Marriage Retreat » Retreat FAQs » What Happens in a Retreat?

What Happens in a Retreat?

vineyard near retreatsBottom line, a retreat is structured to give you new tools and guide you to make positive changes. People who have had bad experiences with traditional marriage therapy may worry that working with us will be the same, only more intense!

Not so. If you read our testimonials, you will see the variety of couples who report how valuable their time was with us. And how many say how his work is very different compared to traditional counseling — in that we give them useful information and results instead of stirring up more upset.

If you want to see a brief excerpt of what happens in a retreat and how we work, here are some short clips from a documentary movie that features John working with a couple.

Preparatory Work Before Your Retreat

Before your retreat begins, depending on the amount of time you have, you can do preparatory work. This includes clarifying your goals and what your highest hopes would be for the results you could get.

You can also take an online personality test, to see and better understand things about yourselves and each other. This will help us more quickly get to know you as the unique couple you are, based on your personality styles and the specific ways these styles interact with each other.

Other prep work, depending on how much time you can put in, includes reading John’s latest book on relationship repair and doing self-assessment exercises. This preparatory work is voluntary, of course. It is not so much for us as it is for you, as it is designed to get your retreat started long before it officially begins!

A retreat is a series of sessions, each one 3 hours in length. In a standard retreat, there are two sessions per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, separated by a lunch break. With our virtual retreats, there is some flexibility to spread sessions out over a week or more, and even have just one session per day.

Clarifying Goals & Getting to Know Personalities

We usually start by getting to know you a bit. We may explore your history as a couple and your present challenges and situation in more detail, in order to clarify what you want to accomplish in the retreat. We spend some time discussing your goals for your retreat, what you would like to accomplish in the time we work together.

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Gibb

We will also explore your personalities. Hopefully, you have done the prep work on this, but if not, we can still delve into it as we begin the retreat. Each couple is different, based on their particular combination of personality styles. There is no “ideal” pairing of personalities. Every combination has its unique challenges.

Knowing your particular pairing will help us more rapidly understand the underlying factors for what causes stress in your relationship. It will also suggest more precisely how to remedy these factors. Personality patterns are generated unconsciously. They are a bit like a box. To get out of the box, you first have to see the box.

So our goal is to help you better understand each other’s personalities on a deeper and more useful level. You will learn things you didn’t know about each other. You will see how this impacts you as a couple and get a new perspective.

This also will point to what would constitute a positive change for you as a couple. It will help us determine the tools you will need to move back onto a positive track, and how best to apply these tools to achieve the goals you have.

Learning Tools & Rules of Secure Attachment

This phase of the retreat is for learning the tools, information, and strategies, that will enable you to transform your relational dynamics into secure functioning as a couple. You will learn about the underlying factors that create distress in your relationship and block your communication. And you will be given powerful tools to overcome these negative patterns.

The information you get will give you the means to change how you interact, opening you up for positive connection, understanding, and rebuilding trust. You will get scientific, evidence-based information about the keys of how to repair upsets, how to collaborate as a team, and how to thrive in your relationship.

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Gibb

You will learn the specific strategies that are relevant to your personalities, your particular situation, and how you want to improve. You will learn to see and work through the underlying reactive cycles and distress patterns that have overtaken your relationship.

In this process, you will learn to master new tools and strategies that help you to resolve your particular issues, to get your true needs met, and to function securely as a couple.

We focus on what is relevant to you, be it getting more clarity, improving your communication, healing past wounds and ruptures, building a stronger, secure emotional attachment, and/or negotiating new agreements that will keep you growing together on a positive track.

Making Positive Changes & New Agreements

You will receive intensive coaching to apply all this new information, along with the new tools and strategies, to make the positive changes you want. You will engage in overcoming the unconscious reactive patterns and vicious cycles you suffer, resolving your real issues, healing relational wounds from your past, operating better as a team, and collaborating about any matters that need attention.

The style of coaching is unlike traditional therapy, which too often only stirs up more unhappiness in a couple. The goal of coaching is to guide you to discover positive ways to interact and resolve stuck places. It’s about making positive changes that you can feel.

As a result of making tangible progress that meets your goals and resolves your issues, your retreat concludes with future planning. You will make agreements for using the tools you have learned, to continue your progress after your retreat.

And, by the way, if you need help, follow-up coaching is available. We can tailor a schedule of follow-up sessions that will meet your needs to integrate and master the new communication tools you have learned as you apply them to your daily lives.

A retreat is intensive but not overwhelming. The work we do together is highly meaningful and will go toward resolving real issues that have blocked your sense of connection and happiness in the past.

Many couples wonder how they will spend so much time together, focused on their relationship, especially if previous efforts to do this in traditional therapy failed to produce good results. It is a couple’s enthusiasm that keeps the work going, and time seems to speed by in a state of flow.