Are you and your partner feeling overwhelmed, burnt-out, and disconnected? If you’re like most couples, the answer is “yes.”
When conflict mounts, it’s easy to want to yell “retreat!” and run as far away from your partner as possible.
But what if “retreating” is actually a good idea? Think retreats are just for big corporations, tech start-ups, spiritual groups, and yoga gurus? Well, think again. The “retreat” concept is great for couples who need to get away and reconnect with each other. A couples retreat could be the way to do that.
If you are like most people, many of your conversations with your partner focus on everyday details and decisions. On weekends, you may spend your downtime frantically catching up on obligations you wanted to finish during the week. You spend your life handling the immediate, and you leave very little time for the bigger journey you take with your partner.
Instead of waiting for the “us” time to magically appear, claim that space deliberately, and go on a “relationship retreat.”
Couples sharing the business of raising a family, unmarried partners who collaborate on important projects, and couples marrying soon can all benefit from taking time out of life to step outside of the parameters of their normal environments. Carving out time out to discuss things that are important to both you and your partner is extremely important. How’s that for relationship advice that will actually work?
Sounds great, but how does this work?
My husband and I started planning our annual relationship retreat about five years ago because we just couldn’t make time to sit down and talk about our life together. We found ourselves focusing much more time and energy on our lives apart, so we weren’t always on the same page about our decisions together.
Unlike a vacation, where we usually take a “Let’s do it all!” approach, on a relationship retreat, we intentionally slow down and focus on “us.” We look at all aspects of the past year: work, community involvement, personal and spiritual growth, financial decisions, and our priorities.
We also take time for dreaming about how we want to enrich our lives in the years ahead and decide how to approach our work apart so that it satisfies as many personal and professional needs as possible.
Of course, half the fun is planning the retreat. I delight in searching for the coolest little getaway places — researching inns and bed-and-breakfasts, AirBnBs, Homeaways, and VRBO sites. Picking just the right place where we can have no distractions, cook our own meals, and enjoy the local scene is a must.
Part of our planning process is developing a relationship retreat outline — an agenda for our time and intentions. It includes a schedule of what we’ll likely do in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings, including where we eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Since my husband has a different view of “being on retreat” than I do, I made sure to include him in outlining the schedule for each day — when we’ll work, when we’ll talk about our goals, when we’ll relax, where we’ll eat, and what we might do for entertainment.
What do we actually do for the “working on us” part?
The retreat “work” starts with a general check-in with each other — where are my partner and I in terms of satisfaction, fulfillment, and energy? Try to identify when you each feel at your best, what values are important to you, and how you feel about the various parts of your life.
A key point to remember? The goal of a couples retreat is to reconnect, not fight. Stay focused on what you do want to feel and experience together versus using the retreat to harp on each other for every misstep your partner makes. Celebrate what you want to see more of!
With all of this reflection and sharing, you can now begin to sculpt your ideas and feelings into a clear vision of what you both want to take away from the retreat. This may take longer than you imagine as you sort through each of your priorities and concerns.
Be patient. Be curious. And be willing to hear what the other person is really saying.
How do we keep the retreat alive once we return home?
When you get home, it may be easy to slip back into “business as usual.” You may remember your retreat fondly but not act on your goals. To keep the spirit of the retreat vibrant, find or create a visible reminder of the retreat. This can be collages, artwork, photographs, or any other representations that powerfully remind you both of what you want to create together.
Most importantly, agree to regularly celebrate every accomplishment toward your relationship goals, no matter how big or small. Set a date to express appreciation to each other and honor what you accomplished.