God designed marriage for people. He created a man and found him incomplete until he formed a “help meet” (Gen. 3:18) for him. In order to keep a marriage strong, the man and his wife must focus on their identity as a duo, pair, and couple.
In order to perpetuate this, our church designated a time for married couples to retreat from the stress of the world and focus on each other. Those with children at home left them in the care of others. Employers granted time off from work. A generous couple in the church donated their timeshare property for the two-day escape.
When our children were young, my husband and I made time for our marriage. Thankfully, we lived near our parents, and grandparents find any excuse to spend time with their “grandbabies” delightful. Most years, once our youngest was weaned, we spent one weekend per year away from home – alone.
This sort of focus on a marriage is essential. I believe that these short moments of time when my husband and I left responsibilities behind and relaxed together fortified our marriage against the storms of life.
Life has trouble. Jesus promised it would (John 16:33). Turmoil should never surprise us. In fact, we should be diligently preparing for its certain arrival. We won’t get advance warning to prepare (like they do for a hurricane).
A retreat is the perfect way to begin strengthening the foundational relationship of marriage. Let’s take a moment to pinpoint the necessary elements for an effective retreat.
You and your spouse. Surprising, right? Not really. Some couples find it difficult to leave their children behind. Don’t fall into that trap.
One day your children will be adults. They will leave your home to make their own. Who will be left behind? You and your spouse. Don’t let that person become a stranger because you’re involved in fostering your children.
In the case of this retreat, it involved four couples from our church. Even though we spent many hours together as a group, there were hours designated for prayer and devotional with your “other half.”
Retreat implies movement. In order to fully escape the pressures of life, couples must leave home.
It’s not enough just to make a physical retreat. For any true bonding to happen, we have to agree to leave the stress and worry behind. If every moment is spent wondering if the kids are okay and answering texts from work, we’ve defeated ourselves.
In the case of our retreat, we spent six hours absorbing lessons about weathering the inevitable storms of life. After listening and taking notes, we applied the principles in activities done with our spouse. It is this application process that builds a stronger foundation.
As previously mentioned, a retreat cannot happen at home. Sure, you can send your children away, turn off your cell phone and ban electronic devices. It still will not be a thorough retreat.
The squeaky bathroom door will beckon. Cobwebs will jeer at you from every corner. Your compulsion to tackle “one little thing” will lead to a torrent of project completion and concentrating on strengthening your marital bond will fall beneath the onslaught.
Our retreat was held in Gleneden Beach, Oregon. The resort was right on the ocean and the constant rhythm of the waves acted like a Swedish massage. Each couple had their own room, replete with fireplace and ocean view, engendering wordless cuddle time after the flurry of activity receded.
Fortune 500 companies comprehend the power of a retreat for strengthening teamwork. Team retreats, leadership retreats and so on have become standard in many sectors of commerce and industry.
In the midst of stress and pressure, it’s easy to forget the objective. Burned out employees and managers lose their edge and company profits fall in response. The same is true in marriage. We get wrapped up in the flurry of responsibilities and obligations and forget that our home is founded on something else: a relationship.
Our retreat had two purposes: to give couples a chance to rest, recharge and relate; and to strengthen the waning exuberance of our core group. We understand that our church will only be as strong as the weakest family. In turn, families can only endure if the marriage relationship thrives.
Life would be a much simpler thing if it could be boiled down to equations and algorithms.
You + Your Spouse + A Different Locale = Retreat
Retreat = Rest + Relaxation
As you know, life is anything but simple. Leaving home with your spouse doesn’t guarantee you’ll find a place of retreat where you can rejuvenate your relationship.
The how of a successful retreat is entirely in the hands of the participant. If you desire to find relaxation, it can be spotted, lassoed and enjoyed. Spending quality time in the presence of your spouse can be achieved when both parties determine they won’t stop until they reach that haven.
My husband spent hours researching and preparing the three sessions with six steps for building a stronger marriage. My games, mixers, handouts and exercises required a few minutes of research and a bevy of computer keystrokes. Still, it was beyond our power to make the two days a retreat.
Based on the feedback from the people who attended, they did retreat from the world. During that withdrawal, they engaged in deeper communication with their spouses. Time and distance from their “real world” coupled with focus and solace enabled them to fortify their marriage for the trials ahead.
“In this world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus said it so we know it’s true.