Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Couples Retreat

Last weekend my husband and I attended a couples retreat.  The event was advertised as a way to reconnect with your partner, in the wilderness, unplugged from electronics for 3 days.  Two therapists lead 15 couples and a handful of singles through various exercises and give them enough tools to function better as a couple and to communicate better to people in general. 

I will admit that I was a little concerned that it was going to be a little too new age, hippy, granola for our taste.  But one of the therapists wrote a self-help book that changed my life in college and I was really looking forward to meeting her in person.  My husband and I had discussed seeing a therapist or going to a retreat in the past but never got around to it.  When the author's Twitter feed showed she would be doing a retreat just a short drive away in New England we figured we'd give it a shot. 

So here's an example of our daily schedule: 

8-9 am breakfast provided by the retreat.  New age, hippy, granola food.  Gluten free entrees, nuts and berries, vegan cookies, soy sausage. Not bad but not my normal vacation breakfast gluttony. 

9-12 lecture time.  Power point presentation about common problems, the way men and women think, etc.  Hard to stay awake after so much soy sausage. 

12-2 pm lunch and free time.  More nuts and berries.  When we signed up for the retreat we were bullied into paying extra so that we could eat our meals and snacks there rather than drive around and look for a place to eat.  They said the meal plan was a necessity because there was very little free time and restaurants were far away.  We passed the standard slew of chain restaurants on our drive into the retreat.  I can't tell you how awful it feels to drive past a Friendly's, where you can get a delicious burger and fries and a hot fudge sundae for $12, because you've spent $300 for 3 days of rabbit food. 

2-6 pm afternoon lecture.  Very similar to the morning session.  The problem with having 2 experts is that they are constantly trying to one up each other.  Rather than compliment each other, they are trying to demonstrate that they are more knowledgeable than the other expert.  It was a little annoying during the morning session but it was unbearable in the afternoon.  The experts were so focused on competing with each other that they strayed from their outline frequently and failed to respond to questions clearly.  

6-8 pm dinner.  Generally the best meal of the day.  Beans and rice, enchiladas, soup and sandwiches.  Normal people food with a veggie twist. 

8-11 pm evening session.  This was the best part of the day.  This was where we learned breathing, stretching, visualization and trust exercises to better center ourselves and to connect with our partners.  It is amazing how 10 minutes of meditation and breathing can help you sort through all the clutter that's in your head.  There were many people who had emotional outbursts during this exercise.  It was a very powerful night. 

So you can imagine that after 3 days of this we were ready to go home but the reality is that our lives are forever changed because of it.  The way we communicate with each other and handle stress is 100% different.  As much as I would have liked to miss the daily lectures, the evening exercises more than made up for it.  Plus getting to know other couples who were facing challenges and looking to better their relationships made us feel like we were normal.  And on the flip side, seeing married singles there alone because their partners were not willing to come or couples who were struggling with much worse problems than ours made it clear that we have a great relationship and should not take it for granted. 

If you see a yoga/meditation/couples retreat advertised in your area, read the fine print, but in the end I think you will come away with much more than you end up giving up.  

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