Deciding to attend a marriage retreat is one of the most powerful investments you can make in your marriage. Whether you are motivated by the promise of enrichment or the urgency of crisis, a marriage retreat pays big dividends.
Many couples who are veterans of the marriage retreat format swear by it. Many even recommend a marriage retreat as an annual gift to every couple’s marriage. Attendees come away invigorated, refreshed, and recommitted to their relationships that may have gotten a little dusty from lack of attention.
Many couples claim that a marriage retreat saved their marriages.
If you have never been on a marriage retreat, you will understandably have a lot of questions before deciding on one. After all, there are as many styles and offerings in marriage retreats as there are in traditional psychotherapy. Location, duration, spiritual/not spiritual, private/group, fun/work, therapist credentials, cost, etc.
So before you close your eyes and point to a map, let’s shed some light on the marriage retreat experience.
Here are 8 things you need to know before you decide to attend a marriage retreat.
It’s important to give your marriage a break from regular life.
The importance of getting away from your jobs, house, kids and other responsibilities and routine stimuli can’t be overstated. There’s no need to feel guilty for embracing the need to separate yourselves from your normal life for several days.
You are going somewhere to recharge your batteries, remember the priority of your marriage, and hone your communication skills. This element of “getting away” is one of the reasons a marriage retreat can accomplish 6 to 9 months of traditional weekly therapy in a few days.
Availability may determine what retreat format you attend.
If your marriage is in crisis, you will likely need intervention as soon as possible. Some therapist teams are able to offer private marriage intensives on short notice, assuming availability.
If your needs aren’t urgent, then you may prefer the workshop or group formats that allow you to engage with and learn from other couples.
It’s always in your best interest to plan and reserve space as far in advance as possible. But don’t allow the urgency of a crisis to hold you back from reaching out.
You may need privacy.
Some programs go out of their way to accommodate those who need privacy and isolation from other couples. Celebrities and public figures understandably don’t want their private information exposed to public scrutiny. And some people simply don’t feel comfortable trying to explore emotional issues with other people.
In these cases, and for couples who really need to delve into their issues, the private marriage retreat intensive may be best.
Workshops and group retreats allow you to learn from others.
There are marriage/couples therapists who swear by the group setting in a marriage retreat. When you are in the company of other couples striving for better marriages, you vicariously learn. You are inclined to listen to others and process their experiences in the context of your own.
The inherent blessing is that you feel not so alone with your issues. You are also more inclined to be conscious of how you communicate, if only because “strangers are paying attention.” Many people leave their marriage retreats with new lifelong friends.
Spend time preparing for your marriage retreat the same way you would for a vacation. Research the area, the therapists, the reviews.
Start keeping a journal in which you document conversations, arguments, triggers and feelings that challenge your relationship. Having specific examples can make your exercises and therapy sessions much more effective once you arrive.
Also, know what is provided and what you need to bring. Will all your meals be provided? Will you need different kinds of clothing for scheduled activities? Do you have coverage on the homefront so that you can arrive on time and stay until the very end?
Having all those little things taken care of up front will free you up to be present and focus on your marriage.
The need for follow-up.
The lasting impact of a marriage retreat is determined by your effort. While a lot is accomplished in an intensive format, the success is in the follow-through.
The private marriage retreat intensives should have a well-defined follow-up program to help you implement what you have learned. Online sessions and support groups, books, homework and ongoing individual and couples therapy are examples.
Group and workshop retreats will send you away with constructive ideas for follow-up, but may not provide a specific program as part of your cost. It is in your best interest to research this component of a marriage retreat ahead of time.
Expect to reignite your love.
When you attend a marriage retreat, you’ll rediscover why you fell in love in the first place. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the early days of your relationship and all the good reasons you fell in love in the first place.
The stresses and responsibilities of marriage can make you forget why you chose one another. A marriage retreat will help you remember.
By exploring your relationship and childhood histories, you’ll come to again appreciate how you picked the perfect partner for your own growth and healing.
Know that you will learn how to finally be heard and effectively communicate.
“Not feeling heard” is at the heart of so much anguish in marriages. It’s also what often leads people into infidelity or divorce.
A marriage retreat is devoted to enriching your priceless covenant by teaching you skills to nourish it by listening with love and positive intention.
The most important thing you can do at a marriage retreat is be present with an open mind and heart. You will be in a safe environment, away from all the tedious responsibilities of your life. And you will have the perfect, supported opportunity to hear out your spouse, express your feelings, and learn from others.
The most important thing you need to know before you decide to attend a marriage retreat is that your love and your marriage are worth the effort.