What are some of the most effective couples communication exercises?
One of the top pieces of relationship advice you’ll hear from just about everyone is that you need to communicate. Communicate, communicate! That’s great, but what is often left out in the advice is how to communicate.
In this article, we’ll go step-by-step and share exercises that will get you talking together, tonight. Plus, we won’t shy away from the hot-button issues, because they’re the most important ones to talk about — and it’s not as hard or scary as you might think.
Ready to learn some lifelong couples communications exercises?
Couples Communication Exercises
According to Dr. Amie Gordon of WHIRLab (The Well-being, Health, and Interpersonal Relationships Lab), the most common arguments that couples have are over:
- Housework and chores
- Nothing (or the little things)
First, it’s important to mention that the goal is not to communicate so well that you’ll never argue again. All couples in a healthy relationship should fight. According to experts, it’s healthy for couples to fight effectively 1-2 times per week.
However, “effectively” is the key word. One of the reasons why there are arguments in the first place is because couples aren’t communicating effectively over these topics.
We’ve written before about how to communicate better with your partner, and here we’ll break it down even further into simple exercises to follow.
Don’t worry, this is meant to be fun. It’s best to keep conversations light and airy. Just start now! It’s always better to talk about things before there’s an issue.
Communication Exercises for Couples
Based on our research and experience, these are the best couples therapy communication exercises. There are 6 exercises in total, and each one is immediately actionable and should feel natural.
We’re not going to make you practice listening or get the stopwatch out to try the 40-20-40 process.
Instead of those prescriptive couples therapy exercises for communication, we wanted our couples communication exercises to feel like fun activities or games.
Whether or not you’re ready to tackle these exercises all at once or over the month is up to you. The important thing is simply starting the conversation. Here are the six communication activities for married couples:
- Money talk
- Sex communication
- Filling your love tanks
- Division of labor exercise
- Fun and curious conversation
- Being open to therapy long before you’re unhappy
How can I improve my communication skills in a relationship? Let’s dive into the exercises.
1. Money Talk for Couples
Money: a top fight amongst couples, and also a big reason for divorce. That’s why this is our #1 couples communication exercise.
It’s also an extremely touchy subject and is one that, unfortunately, seems to only spring up during fights.
Ryan and I recently binged on Ramit Sethi’s Netflix series, “How to Get Rich.” It’s super entertaining and we highly recommend it — this is another easy way to start the money conversation if you watch it together.
Ramit Sethi is a popular personal finance author with a goal of bringing money conversations out from behind closed doors. He believes that your money conversations can happen calmly, and even with excitement, as you plan how to spend and grow your money for the things you love.
Here’s how to get there.
Communication Exercise #1: Discuss Ramit’s money questions for couples.
- What’s your favorite thing to spend money on? If you could quadruple your spending on that, what would that look and feel like?
- When you hear the word “money,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
- What do you wish we spent more money on together?
- Here’s one thing I really appreciate about how you handle money: ____. What about you?
- What do you wish you learned about money earlier?
- What’s something you don’t believe in spending money on today…that you could see yourself changing your mind about in the future?
- What’s on your ‘Rich Life’ bucket list?
2. Sex Communication Exercise
It’s human nature to be afraid to talk about sex with our partners.
No one wants to feel embarrassed, judged, shamed, awkward, or alone. Or, they don’t want their partner to feel bad and think they haven’t been good in bed.
Yet given that we’re committed to our partners forever, it is crazy that we don’t express our desires more freely. Especially since our partners likely want nothing more than to please us during sex.
But how do you get over the fear and share something so intimate and personal — even with your spouse or partner?
This is a fun technique we learned from Emily Morse’s MasterClass on Sex and Communication (which we HIGHLY recommend — her 2-hour course is life-changing).
Couples Communication Exercise #2: Create a sexual bucket list.
Discuss your bucket lists and then write down three things that you both want to try. This powerful, therapist-recommended couples communication exercise is simple yet starts the conversation.
Emily Morse reminds us that if we’re just starting our conversations, we don’t have to come on too strong or intimidating. We can write something like having sex on the kitchen table.
The important thing here is that this bucket list acts as an ice breaker, and since it’s just three things, you know you have the opportunity to up the ante during future lists as you become more comfortable communicating about what you want to try.
Finally, we recommend approaching this exercise with an attitude of curiosity. Be genuinely curious about what your partner wants to say, and go from there! If t his couples communication exercise is too much too fast, start by trying couples massage or a couples yoga routine.
3. Filling Your Love Tanks
Communication is more than verbal. It encompasses everything from body language to taking out the trash.
This is why we recommend one of our favorite exercises: spending a few minutes to take the 5 Love Language quiz. It’s simple, fast, and powerful.
Even if you already know your partners love language, take the quiz again. You love language changes as you enter new phases of your life together.
This is easily the most important couples communication exercise of all time. So important that we also recommend reading the book together.
Couples Communication Activity #3: Take the 5 Love Languages quiz (free) and discuss your results.
As one of the better-known relationship books, the premise is that we all want to be shown love in different ways.
For me, nothing says “I love you” more than Ryan making the bed and cooking (aka acts of service). For Ryan, nothing speaks louder than spending a weekend hiking together (aka quality time).
The other ways to show love are words of affirmation, physical touch, and receiving gifts.
All of us prefer being shown love in some mix of these, and knowing which ones mean the most to your partner is a surefire way to communicate much more effectively — or know when you’re wasting your time.
If Ryan compliments me (aka words of affirmation) it’s a guarantee to fall flat because I couldn’t care less. But that might not be the case for you. If your attempts at showing your partner love are falling flat, this couples communication exercise will help you adjust and succeed.
To make sure they don’t take each other’s actions for granted, we recommend saying something like, “Even though I wouldn’t normally wash the dishes right away, I’m going to start doing it because I love you.”
That way, every time you see clean dishes, you know it’s because they’re communicating that they love and respect you.
4. Division of Labor Couples Communication Exercise
Now that we’ve gone over exercises that will help you communicate better about money, sex, and love, how do you tackle other common arguments for couples like managing chores?
According to the Pew Research Center, both partners overestimate how much housework they do. In a heterosexual marriage, for example, women feel like they’re doing the vast majority of the chores while men think it’s an even 50/50 split.
The true answer depends on many factors, such as if both partners are working and if there are kids. On average in the UK, at least, women are probably doing 10 hours more of housework a week than men, with a split of 60% of work done by the woman.
How do you solve this never-ending argument?
Exercise #4: Track labor and divide it in a way that feels fair.
Throughout the week, keep a list of every household task — from paying bills to dropping the kids off at school. At the end of the week, discuss and divide them in a way that feels fair.
The question of housework may never feel 100% solved, but the idea is to become aware of what the other person contributes and strive to make it feel equal.
Get creative and think out of the box. If there are certain things you both dislike doing, perhaps you can… simply stop doing them. Or outsource them.
5. Have Fun and Curious Conversation
If you’re looking for a lighter way to start communicating, try these ideas out instead.
According to Dr. Gottman of the relationship research Gottman Institute, most couples only talk meaningfully for ~35 minutes a week. We’ve heard that number as low as 15 minutes a week when you cut out talking logistics (kids, schedule, food, trips, etc.)
That’s a few minutes a day… or less. Fun conversation and curiosity driven questions are an important communication activity for married couples to connect in a deep and meaningful way.
Couples Communication Exercise #5: Ask five “would you rather” questions over dinner tonight.
Over the years we’ve gathered our favorite questions that touch upon topics from career to hobbies to travel and compiled them here:
This is an excellent couple’s communication exercise because you give your partner two options to choose from making it easier for them.
Also, you’re in charge of the intensity of the questions, from downright silly like “Would you rather eat bugs or become vegan?” to more serious like “Would you rather get a $50,000 raise or 2 more months of vacation days a year?”
With every question, you have the opportunity to discuss and can gently guide the questions toward a topic you want to discuss.
Here are other articles with even more questions, which you can rephrase into “would you rather” versions or use as is:
6. Invite a Mediator or Coach
If you’re looking for more guided questions that get to a root of a problem, we recommend couples therapy.
Before you slam the proverbial door in our faces or think that couples therapy is a blemish on your otherwise great relationship, think again.
Just like how you follow a personal trainer for your gym routine, there’s nothing wrong with getting relationship coaching. In fact, it’s a smart decision to invest in your relationship and there is little that is more worth your time and effort.
Ryan and I have always felt more comfortable doing couples coaching at home on our couch.
Over the years, we’ve worked with different couples therapy apps that give you access to relationship therapists. Our favorite is Hey Ritual. It’s a step above and plays more like a MasterClass and personal development session than a traditional therapy session with a tissue box.
The Ritual app itself offers quizzes and videos and is like one giant communication exercise in and of itself.
We share our full Ritual couples therapy review here including what prompted us to try couples therapy in the first place.
In summary, even people who write about relationships as their full-time jobs need communication help and guidance from time to time. The best that we’ve found is Ritual, and with our therapist Shirley, we’ve touched upon our biggest topics like our never-ending reoccurring argument. (By the way, it’s been solved!)
We scored a 20% off code for our readers if you’re interested in that route, and feel free to comment or email us with questions given that it can get personal. Good luck!
Closing thoughts on Couples Communication Exercises
Communication is incredibly important, but couples aren’t provided with a road map about how to get started. Instead of worrying about the details, we recommend just getting started with the communication exercises for couples we share above.
Each exercise is meant to bring you closer, and playfully begin topics that are traditionally big areas for arguments, such as money, sex, and sharing household chores.
Our only piece of advice is to go into these exercises with a sense of curiosity, respect, and support. It’s not always easy, but every time you communicate together, you have the opportunity to strengthen your relationship.
Which exercise helped you improve communication with your partner? Is there an effective and actionable communication exercise for couples that we missed? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Or, download our Healthy Couples Bundle below.
The Healthy Couples Bundle
A decade of experience, hundreds of hours of research and testing, and over 50,000 words of wisdom condensed into one PDF.
Our proven tools and strategies to optimize your relationship.
Hey we're Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”
After eight years working in the corporate world as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.
The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship as a couple.
Optimize Your Life, One Friday at a Time
Enter your name and email address to sign up for our free newsletter, the Duo Life Letter. Each Friday receive evidence-based tips to elevate your health and relationship.