The Top Three Couple Counseling Exercises

By Sarah Fader

Updated February 27, 2019

Reviewer Kristina Ellen

Every relationship has rough patches, no matter how much you love each other. It is difficult to be with someone all the time for years without having disagreements once in a while. However, if you and your partner are concerned that you are drifting apart or need a mediator, some excellent couple counseling exercises may help you. Read here:

The Gottman Method


The Gottman method is a scientifically proven therapy that has been around for almost 40 years and has helped over three thousand couples heal their relationships. The Gottman method emphasizes nine essential steps to healthy relationships, which include:

  • Building Love Maps

This is Gottman's term for getting to know your partner's world. When you decide to spend your life with someone that also means that you decide to let them into your world. This includes your memories of your past, your thoughts on your present, and what you hope for your future. It also includes your fears and dreams. However, what you share with your partner is simply the beginning of your "world." The idea that you are now a couple means that you will take both of your worlds and start merging them together to create a new world where you are adding new dreams, hopes, and memories (The Gottman Institute)

  • Sharing Admiration And Fondness

The second step is friendship skill, and it is essential for combating contempt. When you first enter a relationship (sometimes called the "honeymoon" period), it's all about having fun, but this stage does not last. Fondness is specifically sharing with your partner how you feel about them (for example: "I like how you ____" or "I am impressed by the way that you ____"). Appreciation goes behind saying "thank you." Use adjectives to describe your partner to show your appreciate (for example: "I appreciate that you_____. I noticed this about you when you were doing ____") (The Gottman Institute)

  • State Your Needs

Many times, we put the needs of our partners above our own. We believe that we will be seen as a better partner if we are taking care of the other person or that we will come off as selfish if we put ourselves first. But when we ignore our needs, we start to feel burned out, unheard, unappreciated, and eventually we may even feel resentful towards the other person. Discussing with your partner what you need is healthy. Whether that is independent time to do things that fulfill you as a person, or what you need from your partner in the partnership, is important. Be honest about what those needs are.

  • Use A Positive Perspective

The basic principle of this step is to let your partner influence you. According to a long-term study of 130 newlyweds, it was found that those men who allowed their wives to influence them in the first few months of marriage were happier and less likely to get divorced than men who resisted any influence from their wives. This works both ways (The Gottman Institute).

  • Managing Conflict Rather Than Trying To Resolve It

In Dr. Gottman's' book: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, his research found that 69% of problems in relationships are unsolvable (The Gottman Institute). Instead of banging your head against the wall and trying to force your partner to see things "your way" or change, sometimes it is better just to manage the conflict. Take time-outs to cool down before coming back to the conversation and make sure you are using "I" statements when speaking with one another so that you are not continuing to exacerbate the problem by becoming defensive.

  • Talking About Your Values, Hopes And Dreams

This step ties into building love maps. You never want to stop talking about your values, and hopes, and dreams. As we get older, we change. And over time our values may change, our dreams may change, and hopes may change. We want to make sure that we are not allowing our partners to assume that we have stayed the same.

  • Sharing Your Visions

Sometimes your visions will be the same and sometimes they will differ. Sharing a common vision or dream for your present or future with your partner can help you gain a healthy perspective and help you both combat the ups and downs that come with a marriage or relationship. Simply talking about your visions can also bring you closer and let you feel like you have a shared purpose as a couple. (The Gottman Institute)

  • Building Trust

Trust is built slowly over time, according to Dr. Gottman (who actually developed a mathematical way to measure trust!). Trust builds as you move through life. Dr. Gottman argues that it's not to say that you don't trust your partner now, but it's possible that you do not trust them as you much as you will 10 years from now. Let trust continue to build over the seasons of your relationship (The Gottman Institute).

  • Believing In Commitment

At the end of the day, you have each other. Partners. You have trust, love, empathy, respect, and admiration. But do you also have commitment? Commitment to the relationship and what it means to you both as a couple, and do you believe in what it means to you both as a couple? Many times, couples assume that commitment comes with exchanging of vows or after being together for a certain period of time, but it may look different for each person, and so it's important to discuss what that looks like for your relationship.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)


Since the 1980's, EFT has been improving people's lives by helping to strengthen the bond between them. It is based on This is usually a short-term exercise that focuses on three main goals, which include:

  • Expanding and reorganizing emotional responses
  • Securing a tighter bond between you and your partner
  • Repositioning each person's stance during interactions, making new and improved interactions

EFT is a proven couple counseling exercise that has been found to significantly improve the relationships for 90% of those that have tried it.

Narrative Therapy Exercises


Narrative therapy is a simple and respectful approach to counseling that puts individuals in charge of their own lives by letting them narrate what is going on in their relationship through their eyes. By letting others write down what they believe the problems are and what can be done to fix them, it helps everyone involved see things from the other's point of view. The therapist can then help each of you to write a new story of what you would like your life to become, together as well as individually.

More Couple Counseling Exercises

There are many more types of couple counseling exercises that can be designed to fit your relationship. There are also online couples therapy services available for those who prefer to go that route. Even if you do not think couples counseling can help, or you believe it is too late for your relationship, it is important to note that couples who have undergone some type of couple counseling exercises were 70-80% more satisfied than those couples who did not.

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