Here is Love Smittens’ contribution to rekindle the magic in your relationship with some research-based, effective couple therapy exercises! And this comes directly from counseling psychologist Ms. Khushali Adhiya.
The pandemic and its consequent lockdown this year has tested us in every area of our lives. We are social animals and the lockdown snatched & denied our very essence of being social. Our existence has shrunk within a few walls. Challenges in our daily living are bound to follow because this is now how we are designed to live. Yes, our social reach has increased virtually. And yet, ponder over the most intimate relationships of our life. Think about how your engagement with them has altered over the past few months.
Familiarity has its pros and cons. People in relationships once struggled to spend time with their companions. Many of them today long to step out of that space now. Spending time with the very companion we longed to be with has become so difficult now, courtesy- the lockdown. Couples that spent time with one another during the lockdown unveiled many truths about relational spaces. One truth is the aggravated domestic violence across the globe. Another truth is also increased boredom – seeing and engaging physically with only one (or few) humans for so many months.
This Love Therapy article is dedicated to people in love, who have confessed their love to each other, to those who are living with their beloved, and to those who are committed to their relationships. We will share some DIY couple therapy exercises that you can practice with your partner. Re-kindle the spark, the magic, the feeling of love which may or may not have diffused away over the past few difficult months with the help of these couple therapy exercises.
If you have lost the spark with your partner, these quick tips can help you revive that bond. And if you haven’t lost the spark, then firstly, the Love Smitten team congratulates you. Secondly, these couple therapy exercises can help take your love higher! We’re here for everyone in a committed relationship with self and with others. After all, research suggests that if you experience being loved and connected in your daily life, you have higher chances of being psychologically healthy, with a higher sense of purpose and optimism. This in turn creates a ripple effect and benefits all the areas of your life.
First things first: When do marriage counseling activities for couples work?
Can a building stand strong without a strong foundation? A weak internal structure does not allow any beautiful artwork, paintwork, or interior to stay erect for long. Similarly, no amount of effort will work on your relationship if you are planning on a band-aid work.
Now, it is common that typically only one of the partners in a relationship would be reading this article, among many others. So, let us first acknowledge a very crucial fact: it is not compulsory for both of you to be on the same page of understanding every moment and day of your life. On regular days, we stay focused on our work and other commitments. On conflict days, we are emotionally on different flight modes. Understand that we all have unique ways of responding to conflicts – we play out our repeated patterns and defenses to protect ourselves.
Hence, before employing the couple therapy exercises or couples therapy worksheets, be aware that they may or may not work at a point in time. These are not magic-wand quick-fixes because our relationships are not machines that can be fixed. They are real human encounters. Just because you want it to work, or you don’t want to lose the person/relationship, does not enforce that the other will feel the same way.
Additionally, ask yourself why you want to try out these couples therapy exercises. Are you researching for them with the mindset of proving that you care more about the relationship? Do you want to use it against your partner as evidence of loyalty during future banters? Or do you wish to participate in the couple therapy exercises with the expectation that your partner will see your efforts and respond in ways that you dream? If these are even remotely in your mind right now, I would recommend you pause right here. These DIY marriage counseling activities for couples won’t work for you.
Why? Well, you wear formal clothes for official events and colorful, party clothes for a party, right? This means that some things are appropriate for specific situations only. Similarly, keeping score is best suited in a game, not in relationships. Keeping a score only worsens your bond. Read this last line again!
Then, who should consider the following couple therapy exercises?
- If you love the person with their limitations (not despite their limitations)
- If you love the space you have with them
- If you consider them human enough to err
- If you love the version of yourself that the relation fosters in you
- If you prioritize love over disagreements
- If you’re doing this without conditions but just with a free-flowing, unlimited supply of love
If you said yes, to even one or more of these conditions, then these couple therapy exercises will work.
Couples Therapy Exercises for COMMUNICATION
The fabric of every couples’ conflict is ineffective communication. There is communication, but it is very gamey. Self-righteousness governs our conversations, our need to be right, perfect, and strong drives our thoughts & behavior. Hence, let’s consider a few marriage counseling activities for couples communication efficiency:
1. The Movie Treatment
Research has reported that couples who watch and discuss movies about relationships report satisfaction and happiness in their relationship. When watching relationship-based films, our brains register the information shown on-screen about the chemistry between people, the different ways in which partners respond, and the different consequences that follow. It is almost like we can see what our relationship could face if we chose certain actions over others. Such movies give couples a chance to consider their response choices, visually and emotionally face the consequences, and talk about their perspectives.
2. Share your music playlist
Send a song from your playlist to your partner during the day and share a memory that connects you both to that song. Surprise your partner!
3. Swap books with each other
If you are both avid readers, exchange your favorite reads from your bookshelf. When you both have read the other’s favorite book, you get a common topic to share your perspectives on.
4. Create bucket lists
Dreams are beautiful and they become alive when we envision them with our beloved. Create a list of things you both want to do together. You can write it on a whiteboard in your room (where you can also leave love notes for each other if you’re struggling for time).
5. Check-in regularly
Couples who check-in their feelings and thoughts with each other share healthier relationships. Decide a time of the week when you both can spend an honest hour on reflections and sharing. Keep it private and intimate. It need not be a scheduled duration; you can slip into one when either one or both feel like contacting their true self with the support of the other!
6. Unplug from technology
As much as it helps us connect to our social world, it also disconnects us from our inner world. Let technology facilitate our living, and not distant our beloved ones from us. Contract with each other to set aside your phones during intimate conversations and private times.
7. Never, ever, ever go to bed angry
Many researchers on couples who have spent decades together have revealed that a common feature in all successful relationships is the commitment to love. Such couples never slept feeling angry. They often resolve their differences. A good way is to take a walk when you are pulled into a heated conversation. Flash before your eyes a memory that reminds you of who your partner is (and not the one who is currently consumed by emotions). Come back, sit down, hug each other, and discuss your difficulties. Unite as a couple and corner the problem – don’t corner yourselves and unite with the problem!
8. Pause, breathe and respond
Typically communications fail when we react. It becomes a game of thrones situation during arguments: who gives the best response which cannot be countered and eventually win the conversation. Remember, you will win the battle, but lose the war! So, practice mindfully to pause, breathe, and then respond. It will not happen automatically. You have to practice it with every conversation.
Couple Therapy Exercises for INTIMACY
1. Gaze into each other’s eyes for a while
It is not a game, but an activity that you can sporadically introduce during the regular flow of your life. Do it more out of a child’s play than an intended activity scheduled for the day. Don’t shy away from this one on our list of couple therapy exercises.
2. Extend your cuddle time
During your busy schedule- get up, randomly snuggle into your partner’s arms, spend a few minutes, breathe, soak in their contact-comfort, look into their eyes, smile, and get back to your work. You need only five minutes for this. Do this at least once every day.
3. Celebrate and maintain
Talk of a cherished memory and celebrate it. Dip your conversations in the memory and celebrate it in the present. Maintain this visual and motivate yourself using this memory.
4. Date nights
One of the highly recommended married couple therapy exercises is going out for date nights. As boyfriends and girlfriends, we yearn to spend time with each other. This longing dies because of excessive familiarity when two people start living together. Slip into some attractive clothes, clean yourselves up, arrange a date night, and spend time like yesteryear. For this couple therapy exercise to work, remember to leave the thoughts of finances, work, or children at home.
5. Take classes together
Both of you can consider some art or dance classes that you can take together. It does bring you closer and allows you to show and witness some different sides with your partner. For example, you can consider John Gottman’s workshop on the art and science of love virtual workshops to practice some more couple therapy exercises.
You can also read the following books together and apply the ideas suggested in them.
- Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
- The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver
- Couples Therapy: A New Hope-focussed Approach by Jennifer Ripley and Everett Worthington
Lastly, remember small drops of water make a mighty ocean! Fixing your relationship takes two- as far as you are picking therapy, it means that you still have hope.
We’re sure you connected and took away a lot from this list of couple therapy exercises. If you did, share it with your better half as a sign you want to work on your relationship/marriage. For more such interesting articles, subscribe to us on www.lovesmitten.com.