Couples Counseling 101
We all struggle with relationships. No matter how much we love someone—or how much that person loves us—conflicts arise, mistakes are made, feelings get hurt.
Oftentimes, counseling is the best way to work through our problems.
Under the moderation of a licensed professional, relationship issues can be navigated and resolved in a controlled, safe space.
While this may sound very clinical, it’s not!
When applied with techniques such as emotionally-focused therapy (EFT), couples therapy boasts a 75% success rate. Furthermore, couples therapy can be practical—you can sign up for affordable counseling online without ever leaving your home.
Through attention, care, and communication, counseling can serve as the foundation to a healthy relationship.
In this article, we’ll go over some couples counseling exercises to try right at home.
Couples Counseling Exercises to Try with Your Partner
Several strategies are used during couples counseling and family therapy. For example, a family therapist or couples counselor may recommend exercises. Some benefit from supervision while others—such as those listed below—can be done at home.
Whether you’re interested in marriage counseling, premarital counseling, or general couples therapy, these exercises can strengthen your romantic relationship.
Discover Each Other’s Love Language
As described in The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, a love language is someone’s preferred way of receiving affection. By identifying yours and your significant other’s love language, you can connect on a deeper level and find new ways to express yourselves.
The five love languages are:
- Acts of service (such as chores or buying them a coffee).
- Words of affirmation (“I love you” or “I’m proud of you,” and other verbal affirmation).
- Receiving gifts (gifts specific to your/their interests, handmade gifts, cards).
- Quality time (watching a movie together, going on dates).
- Physical touch (hand-holding, cuddling, and casual touches).
If you’re unsure what your love language is, you and your partner can take the official Love Languages quiz.
The Book Swap
Sharing our interests with someone is not only a meaningful form of intimacy but a show of trust.
Be it a book from childhood or something they’ve read more recently, by reading someone’s favorite book, you can gain a glimpse into what they value, what they love, and what inspires them.
Even if the revelation is not deep—or if you don’t find the book all that interesting—by taking the time to engage with something important to your partner, you’re showing them you care about what they care about.
The Questions Jar
A question jar is an easy way to stir conversation between you and your partner. You can also think of it as a game; just as you needed an icebreaker when you first met, a question jar will help you get to know your partner a little better.
To start, get a jar and create a list of questions.
These questions can range from simple to deep. Write them down on a piece of paper and remember to number each one. Cut each question into individual slips then fold and place them in a jar.
Next time you two are hanging out, feel free to break out the jar and get a little personal.
Some ideas for questions include:
- “What do you like best about our relationship?”
- “What did you want to be when you were little and why?”
- “What would be the last thing you do before you die and why?”
- For parents, “Who do you think our kids take after, you or me?”
- “What’s the first thing you noticed about me?”
- “What are some qualities you like about yourself?”
- “What’s your idea of a perfect day?”
Gazing deeply into someone’s eyes is not only romantic, but it can help build trust and motivate us to listen to each other better.
To start this exercise, look at your partner. You may either stand or sit on chairs facing one another. Be close enough to touch without actually touching.
Then, gaze into each other’s eyes.
This isn’t a staring competition—you’re free to blink, laugh, and fidget, but try not to talk or look away. Maintain eye contact for 3 to 5 minutes. A timer or listening to a song in the background can help you stay focused.
Once a few minutes have passed, take a breath and evaluate how you feel it, then vocalize it.
What do you think about your partner? What are you grateful for? Say whatever comes to mind, even if you feel vulnerable.
The Good Qualities List
This couples therapy exercise is fairly straightforward. To check in with your emotions and remember why you and your partner love each other, write down what you like about your relationship.
You may come up with prompts such as “The things I love the most about you are…,” or “You bring a lot to the relationship by…”
You can even fill out a therapy worksheet like this. Try to label at least three things for four different questions. This way, you have something to look back on after an argument or a bad day.
Cuddle time—perhaps the most important time of the day!
Not only is cuddling fun, but it’s also good for you! Cuddling releases a chemical called oxytocin, which in turn relieves stress, improves sleep, and alleviates blood pressure.
Through the mere act of physical affection, you’re not only reaffirming your love for your partner, but you’re helping them feel better!
Try to carve out time during your routine to cuddle. You can make it a part of date night or put on a film at the end of the day and get comfy. If there isn’t time for either, cuddle before bed.
Remember, cuddling doesn’t have to be a sexual act.
Rather, by cuddling, you’re expressing your care and affection for your partner without the need for words (though words are nice, too!).
The Gottman Method
Created by Drs. Julie and John Gottman, the Gottman Method is a counseling technique aimed at developing healthy communication skills, managing conflict, increasing intimacy, and building trust, empathy, and friendship within the relationship.
With decades of research behind it, this method is often used during couples counseling. Under the moderation of a relationship expert, you and your partner can grow closer in a way you never expected.
As this isn’t a simple exercise but rather a series of steps completed over a determined amount of sessions, it’s best to reach out to one of Emote’s licensed couples therapists or marriage counselors to try this method out.
Couples Counseling with Emote
No matter how strong or fractured your relationship is, you and your partner can always grow closer. Be it through communication exercises or self-help tools, no relationship is unworthy of nurturing.
You can take your relationship to the level with the help of a couples counselor or therapist. As a mental health professional, a counselor or therapist is well-versed in communication, moderation, and empathy.
And the best part is that it can be done virtually!
Through Emote’s online therapy services, a counselor is available to you from the comfort of your own home. No need to plan an appointment a month in advance or shuffle around a busy schedule. You and your significant other may simply text or set up a video chat session when it is most convenient.
Online therapy is also affordable. With Emote, your first week will only cost $35. After which, you’re free to select any of our flexible subscription plans.