How Couples Counseling Exercises Strengthen Relationships

Updated November 16, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

You’ve probably heard that relationships are hard, and each one has its challenges, and it’s true. Relationships are complex; even the best ones will be faced with tough times on occasion.

If you’re struggling in your relationship, there is help available to you. Couples counseling can help you work through obstacles and put you and your partner back on the right path. It offers many exercises, concepts, and professional expertise that can help you both to mend issues in your relationship.

Looking For Help To Strengthen Your Relationship?

There are many ways that couples counseling exercises strengthen relationships. Taking the appropriate steps to learn exercises offered in couples counseling can help improve and maintain relationships by showing you how to:

  • Get to know your partner better
  • Practice healthy communication
  • Remember why you chose your partner
  • Learn to engage in a more positive way
  • Separate your preconceived notions from the reality of who your partner is
  • Get to the root of problems
  • Rebuild trust

Does Couples Counseling Work?

You may wonder if couples counseling is worth trying, or if it even works.

One study found the success rate of couples counseling to be around 70 percent.

So, if you’re struggling in your relationship, don’t be discouraged. Couples counseling can help you turn things around as long as you are receiving the kind of counseling that is appropriate for your situation and you and your partner are making equal efforts to improve your relationship.

Types of couples counseling exercises

There are several different types of couples counseling exercises that focus on specific elements within your relationship. These exercises may be used together in one counseling program to better tailor your treatment to your relationship’s unique situation.

Trust Building Exercises

Trust-building exercises target two key areas associated with the larger idea of trust: forgiveness and promises. Often in relationships, trust is tested in some way. Whether a promise wasn’t held, or secrets were discovered, broken trust can seriously rattle each partner in different ways.

When it comes to trust issues in relationships, there is often an emotional wall built between the two partners. Trust-building exercises work to break down the walls built between the partners to improve trust. They can help each partner identify issues with their behavior and work toward either gaining or giving forgiveness and following-through on commitments and promises in the future.

Trust in relationships can also be affected by one or both partners’ previous relationship history with others. It is common for a partner to bring insecurities and suspicions that originate in previous relationships into new relationships. Here are two couples counseling exercises that can help the couple break the influence of old relationships and build a stronger foundation of trust for the current relationship:

  • Coming Clean.A commonly used and powerful exercise used to build trust is the ‘coming clean’ exercise. In this exercise, each partner is encouraged to show complete honesty and humility as they talk through their issues, mistakes, and grievances. Each partner will learn how to be honest, and receptive, and work toward forgiveness.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).Though most commonly used to treat conditions like Bipolar Personality Disorder, DBT can help couples to build trust by establishing a focus on emotional acceptance and regulation. It can teach each partner how to approach each other with acceptance, patience, and validation. It can also help a partner who is nervous about communication or relationships learn how to use reason to identify underlying issues behind their emotional upset in different situations.

Communication Exercises

Communication is vital to the growth of any relationship. Couples counseling often incorporates communication exercises into each therapy session. Common communication exercises include:

  • Active Listening And Engaging With “I Feel” Statements.Active listening is a technique that encourages the couple to listen and empathize with each other. Each partner is asked to listen to their partner without interrupting or immediately responding. Once the information is processed, the receiving partner will be asked to respond with a statement beginning with “What I’m hearing you say is…” In turn, the expressing partner will be asked to express their thoughts and feelings with “I” statements rather than “you [are, did, do, can’t, etc.]” statements. This puts the focus on understanding how your partner interprets your words and actions.
  • Gratitude Lists.Gratitude lists can help strengthen the bond between partners and teach each partner how to express what they appreciate and need from each other. It also aids in incorporating positive affirmations and expression of valued attributes within each partner, which can be useful for ensuring that both partners feel important, valuable, and loved.

When Is the Best Time For Couples Counseling?

Whenever you have unresolved issues, disputes you can’t settle, long-standing grievances, or emotional wounds that won’t heal on their own, counseling can help you live a more fulfilling and pleasant life. Couples counseling is helpful anytime you are facing a major challenge, like the loss of a career or the death of a child. It’s also beneficial when all the little arguments in your relationship begin to sour your feelings toward your partner. Even if your relationship is healthy, it can be helpful to see a counselor before you make any major decision or change.

You don’t have to wait until your partner agrees to go to counseling with you. You can talk to a couples counselor about your relationship on your own so that you can learn more mentally healthy habits that can have a significant impact on your relationship. When your partner sees the changes you’ve made, they may be more open to joining you with the therapist.

In the end, there is no right or wrong when it comes to deciding when to go into couples therapy. Go when you’re ready, or go when you still have doubts, and the process may convince you. Whenever you decide to go, think of it as the beginning of a better relationship, a stronger union, and a healthier you.

How Couples Counseling Exercises Help

Couples counseling can have a significantly positive impact on your relationship in several different ways.

Get To Know Each Other Better

As many people who have been married a long time can testify, you can be with a person for many decades and still learn new things about them. The exercises your counselor teaches you can often give you a clearer view of how your partner feels and thinks. You may learn things about their background and upbringing that you never knew. You might learn a secret dream they’ve had all their lives and never felt brave enough to pursue. The more you learn, the better equipped you’ll be to become a more loving partner.

Practice Healthy Communications

It’s nice to finally learn about a way to communicate so that each partner feels loved and respected. However, as good as this news is, it won’t help you until it becomes a part of your everyday lives, and that takes practice. During couples counseling sessions, your counselor gently reminds you when you get off track. They might even ask you to say something different. All this practice will carry over into your daily interactions with your partner. Your relationship will be stronger because you speak and behave towards each other in ways that create harmony rather than discord.

Remember Why You Chose Them

Sometimes the wear and tear of life can blind you to the beauty of the person you once decided to spend your life with. You can get caught up in arguments and forget their vulnerability, wisdom, and charm. Couples counseling exercises remind you what attracted you to your partner in the first place. If you pay attention and each follows the counselor’s instructions, you may see your partner as you saw them when the relationship started, back when it was new and seemed perfect.

Of course, no relationship is perfect. Human beings all have strengths and flaws, but you likely already understand that. The exercises you learn in counseling together can help you recall those moments of perfection and joy and apply that appreciation to your current relationship.

Engage In A More Positive Way

Exercises like gratitude lists can put you into a better frame of mind for improving your relationship. They give you opportunities to see the good in your partner and your life together. When you reexperience the gratitude you’ve felt for each other at various times throughout your relationship, you become more focused on creating more things to be grateful for. You may also begin to associate your partner with pleasant times as well as happy memories. Instead of laying blame on each other, you might begin to look for solutions that work for both of you. You may see the good in one another more clearly than ever before. This can fuel your motivation to rebuild your partnership into a healthy dynamic.

Separate Preconceived Notions From The Reality Of Who Your Partner Is

There are times when couples fight about subjects that have little to do with their relationship, and more to do with their misconceptions about the world around them and even their own partners. If this misconception is corrected, the partners can begin to see each other as they are rather than as if they conformed to their preconceived notions.

Get To The Source Of The Grievances

There may be certain traumas or experiences that your partner carries with them that you are unaware of. Couples counseling can help you and your partner to see each other more deeply by exploring the root cause of behaviors and mindsets. This could lead you to have more compassion for that person and a greater understanding of who they are. This knowledge can help you look for better ways to interact with them, facilitated by your counselor.

Learn To Trust Again

Trust may be the hardest thing to regain once it’s lost. You want to believe your partner will do what’s in your best interests, but experience has shown you that this isn’t always true. Even if your partner betrayed you on just one occasion, it might still be hard to get past that one indiscretion. The exercises you might practice in couples counseling can provide you a chance to interact in the here and now on a very personal, intimate level. 

How To Find The Right Help For You

Relationships are important to maintain, but they can be challenging at times. If you and your partner feel your relationship may be struggling, then it is important to consider couples counseling.

Here are a few tips on finding couples counseling:

  • Work On It Yourself.While it’s not the same as couples counseling, you can improve your relationship simply by investing time and effort in it. With the right strategies, you can nurture your relationship and overcome obstacles on your own.
  • Meet With Your Religious Leader.If you attend a local religious organization, they may offer counseling services. It’s important to remember that this isn’t the same as seeing a licensed therapist, but if you are both deeply invested in your faith, they may be able to help you sort through your struggles at a moral or personal level.
  • Find An In-person Or Online Therapist.You can also look for a therapist who you and your partner can go to together. Make sure to look for someone who’s experienced with relationship counseling.

It’s important to note that online therapy has been clinically proven to be as effective as in-person therapy for many situations, including couples counseling. Studies have found that participants in online therapy were just as likely to see long-term results as those who attended in-person sessions, resulting in healthier relationships with themselves and their partners.

How BetterHelp Can Support You, Your Significant Other, And Your Marriage

If you’re looking for a convenient option for couples counseling, BetterHelp could be a great fit for you. It makes it easy for both you and your partner to meet with a counselor without having to make it to an office, allowing you to meet in your own home at a set time that’s convenient for you and your partner. BetterHelp therapists can help you identify areas that need attention within your relationship and teach you effective strategies to use to make those improvements. You can also contact your counselor at any time when questions or concerns for your relationship arise.


If you’re struggling within your relationship, couples counseling might be exactly what you’ve been looking for – a reliable solution that can provide you and your partner with the fundamental strength to mend old wounds, gain new perspectives, and fall in love all over again.

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