A marriage retreat is a wonderful thing to do for your relationship, and summer is a great time to do one. While there are plenty of good options out there if you want to go on a formal marriage retreat, you can also plan a “DIY” retreat which can be far more convenient. All you need are an open mind and a little extra downtime, perhaps when the kids are visiting Grandma or busy with their own activities on vacation.
The goal of any marriage retreat is to bring you closer to each other. You’ll want to take an honest look at how your relationship is going, and come up with some ways to make it even better.
Here are the 5 general steps to follow for a DIY marriage retreat:
1. Set a date. Intentionally schedule some cozy time together – maybe a long date night or a weekend away. Then get to work on creating a mood that is relaxed and emotionally inviting, so the two of you will want to show up!
2. Get fully present. Remove all the distractions and get physically relaxed. Turn off the cell phones and other technology. Play music, take a walk together, or get a massage. Share a delicious meal and linger over dessert. Make eye contact, smile, and hold hands. Give each other the gift of your full attention.
3. Be curious. For your relationship to succeed, it helps for you and your partner to know each other really well — and we’re not just talking about clothing sizes or favorite foods. Without deeper knowledge of your spouse, it’s easy for misunderstandings and resentment to escalate. Although you may believe you already know everything there is to know about your husband, open your mind and see if you can take that learning to a deeper level by making that a major focus of your DIY marriage retreat. The key is to really listen, as if you didn’t know your partner at all.
Here are a few areas you can explore together:
- Your best and worst memories of childhood.
- What you emotionally needed as a child, but did not get.
- What your family taught you about conflict.
- What your family taught you about expressing emotions.
- What you family taught you about touch and sexuality.
- What your family taught you about money.
- What your family taught you about gender roles.
- How your cultural background affected your upbringing.
- How your family’s economic situation affected you.
- How your family structure affected you (i.e., single parent, step-family, adoptive family).
- Your greatest regrets in life.
- How you handle emotional pain.
- What you feel proud of in your life.
- Your dreams for your life.
- What makes you feel absolutely loved and cherished.
- Who has been most emotionally important to you in your life.
- What is currently causing you the most stress.
- What you need from the marriage, but are not getting.
- How you can support each other in achieving your personal goals.
If you run out of topics to discuss, here are a 36 more questions research has shown will build intimacy in relationships: http://bit.ly/1sCdUIz. Of course, you don’t have to get through every discussion area this time. Nurturing your intimate friendship is an ongoing conversation — the important thing is just to start talking and exploring.
4. Express positive feelings. Everyone needs to feel loved, appreciated and supported. Take time out to explicitly tell your spouse what he means to you and how much you appreciate his presence in your life. Be sure to also voice gratitude for the little and big things he does for you. Now let him take a turn. If you recall, research shows that the couples who have the most successful long-term relationships tend to also be the most emotionally warm with one another.
5. Take it all home. Once the retreat is over, apply what you’ve learned to make your marriage even stronger. Being present, curious, and appreciative on a regular basis will certainly improve the quality of your relationship as you move forward together.