Who says you can only do couples therapy in a therapist’s office? Have you ever heard of couples therapy exercises and techniques you can try doing in the comfort of your own home?
Many couples that are facing marital/relationship issues can do some of their own counseling as well. Of course, this should be done with a grain of salt, since couples therapists are called professionals for a reason.
That being said, they do recommend exercises during their sessions for couples to do at home, which is exactly what I’ve extrapolated here and brought to you in the form of a short couples therapy cheat sheet.
Even if you’re not in deep troubled waters when it comes to your marriage, you can still benefit from the couples therapy exercises and techniques that we’ll go over in this article. All it takes is a bit of vulnerability, a bit of imagination, and a little less judgment.
So, What are Some of the Most Effective Couples Therapy Exercises and Techniques to Try at Home?
Whether it’s extra homework you want to do in addition to what your therapist suggests, or it’s just a desire to be your own therapist, there are a number of ways you can try couples therapy in the comfiness and safety of your own home.
Let’s see what they are!
Set Out a Time of Day Where You Get to Talk to Your Spouse/Partner
I know this might sound a bit weird to some of you, but yes, you should definitely do it. Go ahead, put in your phone’s calendar “Time reserved for talking with my wife.”
Set out at least 20-30 minutes of the day to talk with your partner.
Regardless of how much you communicate with each other on a daily basis, this is different. It’s not really a casual type of conversation about how their day was or what the kids said or did (although that’s nice as well, don’t throw it away!). It’s an intentional type of communication where you get to share how you’re feeling about one another and what you need from each other.
Sounds a bit like therapy, right?
And, here, of course, you should also use the so-called “I” statements such as “I feel…”, or “I think…”, as well as “I am…”, and “I desire…”, etc, you get the point.
These conversations should also be characterized by openness and lack of judgment. When you’re discussing a problem you have in your relationship, you should focus on statements based on fact, and not always reach for putting the blame on the other person.
Take this scenario for example: let’s say your wife is being careless about leaving a wet towel on your bed. If you’re consistently annoyed by this try saying the following (or something in that manner): “This has been happening for quite a while now… I feel it’s much better when our sleeping bed doesn’t get wet and I don’t need to wait for it to dry before I go into it. Let’s see how we can try and work on this issue, yeah?”
See – I statement. Work much better and set the tone of the conversation to level “normal” and usually “conflict-free”.
If you think every day is a bit too much to do this, try doing it a couple of times a week, or maybe even once a week. It all depends on your relationship dynamics and your own personalities and needs, so try tailoring it to your own needs and the calling of your own relationship.
Set Out Time for Yourself
How come is this in the section of couples therapy exercises and techniques, you ask yourself? Well, the fact is, we live in busy, fast times and unfortunately, it’s perfectly normal nowadays to feel anxious, agitated, and distracted a lot of the time. So setting time aside to clear your head, get a bit of rest, and just generally chill without distractions is so precious that you need to actually plan it ahead.
So, take your phone again in your hand, and this time schedule a time for yourself in the calendar. As with your partner, here you should also take at least 20-30 minutes of the day for yourself, to rest, take a walk in nature, listen to music, meditate, or whatever it is you want to do to connect with yourself again.
Here I’d also like to stress the importance of physical space as well. Our homes can often be tiny and we may, at times, feel a tad claustrophobic, so asking for more physical space occasionally can be a good thing and beneficial for your emotional and mental well being.
Be creative with how you make space for yourself
You might wonder where you can find space if you have a small place to live in, but trust me, there are some creative solutions to the problem. For example, you can try putting on headphones when you’re watching something you like, even if your partner is right there; you can also go take a shower (and sometimes indulge yourself a bit more than usual); you can go outside…
Take a walk throughout your neighborhood, go jogging (or do another type of exercise that’s more to your liking), write in your journal, listen to music, read a book, watch a film, listen to a podcast… Whatever it is that you’re doing, do it for yourself.
Work on Your Sex Life As Well
If you and your partner have agreed that sex is important for your relationship, then you’ll have to work on it all the time.
It’s perfectly normal that you have mismatched libidos some of the time. It’s also normal that your desire for sex has somewhat waned over the years, although this doesn’t mean you should give up on it. You can always work on rekindling desire and adding some fuel to that rusted sex drive.
In fact, there’s plenty of stuff you can try. Introducing novelty in the bedroom is arguably the #1 thing you can do to improve your sex life. Whether its trying new sex positions, getting into kink and BDSM, using toys, roleplaying – as long as you’re both willing and eager to try – well, it’s all welcomed!
Sex is important not only because it’s cathartic – it lets you vent and let go of pent up tension; it also works very well in maintaining the feeling of closeness and bond you have with your partner. Sex is one of the best ways of keeping up with intimacy maintenance.
Small signs of attention can make a big difference
Now, as I mentioned earlier, it’s normal that you don’t always have a desire for sex (aka low libido), and it can be really tricky if your partner does and this goes on for a longer amount of time. In this case, you will definitely need to talk this out together and meet each other halfway.
But, of course, when it comes to maintaining intimacy, it doesn’t boil down only to sex. You’ve also got small signs of attention like giving out compliments, flirting with your wife, cuddling in the morning and/or before going to bed, (french) kissing, hugging, lying in one another’s arms, giving each other massages… basically almost anything that involves some kind of touch is super important when you’re working on your intimacy.
Keep Going On Dates With Each Other
For me, this is one of the most beautiful parts of at-home couples therapy exercises and techniques. Remember that time when you used to go out a couple of times a week (or once a week) and have dinner somewhere, or go dancing, meet some friends? Well, why did it stop?
I know that obligations, money issues, kids, tiredness may all get in the way, but it is important to set time apart and keep on dating each other, even when you’ve been married for a long(er( amount of time.
And don’t worry, you can do this even in times of pandemic. It’s quite easy really – all you need is a couple of hours where you get to be alone with each other.
Throw in a kitchen or a living room, maybe cook together or get your favorite takeout – or better yet – try something new for a change! Open up a bottle of fine wine (or a cheap one, it doesn’t matter), light some candles, put on some nice music… and voila, you’ve got yourself a date! And you didn’t even leave your house!
It’s about maintaining a sense of freshness in the relationship
Dates give a relationship a sense of freshness, and they also show how couples are ready to set time apart to be with each other and just enjoy eating nice food or drinking nice wine (or whatever), watching a good film, flirting with each other, talking about topics that interest them (outside of work or family/kids).
Dates help make the relationship more dynamic and they open up space to throw in novelty spontaneously, without the fear that it’ll be rejected.
Consider Having an Hour Where You Get to Be Fully Honest
Yeah, this might sound a bit harsh to some couples out there, but it’s one of the first things therapists will vouch for – being honest with one another.
And so why not set up an hour (or however much time you both need) in the week or in the month where you get to be completely honest with your partner, with no hard feelings from the other side?
Naturally, we are sometimes scared to share the truth about some issues we’re having because we’re afraid we’ll hurt our partner. So I suggest you start slow and talk about minor issues. If you feel comfortable enough afterward, you can maybe cross over to big ones.
For example, if you’re the type of couple that doesn’t share stuff much or easily, it would be quite weird and shocking for your partner to hear: I have a fantasy about your boss and I want you to role play her – that is if you suddenly decide to talk openly about your fantasies.
So no, don’t do that right away. Access the situation, and as I said, start slow and start small.
Start with issues like “I feel like I’m not appreciated enough around the house/like I do all the work around the house…” or “I really don’t like that show you want us to watch every Sunday night.”
Something like that, you get the picture.
Be sure to practice though. It’s okay if you can’t be completely cool with it in the first takes. But it’s an exercise, so you keep on doing it, and eventually, you’ll come to a point where you get to respect each other’s desires and opinions without feeling offended by your partner’s honesty or taking them too personally. Just be sure to express in “I” statements, don’t blame your partner, and, of course, don’t offend them in any way.
Work on Resolving Arguments Faster
Fighting can be good for a relationship, I’ve already mentioned that in my article How to Stop Fighting With Your Wife. But it can also be toxic if you don’t do it in a constructive way that’ll help you release tension and work towards a common solution to your problem that caused the fight in the first place.
Which is why you should aim to resolve arguments as soon as they emerge. Remember that saying “don’t go to bed angry”? Well, it’s basically that – don’t let your fights and resentments linger too much; try to resolve them as quickly as possible. If you let them stew too much, you risk putting them under the rug, where they often build into resentments, frustrations, bitterness.
I understand that sometimes you might need more time for arguments to sort of settle their dust. And that’s ok. But be conscious of how much time you’re leaving them and don’t let it be too long.
Deal with arguments on the day you’ve both started them.
If you don’t have the energy to do it today, click pause, go to bed, get a good night’s sleep, and start again the next day full throttle, solving it together.
Have Fun Together
Again, this is about introducing novelty into your life. You don’t have to do it every day, obviously, but once in a while is okay as well.
It’s important to enjoy each other’s company as a couple and to have fun together, to enjoy doing things together.
What you can do, for example, is make a list. Write 5, 10, 20, or more things you want to do together, and check them off once a month or once every couple of months. This way you get to see your progress on actual paper and you’ll also gain a sense of accomplishment that you’ve done something together. But if you have elated feelings afterward, and feel closer to your partner, now that’s the best proof there is of its effectiveness.
Don’t underestimate the power of surprises
Another thing you can do is surprise each other. It has an element of mystery, of anticipation, of spontaneity… Have one of you plan a date night, that the other one knows nothing about.
You can also plan some travels you want to do together – when it’s going to be easier to travel, that is. You can have a dance night at your own home, redecorate the house, take up a new hobby or another type of activity… As long as you both enjoy it, there’s no end to what you can do together!
Just remember to switch off your phones while you’re doing this so there aren’t any distractions and so that you can really focus on each other and the activity you’re doing together.
Final Thoughts on Couples Therapy Exercises and Techniques
Doing couples therapy at home can be convenient for a number of reasons. First of all, we live in a time of a pandemic, so there you go, reason number one.
Secondly, it’s cheaper. Basically 0 dollars. And of course, it saves you time from going to a therapist, sitting at the sessions, going back home…
But there’s actually a big difference here between real-life couples therapy (or an online one) and couples therapy exercises you can do at home. It’s not a substitute for couples therapy done by a licensed (medical) professional that spent years of their life learning about relationships and the human psyche.
Exercises and techniques to do at home aren’t actual couples therapy but you should give them a shot nevertheless
So don’t mistake it for actual couples therapy, and don’t expect it to be extra effective (although for some couples it just might, it depends on a lot of stuff).
Couples therapy goes really in-depth into marital/relationship issues and the reasons behind it; it “interrogates” the behavior of both partners and their psychological backgrounds and tries to see how all of that reflects their joint relationship.
But yes, if you find you need a bit of self-initiated couples counseling if you bicker and struggle over the same stuff time and time again, then, by all means, do it. You can’t go wrong, you can just try. These are activities that a therapist might recommend you doing outside of sessions.
While here you might not have their guidance, you still have your gut to check and common sense. But, if you feel like you’re getting nowhere, or getting more and more stuck, then it might be time for some real professional help.
Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for one.
It might just save your marriage.