The idea of swapping some of your vacation time and money for a marriage healing retreat may be new to you. You may not even remember where the idea came from, but here it is. And now you and your spouse are blocking off time on your calendars and wondering what this blind date of a getaway is going to look like.
Parents send their kids off to camps in the summer, shelling out sometimes thousands of dollars a week for progeny enrichment. The endless list of options is enough to make adults envious. Sports, arts, technology, STEM communication, special needs, religious education, leadership development, outdoor survival skills…Who wouldn’t want to go?
A study by the American Camp Association surveyed both campers and their parents regarding the perceived and manifested benefits of camp. Common phrases that showed up? Better communication/listening skills, overcoming challenges, conflict resolution, increased confidence, better grades, stronger relationships, industrial skill development. Oh, and the fun. We can’t forget the fun!
Why is a discussion about summer camp for kids relevant to a discussion about a marriage healing retreat for adults?
Take a look at the extensive list of camp offerings. Let yourself travel back in time to when you were a child with your whole life ahead of you. What was important to you at the time? What did you want to learn? What excited and motivated you enough to learn all you could about it?
And when was the last time you felt that way?
Sadly, the adult version of children’s summer camp is usually wrapped up in business trips or training intensives. And they don’t involve any direct attention to the very reason you commit to long, stressful work weeks: your family.
By the time you put in for vacation time, you’re ready to get away from anywhere and anything familiar. And that immersion into something different, indulgent, and simultaneously relaxing and energizing is usually just what the doctor ordered.
But there is always the return to reality…kids, jobs, home repairs, bills…and even your suboptimal marriage.
If the idea of a marriage healing retreat seemingly came out of nowhere, or by serendipity, trust that it showed up for good reason. It’s time to reawaken that pre-camp excitement and curiosity and start planning.
What do you need to do before attending a marriage healing retreat?
Know why you are going and what you want to get out of it.
This may be the most important step of both choosing and preparing for a marriage healing retreat.
There are countless reasons to push pause on your life’s routine and focus on your marriage. Your marriage may be in crisis, in which case you need immediate and very concentrated intervention. Perhaps there has been an infidelity, or one of you is suffering from clinical depression, or you are grieving differently over the loss of a child.
No matter what the underlying instigator of the crisis is, you are at a crossroads where a decision has to be made to either end the relationship or work to save it. And saving it isn’t something you know how to do on your own.
At the other extreme, your marriage may be “fine,” but it’s not great. And you realize that you are at a crossroads that may not spell crisis, but could spell the slow death of your marriage if you don’t do something to renew your footing. Perhaps your sex life has gone the way of middle-age fatigue and boredom. Perhaps the kids are exiting the nest and leaving you to figure out just who that person is that you will be left with.
Knowing why you are going to a marriage healing retreat will ensure that you are matched with the ideal experience for your needs.
Reflect on the ways that you want and need to grow as an individual.
Improving a marriage is a finessed dynamic of improving three entities — you, your spouse, and the marriage itself. Add children to the mix, and the effort becomes almost exponential.
Every person affects every other person and every other relationship in the family. And that means there is no healing and no progress unless the individuals commit to growth. In the same way that one person’s negative choices can affect the whole, so can one person’s positive choices.
In what ways do you see yourself giving less than your best to your relationship? In what ways do you not even know what your best is or can be? And what kind of unedited vision of yourself do you want for the future?
Both you and your spouse should take personal time to reflect and journal so that your mutual work during the retreat is more focused and collaborative.
Reflect on the ways that you want and need to grow as a couple.
Apply the above principles to your marriage. When you are considering your own growth needs and aspirations, make note of how you would like to see your marriage look.
Who has inspired you in your life when it comes to love, marriage, and communication skills? What models and life experiences have kept you stuck in patterns that don’t serve your highest good, individually or relationally?
Bring these reflections to the same table and share them with your spouse. And then together create a goal for the healing and/or enrichment of your marriage. The marriage healing retreat can help you achieve it.
Research your marriage healing retreat options based on your goals.
The number of marriage retreat options may not equate to your kids’ summer camp menu, but there is a plentiful selection. By doing the work above, you will better recognize where your needs fit in the context of a retreat’s offerings.
Some retreats are intentionally located in idyllic locations so that couples can do relationship-focused activities in a vacation-like setting. If you are looking to remember your reasons for falling in love and to brush up on your communication skills, you may like this arrangement. By participating with other couples, you get the benefit of vicarious learning and new friendships.
If your marriage is in crisis or needs more intensive one-on-one work with privacy, you will probably do better with a private marriage healing retreat.
Discuss your needs and the retreat’s provisions with the staff or therapy team ahead of time.
Will you be staying at the site, or do you need a hotel? Will meals be provided? Do you have any special considerations — food allergies, hearing/vision/mobility limitations?
It’s important to keep in mind that this experience is about and for you, your spouse, and your marriage. You are not an inconvenience, you are the priority. And that’s one of the beautiful benefits of choosing a marriage healing retreat as your time away from your regular routine.
Make the proper arrangements on the homefront.
Make sure your transportation arrangements, child care, pet care, etc. are set up to allow you to arrive on time and stay through completion. Remember to bring any necessary medications.
It’s also a good proactive tip to line up post-retreat reinforcement and refresher sessions. Are you already working with an individual therapist? Do you have a marriage support group at your church or temple? Are there any marriage or relationship seminars coming to your area?
Why not get a head-start on your follow-up so that you can maximize and practice all that you will learn during your retreat?
No matter what your reasons are for attending a marriage healing retreat, you have every reason to be excited and hopeful. You are about to embark on an amazing journey into the heart of your marriage as well as your heart and your spouse’s.
You will receive guidance, insight, and new skills in an emotionally safe setting. Your job ahead of time is to plan, pack…and open your mind and heart.