Couples therapy exercises can be beneficial even for couples who are satisfied with their relationship.
The exercises below are examples of the kind of work we do in couples therapy.
Most couples start out highly satisfied in their relationship.
Falling in love appears to be the easy part. What seems more difficult is the ability to sustain high levels of relationship satisfaction in the long run. Between one third and one half of couples in the developed world seem to deteriorate, become distant or full of conflicts over time. However, the decrease in satisfaction is not inevitable. It can be prevented.
Many people think relationship satisfaction happens naturally. This is simply not the case. Most adults have learned some, but not all, of the skills needed to sustain a long term committed relationship. Many separated or divorced people have expressed years later that they wished they had the skills, but they didn’t know what to do. There is a lot to having a good relationship that can be learned.
Couples therapy exercises are suited for couples in any stage or relationship, including couples in the early years of commitment who are married, planning to marry, or living together; for couples having a child; and for couples forming step families.
Couples therapy exercises are also suited for heterosexual as well as same sex couples.
The overall purpose of couples therapy exercises is to prevent relationship distress. Exercises are a form of vaccination against distress. When couples face difficult challenges, they can review the exercises to build momentum for continued change and flexibility.
Researchers know that people in successful relationships have acquired the skills, attitudes, and knowledge that give them a better chance of sustaining a mutually satisfying partnership.
Using the positive feelings of the partners to build resources, the exercises below will enhance the possibility of learning new skills for when the relationship takes downward turn.
Creating the relationship and family that you desire takes awareness, intention and effort. These common couples therapy exercises can be helpful.
Exercise 1: Step into your partners’ shoes
One of the key elements of a successful relationship is the ability to step into your partners’ shoes and see things from his/her perspective. Another key element is to understand your own contributions to a disagreement.
Think of the latest disagreement, argument, or fight you had and ask yourself the following questions. Then complete the sentences.
1) What points was your partner trying to make. Hint: you don’t need to agree, you just to get the points even if you don’t agree with them.
a. Point one: My partner was trying to ___________________
b. Point two: My partner was trying to ___________________
2) In what ways did you contribute to the fight, disagreement or argument? What did you do to make things worse for your partner?
a. Contribution one:I made the disagreement worse by____________________
b. Contribution two: I made the disagreement worse by____________________
Exercise 2 : Update your knowledge of your partner
Couples in successful long-term relationships update their knowledge of their partners. People evolve and change, and sometimes, partners don’t do enough to update their knowledge of their partner’s evolution.
We tend to rely on “old knowledge” and fail to ask questions, thinking we already know. To keep yourself updated, ask your partner some the following questions once or twice a year:
1) What would you do with the money if you won the lottery?
2) What is the most important stressful event that happened to you in the last two weeks/two months?
3) What is your favorite movie/music/TV show of the last few months?
4) What are your major professional aspirations and have they changed in the last year?
5) What are the main pleasures you derive from your friends lately?
6) What two events in the past year have special/interesting/valuable for you?
7) Which of your friends has been a source of irritation in the past few months?
8) To what are you most looking forward in the upcoming months?
9) What are you most worried about in the upcoming months?
Exercise 3: Establish Rituals of Connection
Rituals are acts that you repeat on a regular basis. Rituals are habits that are chosen, created and practiced. The rituals below are designed to build connection. What’s important is that they are repeated often on a regular basis The following are ideas about daily rituals.
Morning Rituals: Think together about how mornings can be times of connection when everyone is sent off with positive wishes and a good spirit.
Leave Taking: When you leave your home, be sure you know at least one thing that is going to happen in your partner’s life that day and establish a ritual kiss or hug upon leavetaking.
Reunions: When coming back home give an affectionate greeting—a loving kiss that lasts several seconds (not a peck on the cheek).
Mealtimes: Come together at meals and share the events of the day. Each person gets a chance to talk. Make meals an environment of peace, affection, support, and attention. Avoid conflict during dinners.
Bedtimes: Going to bed is a time when there can be cuddling, physical affection, letting go of tension and irritability. Don’t go to sleep without a kiss, a hug, a comment about something that you are grateful for in the relationship or saying something nice about your partner.
You can also create rituals for special occasions, birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, rituals for when one of the partner is ill, or rituals for dates or taking time off.
For more information, consider taking this relationship quiz
In our efforts to bring value to your life, or if you are not in the Chicago area, Couples Counseling Associates has developed a series of lessons that could have a major impact on effectively improving your relationship. We encourage you to dive into the series and discover how these resources can benefit you and your partner.
Remember, it's the positive habits we develop that guarantee us success in all areas of our lives. Discover the seven healthy habits that improve relationships or get in touch with us to learn more about Couples Counseling Associates.
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Founder, Couples Counseling Associates
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Also in Arlington Heights
Associated Therapist Giulia Casani MA,LMFT
Kate Engler, LMFT, LPC
All the mental health professionals practicing at 737 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 2130, Chicago, IL 60611 or any other locations, are individually licensed by the State of Illinois and practice independently and separately. They have no legal relationship to the practices of each other and do not incur in liability for services of one another or to Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum.