Can a weekend away revitalize your marriage and rekindle your romance? You bet!
Published in Canadian Living in April 2010 (Hot Topics)
Craig is a 50-year-old renovator with a smirk that suggests he'd rather be anywhere else than in this room with seven other couples attending a marriage retreat. As Craig introduces himself and talks about why he's here, he gestures to his wife, Laura, and says their marriage is on the brink of collapse. This retreat is a last attempt to save it.
As part of the introductions, each person has been asked by the retreat leader to bring along a special gift from his or her partner. Craig slides back the cuff of his sleeve to reveal an expensive watch from Laura.
But then he stops himself. The best gift, he says, is actually their 10-year-old daughter. At the mention of her name, Craig's wide shoulders begin to shake and he fights back sobs. His wife seems surprised by the tears.
My husband, Jeff, and I steal nervous glances at each other. What have we signed on for? After 22 years of marriage, Jeff and I have decided to try to recapture a greater sense of intimacy in our relationship by attending a weekend couples' retreat in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
A friend had told me about the retreat and although I thought I might have to convince Jeff, he was surprisingly keen to go. (I think the prospect of two romantic nights in an elegant inn sans kids may have been more enticing than the actual relationship work.)
Like many couples, we are divided at times by our differences: I like to talk things out; Jeff tends to clam up. I'm a tightly wound type A enslaved by my to-do list; he doesn't wear a watch or keep an appointment book (a quality I once found endearing) and has a decidedly laid-back approach to life.
Jeff and I focus almost all of our time and energy on our jobs, our two kids and our home. There's little time or energy left over for each other. I'm tired, he's tired - and sometimes our marriage feels tired.
There was a time when we romanced each other with poetry and long conversations into the night. Now our quality couple time consists mainly of flopping on the couch with glasses of wine at the end of a long day to catch "The Daily Show."
That's why we're here at a marriage retreat, holding our breath and wondering what's in store.