If you’ve opened this and actually thought I would be giving you advice on how to save your marriage, I have done my job as a creative writer. But, just like a lot of marketing in the world, the content doesn’t exactly match the headline. But, don’t close your browser just yet. Here’s a more accurate headline: “One tactic on how to save your marriage…a marriage retreat!” Or how about this. “Want to save your marriage? Start with a marriage retreat!” Here’s a good one and my personal favorite. “Don’t wait to attend a marriage retreat until you are on the brink of divorce, start working on your marriage now!”
And yes, we did 🙂 We attended our first marriage retreat this past weekend. Why? Why not? I give 110% to my job. My relationships. My extracurricular activities. I give 110% to decorating my house, for crying out loud. Therefore, my marriage should at least get 110% of my effort as well, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. Sound familiar?!
Now, I know what you are thinking and wanting to ask and the answer is no. It wasn’t anything like the movie Couples Retreat with Vince Vaughn, but I did get a good laugh when someone asked me if it was going to be like that.
On Friday afternoon, Rick and I packed our weekend bags and headed out to our car at 5:30, 2 hours later than planned and right at the cusp of peak-rush-hour-meets-snow-starting-to-fall-on-a-Friday-in-the-city (awesome way to start a marriage retreat). Our neighbors were also in their car with their two kids getting ready to start their weekend. Mutaz, the husband and father of two asked, “Hey, where are you guys off to again?” My enthusiastic response was, “We are headed up to Lake Geneva for a marriage retreat!” Mutaz rolled his eyes, chuckled and said, “God help you guys.”
And that makes for a perfect transition into the fact that yes, this was a marriage retreat through our amazing church, Park Community Church, and needless to say, it was the G-rated version of Vaughn’s Couples Retreat and Mutaz’s comment was spot on 🙂 Rick and I are strong Christians and at the center of our marriage and before anything else is God, hence the decision to take a road trip to the lovely state of Wisconsin and spend our weekend with God and 140 other couples at The Abbey Resort on Lake Geneva. Yes, this was a bit uncomfortable for us. But if you know Rick and me, you know that uncomfortable is pretty normal in our relationship 🙂
The weekend had three parts: connecting emotionally, connecting physically and connecting spiritually. It truly functioned like a work conference with presentations, great music, break-outs, etc. What I liked most about it was after each session, they gave you anywhere from 30-45 minutes to talk and digest the topics as a couple. And between the drive up and back and having both Friday and Saturday night free, there was ample time to reconnect with your spouse.
Here’s what I learned, was reminded of or ideas I took away from the weekend, in no particular order. And yes, I recommend every couple doing this at least once a year, whether it’s through a church, a temple, another organization, whatever. The edification that can [and will] occur is remarkable and you will walk away closer to your spouse, having learned a thing or two and feeling reconnected on many levels.
- Every single marriage is worth fighting for. In fact, statistically, 30% of marriages that were headed for divorce did not get divorced after 5 years of fighting and staying together. Obviously that 5 years was hard and painful and took more patience that some people can’t even fathom while in a struggling marriage. But, the stats speak for themselves.
- Spouse-ology is a fun game to play with your spouse, despite us not being too great at it 🙂
- Be a good listener. James 1:19 says “…be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.” Love that verse and frankly, applicable to all types of relationships.
- While in the session on connecting physically, people were throwing out ideas and one guy yells, “take more showers together!” Yes, it was funny, but it actually seems to be a great tactic for couples, especially those with children.
- Be for your spouse. Say that again with me. Be for your spouse. Nobody ever wants their partner to be against them. Even if you don’t agree with your spouse, always remind them you are for them and support them. And then speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
- Every day, ask each other the best thing about the day and one thing that is bringing him/her anxiety (or as the Kardashians do it, the peak and the pit). If you want bonus points, pray for your spouse on these things. And if you want extra bonus points, follow through the next day and ask how they are doing with whatever was making him/her anxious.
- Set one night a week for date night. Protect it.
- Is your marriage time-starved? One thing Rick and I committed to, albeit small, is having a cleaning service come twice a month. There is never any arguing over who is doing what around the house and it frees up our weekends to allow us to put our marriage first.
- All men struggle with some level of sexual temptation and/or pornography. I know, this is tough to swallow and your immediate response may be “not my husband!” Or, you may be more in the “it’s normal and I am okay with it” category. Either way, this discussion resonated with me and here’s why: pornography robs marriage of true intimacy. Porn (and the like) is false intimacy that creates an expectation or a fairytale that cannot be attained in a real relationship and can lead to husbands feeling as if their wife cannot meet their fantasy-like desires. It also causes a mans view of a woman to diminish because she cannot give him what he gets in the fantasy world of pornography.
- Although I didn’t visit this site, http://www.realrelationships.com came up as a resource so I plan to check it out.
- In the midst of a fight or tension, asking your spouse, “What do you need from me right now?” is a great place to start. I liked this because so often I go into fixing mode and give Rick solutions in the moment when he may not even want solutions. So, just ask your spouse what they need from you! Groundbreaking, I know.
- Pray together every single day. Say sorry and ask for forgiveness. Offer grace to your spouse.
- Continue to be myself for Rick.
- What if God designed marriage to make us holy instead of happy? Love this question and 100% believe God did design marriage to sanctify each other.
- When one looks to a partner to fulfill their deepest longings and desires, the partner will fail. Only God can fulfill those desires of your heart and soul. This Chinese proverb sums it up well: “If a man works at it, he can be a great husband. But a lousy God.”
- The greatest gift parents can give their children is the example of a loving marriage between flawed people.
- Romantic love is like the Dow Jones. Up and down, up and down. True love has a peace, a stability, even when the going gets tough.
- The marriage covenant is necessary for sex. And sex is necessary to maintain the covenant of marriage.
- Do you and your spouse have the same view of the world, spiritually speaking?
- Real love is hard love.