Tips and tricks to work it out before moving out.
We’ve all watched enough reality television to know things could be a lot worse with our relationships. Angry yelling matches, threats of divorce and even drinks to the face can occur. But couples therapy isn’t just for the dysfunctional pair.
Maybe your relationship hasn’t reached Marriage Boot Camp level, but that doesn’t mean some healthy exercises won’t benefit you in the long run. In fact, you’d be surprised how you can replicate these professional exercises without ever leaving your house.
Next time you’re worried you might be ready to throw glasses of wine in each other’s faces, here are six exercises you can try to ease the tension.
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1) Air Your Dirty Laundry. How long would you go without washing your dirty clothes? One week? Two weeks? After a while, those clothes would start to stink.
Your relationship is no different. Every day your relationship gets dirty; minor irritations, unspoken resentments and small sources of bitterness sneak into your interactions. Unwashed, these small annoyances turn into big problems, and couples can even stop talking to each other.
How do you fix it? Do the laundry together. Once a week, ask your partner this: “What have I done to make you feel unappreciated, disrespected or unloved?”
The first response you get will likely be a look of amazement or a reassurance that everything is “fine.” Do not believe them. Keep asking. Eventually, you’ll get an answer.
When you finally do, listen. Really, truly listen. And when you want to correct them or defend yourself, instead ask them something like: “So when I didn’t pick up the milk, you felt like I didn’t love you? Why?”
Understand how they feel. Soon you will have opened the door of constant communication, no lock in sight. This will increase intimacy between the two of you, and allow you to face conflicts head on.
2) Have An Honesty Hour. I often read advice that you should value the interests of your partner over your own. This is a terrible idea.
When you put your partner’s needs first, you naturally expect them to do the same. But often, one partner sacrifices more than the other and starts to resent the partner who isn’t keeping up their end of the bargain.
To prevent this, have an Honesty Hour. This is the time you can tell each other how you truly feel about things with complete immunity. For example, if you don’t like football, but your boyfriend/husband expects you to be there every Sunday, tell him.
This exercise will eventually allow you to share the truth about everything and respect each other’s opinions — without taking anything too personally.
3) Resolve Disagreements Before Bed. Arguments that linger without being resolved turn into bitterness, which then turns into resentment. Before that happens, simply resolve arguments on the day they start.
What if emotions are too high or sides so strong that you can’t resolve them before bed? In that case, agree to pause the argument and pick it up the next day with the full intention of resolving it together.
4) Make a FUN List. What are 10 things you want to do that are fun together? Make a list and be sure to check one item off the list per month.
5) Have Dinner Together. Eating meals together is a form of bonding as old as society itself. Make the time to eat together. During dinner, talk of interests, goals and dreams.
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If you are in the middle of an argument or your relationship is tense, let dinnertime be time when you can pause the fighting and just enjoy each other’s company.
6) Fun And Frolicking. There’s a lot of work that has to be done before the fun begins. Just like when you were a kid and you had to do homework before you could play, you’ve got to clean up the bitterness and resentments before you can have fun.
Once you do, think of something that is totally wild, fun and possibly irresponsible. It should be something you’d never do otherwise, like making out in public. The important thing is that it be fun, exciting and in line with your values.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com as: 6 Couples Therapy Exercises You Can Try At Home
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What we found to be the best couples therapy exercises to create a more emotionally fulfilling relationship
Effective communication is the lifeblood of any relationship. For many couples, just learning how to communicate feelings, resolve conflicts, and share with each other is a challenging undertaking. Using a few basic couples therapy exercises for communication can do wonders to help you and your partner deal with issues and grow closer. Learning communication skills that can allow you to enjoy the marriage or relationship you have always wanted is important. By establishing a better dialogue with your partner and learning how to share your feelings and address issues with less conflict, it will be possible to create a relationship that is healthier, more resilient, and more emotionally fulfilling.
1) Active Listening
Many couples therapy exercises are based around practicing skills that will make you and your partner better listeners. Active listening is designed to not only make it easier to converse about sensitive issues but also to actually deepen your understanding and appreciation of your partner. When practicing active listening, it is important for the speaker to remain focused on a single thought or point. For the listener, concentrating on sharing their partner’s perspective while attempting to discover new insights about how he or she thinks and feels can be of great benefit. No matter what topic is being discussed, the most important part of active listening is to do it with patience and love. Addressing how your partner feels rather than just reacting to what your partner says is necessary for effective communication.
2) Sharing Emotions Freely
Many couples therapy exercises for communication are designed to reduce conflict and create a more effective way for you and your partner to share what you are feeling. When it is impossible to discuss feelings without sparking an argument or causing a fight, working through problems and differences might also be impossible. Discussing what you need to feel safe when sharing how you both feel can be very helpful. For many couples, having a specific time or place to discuss important matters or to work on building better communication might make a difference. Take the time to ask your partner what would make him or her feel more comfortable when sharing your feelings. Then, put these ideas into action to help ensure that your future efforts to improve your relationship are as successful as possible.
3) Learning to Grow Closer
People change and grow over time, often in ways that are surprising or unexpected. Being in a long-term relationship can make it easy to overlook new facets and aspects of your partner’s personality. Couples who find it difficult to accept who their partner has grown into will likely have trouble communicating. Couples therapy exercises, such as learning active listening skills and sharing feelings freely, can help you develop a better sense of who your partner is. Even the most well-meaning efforts could be doomed to failure if you are unable to understand and relate to how your partner’s interests and passions may have changed over time.
4) Using Positive Language
Couples therapy exercises can deepen your emotional bond and allow you to deal with complicated situations and problems without lashing out or arguing. Using positive language when you communicate with your partner may be the single most effective way to create a more effective emotional dialogue. It is all too easy to become frustrated, especially if your relationship has hit a rough patch. Making every effort to adopt a positive and encouraging tone during your conversations can turn what would have otherwise become a heated argument into an opportunity for real growth and progress. Being overly critical or adopting a negative tone may be costing you many opportunities to be nurturing and supportive. This exercise, when practiced over time, can allow you and your partner to grow closer.
5) Taking a Trip Together
Maintaining relationships requires a lot of hard work, which is why it is important for you and your partner to relax and unwind. Arranging a trip with your partner can provide opportunities for you to work on building good communication while having a little fun. Following the same routine or staying in the same surroundings can eventually cause a relationship to stagnate. Sharing time together in a new environment will allow you and your partner to create new memories while alleviating the stress that could be making communication far more difficult. It’s also very common for couples to go on couples retreats where the very purpose of your trip is to improve your relationship.
6) I Feel (Blank)
Stating your feelings in a way that is easy to understand can be a tricky undertaking. Beginning your statements with “I feel” can provide couples with a more effective way to format their thoughts while offering the listener information that is easier to grasp. This is one of many couples therapy exercises that can be used to handle delicate issues that can lead to arguments. By separating the way you feel from the actual circumstances and events being discussed, you can help your partner feel less defensive and more willing to listen.
Communication Exercises to Build a Lasting Relationship
Learning and applying couples therapy exercises for communication can do much to strengthen your relationship. Dealing with sensitive issues and delicate matters can be a strenuous undertaking. Tools and exercises that will allow you and your partner to better share and express yourselves can prove to be an essential part of creating a healthier and more fulfilling relationship. Poor communication may be doing far more than just limiting your ability to deal with everyday problems. Exercises that have been designed to make communication a strength rather than a liability can help ensure a longer and happier relationship. Learning how to become a better listener and practicing the skills that will allow you and your partner to grow closer makes it possible for you to enjoy a new level of understanding and appreciation for each other.
Learn more on how to avoid divorce in our Marriage Counseling Guide.