Communication is critical to a healthy relationship, but relatively few couples devote time to improving their skills. However, those who do enjoy a deeper bond, fewer arguments and less stress.
It makes sense to prioritize the well-being of your relationship. Why not dedicate some date-night time to improving your communication? Here are six active listening activities for couples that can bring you and your partner closer.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt popularized the fireside chat — but there’s no need to restrict this active listening activity to communications between citizens and their elected leader. It can work for couples, too.
The first thing to do is to set a cozy stage for conversation. If possible, try not to meet at your favorite coffee shop. You want a private area where you won’t be interrupted or overheard.
Light a fire if weather permits, and you have a place or a pit. If not, you can use a few candles, three or four drops of lavender essential oil in your diffuser and a hot cup of cocoa or tea to set the stage. Then, set a timer for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes and chat. You don’t necessarily need to tackle weighty issues — you can use this time simply to connect about your respective days.
Do you remember the old icebreaker and schoolyard game called “Telephone?” In it, you whisper a message in one person’s ear, then they repeat it to the person next to them on the other side, and so on down the line. While the game often has hilarious results when the last person speaks the message aloud, it teaches a potent lesson about how meaning gets lost from mouth to ear.
To improve your active listening skills as a couple, play a variation where you set a timer for approximately 30 seconds. One partner talks during that time — about anything and everything. They might rattle off their hopes for the coming baseball season or discuss the latest novel they love.
When the timer sounds, the other partner then has to repeat what the original speaker said. This playback isn’t the time for analysis — treat it like memorizing your ABCs. Laugh about your mistakes, but internalize the message that you don’t always hear your partner perfectly the first time — so be patient and kind when communicating.
Everybody sees the world through a unique lens. Sometimes, these differences in interpretation lead to communication failures. You might think it’s obvious that you’re angry by how you’re acting, but your partner might not understand the motive behind your behaviors.
Think about the last time you blew up at your partner in frustration. You felt every one of those minor irritations leading up to your explosion, but your loved one might not have picked up on earlier subtle clues that you were upset.
Make acting out your emotions a game by playing charades. You perform the way you behave when you feel mildly irritated or slightly anxious. Your mate has to interpret your behaviors, teaching them a powerful lesson about how you express yourself nonverbally. Then, you switch turns so that you can learn to pick up on their subtle clues.
Sometimes, the words don’t readily come when you have the opportunity to communicate. Then, you think of what you wanted to say later and kick yourself.
Why not take advantage of the written communication’s asynchronous nature to avoid future communication failures and promote active listening? Buy a stack of friendly postcards that make you smile. The next time you think of the perfect way to express how your partner’s actions made you feel, write it down on one of them and have your mate do the same.
Then, pick a time to exchange and share your messages when you both feel relaxed, positive and receptive. Trade cards with your partner and read what each other wrote. Spend time discussing each emotion.
Everyone makes the mistake of saying something hurtful to their partner in the heat of anger, but that doesn’t make the behavior any less painful to the listener. This activity reminds you of the impact your words have on those you love.
Sit down and write a list of hurtful things your partner has said and why they stung. Have your partner do the same. Choose a non-confrontational time to discuss these emotions.
Please be aware that this activity can backfire if your partner shows narcissistic traits, so proceed with caution. If you are an emotional abuse victim, your abuser may use name-calling to humiliate you, often accusing you of the very things you honestly confessed made you feel hurt. In such situations, you may want to seek professional help.
According to Dr. Gary Chapman, people have five primary love languages for how they interpret that someone else cares:
You can take an online quiz to discern your love language. Then, write down some meaningful activities your partner can do to “speak your tongue” on notecards and add them to a cookie jar. Have your partner do the same. Once a week, pick two activities and have your mate select the one they’d prefer to receive.
Communication is crucial to a lasting relationship. Try these active listening activities for couples and watch your union deepen.