Couples therapy can help two people strengthen their relationship and work through difficulties. In addition to discussion during therapy, games and exercises can be useful in prompting meaningful communication without resorting to argument. Couples can practice games and exercises at therapy sessions and at home between sessions.
When a relationship is troubled, it is easy for a couple to forget the positive traits and qualities that attracted them to each other. The partners should be encouraged to list what each appreciates in the other and then to share the lists. Because it may have been some time since they have verbalized appreciative thoughts, this can help each of them focus on positivity.
It is common for partners to believe they are not being heard. Role reversal games, in which a partner plays the role of the other, can give them perspective on how a partner's side of a situation is perceived by the other partner. Pick a specific issue for discussion, with each partner trying to speak from the other's point of view.
In the heat of a discussion, partners interrupt, speak over or shout at each other. To avoid this, use a kitchen timer, stop watch or alarm clock to give partners equal amounts of time to talk. For a period of three minutes, let's say, one partner may speak and the other may not. After three minutes, the other partner can talk. Continue this until discussion on the topic is exhausted.
Sometimes a relationship is in trouble because partners haven't taken the time to get to know each other very well. So at therapy sessions each partner should share a fun fact the other probably does not know. Each should start by saying, "I bet you didn't know...." Then the conversation can develop around what hadn't been known. The exercise can provide insight into the couple's past.
Sound of Silence
Between therapy sessions, a couple should find time each day to enjoy each other's company in silence. Whether listening to music or sitting outside in the sunshine, the couple should spend time being together without speaking, enjoying silence and the absence of arguments instead.
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- "Getting the Love You Want": Harville Hendrix: 2007
Helen Harvey began her writing career in 1990 and has worked in journalism, writing, copy-editing and as a consultant. She has worked for world-class news sources including Reuters and the "Daily Express." She holds a Master of Arts in mass media communications from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.