Considering deployment is an ongoing possibility being in a line unit, marriage retreats are something the army tries to send their soldiers and their spouses to when they can. We were fortunate to be approved for our second one this last weekend.
It was far from as enjoyable as the last retreat we went to in Texas. (Imagine that; I found something about the Texas experience that was better than the Washington experience. Ha!). There are a couple of reasons for that. The first is that both hubby and I were ill, and he ended the weekend with the worst food poisoning I’ve seen in a while. The second reason is that I don’t believe this particular facilitator is as familiar with the subject matter provided for this retreat as the facilitator in Texas was.
That’s a little bit of an understatement, actually. Chaplain Adams in Texas was a riot! I will forever hold him in the highest esteem as being an army chaplain of a completely different calibre than I have ever seen – and please remember I grew up in the arms of the church. He was unorthodox in ways I can’t even begin to explain. But he was effective and memorable – and that I believe is the whole point. Chaplain Adams was the only Christian minister of religion who has ever made me want to attend a Sunday morning service. Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to attend one of his services.
To get back to this year’s retreat, though, it wasn’t so much that the course material was at fault. In fact, as I looked through the material, I was impressed with all the ways they chose to deal with issues that can be particular destructive to the military spouse. We just did not have enough time to get the full benefit of the course. Chances are, a savvy facilitator would have been able to summarize and distill this material down to a usable size for a weekend schedule such as we were given, but I get the impression that this was sprung on our facilitator on medium term notice (if not short notice).
In any case, what hubby and I took away was that we need to be constantly communicating respectfully and in detail about our feelings, expectations, and dreams. Even though our relationship is rock solid (especially compared to other military spouses we have both come across), we found we were still disconnected from each other about certain things. Nothing too alarming; no need for panic. We were just reminded that even the best of relationships need consistent TLC.
This is not a new lesson for either of us. We both know that constant and detailed communication is a necessity in any long term, intimate relationship. For me, it was like a dash of cold water to the face; a wake up call. A reminder that at any point along the way, something can go so badly wrong that things get really bad, really fast. And all without either of us even seeing the danger signs along the way. That’s the worry wart in me over-exaggerating for emphasis.
These retreats aren’t all about learning something new. It’s about being reminded about the tools to maintain a healthy relationship considering the challenges we both face. I think hubby and I might need to set aside a regular “test the temperature of our relationship” talk for ourselves.
Get all the touchy subjects in a list (e.g. finances, sex, babies, chores, relatives, etc.), write down what we like, dislike, and what we expect. Then compare notes to make sure we’re both on the same page. Schedule the talks like how we decided to schedule a date night at least once a month. Yeah – that sounds like a plan.
Off-topic for a minute though: one of the sections in the course was about forgiveness and reconciliation and something that resonated for me outside of the context of my marriage.
Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is giving up on the sense that you have the right to “get even”. And forgiveness is not reconciliation – that is a whole other step in the process. For reconciliation to take place:
- the relationship must be “safe”;
- the one who hurt you must be taking responsibility;
- the one who hurt you is changing the hurtful behaviour; and
- enough time has passed for trust to be restored
Something for everyone to keep in mind for all your relationships.