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Call me goofy but I enjoy a good Marriage Retreat every now and then.My husband and I have been on three of them over the course of our marriage, the most recent of which took place last weekend. Contrary to conventional wisdom, marriage retreats are not reserved for those who necessarily need to repair a damaged relationship, but they can also be refreshing and enjoyable for folks who are happily married as well. In fact, for us, it was downright fun.
I’m sure that some of the men out there might be cringing right about now at the thought of a marriage retreat. It might sound to them about as fun as a root canal, but if you have a good attitude about it, there’s nothing to fear. We thought a weekend away in a cabin in the woods without television sounded like the perfect getaway during a frosty February when there isn’t much else going on. Sure, we could have stayed at home and spent the weekend doing household chores (him) or knitting (me) but this was a nice diversion.
And I must brag about how enthusiastic my husband was about participating in all the awkward and uncomfortable things they make you do at marriage retreats! In fact he took things more seriously than I did at times, which I am ashamed to admit. The sessions were easy enough to deal with. We listened to the speakers sharing about their own experiences in their marriage and then we compared notes and applied these lessons to our respective relationships when appropriate. No problem there. But things got a little uncertain when we were asked to split up into twos with our spouses and separate away from the rest of the group so we could communicate “privately” in a group setting. Red flags flew up all around the room, including in my own mind!
Our first public/private exercise was to sit quietly while the music played and stare intently into each other’s eyes without speaking – for two solid minutes! Normally this is not a long period of time but let me tell you, under these circumstances it feels like an eternity. Do you want to know how that went? We pretty much flunked out right there. Thankfully they are rather merciful at these things so they didn’t kick us out. We couldn’t stop giggling at each other. We were snickering like two seven-year-olds, and whispering about how ridiculous we felt. Pretty much breaking all the rules before 30 seconds had elapsed.
Apparently we are a little rusty at the staring wistfully at each other skill upon which all strong marriages are based. In fact, I’m not sure if we’ve done that since our actual wedding day, so even in all the silly awkwardness, this simple exercise became a little easier each time we had to do it (and yes, we had to do it several more times before the weekend was over) and a little less hilarious. I found that after a while, there was something truly wonderful about sitting silently and staring into the eyes of the man I love more than anyone else on earth. It was a strange realization, but a good one. That was probably the point after all.
There were many other exercises we had to do, such as complete random sentences about each other or our expectations regarding aspects of our marriage while our partner listened without replying or commenting. Many of those moments were also difficult to take seriously because the wording was so unnatural to the way we might normally speak to one another. However, as I reflected on the whole experience, being forced by a total stranger to express yourself to your mate was somewhat liberating. Outside of that environment we would never have said many of those things, but ultimately the process evoked a deep and powerful feeling of appreciation for my husband and the gift of his love. So Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey! Here’s to many more years of staring wistfully into each other’s eyes!