A Couples Retreat―Really?
My answer to this question is unequivocally YES!
Everyone wonders whether time spent at a couples weekend retreat can actually improve their relationships for the long-term. Again the answer is Yes. In fact, most often weekend retreats yield a more streamlined and effective result than couples therapy. Let me explain.
In therapy a couple remains entrenched in their everyday lives. Their normal routine continues. 6:00 alarm, feet hit the floor, start the coffee, make Junior’s lunch, drop him at school, get to work. The couple stay mired in the status quo while seeking change. The environment and routines create a resistance―don’t underestimate inertia.
Let’s work the numbers. There are 168 hours in a week. Usually, couples therapy is scheduled every week for one hour. So that means 1/168 of your attention/energy is focused on change while 167/168 deepens the grooves of the status quo routine and environment. Talk about stacking the deck against you. As a result, even people who are highly motivated to improve their connection have a hard time keeping the momentum that change requires. It can feel like Sisyphus pushing boulders up a mountain.
Retreats provide the advantage of dislodging you from your home environment. Being away ushers you from the structures that encourage sameness. This is why you feel different on vacation. With a little distance, you can look at your life and relationship with a fresh perspective.
Retreats offer other advantages. A focused weekend is more effective at uncovering and releasing old patterns. The extended time for reflection and integration hastens the shedding of destructive habits and old baggage. A retreat is a safe space for people to renew their commitment and rejuvenate their love.
Many people view going to a couples retreat as a sign of failure and feel disappointed in themselves. Most feel wary of what will be asked of them, or whether they’ll be pressured to reveal secrets. Their only experience may be Hollywood’s rendition of retreats: replete with scenes of people stripped emotionally naked, primal screams, and public humiliation. The reality could not be farther from this comedic stereotype. Retreats are safe places where participants are treated with dignity, and where couples can maintain their privacy, work at their own pace, and in their own way.
Your happiness depends on the quality of your relationship. A weekend retreat with your partner is a bold statement about your desire to move through life together.
Jerry Duberstein, Ph.D. is the co-author with Mary Ellen Goggin, JD of the book Relationship Transformation: Have Your Cake and Eat It Too.
Dr. Duberstein and Mary Ellen Goggin offer couple to couple counseling, coaching, and weekend retreats in Boston and Portsmouth, NH. Check the website for details about retreats.