The strategy for our marriage retreats involves more than the simplistic notion that communication can solve everything or that a troubled marriage only needs some romance. There are complex reasons why even good relationships can turn sour. We find that these reasons exist on 3 levels: knowledge, skill and capacity. It’s not enough to know how to behave most constructively in a challenging exchange with your partner. You also need certain skills so that you have a good repertoire at your disposal. Bet that’s still not enough. The biggest problem is that your emotions can overwhelm both your knowledge and your skills. The deepest of the 3 levels involves a capacity called emotional regulation. That’s where our marriage retreats separate from the rest. We train couples how to strengthen their own emotional regulation in the relationship. We encourage you to peruse The Marriage First Aid Kit and learn how our approach is based on a profound understanding of what’s really sabotaging your relationship.
Several effective principles are employed during each of our marriage counseling retreats:
1) Individualized attention is most effective for your unique relationship problems.
Not all relationships are the same and it would be very limiting to use the cookie-cutter strategy of sitting you in a group. An intensive individualized approach is superior because it lets us focus on where your relationship needs the most attention. Your private marriage retreat will be tailored to your own particular situation.
2) The environmental setting can help free you from your previously stuck emotional states.
A renewed sense of adventurous exploration can help you to break free from the stuck patterns of defensive behavior in your current relationship. Our private marriage retreat is designed to reignite the more free-spirited parts of yourselves with which you probably started your relationship.
3) Intersperse fun and challenge to decrease fear and increase cooperation.
Couples have limited emotional resources. Having periodic fun can make the hard work less taxing. Experiencing fun around each other can also reduce the usual tension in a troubled relationship. Couples tell us how much they appreciate that the work is so well-paced. They typically have several hours of intense counseling in the morning after which they can go off by themselves and talk about their reactions. They may process the morning session while they enjoy lunch and explore the current port town. In the afternoon the couple usually comes back to the boat and has another counseling session. After that they may have dinner and talk some more about what they’re learning. Most couples find this strategy of interspersing work with pleasure to be less stressful and much more balanced than sitting with counselors for a full 6 or 8 hours.
4) Relationship problems occur on different levels. Effective interventions often require different kinds of learning:
Knowledge – A relationship can fall out of balance because one or both partners hold erroneous beliefs or are unaware of what a relationship requires. On this level, the couple can be educated about how to better maintain their relationship. Special skills or training aren’t required. This involves learning in what is called “semantic memory.”
Skill – A relationship may be in trouble because partners need to perform certain activities that they don’t have the skills to perform. Merely knowing what should be done isn’t enough. A partner might know what they should do but they find they don’t have the skill or can’t even remember how to adequately perform in the moment. Conflict management often requires self-soothing skills that have to be trained into “performance memory.”
Capacity – It’s a myth that all relationship problems are about communication. Sometimes a partner hasn’t sufficiently evolved an important part of their personality. “emotional intelligence”, “level of consciousness”, “theory of mind”, level of integration, insight, wisdom and empathy are all terms that involve a broader level of learning beyond skill. They all involve the ability to view the world from a more evolved perspective. Limitations of capacity can have profound effects on a relationship and there are no quick fixes. However, partners can be shown how to plan their own program for growing capacity over time.
Our Love Odyssey marriage retreat includes:
- Tools for burying old resentments
- Assessment of which covert inhibitions are blocking important emotional states.
- Intimacy exercises to explore reattachment
- Tools for “getting close” with your partner
- Psycho-education about fundamental relationship responsibilities:
- Healing old wounds that interfere with optimal behavior
- Nourishing the relationship through healthy attachment
- Protecting your partner, yourself and your relationship from emotional injury
- Exercising and growing your emotional capacity
- Analysis of how each of your backgrounds may be limiting your relationship.
- Psycho-education about meta-motivational states
- Psycho-education about managing money and chores
- Tools for benign distancing when you need privacy
- Tools for managing healthy conflict
- Tools for stopping dysfunctional conflict
- Tools and intensive practice for shifting emotional states
- Tools and recommendations for continued emotional growth
The 7 day private marriage retreat also includes:
- Training and practice of the “micro-correction” technique for neutralizing emotional injury so that it doesn’t accumulate
- Intensive practice of conflict management skills in staged mock conflicts
- Personal sharing with both Bryce & Helen to help model and exemplify principles taught during the odyssey.
- Assessment of your own core values which will help you stabilize your relationship
- Training and practice of “autonomy shifting” of your attention in order to protect yourself when facing someone’s disapproval
- Additional intimacy exercises to deepen your mutual sense of reconnection.