Relationships exercises can help prevent you ever calling us for an appointment. As a couple’s therapist, I know that on the outside, a couples’ need for counseling may seem like the relationship is already doomed. Can a relationship survive when things are “bad” enough that outside help is needed? Yes, actually, it can. And it won’t just survive. When the individuals in the relationship are open and coming from a place of love, the relationship only grows stronger and can even begin to thrive.
I believe it is never too late – or too early – to start putting more effort into your relationship. Additional effort, in general, shows how much the relationship means to you and how much you want to keep it as a part of your life. The following post is a list of couple’s therapy exercises that you and your loved one can try at home (without the supervision of a therapist). Even if you feel your relationship is in a great place, it never hurts to give these activities a try. The over-encompassing theme of them all is to strengthen the bond between you and your partner. And if it re-sparks some of the romance in your relationship, well, that’s not a bad side effect either!
Relationship tip #1 – The Big Talk Question Game
Think all the way back to your adolescent years. Perhaps you had a crush (or two!) or even had your first boyfriend or girlfriend. Do you remember wanting to know everything about them? Maybe you played the question game with them for hours on a long walk or during summers at the pool. You’d ask about their favorite color, animal, and food. As you kept going, the questions got bigger, “who’s your hero?”, “what superpower would you have?”, “if you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?”
I want you to repeat this same exercise with your current significant other. It can start as simply as their favorite food and color as you break the ice, but as each question passes, I want you to try and make them “bigger and bigger.” As long as each of you answers honestly, you’re already winning the game. The idea of this is to enhance your connection with your partner. By sharing intimate and meaningful details with each other, not only are you re-solidifying the foundation of your relationship, but you’re increasing trust as well.
Ask your partner questions ranging from their favorite song and celebrity crush to their greatest fears and greatest childhood memory. For more questions and help with Big Talk conversations, click here!
Tip#2 – Music and Book Swapping
Music is one of the most unique and meaningful things we experience as humans. With such a wide variety of genres, bands, and artists, not everyone is going to love everything. And that’s wonderful! Uniqueness is what makes life so wonderful! While it might induce a little worry or anxiety, sharing some of your favorite songs with your significant can bring some huge rewards to your relationship.
Just like having Big Talk conversations, sharing something so deeply personal with your partner will only continue to build your relationship. In order to prepare for this exercise, you and your partner should create a list of songs that resonate with each of you. Listen to your favorite music and make note of the ones that really speak to you as a person. As you swap, explain why you picked these songs and why you think it is important to share.
If reading is a hobby of yours, try the same thing with your favorite books as well. Your choice in literature can help to show your partner some of your values and help convey to your partner who the authentic you truly is. And on the other hand, reading your partners favorite book can give you a glimpse into your partners’ mind – how much deeper of a connection can you get than that?
Tip#3 – Soul Gazing
This exercise is a little more intense than the last two, but if you’re up for the challenge, it can dramatically impact your sense of connectedness.
To begin, take a seat and face your significant other. Move close enough that your knees are nearly touching. Take a deep breath and look into each other’s eyes – don’t worry, this isn’t a staring contest so feel free to blink! Without talking, simply look into each other’s eyes. Start with 30 seconds and built your way to five whole minutes. It may feel awkward at first, and if the silence is uncomfortable put on some pleasant music in the background.
Try practicing this exercise every so often to continue deepening your connection with your significant other. For more information on this exercise, click here.
Tip#4 – Breathing Exercises
Just like Soul Gazing, breathing exercises are a perfect way to be mindful and focus on your partner.
For this particular breathing exercise, lie on your side next to your partner or sit upright. Gently place your foreheads together, but make sure to tilt your chins down so you aren’t bumping noses. Stay here for a few breaths to start.
While this may be challenging at first, take seven slow and deep breaths, in sync with your partner. As you continue doing so and find it becoming easier, feel free to extend the exercise into 15 or even 20 breaths. And if that’s going well, set a timer or breath through the length of one of your favorite songs.
This exercise will put you and your significant other into an intimate and vulnerable space. So utilize this exercise any time you feel you and your partner need to slow down and refocus on each other. Read more about this forehead connection exercise by clicking this link.
Tip#5 – Make a Date Bucket List
One of the best (and most fun) ways to bond with your partner is by sharing new experiences together. It could be as simple as a “daycation” and be spending an afternoon visiting the Scaife Galleries at the Carnegie Museum of Art or ditching Netflix for an actual movie at the AMC South Hills Village movie theater. Or it could be as wild as going on that all-inclusive cruise to a dream destination.
Open up to your partner and create your own date bucket list. This list should just before the two of you so you can continue spending quality time together. By doing things together in an unfamiliar environment, you and your partner will begin to connect and bond in an entirely new way!
Tip#6 – Actually Go on Dates
Making a list is great, but writing it down isn’t enough. You two actually have to go on these dates. Dates are great because they add sparks and excitement to couples of all ages, no matter how long those couples have been together.
When you see your partner on a regular basis or even live with them, it’s easy to get caught up in the monotony of everyday life. Date nights get you out of the house and inspire reconnection. Even if you can’t get out of the house, setting aside time to cook a recipe together or play a board game can help you re-fall in love all over again.
Tip#7 – Detox from Technology
Communicating is so easy in 2018. We have cell phones, tablets, and laptops that allow us to communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world. Ironically enough, in an age of unlimited communication, we’ve become more isolated than ever.
A detox from technology could be exactly what you need to reconnect with your significant other. Spend a night completely unplugged from technology. That means no phones, no Netflix, no computers, no nothing – just you and your partner spending quality time together. Without modern-day distractions, you and your partner can connect on a more basic level. As I mentioned with date night, try cooking a new recipe together or playing your favorite childhood board games. De-stress by giving each other massages. Try the book swap exercise I mentioned earlier – or even better, pick a new book and take turns reading each chapter aloud.
Unplugging allows you to truly focus on your partner and ultimately make you two stronger as a team.
Tip#8 – Write an Appreciation List
Like the first exercise, this one is also going to take you back to your younger years with handwritten notes. There’s something so refreshing about a note written to you on actual paper. Not a text message, nor an email. But paper.
For this exercise, write down all the things you appreciate about your significant other. While relationships are supposed to be a “two-way street”, many individuals feel their relationship is one-sided and that they are being taken for granted by their partners. Use this exercise to be completely vulnerable and reveal the reasons why you love and appreciate them. This helps build their individual confidence AND confidence in the relationship. Not to mention, you’ll get a list in return, building your self-esteem as well. Talk about a win-win-win.
This exercise is extremely beneficial for couples that spend quite a bit of time apart. Having these handwritten notes and lists around are wonderful reminders of your love when you find yourself missing your partner. Make a habit of writing notes back and forth to help keep the romance alive and continue feeding the flame of love between the two of you.
Tip#9 – Honesty Hour
Honesty is the best policy, right? Now, this exercise is going to sound difficult and may give some of your anxiety about confrontation, but I assure you, the more you practice and utilize this, communication within your relationship is only going to improve.
Honesty hour is time reserved every week to freely communicate with your significant other. This is the time to tell them the things that are bothering you in a judgment-free zone. Now, this isn’t an hour for you to nag and complain and air your dirty laundry on each other, more so it’s a practice of vulnerability and making sure one partner is not sacrificing more than the other in the relationship.
Start out small. Maybe you hate watching the Steelers on Sunday’s with your partner. But they love it, so you sacrifice your happiness and time to watch the game with them every single Sunday. Use Honesty Hour to tell them that there are times it isn’t so bad, but reserving a few hours every weekend for dem ‘Lers n’at makes you feel like you’re slacking on other priorities in your life – like errands or cleaning or catching up with your own friends and family. As these conversations get easier, you’ll find you can share the truth about everything and at the same time, learn to truly respect the other’s opinions.
Tip#10 – Resolve Disagreements Before Bed
One of the most given marriage tips is to never go to bed angry. Anger turns to bitterness, which turns into resentment right? So to naturally combat that progression, don’t let that anger fester longer than it needs to.
But sometimes that is just not possible. Sometimes emotions run too high and exhaustion takes over and no progress is really made in the argument. When that happens, it is okay to press pause and sleep on it. Pick it up the next day and perhaps with a clearer mind, you both may realize the fight was silly, to begin with. And if not, you are now prepared to communicate in a more productive way.
Some counselors even suggest saving an argument until Sunday, which can help a couple determine which fights truly matter and which ones are trivial. This should only be used for arguments that you can’t seem to resolve. Sometimes these fights naturally come to a close because they are forgotten about by Sunday. And if they haven’t been forgotten, then you’ve had time to truly think and reflect.
We Want to Help
Relationships are complicated. Through patience and an open heart, most issues can be resolved on their own. But when emotions are running high and outside factors come into play, it always helps to have someone in your corner to help guide you through relationship obstacles. If you feel your relationship needs professional help, don’t fret. Cristina Panaccionne and Associates Counseling have two locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you overcome your relationship roadblocks.