Constant conflict, chronic disrespect, and serious betrayals get a lot of air time when we’re talking about bad relationships. It’s easy to understand that relationships fail when conflict is unrelenting. Every marriage retreat is a little bit different, but I’ll try to cover a variety of different events that you may encounter. Try to remember that this is an adventure, so let yourself go and let yourself have fun! Many of the events may be a little awkward or challenging, but trust me it’s worth it to strengthen your marriage! Trust building exercises. These can range from the classic “catch your partner” where you stand behind your spouse and they close their eyes and fall backwards and you catch them to telling your spouse something you’ve never told them before. The key is actually earn more trust though, so be honest and give it a try. Trust in a relationship is important especially if it’s been broken before. Seminars. What retreat wouldn’t be complete without at least one marriage seminar that teaches you how to strengthen your marriage? The retreat is usually more than just about getting away and having some fun. They want you to learn skills to make your marriage better and to give you hope for your future. One really good way to do this is to spend a few hours or so with speakers that can give you their expertise. Counseling. Being just the two of you for a long period of time is likely to bring out the little things that have been grating on the relationship. So now you’ll need an environment that is safe and fosters open communication. This is where the counseling will come in. They may do some group counseling, but most retreat will make the services of a private counselor available to a trusted New York couples counselor suggests so they can touch on more personal and private matters along with the support group style meetings. Games. Gotta have fun right? Expect most of the games to have some sort of “lesson” with them, but don’t be cynical. Things that challenge you and bring you together with your spouse can be great opportunities to both grow AND have some fun! Marriage seminars are good and can do excellent things for your marriage, but generally they are a bit like taking a college class. You get lots of good info and maybe a little bit of how to apply, but it’s not generally a fun or active thing to do. This is where marriage retreats come into play. They are more about the application of those principles that you learn in marriage seminars than about learning the principles. Marriage retreats are about the doing and applying and getting away from the things that were tearing you down and making it hard to really appreciate your spouse. So what are they and how can they help? Let’s get into this. The key part of a marriage retreat is the “retreat” part. A retreat is: a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy. It’s about getting away from it all. Marriage retreats are often held in places far from the hustle bustle. Many are in the mountains or on the beach. Some will be at a hotel or similar destination. The key is it is about getting away! So choose a marriage retreat program that is both a good sounding program AND takes you to a location that is relaxing for you. If you’re idea of a getaway is going to the beach and having the cool breeze of the ocean on your skin, then a retreat at a hotel in New York City would not be a good idea! The next key is the marriage part. I know, redundant sounding, but some people forget this part. This should be fun, it should be a get-away, but it’s not a vacation. The marriage retreat will force you to work on your marriage. It is highly likely there will be couple activities, relationship builders, even some seminars and talks. But don’t despair, the creators of these programs know you are there to renew your marriage and part of marriage is that it is an adventure, so they will almost certainly create an environment where you can have fun while working on bettering your marriage.
However, after working with couples for 15 years, it has become crystal clear that those couples have a leg up on other couples that are struggling. At least they’re talking, even if they’re arguing, because as Lisa Brookes Kift, LMFT explains, not arguing means you’re not communicating.
Some partners avoid conflict because they think they’re keeping the peace. They tell themselves that whatever is bothering them isn’t worth bringing up. It’s no big deal. Dr. Gottman’s research has revealed that for some conflict avoiders, this interaction is good enough for them. It works.
However, as he details in Principia Amoris, these couples are at greater risk of “drifting apart with zero interdependence over time, and thus being left with a marriage consisting of two parallel lives, never touching, especially when the children [leave] home.”
The unspoken issues and irritants add up until the tension will hit a breaking point.
Eventually partners explode, or worse, shut down. They try to speak up, but by that point, it’s often too late. They don’t have any gas left in the tank to fight for the relationship.
They’re just done.
Maybe at some point, one or both partners did fight. They did try for an improved understanding. They worked for it. However, improvements failed to stick, nothing worked, and needs failed to get met until one or both decided it was better to retreat from the relationship emotionally and stop fighting for it.
Sometimes silence is a deliberate choice. No one is yelling or using disrespectful language. However, those on the receiving end of such silence hear the message: You have ceased to matter. You’re not worth my time or my attention.
So how do you break the silence in your marriage? Start by acknowledging it.
Phrases to Break the Silence
- Hey, we haven’t really been talking lately. I have been feeling X and just haven’t known how to bring it up.
- Can we check in? I know I’ve gone radio silent and shut down. I’m not even sure I can explain it all but I’d like to try, if you’re willing to listen to me bumble about a bit while I sort it all out.
- I’m not sure what’s going here but I feel like we haven’t really spoken in X amount of time. Do you have time to talk tonight?
- I miss you. We don’t really talk anymore and I am not sure why. I haven’t asked because I am afraid you’ll say it’s my fault but I miss you. I miss us.
Partners stop talking because they fear what might happen after the conversation starts. What happens if we start talking and can’t work it out? What happens if I ask my partner what’s bothering them and I can’t handle the answer? What happens if I tell my partner what’s bothering me and they don’t care?
Those fears play into why people stay silent. Tell your partner what’s on your heart.
State Your Fears
If you’re worried about what your spouse might say, think, or do, be transparent about that. Tell your partner what you want them to think or know:
- I know I’m not the best communicator but silence can’t be good. I’m nervous that we’re going to end up in a fighting match. I really don’t want to fight with you. I want us to work this out together.
- I know we keep trying. I know we keep failing but silence is giving up and I don’t want to do that.
- I know that we haven’t been talking. The truth is, I’m scared because I’m desperate for us to connect. I feel like we are on opposite sides and I want to feel like we’re a team again. I want us to figure out some way to work this out even though neither of us really knows how to start.
- Hey, I don’t want you to feel under attack here. I know I am to blame, too, but this conversation has to start somewhere. Our relationship is too important to me to not try so, here goes…
- I caught myself the other day, telling a friend about how great you were with X. I realized I never told you that I thought you did that well. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we had a conversation that went beyond our to-do lists. Can we figure out a time to just check in, please?
Now that you’ve broken the silence in your marriage and opened the door to connection, the next step is to walk through it together.
Fri, 21 Apr 2017 22:41:11 +0000