1. Exercise: Remembering How You Met Purpose: To recall the experiences of your early relationship and share them with another couple a. Take time to jot down as many details that occur to you about when you met or about when you suddenly realized this person was a potential mate. b. Find another couple and share the story.
2. Exercise: Partner Admiration Purpose: To share with your partner why out of all the people you have dated, he or she chose you.. a. Jot down four or more things that you admire about your partner. b. Share these with the other taking time to give as many examples as you remember.
3. Exercise: Naming what you admired about your parents as well as what disappointed you Purpose: To share with your partner those things that you value about your parents a. Make a list of the feelings that you have about your parents, both positive and negative. b. Share this list with your partner.
4. Exercise: What you learned from observing the marriage of your parents Purpose: To discover the attitudes that you do and don’t want in your marriage a. Make a list of the things that you loved about how your parents reacted in their marriage. b. Make a list detailing the things that you promised yourself that you would never have in your marriage. c. Share with your partner.
5. Exercise: How can I show you I love you? Purpose: To learn the specific things that you can do to let your love be experienced by your partner. a. Identify any moments when your partner did something that make you know that your partner loved you. b. Share with each other.
6. Exercise: Are you listening? Purpose: To practice the skill of listening and making sure your partner feels heard. a. One of you finds something to share something that has meaning to you. b. The other partner simply listens and feeds back exactly what you have heard with no editorial comments or interpretations and ends with “Did I get you?”
7. Exercise: Listening to your partner’s concerns Purpose: Learning to listen to your partner’s complaint without getting defensive. a. The other partner picks a problem that is of concern about the partner who listened in the last exercise b. Share that concern with the other partner making statements within the following formula:i. “When I notice this—– happening, ii. I imagine ——–, iii. Then I notice myself feeling———-.” iv. Avoid any “you make me feel” statements. Take responsibility for your feelings. No one can make you feel anything you don’t want to. You decide what to feel. c. Then the second partner feeds back exactly what has been said i. Simply focusing on empathically summarizing what the partner has shared. ii. Think of it as listening to a best friend who is sharing something that hurt. iii. Try not to move into any defensiveness or discounting statements. iv. Simply summarize what your partner has shared and ask, “Did I get you?”
8. Exercise: Problem solving for win-win solutions Purpose: Learning to brainstorm about conflicts and get crazy enough to find a solution that works for both of you. a. Find a problem that needs to be addressed that’s not too heavy. b. Describe the problem. c. Identify what you are trying to get away from. d. Name what ingredients would be needed in an ideal solution. In other words, how would you recognize it, if you came upon a perfect way to deal with your problem? e. Start brainstorming about various solutions. Get wacky. Get outside of the box of what you have tended to think about before. Stay with it. f. Identify which solution encompasses the most ingredients of the ideal solution. g. Plan how you will implement the solution. h. Set a date for when you will evaluate to see if the solution is working and do any fine-tuning to deal with any unforeseen problems that may arise.
9. Exercise: Naming what’s calming Purpose: To find out from past experiences what you can do to help your partner calm time if you’re both getting heated in a discussion. a. Each of you thinks of times when you have been fighting. c. Privately, write down what the other has done that was soothing to you so that helped you keep your blood pressure below a hundred. d. Share these with each other.
10. Exercise: Setting up a unilateral ceasefire agreement Purpose: To make an agreement about how either of you can stop of fight in its tracks if you think your heartbeat is getting over 100 beats per minute. a. Talk specifically about what each of you will do when you want to set up a cease-fire. b. When your partner identifies a way to request a ceasefire, explore anything in addition that would help you to your partner’s request.
11. Exercise: Ritual for making up after an argument Purpose: To practice a protocol for reconnecting after many harsh words were said when the heart beats did get over 100 per minute. a. Think of a recent argument. b. Even if you have reconnected, practice the ritual. c. The partner who is feeling strongest begins by saying: i. I know I was very upset yesterday, I think I was tired, stressed, etc from working too hard, not getting enough sleep etc. d. The second partner expresses gratitude for taking these suggestions. e. The first partner reflects on what the first partner could do differently next time that might make a difference and shares it. f. The second partner receives theses suggestions with gratitude. g. The second partner reflects on what the second partner could do differently next time that might make a difference and shares it. h. The first partner receives that with gratitude and reflects on whether it would be helpful. i. The first partner has now earned the right to making any suggestions to the other partner in the form of: “Next time I would love it if, or it would mean a lot to me if you would————-. j. Then the second partner shares any suggestions in the form of: “Next time I would love it if, or it would mean a lot to me if you would-_________________________________________(State a wish).
12. Exercise: Affair Protection Purpose: For each of you to talk about your own feelings about affairs and what you will do if the possibility arises. a. Each partner shares with the other what you imagine it would feel like if the other had an affair. Explore what it would mean to you. b. Each makes a statement about what you commit yourself to do in this area to prevent yourself from taking a step outside of the marriage. c. Agree how you will talk to the other about temptations that have occurred and agree to explore what it means that each might need to be doing. Ex. Examine job satisfaction, work schedules, needs for excitement in the marriage, needs for therapy, deal with midlife crisis etc.
13. Exercise: Creating A Mission Statement Purpose: To reflect on what you each believe marriage is about and what you hope will come from your commitment to be together. a. Create a mission statement for the marriage. b. What are the two of you seeking to be for each other? c. What do you see as the purpose and meaning of the relationship in terms of the rest of the world? d. Share with each other.
14. Exercise: Sharing Vision Statements Purpose: For each of you at several times a year to share and have recorded some of your dreams about the coming year. a. Agree to buy a journal book for recording your vision statements in the future. b. One person writes while the other person reflects. c. Name what he or she would be proud to have accomplished in the coming year. d. Let this include career goals, personal goals, recreation goals, volunteer goals, relationship goals and spiritual goals. e. Name what you might do if you had ultimate courage and if money were no object. f. Do the same with the first partner writing while second partner shares. g. Note: in the future begin this process i. By reviewing what you wrote last time. ii. By identifying what you feel good about doing since the last writing. h. Agree to a time when you will share this ritual next, for example: anniversaries, New Years Day, vacations, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, long week-ends, etc. Put it in your calendars.