One of the things I often get asked about when working with couples in my counselling practice here in Vancouver is what types of exercises they can do that will help them work on their relationship. While there are many different ones one of my favorites to recommend is a reading exercise.
In the field there are 3 main leaders in couples counselling:
1) Sue Johnson, who created Emotionally Focused Couples Counselling. Sue is a fellow Canadian and does work helping couples build secure attachment to one another and get at the root of what is emotionally going on within them as individuals and as a couple. To find out more about her and her approach click this link. The book she wrote is called Hold Me Tight
2) John Gottman, who created the Gottman Institute (and accompanying Love Lab) in Seattle Washington. John and his wife are researchers at heart and have created an approach to working with clients that is heavily rooted in relationship research and helping couples improve their relationship while also eliminating behaviors shown to cause relationship harm. To find out more about John and his approach click this link. The book he wrote is called 7 Principles For Making Marriage Work
3) Harville Hendrix, who created Imago Relationship Therapy. His approach helps couples move through conflicts in healthy, compassionate way so that they can connect more deeply and lovingly. To find out more about Imago Therapy click this link. The book he wrote is called Getting the Love You Want.
Once you have looked through the 3 approaches and determined which one is the best fit I recommend you go and pick up 2 copies of the same book. As an exercise I recommend couples read through the book individually and highlight the parts that stand out for you. Perhaps you use one color of highlighter for the things you agree with and one for the things you don’t. After each person has gone through the book and highlighted the parts that stood out for them, I recommend you switch books and see what was significant to your partner and vice versa.
Each point that is highlighted can be used as a topic of conversation for the two of you. There will be shared parts that you both really love and others you disagree on. This isn’t a time to criticize your partner’s perspective but rather to get curious about why he/she loved what he/she loved or disliked what he/she disliked. Use the highlighted points as opportunities to get to know one another in a different way and to talk about your relationship.
Let me know what book you chose in the comment section below and any interesting things you discovered along the way!