17 Communication Exercises for Couples

Want to improve your relationship? Try these communication exercises for couples
on March 01, 2024
Read time: 10 mins
communication exercises for couples

Learning how to communicate effectively can make or break your relationship, but good communication skills require constant practice. That’s where couples' communication exercises come in. 

Research has shown time and again that couples who know how to communicate have happier, longer-lasting relationships compared to those who have poor communication.  While people have different communication styles within a relationship, it’s essential for your future as a couple to learn how to communicate effectively — in a way that makes you both feel heard and respected. 

Healthy communication can help you connect with your partner, support one another, and navigate conflict better. With these effective communication exercises, it’s easier to build trust and love in your romantic relationship, safeguarding your connection for the future. 

Key Takeaways
  • Effective communication acts as the bedrock for strong relationships, facilitating deeper understanding, trust, and respect between partners.
  • Communication exercises for couples can help to enhance various aspects of communication, including active listening, expressing feelings with "I feel" statements, asking open-ended questions, avoiding absolute statements like "always" or "never," and expressing gratitude and validation.
  • These exercises are not just about improving communication but also about personal growth, leading to a more fulfilling and resilient relationship.

What are good communication skills in a romantic relationship?

The importance of communication in a relationship can’t be understated, as it provides the foundation from which your connection is built and maintained. 

At the end of the day, communication is the only way to get to know each other on a deeper level, and the most proactive and positive way to overcome relationship problems. 

Good communication skills in a relationship include the ability to convey your own feelings without talking over your partner, and leaning on positive statements rather than negative attacks. It’s about trusting your partner and feeling like you can openly and honestly communicate with them — no matter what. 

Communication activities can help you implement these healthy behaviors in your relationship. These effective strategies can help you overcome any toxic communication patterns, as you focus on compassionate listening with your significant other. 

How can I improve my communication skills in a relationship?

Improving your communication skills in a relationship is crucial if you want to keep the relationship on track. Couples’ communication exercises can help you hone these communication skills and improve your relationship step by step. 

Common couples therapy exercises for communication include active listening skills, asking open-ended questions, using “I feel” statements, and expressing gratitude for your partner. If you build on these communication habits, it’s easier to overcome the problems that come your way. 

What are some communication exercises for couples?

So while talk may be cheap, communication isn’t when it comes to building a healthy relationship! 

If you want to improve your communication skills, we rounded up some essential relationship communication exercises to help bring you closer to your partner and strengthen your relationship. 

1. Practice active listening

Good communication isn’t just about talking. At its core, active listening involves letting your partner speak openly without interrupting or chiming in unsolicited. It might sound easy, but active listening requires focus and concentration.

Active listening allows you to process what your partner is saying without being reactive or talking over them. This strategy also allows your partner to share their thoughts and feelings openly, and create a safe space where they’re free to express themselves. While your loved one is talking, the silent partner can give nonverbal communication cues that signal their interest and respect for their partner. This reduces the chances of miscommunication and lets your partner feel heard.


  1. Set a timer for three to five minutes and let your partner speak without interruption. The topic of the conversation doesn’t matter.

  2. Use non-verbal cues to let them know you’re listening, such as eye contact, nodding, or mirroring their body language. 

  3. Once they’ve finished talking, repeat what they said to you and ask for clarifications if you need any. Give your partner the chance to explain further or confirm that you’ve understood correctly. 

  4. Switch roles and repeat the exercise.

2. Use ‘I feel’ statements

"I feel" statements — also known as feeling statements or “I statements” — are a communication tool that focuses on the speaker’s feelings, rather than the listener’s actions.

Studies have shown that “I feel” statements help couples navigate conflict because they let the speaker express their feelings without placing blame on the other partner. 

This is an effective conflict resolution strategy, as it helps you get your point across without pointing the finger at your partner, who might otherwise get defensive. 


  1. Write down one thing that is bothering you. 

  2. Reflect on what emotion their behavior evokes in you. 

  3. Now write that down by starting the sentence with “I ___” or “I feel”. For example, rather than saying “You don’t make time for me anymore”, try phrasing it as “I feel frustrated that we don’t spend as much quality time together, I’d love to go on a date night next week.”

  4. Take turns voicing your “I feel” statements to one another. 

3. Ask open-ended questions 

Open-ended questions are questions that don’t prompt a yes or no answer, but instead, leave space for your partner to respond how they wish. An example of an open-ended question is “How was your day?”, rather than “Did you have a good day?”. 

Open-ended questions are a great way to stimulate conversation and find out more about your partner, while also conveying the message that their experience is important to you. This relationship exercise for couples communication might seem simple, but is surprisingly effective! 


  1. Pretend you don’t know each other that well and prepare five questions to ask each other. Try to think of questions you don’t know the answer to!

  2. Make sure the questions can’t be answered with a yes or no. 

  3. Take turns asking each other the questions and see where the conversation takes you!

4. Avoid “always/never” statements

“Always” or “never” statements are a common communication pitfall and often contribute to communication issues rather than solve them. 

They’re statements that begin with “you never” or “you always” and usually signal that one or both partners are speaking in absolute terms. Some examples of “always/never” statements are: “You never listen to me”, “you always interrupt”, “you never do the dishes”, and “you always stay late at work”. Sound familiar? 

“Always/never” statements aren’t a form of constructive communication because your partner is more likely to get defensive or withdraw from the conversation entirely. Speaking in absolutes also makes it harder to find a middle ground and reach a compromise.


  1. Think of an “always/never” scenario that is bothering you. 

  2. Rephrase the statement by leading with how you’re feeling — remember the “I statements” exercise from earlier?

  3. Try to express a specific feeling and need, but be realistic about how your partner can help. So, something like “you never listen to me” could become “I’m really worried about XYZ. I know you’re swamped with work but I could you someone to talk to, do you have time this evening?”

5. Say “thank you”

Relationship research has found time and again that gratitude is a critical component in a successful long-term relationshipCouples who feel and express gratitude for one another are more likely to stay together, feel closer, and discuss difficulties better.

There are many ways of expressing gratitude towards your partner, but sometimes communicating a genuine “thank you” is the most powerful way to show your appreciation. While it may not solve your communication problems in one go, it’s a very positive place to start. 


  1. Next time your partner does something for you, make an effort to express your gratitude. Pay attention to the small, everyday gestures your partner does that you may overlook — such as giving you a ride to work, making you a cup of tea, or taking your dog out for a walk. 

  2. Emphasize how they’re showing up for you and why you’re grateful for their actions. For example, you might say: “Thank you for making me tea, I was really craving one but I have back-to-back video meetings and can’t leave my desk.”

  3. Don’t just mutter an off-the-cuff “thank you.” Use your body language to convey your gratitude. Try using eye contact, stroking your partner’s hand, or kissing them to make sure the “thank you” is received with intention. 

6. Validate each other 

Couple’s therapist and author of the best-selling book Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, Dr. Harville Hendrix, has spoken at length about the importance of validating your partner.

In Imago therapy — the technique he co-developed with Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt — mirroring, expressing empathy for, and validating a partner is essential for building and strengthening the couple’s connection.


  1. The next time your partner is talking to you in person, make an effort to give them your full attention. Put your phone down, and create eye contact with your partner. 

  2. Instead of saying things like “mmhmm” or “yeah”, use statements to validate their feelings, such as “I hear you”, "I can understand why that would make you feel that way", or “of course you feel that way.”

  3. Ask your partner follow-up questions to understand how they’re feeling. This will show that not only did you listen to them, but you’re truly engaged with what they’re saying. 

7. Have check-ins

Having regular relationship check-ins is a lot more important than you think. Check-ins allow you to connect with your partner, talk through any issues you might be having, and involve each other in whatever is going on in your day-to-day lives. 

At their core, check-ins are a dedicated time to prioritize your relationship — and your partner. They also allow couples to make sure their expectations for one another are clear. This is why we emphasize the importance of check-ins within the Paired app, encouraging couples to practice monthly check-ins and reflective listening with each other. 


  1. Pick a time that works well with both your and your partner’s daily schedule. This can be over a meal, such as breakfast or dinner, or during a weekend afternoon. 

  2. Agree on how much time you can both carve out — it doesn’t matter whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour, but make sure you can both set that time aside without interruptions or feeling rushed.

  3. During the check-in, ask each other how you’re feeling — and really listen. Make time to talk about your daily lives as well as any relationship anxieties you might be experiencing. 

  4. Practice the communication exercises we’ve discussed so far!

  5. Make the check-ins a regular part of your routines, for example as part of your weekly date nights or morning walks together.

8. Extended eye contact 

According to research, eye contact is key to communication as it helps individuals focus on what one another is saying. This is where the extended eye contact exercise comes in, allowing couples to focus on one another completely. 


  1. In this non-verbal exercise, neither partner speaks, focusing solely on eye-to-eye connection. 

  2. Maintain eye contact for four to five minutes, without looking away or breaking your gaze. 

  3. At the end of the time, speak to your partner about the experience and if you felt connected during that time. 

  4. How well were you able to read their emotions or pick up on their non-verbal cues during this time? 

9. Three and Three 

Every relationship has high points and low points. While it might not always be fun to talk about the low aspects, it’s important to address these issues to foster a healthy relationship.

Even though you’re discussing both positive and negative parts of your relationship, it’s important not to fall into more toxic communication patterns such as name-calling or other negative behaviors.


  1. Sit separately in a quiet space, where you both feel comfortable and free from any distractions. 

  2. Write down three things you love about the relationship and three things that you don’t love about the relationship. 

  3. Be honest with your answers, using positive language where possible, as these will shape your communication style moving forward. 

  4. Share your lists and be open to both the validation and the criticism that these answers will likely contain. 

  5. If you’re worried about offending your partner or the situation escalating, it might be helpful to consider marriage counseling. A licensed marriage counselor or mental health professional can help provide you with that safe space to communicate and express yourself honestly.  

10. Express gratitude

While saying thank you is important, this communication exercise centers on expressing gratitude to your partner in multiple different ways. 

Focusing on gratitude in your relationship allows both partners to feel validated and appreciated in their relationship. This is particularly crucial for those who appreciate words of affirmation, as these moments can be instrumental in building your connection. 


  1. Take some time to write down all the things that you’re grateful for in your relationship, focusing on specific moments. 

  2. With your list, both partners might realize that it’s the little moments that mean the most. 

  3. These learnings should continue outside the exercise, with both partners making an effort to make these expressions part of their daily routines.  

11. Lend me a hand

While most exercises focus solely on communication, this exercise can bring a little bit of fun into the mix while testing how couples communicate under pressure. 

With your arm tied behind your back, you have to trust and rely on your partner to be able to complete the task effectively. This can unearth any weak points in your communication style, as you have to articulate your needs and desires effectively to get results. 

These learnings can positively affect other aspects of the relationship. 


  1. Begin by choosing a calm and relaxed environment where both partners can sit comfortably and focus on each other without distractions.

  2. The exercise involves one partner to help the other to complete the task, it focuses on collaboration and cooperation as both partners have one hand tied behind their back. 

  3. After you’ve completed the task, discuss the experience. Share insights, newfound understandings, or any challenges faced during the exercise.

  4. It can help couples define a new dynamic, with these lend-a-hand exercises helping couples to communicate and collaborate healthily and productively.

12. Mirroring 

According to therapeutic research, mirroring is an effective couples' communication exercise, as it promotes validation and empathy between partners. 

While you’re mirroring your partner’s words, you should never mimic or modify what they’re saying but be open to their words and emphasize your own understanding. 


  1. Begin by choosing a quiet and comfortable space where you and your partner can communicate without interruptions. Put away electronic devices to ensure full focus on the conversation.

  2. When your partner is speaking, make a conscious effort to establish and maintain eye contact. This non-verbal cue signifies that you are fully present and engaged in the conversation.

  3. Instead of default responses like "mmhmm" or "yeah," incorporate statements that explicitly validate your partner's feelings. For example, say "I hear you," "I can understand why that would make you feel that way," or "of course, you feel that way." This communicates not only acknowledgment but also empathy.

  4. Demonstrate genuine interest in your partner's thoughts and emotions by asking thoughtful follow-up questions. This shows that you are not just hearing their words but are actively seeking to understand the depth of their feelings and experiences.

  5. Periodically reflect back what your partner has shared. Summarize their thoughts and feelings to ensure that you accurately grasp the intended message. This step helps to avoid misunderstandings and reinforces the connection.

13. 40-20-40

The '40-20-40' communication exercise is a structured approach designed to promote balanced and meaningful conversations between couples. 

This exercise encourages both partners to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, ensuring that each person has an equal opportunity to express themselves. Developed to foster mutual understanding and active participation, the '40-20-40' exercise provides a framework for couples to engage in open and considerate communication.


  1. In this exercise, one partner takes the floor for 40% of the conversation time, followed by the other partner having 20%, and then returning to the first partner for the final 40%. This structure ensures an equal distribution of speaking and listening.

  2. The first partner initiates the conversation by sharing their thoughts, feelings, or experiences for 40% of the allocated time. 

  3. The second partner assumes an active listening role for the next 20% of the time.

  4. Now, it's the second partner's turn to share their thoughts, feelings, or experiences for the next 40% of the conversation.

  5. The first partner transitions into the listening role, devoting 20% of the time to actively listening and understanding their partner's perspective.

  6. After completing one cycle, consider rotating roles or repeating the exercise as needed. This ensures that both partners have ample opportunities to share and be heard. 

  7. Conclude the exercise by discussing any actionable steps or improvements that can be made based on the insights gained during the conversation. This transforms the exercise into a proactive tool for relationship growth.

14. Sandwiching 

The 'Sandwiching' communication exercise is a constructive approach aimed at providing balanced feedback and fostering a positive and open dialogue between couples. 

This exercise encourages partners to structure their communication in a way that starts and ends with positive or appreciative sentiments, "sandwiching" any constructive or challenging feedback in the middle. This can make these issues feel more palatable and easier to digest — without erupting into an argument or bigger issue. 


  1. Begin the communication by expressing genuine positivity or appreciation towards your partner. This sets a warm and affirming tone for the conversation. Acknowledge their strengths, efforts, or specific actions that you value.

  2. Transition to the core of the conversation, which involves presenting any constructive feedback or addressing concerns. Clearly articulate your thoughts, focusing on specific behaviors or situations rather than making generalized statements. Use "I" statements to express your feelings and avoid placing blame.

  3. When presenting constructive feedback, provide context to help your partner understand the situation. Additionally, offer potential solutions or alternatives that can contribute to resolving the issue.

  4. If your partner responds or shares their perspective, actively listen and acknowledge their feelings or points of view.

  5. Conclude the communication by reiterating positivity and appreciation. Highlight your partner's strengths, reaffirm your love or admiration, and express optimism about working together to improve aspects of the relationship.

15. Love languages 

Research places a lot of emphasis on the power of love languages in relationships, as understanding your partner’s love language can help formulate your communication style as a couple. 

For example, if your partner’s love language is in words of affirmation, it’s about tuning into their needs to effectively fulfill them. 


  1. Discover your own love language and ask your partner to communicate theirs.

  2. If you’re unsure where to start, there are a number of Paired quizzes to get you started. 

  3. Once you have located your partner’s love languages, try and take active steps towards fulfilling these needs. 

  4. For example, if your partner shows love through acts of service, pay attention to these moments and try and understand their significance for your communication in your relationship. 

16. Share a story 

The 'Share a Story' communication exercise is a creative and intimate approach to fostering connection and understanding between couples. 

Grounded in the power of storytelling, this exercise encourages partners to share personal anecdotes, memories, or experiences from their lives. This allows one partner to take the floor, allowing them to express themselves in the relationship. 

By engaging in this exercise, couples not only deepen their emotional connection but also gain insights into each other's values, perspectives, and unique life journeys.


  1. Decide on a theme or topic for the storytelling session. It could be childhood memories, significant life events, personal achievements, or any other area of interest. This helps provide direction and coherence to the stories shared.

  2. Start with one partner sharing a personal story related to the chosen theme. Encourage them to provide details, emotions, and context that make the story vivid and engaging. This sets the stage for a meaningful and intimate exchange.

  3. As one partner shares their story, the other actively listens without interruptions. Demonstrating attentive listening contributes to a supportive and respectful atmosphere, fostering a sense of being heard and understood.

  4. Switch roles, allowing the second partner to share their story. This reciprocal process ensures that both individuals have the opportunity to be both storytellers and active listeners, promoting a balanced exchange.

  5. Throughout the exercise, ask open-ended questions to delve deeper into each other's stories. This encourages more detailed and meaningful sharing, allowing for a richer understanding of the experiences being discussed.

17. Stress-reducing conversation

Rooted in the principles of active listening, empathy, and mutual support, this exercise provides a structured space for couples to discuss stressors, express emotions, and collaboratively explore solutions. 

By engaging in this exercise, couples not only alleviate individual stress but also strengthen their bond through shared understanding and problem-solving.


  1. Establish the structure of the conversation. This may include a specific time limit for each partner to share, guidelines for active listening, and an understanding that the conversation is focused on stress reduction and support.

  2. Begin with one partner sharing their current stressors, challenges, or concerns. Encourage them to express their feelings and thoughts openly, providing context for a better understanding.

  3. As Partner 1 shares, Partner 2 practices active listening and responds with empathy. Use statements like "I hear you," "That sounds challenging," or "I understand why that's stressful." This creates a supportive atmosphere.

  4. Switch roles, allowing the second partner to share their stressors. The structure remains the same, with active listening and empathetic responses from the first partner.

  5. Once both partners have shared their stressors, transition to collaborative problem-solving. Together, discuss potential solutions, coping mechanisms, or ways to support each other in managing the identified stressors.

  6. Conclude the conversation by expressing gratitude for each other's openness and support. Acknowledge the strength of the partnership in facing stressors together.

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