Couples Therapy

Ponsonby & Parnell, Auckland

Connect - Heal - Grow

Couples Therapy
Skills for Couples Series

Communication Exercises for Couples

Effective communication serves as the cornerstone of any thriving relationship. I strongly encourage you to leverage the comprehensive exercises outlined below to enhance communication within your relationship.

  1. Validation Exercises: Validation holds immense importance in relationships. Feeling validated fosters a sense of security, especially when navigating through relationship challenges. It's crucial to note that validation isn't about mere agreement; instead, it involves acknowledging your partner's emotions, thoughts, or feelings, ensuring they feel heard and understood.

  2. Positive Language Exercises: Adopting positive communication styles enhances the reception of conversations between couples. Research underscores the significance of tone and style in communication. Shifting from negative to positive language can prevent communication problems and feelings of accusation or attack. Practice framing statements positively to foster a constructive atmosphere.

  3. Active Listening Exercises: Active listening, particularly through uninterrupted sessions, is a powerful way to break free from the need to be right. By allowing each partner dedicated time to express thoughts and feelings without interruption, active listening encourages understanding and avoids potential misinterpretations. Regularly switching roles in this exercise deepens mutual understanding.

  4. Extended Eye Contact Exercises: Non-verbal communication, such as extended eye contact, unveils true emotions. This exercise involves maintaining uninterrupted eye contact for up to five minutes in a calm setting. Afterward, partners discuss their feelings and perceptions, fostering a heightened awareness of each other's nonverbal cues.

  5. ā€˜Iā€™ Statement Exercises: The classic "I" statement technique discourages blaming and criticizing during conflicts. Expressing feelings through "I" statements takes responsibility for emotions, reducing the likelihood of explosive confrontations. This approach aids in strengthening connections, not only within romantic relationships but across various aspects of life.

  6. Three and Three Exercises: This straightforward yet effective exercise requires partners to independently list three things they love and three things they don't love about each other. Sharing these lists in a neutral setting opens avenues for improvement rather than causing offense, fostering openness and honesty.

  7. ā€œI Feel ____ when _____ā€ Exercises: Overcoming difficulties in expressing emotions is addressed by completing sentences like "I feel _________ when you ___________." This technique encourages the practice of identifying and articulating emotions associated with specific situations, gradually making the process more natural.

  8. Lend Me a Hand Exercises: Encouraging cooperation, this exercise involves partners completing a task with one hand secured behind their backs. Verbal communication becomes crucial in this teamwork-oriented exercise, shedding light on leadership roles and stress management within the relationship.

  9. Prediction Method Exercises: Focused on preventing assumptions, the prediction method prompts partners to predict each other's reactions to various situations. Open discussions surrounding these predictions offer a safe space for understanding feelings and building trust.

  10. Reminiscing Exercises: Revisiting positive memories invokes deep emotions and strengthens the bond between partners. Spending time together recalling past experiences, using items like photo albums or letters, creates a connection rooted in shared history.

  11. Daily or Weekly Check-In Exercises: Regular check-ins provide opportunities for deeper connection amid life's distractions. Scheduled moments, whether through date nights or daily walks, help maintain communication and prevent the relationship from veering off course.

  12. Expressing Gratitude Exercises: Acknowledging efforts and expressing gratitude fosters appreciation within a relationship. Taking time to say "thank you" or appreciate the other person's contributions satisfies the need for affirmation.

  13. Behaviour Change Requests Exercises: Following mutual understanding and validation, partners can initiate behaviour change requests. Specific and measurable requests, negotiated with understanding and acceptance, pave the way for positive change within the relationship.

  14. Mirroring Exercises: Addressing communication gaps, mirroring ensures effective understanding. This technique involves a structured exchange where one person speaks, and the listener mirrors the message, encouraging a deeper understanding of each other's perspectives.

  15. 40-20-40 Exercises: Designed for compassionate listening and constructive conflict resolution, the 40-20-40 process allocates time for each partner to share feelings without interruption. Avoiding accusatory statements, this exercise promotes constructive conversations during conflicts.

  16. Sandwich Method Exercises: The sandwich method, surrounding requests with positive statements, prevents partners from feeling overwhelmed. By placing requests between appreciative statements, effective communication is maintained, reducing the chances of offense.

  17. Stress-Reducing Conversation Exercises: When partners share stress, this exercise allows the speaker to vent without immediate solutions. The listener practices active listening without providing advice, fostering a supportive environment for both parties.

  18. DBT Exercises: Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) offers the DEAR MAN exercise, emphasising healthy boundaries. Through accurate description, expression of feelings, assertion, reinforcement, mindfulness, appearing confident, and negotiation, couples can set and respect boundaries within the relationship.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) represents a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that underscores the psychosocial aspects of treatment. It highlights the importance of fostering a collaborative therapeutic relationship, providing client support, and honing skills to navigate highly emotional situations. Explore online DBT therapy options to access the assistance you require.

An illustration of a DBT exercise is the DEAR MAN technique, serving as a means to establish healthy boundaries in a relationship:

  • Describe: Convey the situation accurately using pertinent facts.

  • Express: Communicate your emotional response to the situation, employing "I" statements to articulate why it matters to you.

  • Assert: Clearly communicate your desires, being specific and direct.

  • Reinforce: Emphasize the benefits your partner can gain by fulfilling your request, acknowledging their efforts with a smile or gratitude.

  • Mindfulness: Stay focused on the current situation during the conversation, avoiding distractions. Express your needs and feelings, and attentively listen to your partner.

  • Appear: Project confidence irrespective of your internal feelings. Maintain good posture, articulate words clearly, and exude assurance.

  • Negotiate: Emphasize that you are making a request, not a demand. Acknowledge that healthy relationships involve compromises, yet remain mindful of your own boundaries.

19. Testing Assumptions Exercises: To address assumptions, partners can openly discuss expectations by stating assumptions and seeking clarification. Testing assumptions promotes transparency and understanding within the relationship.

To reap the full benefits of these exercises, aim to incorporate five or six into your weekly routine, fostering continuous improvement and growth within your relationship.