Updated: Oct 9
From couples journaling to therapy games to conversation starters, this list will keep couples busy with each other for months to come.
Couples therapy exercises, both in counseling sessions and at home, can be a great way to connect. You can work on communication skills, have fun together, and learn more about each other.
The activities can be enjoyable, such as playing therapeutic games, or informative, like talking about shared couple goals. Couples can try these activities on their own, during therapy sessions, or complete the exercises as counseling homework.
Here’s a look at several evidence-based couples therapy activities. They range from the light-hearted and entertaining, to more serious discussion prompts. Article highlights are at the top of the list, in case you’d like to skip ahead.
Couple’s Pursuit Game Download
Traditional Tabletop Games
Journaling for Couples
Couples Vision Boarding
Art and Crafts for Couples
Therapy Session Activities
Let’s start with games! There are a handful of therapeutic games that have been created with couples in mind. Traditional competitive and cooperative games can also help you bond and relax (or get excited if that sounds better).
In fact, researchers have actually found that the love and bonding hormone, oxytocin, increases when couples play games together (Melton, et al., 2019).
What a fun way to “work” on your relationship, right? Here are some ideas to get you or your clients on their way.
Couple’s Pursuit is a fun, printable therapy game with multiple conversation prompts and activities. Think of it as a Trivial Pursuit-inspired game for couples, crossed with Pictionary, Taboo, and 20 questions.
The goal is to beat the game as a couple, completing brief relationship-building tasks and filling up the wedges of your wheels before the “third wheel” sabotages you.
The game is consistent with evidence-based couple’s counseling and coaching. It focuses on connection, showing appreciation of each other, having fun, building a future together, and more. It also includes fun-focused activities that keep the game moving and lighten the mood, like drawing and guessing categories.
Here’s a look at each of the categories included:
Drawing and guessing. This category is based on prompts like, “A favorite gift you’ve given or gotten from me.” You have one minute to draw and see if your partner can guess what it is.
Open discussion topics and conversation starters. Example prompts: “If we could change one part of our lives to make us happier, what would it be?”
Expressing appreciation. Prompts in this category encourage you to say nice things to your partner. For example, it may say, “Tell your partner about something they’ve done for you this week that made you feel better.”
Sharing key memories. The memory category often evokes some of the deepest conversations. Prompts often bring up new topics for couples, such as “Describe a time you lied as a kid and never got caught.” Even if you can’t think of an exact example, it’s sure to bring up some interesting things to talk about!
Giving clues and guessing. This category has you listing ideas before the game, and then seeing if your partner can guess them (similar to Taboo). For example, it might include, “Something my partner wishes I would do more of.” You have to try to get your partner to guess your answer only using clues. This category tends to either be funny, or bring up things you wouldn’t think of sharing otherwise.
Physical affection and intimacy. This category is a little more direct, with prompts like, “Hold your partner’s hand and caress their arm.” You can skip this category if you like, or choose a different affectionate activity. This can be good for couples who have trouble being intimate, or may need a jump start lately.
You can learn more and download the activity here - since you can get it immediately, you could play it tonight if your significant other is game!
Cooperative Tabletop Games
Did you know there are many games where you play against a villain or challenge, instead of your partner? What a metaphor for a relationship! These cooperative activities are about competing together against the game.
Traditional cooperative games aren’t necessarily created to be relationship-building, however many couples find them more fun than competitive games. (Or at least a way to play together without arguing!)
They are consistent with the camaraderie and team-building elements encouraged in couples therapy. Here are some popular options.
2. Pandemic - Work together to save the world
3. Unlock - An escape-room type game that you can play with your partner at home
4. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective - Solve the mystery as a couple
Competitive Tabletop Games
Some partners enjoy competitive games more than the cooperative options. If it helps you bond and you don’t end up resentful of each other at the end, then go for it! Here are a few games great for two, along with their competitiveness level.
Fluxx - Multiple theme versions (hello sci-fi fans) that are excitable and highly competitive
Carcassonne - A technically competitive but low-key game for a relaxing evening
Ticket to Ride - A middle-of-the-road board game that offers a bit of competitiveness and distraction (although you can help each other if you like)
Conversation Starters for Couples
Discussion prompts are a popular tool among many couples and therapists. It’s a great way to get to know each other early in a relationship. And it’s a great way to keep connected or get to know each other again over the years.
Here’s a look at some popular, as well as lesser-known, conversation tools for you and your partner.
Gottman Card Decks
Have you heard of the Gottman Method? If not, it’s time to check it out! It’s an evidence-based treatment based on years or research on how couples actually interact and live together. They’ve branched out to offer more resources, including coaching, for couples, families, and even single people.
One of their best resources are the Gottman Card Decks. They offer multiple versions including 52 Questions Before Marriage or Moving in, and the Love Map & Open Ended Card Decks. If you’re feeling excited (or not excited enough) you can also try out their sexy Salsa Card Deck.
If you’d like to check out the cards right away, you can also access digital versions online via the Gottman Card Deck app on Apple or Google Play.
Tabletopics for Couples
Tabletopics: Couples is popular and fun set of cards that will certainly get you talking. They’re a fun set of cards that go beyond the typical questions and will have you thinking and laughing. The game has multiple versions including an original and updated decks.
Feeling more ambitious? The Gottman Institute also offers online workshops, both live and recorded, with more detailed activities. They review foundational skills relating to communication, expressing fondness, and changing toxic patterns. You can check out their options here.
Couples journaling is also becoming a more popular activity. There are variations and you can make the activity your own. You can keep separate journals that you use to help you communicate, or a joint one that can be its own communication tool. Here are some ideas for how to use a shared journal:
Write in the journal together, following a joint prompt. For example, you might answer: “What do we imagine we’ll be like 10 years from now?” You can take turns writing or appoint one of you to be the scribe.
Write in one journal, but separately. For example, you might keep it in one spot and write down thoughts or ideas and then review them later together. Or you can write to different prompts each week (like in the first example) but do it separately and then read them later.
Use a joint journal to communicate difficult thoughts. Do you or your partner have trouble explaining your feelings or responses? You can also use a shared journal to express yourself, and your partner can read it privately. They can respond in the journal, or you can discuss it together later.
Use a joint journal to express gratitude, appreciation, or shared goals with each other. You can do this either at the same time, or separately as in the examples above.
Make up your own journal activities, and create a ritual around it. Perhaps you review the journal every Sunday, or write in it together once per week. The whole idea is to connect, communicate, and understand each other better.
Use an electronic journal if that works better. If you can’t get down with the written journal, there are multiple electronic options available. The simplest is to use a shared Google Doc and start each new entry with a date at the top of the page (to avoid scrolling).
Couples Vision Board
One of the most rewarding and fun activities I’ve done with my partner was a couples vision board. It’s the same as a traditional vision board, but includes either one board you’ve designed together, or a side for each of you. You can also have an overlapping area in the middle with couple goals.
Vision boards are just like those collages you made with magazines as a kid, but a bit more intentional. Here are some suggestions for creating a couples vision board:
Use a bulletin board. These can be easily changed and updated over time, and you don’t need to worry about making mistakes or changing your mind.
Find old magazines, stickers, couples memorabilia (like ticket stubs or photos) and choose intuitively. Especially at first, don’t think too much about it. Make a pile of pictures or cutouts you might use and choose from them later.
Write your own words. Sometimes you can find the exact phrase or word you need from an old magazine page. But if you don’t, no worries. Just write your own words on a scrap of paper and pin them where you like.
Make another electronic vision board. I recommend also making a physical bulletin vision board, but an electronic board is cool too. Consider doing that later and making it a consolidated version of the larger one. I like an app called simply Vision Board, available in app stores.
Have separate and together sections. What a metaphor for life! A healthy relationship includes your time, their time, and together time. Your vision board can show these three areas of your relationship and encourage you to focus on each.
Remember how games can give you a hit of the bonding hormone? It’s the same for other activities like making art together.
I like to use the word “crafts” sometimes rather than art, because it takes off the pressure. Art seems like something to aspire to, while crafting is about the process. The vision boarding idea above could be considered a type of art, as could cooking or even journaling (especially if you add a visual aspect).
Crafting could literally be making one item together (can you say diorama?) or each completing your separate projects at the same time. Ready for more ideas? Here we go:
Try adult coloring. You can find inspirational coloring sheets online or in bookstores. Or, you can look for nostalgic coloring books like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Strawberry Shortcake. They’re for kids of all ages!
Take an art and wine class. Have you ever been to one of those events where they walk you through how to paint a really serene picture? They’re pretty fun, and you often come out with a finished project you’re pretty proud of. Many art studios offer these for groups or as a date night. Check them out in your area!
Make a joint sand tray. Does your therapist have a sand tray in their office? Or are you a therapist, wondering how to use your sand tray with adults? It can be a therapeutic and fun couples activity. Start with a prompt, like “What is it like when we feel close to each other?” or “How do we each feel when we’re fighting?” Let the miniatures do the talking.
Go on a photo safari. Have you ever taken photos for an artistic or therapeutic purpose? Selfies and family pictures are awesome, but adventure images are for a different purpose. Recreate your first date and take images like you’re making a magazine spread. Each create an image that shows how you feel about the other. Better yet, use a tripod to create your own couples photo shoot, showing your separate and combined personalities.
Rituals, or activities you do regularly or in the same circumstance, are a great way to decrease stress. They can help in the good times and bad. For example, some couples have a nightly ritual in bed where they talk about their day and catch up with each other.
It’s great to watch a movie or have dinner together, but a check-in session allows you to go a little deeper, expressing yourself and showing empathy for your partner. This is a good practice activity for therapy sessions.
Rituals can also be used during difficult moments. If you have frequent arguments, or occasional big ones, rituals can make a big difference. They might involve taking an hour or so apart after a fight to cool down, or watching your favorite sitcom together until you feel clear-headed enough to talk.
Here are some ideas for calming rituals:
Dinner at your favorite restaurant once a month, or when it’s time to celebrate. Celebratable events differ for each couple – maybe it’s for when one of you gets a raise at work, or completes a personal project that’s important to them. Celebrate each other’s successes.
Weekly movie nights. Make watching a movie together an event. Make popcorn or get out healthy snacks. If it’s affordable, head to the theater, or mix it up and go out to the movies one week a month.
Regular family game nights. Game nights can be for the two of you, or for the whole family if you have kids or others in your home. Just make sure you’re also getting one-on-one time if you have a shared household!
Daily, or at least weekly, check-ins. Talk about how you’re feeling, how work or other activities are going, things that you’ve enjoyed lately, etc.
Saying thank-you, sorry, and “I appreciate that.” When people are together for a long time, they sometimes stop treating the other one like a person. When your partner helps with something, even if it’s an everyday chore, that’s something to recognize. Otherwise, people can start to develop resentment or apathy. Being nice will also remind your partner to provide the same for you!
Caring for animals and pets. Caring for pets together can be a great way to bond as well as relax your nervous system. Sometimes therapists even combine pet therapy with family and couple's sessions! You can also look into adopting, fostering animals temporarily, or volunteering at a local shelter. Often they're looking for people to walk dogs and assess their social skills. Sounds like a fun date!
In-Session Couple’s Therapy Activities
Are you a couples therapist or relationship coach? Choosing activities based on your clients’ goals is an important part of your job. That might involve assigning homework or helping couples communicate during sessions.
Many of the activities above will work with some modifications. For example, discussion prompts can be pulled from games or card decks, or can provide you with inspiration. Here are some other activities that may work, depending on your modality and goals:
Practicing soothing rituals in session. You might have your couples practice mindfulness together, or role-play how they might discuss their day and validate one another.
Discuss attachment styles. I’m amazed at how many of my individual clients have been to couples counseling but haven’t heard of attachment styles! If you’re not familiar, I recommend the book “Attached” to get you started. Attachment is a key element in therapies like emotionally focused couples therapy for couples (EFT).
Model empathy and validation. Many people are unaware of when they are being invalidating to their significant other. Listening and practice is the key. You may start by literally role playing, showing what it’s like to validate versus not validate. Once that clicks for partners it can be a game-changer.
Provide (and learn) evidence-based therapies. It may sound like a no-brainer, but if you work with couples it may be a necessity to complete training in the top couples therapies, like The Gottman Method or EFT. At least completing the introductory courses can give you an idea of what couples need the most, since relationships go beyond basic communication.
Try Something New
Is this list enough to get you started? I hope so! Each couple is different, so the best activities for you will depend on your individual personalities, and the areas where you mesh well together. Don’t be afraid to try new things that you wouldn’t normally do. Either you can commiserate on how horrible the experience was, or be surprised and have a new couples activity to add to your arsenal!
Want a fun and meaningful activity you can try or share right away? Check out this couples relationship game you can download and play today.