|June 17, 2014 By Richard Asa, Special to Tribune Newspapers|
Couples can reap big benefits by attending a retreat — but
first, they both need to agree on one
There are hundreds of options for
couples retreats — and as many different approaches and . Some are based on reducing stress in
beautiful natural surroundings, others are faith-based, still others focus on
improving communication and intimacy, provide practical tools to apply in
specific situations at home and teach techniques such as yoga, meditation and
tantric rituals. Some are for married couples, others for those considering a
It’s very easy to find one.
It’s harder to find the right one.
“Couple’s retreats come in all
different flavors,” says Jon Caldwell, a psychiatrist with The Meadows
treatment center in Wickenburg, Ariz. “Some are quite general in their
approach, while others are specifically geared toward certain problems,
processes and goals.” The retreat leader or therapist, he says, can make
or break the experience.
“Of course, the retreat
leader’s technical skills are important,” Caldwell says, “but equally
important is his or her perspectives and personality. It is wise to do your
homework and find a retreat that is right for you.”
Caldwell says retreats generally are
focused on identifying and practicing practical solutions for greater
communication, respect, trust and intimacy.
“They tend to be hands-on and
solution-oriented,” he adds.
But we’re getting ahead of
ourselves. Before finding a retreat, both partners have to agree on attending
one, says Judi Cineas, a Palm Beach, Fla., therapist who often runs couples
retreats. She says reluctance stems from discomfort with the unknown.
“Once they start to realize
that it is about (helping) them, (skeptical partners) tend to start
relaxing,” she says. “Many individuals hesitate because they worry
this puts them and their issues at the forefront, which adds to the pressure
for things to change.”
Sean Horan, assistant professor at
Texas State University and a relational communications expert, says issues
surrounding communication are the key reasons to seek help.
“The content of these
(retreats) should focus on communication. Things like conflict, maintenance,
affection, support, etc.,” he says. “Your relationships are
initiated, created, sustained and maintained by verbal and nonverbal messages;
thus, (retreats) should focus on communication.”
Prime candidates for a couples retreat?
You might be surprised. Longtime marriage and family therapist Terri Orbuch, a
research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of
Michigan, says longtime couples who have gotten into a lifestyle groove can
benefit big-time. They’re the ones taking care of everything, from bills to
kids — everything, that is, except their relationship.
“When the relationship gets put
on the back burner, a couples retreat reminds us about the importance of our
partner and relationship,” says Orbuch, author of “Five Simple Steps
to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great.” “It teaches us again how
to pay attention to our partner and our relationship. It is like a relationship
tuneup; we all need a relationship tuneup now and then no matter how happy
or we are in our relationships.”
Orbuch encourages couples to
consider retreats that focus on education rather than therapy and are designed
to help them learn tools to enrich and strengthen their relationship. This
gives them time together away from home in a nice
setting, and joining other couples learning the same material, such as
remembering how to reignite the excitement in their relationship.
Not everyone, of
relationship. In fact, many couples are desperate to keep their relationship
intact., goes to retreats to simply shore up a healthy
A Boca Raton, Fla., couple on the
verge of divorce after 16 years of marriage signed up for a retreat on the
recommendation of Cineas. They did not want to be identified. Structure and
specific exercises opened the door to what they were not seeing.
“Something as simple as
creating a collage of our relationship to share how it started, where it is now
and where we want it to be brought us so much closer,” the wife says after
attending Cineas’ retreat. “We were looking at each other more the way we
did at the start (of the marriage).
“A year later we still feel
that it was a good decision. We understand each other and communicate much
better. I really wish we had done something like this before we got married or
earlier into our marriage because we would have saved ourselves many years of
pain and turmoil.”
The weekend included a focus on
communication, mindfulness, active listening and mutual respect and compassion.
It was on the high end of such getaways: $15,000 including accommodations in a
hotel setting, which begs the question of cost.
A good couples retreat doesn’t need
to cost thousands of dollars. A recent weekend workshop conducted by Caldwell,
for example, cost $300 per person and was offered to both couples and
individuals. The setting was a rec room in the basement of a convent. Suitable,
but hardly beautiful to the eye.
No one cared about amenities. As
Caldwell says, it’s more about the facilitator than the setting.
Cineas agrees with Caldwell that
retreats need a
More tips from Cineas: