Human relationships have always been complex and things get messy if those complexities are not addressed properly. You go to any corner of the world and you will find people talking about love and relationships. It’s the most cherished, most sought out and the most wonderful thing about life, isn’t it? However, along with the happiness of having a partner come the problems of working through the differences to really make that relationship a strong one. And that’s also where the idea of couples therapy exercises comes into play.
What’s interesting is that we rarely ever find couples who are willing to reach out or ready to ask for help in order to solve their issues and be better partners for each other. For example, take the case of communication and how essential it is in any relationship. A lack of communication often spells the death of relationships. But not everyone knows the techniques or the methods to sharpen their communication skills. And not everyone would like to seek expensive couples counseling.
But what if we brought home these techniques to you? Ever tried couples therapy exercises formulated for your sitting room couch? To shed some more light on the same, today we have Anita Eliza (MSc in Applied Psychology) who specializes in issues like anxiety, depression, relationships, and self-esteem. With her, let’s take a walk down through some of the best couples therapy exercises to do at home.
Couples Therapy Exercises To Do At Home
Lucky for us, couples therapists have upped their game over the years and have come up with exercises and activities you can perform in the privacy of your own home. So no need to book appointments, hail cabs and wait for that weekly therapy session with your therapist. It’s time to take matters into your own hands with at-home couples therapy. These couples therapy exercises can be performed without the supervision of a therapist. When tried at home, these can help in improving communication, which is the usually biggest issue among couples these days.
Couples who are drifting apart can particularly benefit from couples therapy exercises at home itself, and couples who are having healthy relationships can further strengthen their bonds. Even if you go for paid therapy sessions, you should know that the real work usually happens at home, outside of therapy cubicles.
So even if you do take relationship counseling, you should consider supplementing it with couples therapy at home. Having therapy sessions at home is simple and requires no special preparation. Just follow these steps and get started!
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1. How to do couples therapy at home? Listen for 5 minutes every day
Eliza suggests, “Listening to each other can be called and understood as reflective listening. It is beneficial as it really helps one see things from the other person’s perspective. One should try to communicate with ‘I’ statements rather than ‘You’ statements. Speaking in this manner focuses on behavior instead of just hurling personal attacks at one another.”
This exercise consists of two activities happening simultaneously – listening and speaking. All you’ll need is a timer (which is mostly on your smartphone) and each other. Sit with your partner in a room, uninterrupted. Put the dog out, tell the children to go play in another room (if you don’t want to leave them unsupervised, do this after they’ve gone to bed).
Sit opposite each other and set a timer for 5 minutes. Keep the phone aside and take turns talking to each other, one at a time. Neither can speak while the other is talking. The listening partner’s job is to listen with full concentration. That’s it. You can talk about anything but avoid criticism and digging up old relationship arguments.
Talking about work, your day or just how your partner made you feel about something. Talk it out but don’t indulge in blame-shifting. The other person doesn’t get to respond in words until you’re finished. This greatly helps in building emotional bonding and communication.
2. Couples therapy exercises to do at home – Make a pros list every day
This may seem obvious but saying or writing down the things you like about your partner helps the liking grow and is great therapy for relationships. Allocate a separate notebook for this, and for thirty days, write down 10 things you like about your partner every day. This is also a type of individual therapy for relationship issues.
These can be simple things like ‘the socks he was wearing today’ or ‘the types of kisses she gives me’ or ‘his abs’ or anything at all that you admire about your partner. At the end of the month exchange lists. This allows you to get into the habit of thinking and noticing nice things about your partner. This is one of the best relationship-building exercises for couples.
Eliza says, “Writing down such strengths helps one become more mindful or positive about the little things about the other person that often go unnoticed. One actually recognizes the aspects of the other person, which they might have been taking for granted all this time. It helps develop a great sense of gratefulness.”
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3. Have sex for 15 days
Look, I know what I’m about to suggest might seem mad but this has worked for couples in the past. This option might not be for couples who can’t stand to be around each other just yet. But those of you looking to reignite the old passion, look no further. So this is what you need to do. Have sex, every day, for 15 days. Couples therapy exercises just got way too fun!
Fifteen seems a little too much for at-home couples therapy, right? Well, we have to tell you that there are people who’ve done this for over a year. They all report feeling more confident and affectionate about each other as a result. It also made them realize that they were still loved for the person they are, by their partner.
Who knows you might even continue this for longer than 15 days. Think of this exercise as a crash course in reintroducing intimacy in your relationship. This is actually emotionally focussed couples therapy. Return of physical intimacy and recharging that sexual compatibility also means enhancement of emotional bonding.
When it comes to this technique of couples therapy at home, Eliza tells us, “Sex does not always have to be intercourse. A sexual experience can be difficult to enjoy when the couple is going through strife or not feeling too close. But do consider other things like touching lovingly, being close to each other meaningfully, hugging, holding hands, and the like. And try to do it consistently.”
4. Look into each other’s eyes to make the most of at home couples therapy
This one might seem simple but isn’t too easy for most couples who are practicing couples therapy exercises. The idea is to sit without distractions and look into each other’s eyes for a few minutes, three times a week. This gazing into each other’s eyes has to be without any kind of talking.
This exercise is designed to establish a practice of just looking at each other and being with your partner, without the chaotic distractions of our modern world. We don’t realize how much time Netflix, smartphones and other entertainment take up in our relationship and the idea here is to carve out more couples time even without the distraction of talking. This kind of couples therapy at home hardly takes any time.
5. Read to each other
Eliza suggests, “Research says that reading together rather than just solitary reading can make it more enjoyable for couples. It helps them bring in opinions and ideas that allow them to understand each other much better than before. Reading should be done when both are willing to participate and also planning a set time for this is important. This kind of effort in a relationship will boost a sense of togetherness in a couple.”
This might sound like it’s from a romance novel, but there’s some history to this type of therapy. In fact, religious counselors often told couples to read the Bible to each other in the early stages of a marriage, or even in tough times as a form of prayer and communion with the Lord. This shared activity apparently improves the bond of marriage. Whether you read the Bible or a storybook, the logic behind this kind of therapy remains the same.
Reading to each other is an interesting activity, as it requires the equal attention of both the participants. This also requires you to actively participate in the activity, unlike watching TV together. Reading together has been said to decrease stress in relationships and couples have reported feeling refreshed and relaxed after reading to each other, unlike the ones who felt overwhelmed after binge-watching with their partners.
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Do seek help apart from couples therapy at home
These five relationship-building exercises for at-home couples therapy have actually done wonders. But such couples therapy exercises are not a trivial matter and require a serious commitment from both parties. While these exercises can certainly help, in case of deeper, long-lasting problems, visiting a trained professional is always better.
So if your arguments haven’t stopped, there’s still a lack of understanding or one person just refuses to cooperate, it can always be helpful to book an appointment with a therapist. If you’re looking for one, then skilled counselors on Bonobology’s panel are only a click away.
Of course, the best kind of therapy is the advice and help that you can receive from a trained professional. However, if you are not ready for that yet, then you can try a variety of couples therapy exercises that can be done at home.
Sure, it can. Couples therapy activities really help both spouses release pent-up emotions, express themselves better and see issues that they were never able to notice before.
If there is complacency in your relationship, you two are always bickering, the sex is non-existent and on some days you don’t even feel like talking to each other – you may need couples counseling to address the root cause of the problem here.