Fifteen years — and counting.
I know. Ours is not the longest marriage on record. But it is the happiest.
I have the certificate to prove it. Somewhere. It’s right — well, it’s not important now. I’ll look it up later.
Right after we get the six kids to bed.
Now that we’ve covered Why You Should Plan a Marriage Retreat, let’s get practical and talk how to plan a weekend getaway. Well, it doesn’t have to be a weekend getaway, as you’ll see, but it would sure help.
One excuse I’ve heard often for not taking a marriage retreat is this: “We just don’t know how to plan it.” Funny, it wasn’t in the marital counseling pack you bought online on your way to Vegas? No worries. My friends, your quest for a plan — if that really is the cause for delay — is over.
By beginning with the end in mind, as Stephen Covey says, you can plan a getaway to transform your marriage. Here are some of our tips based on years of tried and true marriage retreat practice.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Your first step in the plan is to choose the format you’ll use. You actually have quite a few options, and we’ve tried them all. What’ll it be?
- An extended afternoon. The shortest of the options. Not much more than a longer date really. But it’s a start if it’s all you can do. Motion leads to momentum, as Michael Hyatt says. So if this is all you can manage, get moving.
- A one-day retreat. Start in the morning, either right after breakfast or take your spouse out for a “home-cooked” breakfast to get the day rolling. Follow it with planned stops at quiet locations — inside or out — where you can talk, walk, and hang out free of distraction. Head away from the city. Quiet is key.
- An overnight retreat. Now we’re talking! Time to relax. A quiet hotel — one with a suite is best for conversation. Bed and Breakfast Inns can be ideal for this purpose. A lodge or private cabin even better. Pay attention to amenities. A relaxing dip, an invigorating massage, or a candlelight dinner can all help set the tone for helpful marriage retreat. More than likely
- A relaxing weekend getaway of two nights. This is where it’s at. Plenty of time to take your time. My upcoming post on How to Easily Schedule a Weekend Marriage Retreat can help you plan to make the most of your marriage retreat.
Prepare to Communicate
Sketch out what you want to discuss beforehand and let your spouse know. Nothing like being blindsided to shut down the weekend — or start it in the wrong direction.
If you aren’t sure where to start, try crafting a family mission statement if you haven’t yet done one. (The best treatment I’ve seen on this is Steven Covey’s First Things First or see his more family-oriented The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families.)
Here’s the family mission statement we developed on a weekend marriage retreat some years ago:
To love the Lord our God
by passionately, joyfully, and creatively
first in ourselves, then as a family, then beyond
to leave a legacy of love
as fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ our Creator, Savior, and Friend.
As the children get older, we plan to incorporate them into the conversation more and adjust the mission with their input to ensure ownership of the vision by all. Don’t try to copy our mission statement. It won’t work. For it to matter at all to you, it really needs to be one that resonates uniquely with your family values.
Go with the Flow
I suggest moving the conversation on the retreat in the following order: God and spiritual matters, marriage goals and concerns, family issues, career and community relations. In other words, put the big rocks in first.
- Scheduling time on the weekend for personal reflection with your Creator prepares you to relax. Meditation, Scripture reading, and prayer realign your own heart. Only then can you humbly and honestly talk about your relationship as a couple.
- You can move from there to discuss your marriage and how it is aligning — or not — with your mission statement. Which do you need to adjust — your marriage or your mission? Remember to first seek to understand, then to be understood.
- Now for the kids in general and each child in particular. Think about it, how often do you get to think and talk about each child without having a pressing problem to deal with? Imagine the possibilities!
- No retreat, however relaxing, would likely be complete without some talk of family finances because money often exposes our true priorities. Here is where career concerns might come into the plan.
- Finally, some time spent on how you as a couple and family will impact the community around you could be productive — unless of course, you discover there’s a lot of work to do as a family before you can even get to that point.
Most importantly, don’t feel that you have to perfect your family and relationship on one trip. Remember the words of Price Pritchett that “everything looks like a failure in the middle.” Commit to the process of continuous course correction. That commitment alone will be a significant victory and put you well ahead of most couples.
The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg– not by smashing it. ~ Arnold Glasgow
Note: A relaxing weekend retreat that transforms your marriage is NOT a time to discuss spending details or to criticize your spouse for not picking up socks. Don’t berate. Communicate.
Schedule Your Time — But Stay Flexible!
Before the retreat begins, draft a tentative schedule of talking, relaxing, and activities that you agree on. Even physical exercise should be included to maintain your energy levels. But the schedule is simply a guide. Respect it, but revise as needed. It should go without saying that you should only revise it if you both agree to do so. If you can’t do even that then you probably need more than a retreat can give.
See my upcoming post on “How to Easily Schedule a Weekend Marriage Retreat” for ideas based on what we have done.
Commit to Scheduling the Next One
Perhaps the most critical decision of the weekend may be to make plans to do it again — at least once a year. My wife and I aim for every six months. Better yet, add to this retreat process shorter monthly times to reconnect and assess your progress. Daily contact points are even better. Watch for my upcoming post “Marriage Retreat: How to Make Every Day a Getaway.”
At the very least, you’ll come home relaxed with a little more clarity on where you’re headed and why. And your marriage will have forever changed. How it changes is up to you.
Start transforming your marriage now by sending your spouse a link to this post or the previous one Marriage Retreat: Why to Plan a Weekend Getaway.