise can be practiced anytime you need to feel in sync with your partner and focus on the present moment.
Lie next to each other and face each other. You should put your foreheads together without touching your nose or chins.
The idea is to synchronize your breath with your partner’s. At first, try to do 7 in a row. If it feels good, and it will extend it to 20 or 30 breaths. Prolong it for as much as it feels good for you and repeat any time you want to feel present and connected to your partner.
17. Question jar
Question Jar is a great relationship conversation starter.
The idea is fairly simple – take a jar and add any number of relationship-building questions. If you are having trouble coming up with them, there are already made question jars available for purchase.
The Legacy Jar, for example, has 108 awesome questions, which can also be used with your colleagues, friends, and kids.
If you, however, wish to make questions more personal, you can use any jar, and your partner and yourself can write as many questions as you wish.
Feel free to use the famous 36 questions that were used in an experiment showing that answering these 36 questions can bring people closer together. Several of them even fall in love.
18. The miracle question
This activity offers a reflective way of helping couples dive deep into an exploration of what kind of future they would like to create.
A lot of people are facing struggles, simply because they are not sure of their own and partnership goals. A “Miracle Question” can guide and help partners clarify their goals and gain clarity on what they are aiming to achieve as partners and individuals.
“Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake tomorrow, what would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you life had suddenly gotten better?”
This question allows you to go beyond the spectrum of reality, using the imagination to dig for the things you truly wish to happen. By not being bound with the everyday constraints, you will bring up your desires that you prevent yourself from verbalizing.
In the setting of couples therapy, even though your partner might give an impossible wish, you can grasp the idea behind it.
The therapist would use an unrealistic idea to help you investigate it would change your life for the better. The change you find there is the change you need. On a partnership level, you can then work on scaling the idea of change and apply it on a practical level.
19. The weekly CEO meeting
In hectic lives, where we run around every day doing all sorts of errands, this exercise can be a good way to freeze time and reconnect.
During this exercise, it is important to have an adults-only 1-on-1 conversation. All distractions including kids should not be around.
Check each others’ calendars and cement a 30 minutes window for a CEO meeting.
You can kick off the conversation with the following questions:
How do you feel today?
How do you feel in our relationship?
Is there anything from the previous week which you feel is unresolved and needs to be discussed?
Do you feel loved?
What can I do to make you feel more loved?
Even though direct, these questions are meaningful and will inspire your partner and yourself to have a productive discussion. It is quite important to have these conversations regularly and treat them like an important commitment out of which you will not bailout.
20. Set goals together
You can create as many categories as you would like, but we suggest you start with these 6 important areas of life:
After you agree on which categories you want to work on, set goals for each of the areas. Agree on the timeline and put the goals somewhere visible.
21. Volunteer together
What is a cause you both believe in? Focusing on helping there will bring you two together. When you see your partner helping others you will fall in love with them all over.
Decide what case you want to dedicate some of your time and volunteer together through a local charity or a church.
22. The high and low
This exercise is best utilized during the evening and allows the cole to check-in with each other. This exercise is used in couples counseling to increase empathy and understanding.
While one of the partners is sharing their high and low of the day, the other is using attentive listening techniques.
23. Sending a postcard
In this exercise, the focus is on written communication. Both partners need to write on separate postcards their frustrations, feelings, or desires. Once written it is to be mailed and not verbally discussed.
Any further response should only be written in the same format and sent. This fosters written communication and patience.
24. Sticks and stones
Besides the cute nicknames and endearing words, partners sometimes call each other names that can be hurtful.
This exercise allows partners to address any name-calling that might have aggrieved them in the past. They are to make a list of names they found disrespectful and share it.
After reading it, both have a chance to elaborate on how those terms impacted their feelings of confidence and self-worth.
25. Helpful hands
This fun couple activity involves the body and the mind. The partners are to work together to achieve a common goal. The twist is – they each have an arm tied behind their backs.
They need to communicate directions and actions concisely so that, with their free hand, each of them is working to achieve a goal. Their synchronicity is necessary for obtaining the objective.
The activities can vary, and anything can be used such as buttoning a shirt, zipping a zipper, tying a shoe, or clasping a necklace.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.