Communication is perhaps the most important aspect of a marriage. Especially after a few years when passion and lust start to take a back seat. We have covered communication extensively before. However, most of our guides deal with fixing problems. We have not really talked about specific communication exercises for couples.
There are many communication exercises for couples that you and your spouse can practice to improve your communication skills. Whether your marriage is struggling or you are just looking to future proof it, there are things that you can do. Think of the following as couples therapy exercises that can improve your communication style, body language, and listening skills.
We will take a look at 3 effective communication exercises for couples. We will also look at why they work, and the underlying theory that makes that practicing them worthwhile.
An Open Discussion For 15 Minutes a Day
Note: I don’t know you or your partner. If you’d like to get more into the specifics tell me what you’re dealing with in your marriage and I can offer more personal advice.
From all the couples communication exercises, this is perhaps the most effective. The main reason why this is my favorite exercise is that it helps you practice effective communication without requiring too much time.
Essentially, this communication exercise involves both you and your spouse taking 7.5 minutes each. During this time, you talk about whatever you want. It could be something that has been bothering you, or how your day was. I would suggest talking about things that affect both of you. Venting your frustration with your boss may help you personally, but it will not improve your marriage.
While I generally suggest 15 minutes to start, you do not have to stick to it. Less than 15 minutes is probably too low for pretty much all communication exercises to be effective. However, feel free to go above. As you develop your communication skills, spending more time discussing your day or your thoughts will help you accomplish more with this exercise.
Take turns and speak your mind. However, it is best not to adhere to the time in an extremely strict manner. Improving communication requires time. As such, do not try to abruptly stop once you hit your time limit. Make sure to finish the thought that you had (or your partner had). If there are more things that you want to talk about, save them for the next day.
Listening and Discussion
All communication exercises for couples have two objectives. The first one is to speak, and the other one is to listen. They are both equally important. Pay careful attention to what your spouse is saying, and expect the same from them. Active listening and taking mental notes of all of the important details will come in handy if you want to further discuss what your spouse just said.
Generally, I advise couples to not interrupt each other during any of the exercises. Once the exercise is complete, then you should move on to the discussion aspect.
I understand how some busy couples may not have time for this. For them, even 15 minutes may be enough to improve their communication. However, those looking to seriously bolster their communication skills should try and discuss what each of them said in as much detail as possible.
Plainly Ask Each Other What You Want
Although this is a specific exercise, this is also something that you should practice throughout your marriage. One thing that I notice is that most couples are afraid of hurting each other’s feelings. This has obvious benefits, but also hidden drawbacks. This communication exercise attempts to remove the drawbacks.
Both you and your partner should make a pact to be openly honest. This means that the two of you will directly ask for whatever you want. This could be something simple like wanting to have more sex. It could also be a touchy subject like a particular habit of your partner that you find annoying.
Practicing Assertive Communication
There are a lot of communication exercises that can help you be more assertive. However, they usually tend to deal with other relationships (such as those that you form at work). When it comes to your spouse, assertiveness takes a different meaning.
When asking your partner to change themselves for the betterment of your marriage, it is best to be polite yet firm. Nonverbal communication is more important than most couples realize.
For example, make sure that the two of you make ample eye contact whenever you are making a request. It makes you appear authoritative and confident. Yet, it does not seem rude in the same way that increasing the volume of your voice may seem.
A huge part of communicating is your tone. Try not to plead too much, or be too ‘bossy’. Instead, simply tell each other how the two of you can be better spouses for each other.
Should I do Everything That my Partner Requests?
Definitely not. We are all human, and humans can be wrong.
Remember to practice active listening and analyze your partner’s words to see how truthful they are. Try to see if what they are saying makes sense. Would your marriage be better if you went through with it?
When one of you asks something of the other and there is disagreement, it is best to discuss the problem at hand. See if the two of you can compromise in a way that is acceptable to you both. If you cannot, then professional help may help the two of you come to an agreement. In fact, therapists are often able to recommend unique communication exercises for couples that are experiencing a particular problem.
While you should generally integrate this communication exercise into all your communication, there are ways to practice this daily.
Similarly to the last example, you should set aside a specific time where you discuss what you expect and need from each other. However, this should be done on a weekly basis rather than daily.
Ideally, I would advise you to pick a day on the weekend where you sit down and discuss all your issues in great detail. Remember to give each other feedback on how the two of you did and where further improvement is needed.
Learn How to Compliment Each Other – And How to Properly Offer Advice
Until now, we have discussed communication exercises that are generally used to share your feelings with each other. These communication exercises are great for standard marriage. However, when your marriage is suffering from serious problems, you need something a bit more uplifting.
Communication exercises won’t save your marriage on their own (I have discussed ways of saving your marriage previously). What they will do is provide you an outlet to practice effective communication with one another. This exercise helps you appreciate the impact your spouse has had on your life. It is best performed in two stages. Both of those stages are a communication exercise in their own right.
Stage 1: Compliment Each Other
This is simple. Spend a few minutes every day where the two of you do nothing but praise each other for your good qualities.
This is best done by taking turns. One of you should offer a compliment, and the other should reciprocate.
The main reason this works so well is that it helps the person who is complementing their spouse organize their thoughts. When you do nothing but think about the good qualities of your spouse for a few minutes, you will find that there are many more than you initially thought. This will help you appreciate each other more. Once you have something to stack up against all the negative thoughts, you will find that your partner is not as bad as you thought they were.
Stage 2: Talk About The ‘Buts’
Initially, you should only compliment your partner. This is especially true if your marriage is in a fragile state. At that point, you must take care not to damage your relationship further.
Couples that have started to recover can then start to include ‘but’ in their compliments. For example, you could say ‘I love how hard you work to support our family, but I would appreciate it if you would spend a little more time with me.’
Having a compliment before a suggestion can be a great way to better your relationship while avoiding arguments. However, you must avoid the following:
Beware of The Passive-Aggressive Trap
From all the communication exercises for couples that we have discussed, this has the highest chances of failing. This is because it is so easy to start complimenting each other in a derogatory manner.
If you want to practice effective communication, you must take care not to devolve into this trap. As soon as you realize you or your spouse is becoming angry, stop! Take a break for a few minutes and allow things to calm down. After that, continue with the exercise.
We just went through 3 communication exercises for couples that can have a huge impact on the way you and your spouse communicate. The great thing about them is that you can practice all of them at once. Learning to communicate in a healthy and effective manner will take time. Just like physical exercise, you should start slow. Once you get the hang of things, you can increase the intensity.