Marriage is like a car, or a garden—it’s pleasant and beneficial as long as you put in the work to keep it that way. You can wait until you and your spouse feel strained and distant to start paying attention to your marriage, just as you can put off changing your oil until the engine overheats, or only water your plants when they start turning brown. But things go much more smoothly when you're proactive.
Time alone together is essential to your marriage’s continued health. Children and busy schedules can make it challenging to find that time. Unfortunately, if you continue to put off time together because other things seem more urgent, the situation eventually becomes urgent. That’s why one of the best ways to keep your marriage strong is to plan a yearly getaway as a couple.
What Makes it a “Retreat”?
The difference between a trip and a retreat boils down to intention. It’s not about the destination or how much you spend; it’s about the purpose behind it and how you use your time. So yes, you can take a trip to the beach, but you could also get an Airbnb in your own city, or stay at your in-laws' while they’re out of town. The key is disentangling yourself from routines, distractions, and other relationships (especially kids) and focusing on Christ and your spouse.
Here are some ways you can be intentional with this time:
- Prioritize your shared faith. Read a Bible passage together. Pray together. Talk about what God has been teaching you and where you are struggling.
- Prepare some discussion topics. When you’re tired and haven’t connected in a while, the conversation doesn’t always flow easily. Have some prompts ready. You could ask: What does the upcoming season look like for you? Is there anything I need to ask your forgiveness for? Is any resentment building between us? What are you looking forward to?
- Make some topics off-limits. If you always find yourself talking about work or about your kids, put a moratorium on the subject for a set amount of time. Those things are important, but they’ll “keep” for a bit while you reconnect.
- Have fun. What kind of activities do you both enjoy? Kayaking, browsing antique stores, and touring a museum are just a few ways you can make your time special. But don’t over-schedule yourselves. The point is not to do or see as many things as possible; the point is to create memories together.
Crafting your own couple’s getaway can be daunting, especially when life is busy and you’re both tired. Thanks to the resources provided by different Christian organizations, you can choose a premade retreat that comes with intentional discussion and focus baked in. Here are a few we love:
- Love Like You Mean It Marriage Cruise (FamilyLife) - This adults-only cruise offers lots of marriage enrichment teaching and activities; pick and choose which you attend in-between time in the sun.
- Weekend to Remember (FamilyLife) - Engaging speakers present essential marriage concepts, which you and your spouse can then put into practice with guided private assignments. Weekend to Remember is held at locations all over the US, but lodging is not provided.
- WinShape Marriage Retreats - There's a little bit of everything here. Choose from countless retreats and weekend intensives based on your season of life and the state of your marriage.
- Focus on Marriage (Focus on the Family) - Offers multiple retreats a year with themes like emotional communication, sex & intimacy, and taking your marriage from good to great. Lodging included.
- Hope Restored (Focus on the Family) - A 3-to-5-day intensive designed for marriages on the rocks. Couples work closely with licensed Christian counselors, who also follow up after the retreat.
- Hume Lake Marriage Retreats - With plenty of outdoor activities, like rock climbing and competitive sports, this one’s perfect for couples who just want to get away and have fun.
Planning a couple's retreat takes time and intention, but you will never regret the investment. Whether your getaway takes place overseas or an hour outside the city, be mindful of your attitude, activities, and priorities. Enjoy each other’s company. Be unhurried. Be vulnerable. Thank God for the blessing of marriage, and ask him to grow or restore yours.