A 10 minute exercise to improve your relationship

Couples come to me with all sorts of relationship issues but they can always be sorted into two categories: prevention or improvement!

Some examples of issues that fall under the prevention category are solving excessive arguments, eliminating unnecessary jealousy and dealing with frustration towards a romantic partner’s changeable behaviour.

Some examples that fall under the improvement category are couples looking for more intimacy, understanding or romance in their relationship.

The thing with any of the above is that the people coming to me for relationship advice are not always concise about their particular issue and how it developed. It is so easy to settle into a relationship and become blissfully unaware of the value of continually working on and enriching certain aspects of it, until things start to go downhill that is.

Below is an exercise that will start to highlight areas of your relationship that might require some extra effort or attention. Even if you currently feel perfectly happy in your relationship, you will be surprised at how easy it is to further enrich it still.

As a result of doing this exercise, you are also likely to reveal exactly how fulfilling your relationship and indeed your partner really is for you…

A 10 minute exercise to improve your relationship:

This exercise is an adaptation of a popular writer’s technique called free writing. A lot of authors purportedly use free writing to coax ideas and thoughts out of their minds. It is a great tool for dipping into your subconscious thoughts; thoughts that would normally not be given much attention or rationalisation.

The rules:

1) Open up a blank document on your computer (or use a pen and paper if you are faster at handwriting than typing).

2) Set a timer for ten minutes. You can do this exercise beyond ten minutes if you find that you are on a roll but make sure you continue for at least ten minutes.

3) Title the page “My Relationship”. The topic is anything and everything to do with your relationship. This includes things such as any positives and negatives or perhaps describing how you or your partner have changed over time. Anything related to your thoughts and feelings as well as practical aspects of the relationship should be written about.

It is important that you don’t prepare or think too much about what you are going to write prior to starting.

4) Write for 10 minutes without pausing. Don’t worry about any spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or indeed how it will even read. Leave everything you write as a continuous flow of thoughts and try not to glance back at previous sentences, even if it results in you repeating points.

To do this exercise properly you must write or type as fast as possible, without ever pausing. This may feel like an awkward thing to do but the key is to not give the logical part of your brain time to edit or overanalyse what you are writing.

If you sense you are approaching a blank, just write ANYTHING you can think of that will lead you into your next sentence, even if it sounds like nonsense. It is vital that you don’t pause to think about what you will write next.

5) Leave it 24 hours before you reread what you have written. You will have far greater epiphanies if you delay reviewing what you have written. This exercise works best if you have completely forgotten what you have written before going back over it.

Another recommended detail to decide beforehand is to not share what you write with anyone else, at least not at first. This refers specifically to sharing what you produce with your partner. If you think that what you write is going to be read by your partner, it will severely affect the honesty and detail that you go into, whether intentionally or not.

Do you have a spare 10 minutes right now? Then what are you waiting for! The rest of this article will be waiting for you when you return.

What this exercise will achieve:

You may well find that everything you have written is blissfully reassuring and does indeed reflect the perfect relationship for you.

However, if you were brutally honest while doing the above exercise, you are likely to reveal at least a few areas in your relationship worthy of improvement or attention.

One thing to notice is if you have written any excuses or justifications for certain aspects of the relationship that are perhaps not as fulfilling as they could be. This is a common technique used in real life to validate the relationships we are in, both romantically and socially. This is especially revealing if any excuses or justifications are directly related to your partner’s behaviour or actions.

What the above exercise will ultimately achieve is a more vivid idea of how fulfilling your relationship currently is and where it may be heading, as well as highlighting any key areas to focus your efforts.

I’ll leave any further details for you to discover by doing the exercise yourself. Of course, please return and let me know what you found out. 🙂

If you haven’t started already… give it a go now!

Much love,


8 replies
  1. Jen Goodhue
    Jen Goodhue says:

    Hi. I am working late tonight but thought I would leave this here as a sort of reminder for me to read and do this tomorrow. Its true I rarely take the time to dissect or think about my relationship and too often we just go through the motions. Me and my other half love each other dearly though so I think this exercise would reveal a lot for me. Hopefully I have time to do it tomorrow.

    Kindest regards. Jen

    • Samuel McCrohan
      Samuel McCrohan says:

      Hi Jen,

      I think a lot of couples find themselves in a similar situation where routine prevents reflection or thinking time. Please do let me know how the exercise goes for you once you get a chance to do it. 🙂


    • Jen Goodhue
      Jen Goodhue says:

      Hi again Sam

      As I said I would, I finally got a chance to do this exercise yesterday and just read over what I wrote just now.

      I wrote just under a page nonstop and like you mentioned might happen I am actually surprised with what I wrote.

      Reading back definately highlighted stuff that I probably already knew about my relationship but that I was probably afraid to admit or never really think or talk about, which I guess was the purpose of it.

      My other half knows I was writing but I’m undecided whether to let him read it. There is nothing offensive or hurtful written but it migt shock him a bit. What do you think?

      Do you recommend doing it again ever or is once enough? I really enjoyed getting my thoughts down so thanks for sharing this.


    • Samuel McCrohan
      Samuel McCrohan says:

      Hi Jen,

      That’s great that you got a chance to do the exercise. Your reaction and discovery is the exact one that the exercise aims to achieve, so it’s great that you uncovered the things that you did.

      As for sharing this with your partner, well that comes down to the sort of action plan that you derive from what you learnt. Some aspects of relationship development are very much a mutual thing, whereas other aspects are more to do with personal development.

      A lot of the success in initiating changes in a relationship is in how those topics are discussed. Important things to avoid in such a discussion are either person feeling judged, attacked or underappreciated. You say that what you wrote is not offensive or hurtful so you could let him read it outright if you think that he won’t feel any of those three emotions as a direct result.

      It is completely up to you how often you repeat the exercise. You probably won’t gain many new insights if you do it too often but every couple of months when you have some free time, it will only ever help a relationship, even if you don’t discover anything particularly ground-breaking! 🙂

      Thanks for sharing how it went,


  2. Jon
    Jon says:

    I’m not in a relationship at the moment (but still really enjoy reading relationship stuff for when I am). This sounds like a great exercise though so I’ll remember it for future. I’m also interested if you do the exercise yourself ever Sam? Cheers

    • Samuel McCrohan
      Samuel McCrohan says:

      Hey Jon,

      The above exercise can be adapted to other areas of dating or perhaps visualising the kind of partner you are looking for if you think it would be useful. I agree it’s great to still keep in mental shape for relationships in between each one though.

      As for doing the exercise myself, I don’t do it religiously or as a necessity but when I find I’ve been busy or not giving my relationship with Heidi enough attention, I still find it sometimes helps to get any thoughts or feelings down on paper. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting,


  3. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hey Sam

    I just did your 10 minute relationship test and it really helped me to realise what was differant in our relationship. I came to the conclusion that something was MISSING that was not there before and it made our relationship rocky.
    I feel the componant that is missing is CHANGE. Like the relationship constantly needs to be moving forward and variety needs to come into play or it gets too predictable and boring.

    Im currently in a long-distance relationship because she had to move back home for many months and even though we IM’d and talked on CAM alot it slowly went down hill and I tried to look for ways to improve it. Be it, becoming more attractive, less needy I tried many ways but couldn’t find the right solution. I believe now I found the solution. In my opinion when relationships begin to go rocky I think sometimes females HINT on whats going wrong to you, instead of looking for external reasons on why it could be going wrong just LISTENING to the girl deeply can be all you need.
    My girlfriend has been constantly bringing up PHONE PLANS to me and hinting about calling each other (which has been difficult since we both live overseas) And I have been completely unaware that she was hinting these things and it could be my lack of attention and listening as to why its suddenly dying. Thanks alot for writing this it has made me see what is missing.

    • Samuel McCrohan
      Samuel McCrohan says:

      Hey Stuart,

      It sounds like you’ve made some brilliant observations off the back of this exercise. Relationships are a constant balance of attraction and affection and it is very easy to forget how dynamic relationships are.

      Your point about women giving subconscious hints when something is wrong definitely has some truth in it. This is particularly noticeable when attracting women in the early dating phases but can occur frequently in relationships too.

      The difference in a relationship is that you already have a deep enough connection and rapport to be able to agree with each other to be open and honest about your feelings. Once again, there are attractive and needy ways to go about setting up that level of trust.

      If your girlfriend is hinting something specific like a phone call then it would be great to surprise her with a phone call sometime. As long as you decide that you want to, something like that is not supplicating.

      There is definitely a certain type of comfort a phone call brings that other mediums can’t, so I can understand her desire… Lying in bed with a phone pressed to your ear can’t be replicated easily with a computer. I’ve tried lying in bed with a computer pressed to my ear before and it was plain uncomfortable! 🙂

      Now that you are aware of the cues that your girlfriend is giving you (which admittedly is harder to calibrate when you are not physically together), you should find it a lot easier to spot future ones.

      Your points about constantly moving the relationship forward and listening intently to your partner is the best advice to take from all of this though and something to always keep in mind, especially whilst you are apart.

      Thanks a lot for commenting. 🙂


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