Communicating with a partner is crucial in maintaining a relationship. It might sound like a cliche, but it’s a fact. More and more couples end up breaking it all off simply because the partners don’t communicate.
But luckily, it’s not an unfixable issue. There are lots of communication exercises for couples out there, and in this article, you’ll learn of a few that can help save your relationship.
The Importance of Relationship Communication Exercises
There are plenty of elements that make up a healthy relationship or a marriage. And though it might not seem like it at first, daily banter and chitchat are far more helpful to the couple than they might realize.
People tend to focus on serious, deep conversations whenever the topic of communication exercises for couples comes up. They try to learn how to handle difficult topics and how to talk them out with their spouse or partner. And that’s perfectly fine, vital even. But idle chitchat comes with a set of its own benefits:
1. You get to feel comfortable and relaxed when in the presence of your partner.
2. Both of you get to learn something new about each other.
3. Both of you get to learn something new about the world around you, your neighbors, friends, family members, etc.
4. You get to sharpen your social skills and keep both you and your partner ready for conversations outside of your small social circle.
5. You find out, in subtle ways, what some of the problems in your relationship might be.
6. Interestingly, you also learn of your partner’s new needs and desires without them actually telling you outright.
So, with the regular conversation being so crucial to your relationship, it’s a small wonder why communication exercises for couples are as sought-after as they are. After all, there are individuals out there who find it difficult to even start up a conversation, let alone do it right and do it regularly.
What Is Effective Communication in a Marriage?
Based on what you’ve read above, you’d be forgiven to think that effective communication comes down to just picking the right topic or knowing how to chitchat. In reality, it’s far deeper than that.
Generally speaking, human communication is far more complex than just speech. In fact, speech as we know it is fairly recent when we compare it to how long humans have lived on this earth. Before that, we mainly communicated like animals do today, i.e., via body language and noises.
Of course, the importance of body language has not waned since then, and how we emote, move, and position ourselves is just as necessary for effective conversation as words.
Let’s use a simple example. A lot of people can recognize a fake smile. After all, happiness and sadness are both involuntary, automatic responses to certain stimuli. Therefore, if you try to consciously imitate them, you will not successfully hide your true emotions. A fake smile looks like a real one, but the way muscles and the skin contort around your eyes will give away the sadness.
So, when communicating with your partner, make sure that you pay attention to those cues. A light touch and a gentle hug are just as powerful as saying the right words. In addition, staying silent and listening can improve communication greatly, as can emoting honestly to what your partner says or does.
Overall, it’s complex, but most of it comes naturally. All you have to do is allow it to manifest and not be dishonest with how you feel.
How Often Should You Practice Communication Exercises for Couples?
There’s no real answer to that question, as all couples have their own individual issues and particularities.
The best way to go about it is to consult an expert. Let them know what types of issues you’re having, and they will determine the best schedule to try said exercises out.
Some experts suggest that you need to try some communication exercises for couples at least 2-3 times a week. That way, you will give yourselves some consistency and develop a good routine. In addition, don’t try to go with every single exercise out there at once.
Instead, try to master one key skill before moving on to the next. As a couple, you have all the time in the world to make it work, so don’t rush anything, or else you’ll get no positive results.
13 Communication Exercises for Couples
Now that you know a bit more about the importance of communication exercises for couples, it’s time to delve into a few. Bear in mind not all of the activities on this list will help your individual situation. Instead, try to focus on the ones you can safely apply and use the experiences and feedback for future endeavors.
1. Highs and Lows
This exercise is fairly straightforward. Once every other day, maybe after dinner or just before bedtime, let your partner share what their highs and lows were for the day. Naturally, don’t be afraid to do the same.
The importance of this exercise is in its listening and reacting aspect. Firstly, it lets you know what your partner felt over the course of the day and what made them feel that way. Next, you get to practice active listening and responding.
And most importantly, depending on the highs and lows, you’ll know how to react. Sometimes the only reaction required from you is to listen and understand your partner’s feelings. Other times, it’s about offering help with specific issues.
And let’s not forget that this exercise works both ways. If you had a problem that day but couldn’t handle it yourself, your partner can offer a helping hand or some sage advice. It’s an excellent method of progressing forward, and it will strengthen you as a couple.
2. Listening Silently
You will need a good timer for this exercise. Obviously, you can use an app, but it’s still recommended that you get an actual physical device. They are not that expensive, and you can use them for their intended purposes, i.e., when exercising or working in the kitchen.
The exercise is fairly simple, and it goes a little like this:
- You both decide on the time span within which one partner can talk (usually around 3-5 minutes).
- Once the timer is set, the person will talk about anything that’s on their mind, be it important or mundane, or even both.
- The other person must listen and not interrupt during the time set for this exercise.
- However, the other person needs to let the partner know that they’re listening via non-verbal cues (nodding, constant eye contact, shifting hands, clearing the throat, etc.).
- Once the time is up, the partners discuss what was said for a while.
- The timer is reset, with the other person now getting their turn to talk, with the former talking partner now listening. The rest of the steps are the same.
This is an excellent exercise for practicing non-verbal communication. By showing your partner that you are willing to listen without interruption, you allow them to share some of their biggest issues safely. In turn, you also get to feel safe and secure knowing that your partner is giving you the attention and support you require.
3. Fireside Chats
Obviously, this kind of exercise might be difficult if you don’t actually have a fireplace. However, you can also do it in any warm, cozy, and safe environment, one that you both consider being your favorite place to relax and unwind.
The exercise is simple enough, as it merely requires you to have a short, 30-minute chat with your spouse about anything. You can talk about current events, future plans, difficult subjects, or even recall some of your fond memories. You can play a word game or do a crossword puzzle together.
The key is to feel as secure as possible with the person you love and to let that feeling guide your conversation. It’s insanely effective, as it prepares you both for the following day and allows you to bond even more than before. Doing this exercise at least once a week is an excellent start, but don’t be afraid to do it as often as possible.
4. Sticks and Stones
We’ve all heard of the expression sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. And while that’s an excellent sentiment to have while dealing with the outside world, it’s different with your romantic partner. Words might not hurt physically, but they can have an emotional impact when directed at the individual that is closest to you.
Sticks and Stones is one of the more difficult communication exercises for couples, as it requires you both to share something painful and unpleasant. It starts with you both writing down all the painful words you’ve been called by your partner over the course of your relationship.
Next, you take turns in discussing why those terms hurt you and why you don’t appreciate them. The other partner should hear you out while you’re sharing this information, and vice versa. Next, you get to discuss those words and how to proceed next.
As challenging as Sticks and Stones is, it’s incredibly necessary. Both you and your partner will directly confront the more harmful sides of yourselves and work together on remedying them. Overall, it will create a more relaxed atmosphere between you two moving forward.
5. Say It Again
Arguing is inevitable in any relationship, and as harmful as it can obviously be, there are benefits to it. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to reduce the amount of arguing to a minimum in order to maintain some peace and tranquility between romantic partners.
One exercise that is as powerful and confrontational as Sticks and Stones is the so-called Say It Again method. It’s best used shortly after a major fight, but you can apply it using any past fights as an example. First off, sit down with your partner and bring the original fight up as a topic. Next, try to recall everything that was said to you, and then ask the partner to simply rephrase it.
As hurtful as a statement might be, it will often hide the actual intent of the partner. So, simply saying it once again, but differently, might lead to a compromise or even a bonding moment. Naturally, your partner also gets to tell you what they found to be hurtful during that said fight, so it’ll be your turn to rephrase things.
Oftentimes, we get heated when arguing, and we say something vitriolic or insulting without really thinking it through. By reframing that harsh statement using romantic and bonding language, we can let our partners know what’s bothering us and how they can help make it right. This exercise is powerful because not only does it push the relationship forward, but it makes us reflect on past actions and grow in real-time.
6. The I Statements
I statements, or I messages, are a useful conversational device that you can utilize in everyday discourse. More often than not, when we have a disagreement with someone, we speak using the second-person perspective. i.e., we keep using the pronoun you throughout our conversation with our partner. And while that is not technically wrong, it might make the other person feel as if they are being blamed and put on trial.
So, even if you have legitimate anger and want them to make it up to you, they won’t really do it willingly because of how you spoke to them. They will likely do it out of fear or anger.
But a shift of perspectives will do wonders. After all, it puts emphasis on what you require rather than what you want the other person to do. Look at the difference between these two example sentences and try to guess which one will have more of the desired effect on your partner:
- You broke my favorite lamp! You’re the absolute worst! You’re going to buy me a new one or pay to fix this one, do you hear?!
- I feel disappointed that my lamp was broken. That lamp was a precious gift from my family, and I cherish it very much. I genuinely appreciate it if my things aren’t broken since I can’t afford to fix them now.
7. Give Me a Hand
Not all communication exercises for couples are confrontational and serious. Some of them can actually be quite fun and entertaining, such as the one described in this paragraph.
Give Me a Hand will require you and your partner to tie your hands together behind your back. More specifically, you will tie one of your hands to one of your partners’. Next, you will have to work on a task together while you’re all tied up like that. That task can be anything, like a household chore or even a game.
By working on one task together like this, you will start to develop trust in your partner, and vice versa. In addition, you will both spot each others’ patterns of behavior and movement, which will help with non-verbal communication.
In this exercise, one partner gets to set obstacles, or mines, all over one room, and then puts the blindfold on the other partner. The blindfolded person then has to maneuver the room with their spouse giving them the instructions on where to move.
This exercise serves to help you two build trust. Equally importantly, it raises questions as to who takes charge in a relationship, how you two work together as a team, and how you can improve your communication going forward.
This exercise is similar to the last one insofar as it involves giving instructions to the partner. However, instead of avoiding mines on a minefield, you get to have fun building stuff.
Take a set of building blocks (you can find reasonably priced sets online) and build a structure without your partner looking. Once you’re done, let your partner build the same structure using the remaining blocks. However, the key part of the exercise is that your partner must not look at the finished structure. They must build one based on your verbal instructions alone.
You can compare the two once the partner is done, and don’t worry if it’s slightly off the mark. It gives you the perfect opportunity to discuss what went wrong and how you two can improve communication in the future, when building another structure.
10. Music Lyrics
When doing this exercise, you will both need to choose three songs whose lyrics hold a deeper meaning to you. Next, swap the lyrics and, if necessary, play all of the songs before moving on to the next step. That next step will involve discussing the lyrics. Let your partner know why that particular song hits so hard and why you always return to it time and time again.
Then it’s your partner’s turn to do the same with their favorite songs. As an added bonus to its effectiveness in improving communication, this exercise is also an excellent method of finding answers to your relationship problems in other sources, i.e., in works of art.
11. Future Goals
Of all the communication exercises for couples, this one might be the most straightforward, common, and simple. It’s also the one you will want to do most frequently. As its name suggests, it will involve you and your spouse talking about the future and what you hope to achieve.
If your goals match, then great! You can work more easily towards making them come true. But they are highly likely to be different. And if that’s the case, simply discuss what the best compromise might be. Work on it together so that both of you can achieve some of those goals and dreams.
12. Mirror Mirror
Mirror Mirror is an exercise devised for sharpening your listening skills. It’s fairly simple:
- Take a timer and set it for anywhere between 3-5 minutes.
- Let your partner tell you a story or describe an experience.
- When the timer stops, retell the story back to your partner as you understood it.
- Set the timer again, as it is now your turn to tell the story.
- Repeat step 3.
13. A You & Me Journal
Keeping a shared journal might be the most intimate exercise of the ones on this list. In this journal, you will both be writing notes to one another, of varied length and subject matter. It should contain some of your most intimate feelings towards the other person.
Furthermore, this is a written exercise. It gives you a chance to actually sit down and put your feelings on paper. It is a chance to systematize those feelings and explain everything to your partner in black and white. More importantly, the journal will serve as an archive of your relationship. It’s a perfect progress report that shows just how much you’ve both grown and evolved as a couple.