Tuesday, 29 April 2014

What Really Goes on at a Good Marriage Retreat? Part III

At the risk of stumbling into some blush-worthy areas...I'm attempting this section of the series, from a practical planning perspective.

Topics, themes, itinerary, that sort of thing.

All the rest you can leave up to your imagination!

I'm not going to lie and might as well put it out there straight-away..sex is important, after all God created it to be enjoyed by husband and wife, so what better place to exercise that freedom than a retreat such as this?...but...so is the simple distraction-free silence, cool morning jogs with or without your spouse, fresh air hikes with like-minded friends, meals that don't require cutting up meat into tiny bite sized pieces, nor a sink full of dishes to clean, good-natured laughs when it comes to how opposite you and your spouse really are, private discussions that may or may not turn into a less than perfect debate (yup, disputes will happen but as long as they are focused and maintained in private...this is a healthy thing!), and let's not forget sleeping in!  Ahhhh...sleep. 

When you want it. 

For as long as you want it.  Or how about just waking up without a sippy cup slamming your forehead, or a "Mooooom, I'm hungry!", or a tackle from the top wire on your unsuspecting slumbering midsection!?

Time for the aforementioned things are very important so if the take-away from this post is nothing else...it is this:  DON'T OVERSCHEDULE!

But before I delve too much into scheduling, it might help to understand what we're scheduling around.  Specifically, what kinds of topics do we cover and what are the best ones to maintain interest for an entire weekend?

Our pastor typically chooses a marriage-themed bible study series to base the weekend on.  There is no end to good studies out there, the trick is just finding one that suits your group and can be covered in the weekend.  Watching a DVD, as opposed to having an actual speaker, is an excellent way to keep the study consistent and sort of put everyone in the same "watching and learning" boat.  With a DVD, it's not like one or two couples are the leaders or facilitators thereby putting a bit of a hierarchy on the group.  There may be couples that rise to the occasion, offering up their own experience and hard-earned lessons, but it's better for group dynamics that that develops as a result, rather than being the driving force behind the study.  Here are some examples of studies that we've covered in our past retreats.  I highly recommend each of them as my husband and I both came away with memorable lessons from each!

Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage - Mark Gungor  (Probably the Hubs' favorite!)
Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, Full Seminar on DVD   -     By: Mark Gungor

A Time Starved Marriage - Les & Leslie Parrott

 His Needs, Her Needs by Dr. Willard F. Harley

All good.  All from different perspectives.  And like I said before, all useful.

The schedule of events usually looks something like this:

2pm on - check in, settle in.
Sometime between 7-9pm whenever the whole group has arrived and settled, we may do an icebreaker (see previous post) to get everyone acquainted and watch our first video of the series.  Usually these are 30-60 minutes long.  After the first watch, our pastor will lead some discussion.  Most seminars come with individual workbooks that can also be handed out and often include an abundance of useful questions for a facilitator and individuals.  Once group chat has lulled, we are encouraged to go back to our rooms or somewhere private and discuss the material that's fresh in our minds.  Again, most workbooks have more personal questions for couples to discuss together and although sometimes it seems awkward to disperse just when the "party's getting started", it really is good practice to encourage some personal reflection of topics that are not always suitable or comfortable for large group settings.  This need only be thirty minutes long, and after couples can regroup (or not) and relax.  Often at this point, some late-night snacks will come out, groups of couples will form to play board games, cards, visit etc.  

9am - breakfast
10:30-11:30am - 2nd session. View, discuss, reflect
11:30-5pm - couple free time.  Where we go, this may include appetizers or a lunch at the local tourist town, hikes, walks, naps, shopping, horseback riding, pedicures, board games, visiting etc. etc.
5-7pm - dinner time.  We always have this catered or go out to a restaurant.
7-8pm - 3rd session. View, discuss, reflect
8pm on - couple free time

9am - breakfast
10:30-11:30am - final session. View, discuss, reflect.  Collect feedback about weekend either in the form of informal conversation (easy to do with a small group) or perhaps a written survey that can remain anonymous (for bigger groups).
11:30 on - clean/pack up, depart.

The bigger the group, the more specific the times will be.  With a small group and depending on who is cooking your meals, you will likely have a lot more flexibility with times and activities.  This really seems to be the ideal time allotment though and we haven't strayed far from it over the last five years.  Any shorter and you don't get into the nitty gritty (Saturday night discussions have always been very rich) but any longer and you'll lose people who have work and childcare commitments.

And there you have it!  Pretty much the 5W's and then some, of a solid successful marriage retreat!  Now go forth and plan in peace, print with purpose and protect your marriages!

Side note:
I happen to be editing this post on the heels of our last retreat only days ago.  It never ceases to amaze me just how enjoyable this retreat is.  Even though the Hubs and I try to get away once a month for a date night and we've even had several overnight mini-vacays to ourselves this past year, nothing quite compares with a third party challenging you to improve yourselves and a concentrated amount of time surrounded by like-minded people to work through it.  I always come away feeling a little guilty because I got to take part in such an event with my husband and so many other couples I know, didn't.  Not only do I feel refreshed and relaxed, but I also feel back on the same page as the Hubs, which I know I tend to wander from occasionally! Best of all we always return missing the kiddos like crazy which is always a good thing!

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