One of the most enjoyable responsibilities in my ministry is leading marriage retreats. I am encouraged that God is at work as I watch couples interact with the teaching by smiling, nodding and even showing the pain of conviction. Marriage retreats are a lot of fun and are filled with much opportunity to deal with issues and to stir up love.
Interestingly, many couples have never attended a retreat. Some of the reasons are really rather obvious.
Too much to do. Folks in our culture are busy. There is the tendency, once a person is married, to sort of settle into the pattern of work, daily domestic duties and sleep. There may be a few outings here and there and an annual vacation but many couples think that they are just too busy to go off alone for a weekend of teaching, fellowship and interaction.
Children. For couples with young children it is difficult to come up with a strategy for proper child-care. "How can I take a day or two away from my children?" "Who will watch them while we are away?" This is a legitimate concern. Certainly every thoughtful parent wants to make sure that their children are properly carried for while they (the parents) are out of town. For some couples leaving their children for a day or two is a "bridge too far."
Finances. Many of us are stressed under the burden of financial challenges. How can we afford to spend $200 (or whatever the fee may be) on a marriage retreat? There are too many bills to pay for such an expenditure. Finances are a legitimate concern.
Fear. This concern may manifest itself in at least a couple of different ways. Some couples fear that if they attend a marriage retreat that other people might think that their marriage is in trouble. Another fear is of their spouse. Meaning that they fear being forced to communicate with a spouse that they really do not know. Someone shared with me recently that they are not surprised when a couple, married for 30 plus years, divorces. The reason? They said that it is not unusual for a couple to date, honeymoon, have children and for their marriage to revolve around children for 30 plus years. Once the children have left home--they are face to face with a spouse that they really do not know. They are also face to face with issues that have been swept under the rug for 30 years and now they are too tired to deal with them. Many couples opt for divorce after the children leave home. There is also the fear that one might have to deal with a sin issue at a retreat and it is easier just to keep the sin uncovered.
Don't see the need. I have found that a lot of ladies would love to attend a marriage retreat but their husbands are just not interested or motivated to do so. Many men are dealing with various burdens and they either don't see the need for a marriage retreat (it is not a priority on their burden or bucket list), don't care about the need, or are just too overwhelmed with life to be able to do an honest assessment of their marriage. Pray for your husband and do not nag him. He is carrying many heavy challenges.
There are no doubt lots more reasons why people do not attend marriage retreats.
I want to encourage you to re-think marriage retreats. I understand what it is to be busy. I am a very busy man. I also know that my marriage is a priority for many reasons. The ultimate reason is that it is to rightly reflect the gospel of our Lord. My marriage needs attention. A marriage retreat is one strategy to giving my marriage a bit of attention. I also know what it is like to have young children. I am 51 years old and Lori and I have six daughters including a 16 month old. It is very hard to plan time for just the two of us to get away. When you understand the priority of marriage then you will look for ways to pull out all the stops, call in all of the favors (so to speak) and do what is necessary to find trustworthy child-care.
What about the cost of a retreat? It is true that a marriage retreat can cost a good bit of money. We try to keep our costs very low so that finances will not be a tremendous challenge for couples. For example we presently charge $199 for our overnight retreat. This includes hotel, food, sessions and use of conference facility. We think that is a bargain. For our one day retreat we charge $79. That includes two meals, snacks and all of the sessions. We also work with couples to find creative ways for them to afford to come to our retreats. There are often ways that a couple, even struggling with finances, can find a way to attend a marriage retreat.
What about the fear factor? I actually think that it is rare that other people think that a couple attending a marriage retreat are having major marriage problems. But if they do--so what? Dont' let pride get in the way of taking advantage of opportunities to strengthen your marriage.
As for the fear of being forced to communicate with a spouse that you really do not know or having some sin exposed, let me say that your marriage cannot grow without learning how to better communicate and deal with issues. Are you serious about the gospel? Are you serious about having a marriage that produces a sweet aroma of godliness?
Attending a marriage retreat is just one arrow in your quiver to help make your marriage more Christ-like.
Go the extra-mile and find a way to spend some extended time with your spouse at a God-centered marriage retreat.
For information click our marriage retreat link on this page.
I hope to see you at a retreat soon!