We’ve all watched enough bad reality television to know things in our own relationship could be a lot worse. Angry yelling matches, threats of divorce, and even drinks in the face can occur. But couples therapy isn’t just for the dysfunctional pair.
Maybe the dysfunction in your love relationship hasn’t reached epic proportions just yet, but that doesn’t mean some healthy relationship exercises won’t benefit you in the long run. In fact, you’d be surprised how easily you can replicate these marriage counseling exercises without ever leaving your house.
Next time you’re worried you might be ready to throw glasses of wine in each other’s faces, here are six exercises you can try to ease the tension:
1. Air your dirty laundry.
How long would you go without washing your dirty clothes? One week? Two weeks? After a while, those clothes would start to stink. Your relationship is no different. Every day your relationship gets dirty — minor irritations, unspoken resentments, and small sources of bitterness sneak into your interactions. Unwashed, these small annoyances turn into big problems and couples can even stop talking to each other.
How do you fix it? Do your relationship laundry together. Once per week, ask your partner, “What have I done to make you feel unappreciated, disrespected or unloved?” The first response you get will likely be a look of amazement or a reassurance that everything is “fine.” Do not believe them. Keep asking. Eventually, you’ll get an honest answer.
When you finally do, listen. Really, truly listen. And when you want to correct them or defend yourself, instead ask them something like: “So when I didn’t pick up the milk, you felt like I didn’t love you? Tell me more about that.”
Understand how they feel. Soon you will have opened the door to constant communication, no lock in sight. This will increase intimacy between the two of you, and allow you to face conflicts head on.
2. Have an Honesty Hour.
I often read advice that you should value the interests of your partner over your own. This is a terrible idea! When you put your partner’s needs first, you naturally expect them to do the same. But often, one partner sacrifices more than the other and starts to resent the partner who isn’t keeping up their end of the bargain.
To prevent this, have an Honesty Hour. This is the time you can tell each other how you truly feel about things with complete immunity. For example, if you don’t like football, but your boyfriend/husband expects you there watching with him every Sunday, tell him you’d rather do something else. This exercise will eventually allow you to share the truth about everything and respect each other’s opinions without taking anything too personally.
3. Resolve disagreements before bed.
Arguments that linger without being resolved turn into bitterness, which then turns into resentment. Before that happens, simply resolve arguments on the day they start. What if emotions are too high or sides so strong that you can’t resolve them before bed? In that case, agree to pause the argument and pick it up the next day with the full intention of resolving it together.
4. Make a “fun list.”
What are 10 things you want to do that are fun together? Make a list and be sure to check one item off the list per month.
5. Have dinner together regularly.
Eating meals together is a form of bonding as old as society itself. Make the time to eat together. During dinner, talk about interests, goals, and dreams. If you are in the middle of an argument or your relationship is tense, let dinnertime be a time when you can pause the fighting and just enjoy each other’s company.
6. Make time to have fun together.
Look, the hard work must get done before the fun begins. Just like when you were a kid and you had to do homework before you could play, you’ve got to clean up the bitterness and resentments before you can have fun.
But once you do, think of something totally wild, fun and (possibly irresponsible) to try as a couple. Make it something you’d never do otherwise, like making out in public. The important thing is that it be fun, exciting and in line with your values.
This article originally appeared on YourTango. For more like this from YourTango, try:
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