Most couples who come to our LIFE Marriage Retreats have something in common: They have unsuccessfully tried traditional marriage counseling as a means of taking their marriage to higher and happier ground.
While certainly not all marriage counselors are created equal, this is not meant as an indictment of traditional marriage counseling. Instead, the observation points to a fact that holds true for any marriage enhancement program; no matter how brilliant the teacher, trainer, or therapist; no matter how true their teachings, observations, and assignments to the couple in marital distress, it will always come down to the couple’s willingness and ability to understand what is being offered to them, and to LIVE IT over a long enough period of time that it leads to a new way of being for both partners in the relationship.
We own a cabin where we do some of our Marriage Trainings. This cabin is in a desert region but sits on a pretty little lake in the midst of a lovely oasis. The cabin has been in our family for years so we have some understanding of what it took to change the desert into an oasis. We realize that the beautiful green grass did not magically appear; the cool of the shade from tall leafy trees has not always been there; the bright and plentiful flowers have not always bloomed in that region. All of these and more were bought by precious water from deep underground and consistent and dedicated work.
Even with the initial battle won every year brings a new challenge to maintain that oasis in the middle of the desert, because the desert fights hard to take it back. There is no such thing as cruise control, coasting, or resting on your laurels in such an environment. Miss any needed upkeep or maintenance and grass quickly browns, flowers wither, trees become infested, and desert weeds proliferate before your eyes. The desert demands commitment and consistency from those who choose to live there. So does marriage!
Like that desert oasis, marriage first must be built by those with the vision and commitment necessary to any great task, then be consistently nurtured and maintained.
It takes effort and desire to learn the principles and skills that define every successful relationship, then a deep commitment and ongoing work to build trust and stay true to those principles and skills. Every time we think we have arrived and think that we can coast in our marriage, the ‘desert’ will try to take it back and we will see the trust wither and joy turn dry and brittle.
Many couples find a Marriage Retreat and its traction building concentrated time and energy to be the perfect way to build or rebuild the oasis of their marriage, and to deeply internalize the principles and skills needed for the long haul. But whether a couple chooses a Marriage Retreat or Traditional Counseling, the bottom line will be their commitment to live the principles and practice the skills for the rest of their lives.