6 Relationship-Strengthening Activities That Aren't Couples Therapy

Therapy not for you? Our experts have six alternative ideas for you and your spouse

Updated 05/22/17

Photo by Anna Page Photography

Every relationship faces bumps in the road, and some are more serious than others. Seeing a couples therapist is nothing to be ashamed of. Acknowledging that you need help is the first step toward getting your relationship back on the right track and to keep things from getting worse. If you're looking for a way to strengthen and solidify your relationship but don't feel like you're quite ready to head to a counselor's office, here are six alternative ideas that will help get the two of you on the same page and could even be fun!

Schedule Regular Date Nights

Commit yourselves to regular one-on-one time as a chance to check in with each other, reconnect, and rekindle the romance. Whether it's a monthly dinner at your favorite restaurant, a new activity every few weeks, or simply putting away the phones and spending some time together at home, devoting yourselves to spending time together is an opportunity to put your everyday lives aside and really focus on your marriage.

Read a Relationship Book

Facing a rough patch? If you're not ready to head to a therapist's office, start by stopping in to the bookstore or library for a relationship book you can read together. The good ones are chock-full of helpful advice and strategies, and reading the book together will help you address any issues you're dealing with, as well as enable you to talk about your relationship in a more theoretical manner. You'll finish the book armed with tools to help yourselves, as well as a new level of comfort when having difficult conversations with each other.

Check Out a Couples Retreat

This could be an organized getaway for relationships in distress, or it could simply be a weekend away for the two of you. Put yourselves in a position where you can really focus on each other, without the distractions of everyday life. You'll come back feeling refreshed, invigorated, and ready to tackle whatever is waiting for you at home.

Acknowledge the Positive

When you're struggling as a couple, it's easy to see just what is going wrong. Instead, flip the script and make an effort to see the good in your relationship. Remember to thank each other for little things like making a pot of coffee or taking out the dog, and make a point of noting when things are going well. And don't forget to say "I love you!"

Make Time to Talk

Even if there isn't a therapist in the room, simply scheduling a time to talk about your issues can work wonders. Choose a time that is convenient for both of you, when you don't have anything else you need to do later and when you won't have interruptions. Pick a place where you're both comfortable, put your phones away, and start small. As you get comfortable voicing how you're feeling, you'll be able to open up more. And remember to really, truly listen to each other. Let your partner finish before you respond, and give him or her the courtesy you'd like to receive.

Pay Attention to Your Sex Life

Not surprisingly, your sex life has a huge impact on the rest of your relationship and could even be the source of some of your problems. If your intimacy is suffering, try scheduling time for sex, focusing on affection, or exploring ways to spice up your sex life. The bond created by sexual intimacy is a strong one, but it also requires vulnerability and communication that are key to strengthening the rest of your marriage too.

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