Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Marriage Retreat

If you haven't read parts one and two of this story, start there and come on back.

As many of you know, the Mr has been going through health issues, and it was a very frightening 4 months for us trying to get answers and coming up relatively empty.  (We just saw a new doc this week and are much better doc wise.)  Needless to say between that, driving cross country to Yellowstone and Grand Teton for vacation, coming back to the Mr getting ridiculously hammered by his work ever since, the Mr having an important test to study for and me being all "hey we should reno the basement ourselves", we did not put our relationship agreement first.  It used to be up on the mantel, but then we started some work on ourselves last year, and when that work was somewhat stable, it never got moved back.  We saw improvements for the most part, so that was enough, right?  We even had a potential issue with a family dinner last month where I saw us going back into old patterns.  After a 7-hour panic attack that I could've avoided if I'd just opened my mouth like our agreement said, I finally did talk to him and felt like we were good, and all of the catastrophizing I did was for nothing.  I thought that was a sure sign we made progress.

I was very aware that reno's/home improvement projects can bring out frustrations in both of us.  I was cognizant of how I spoke to him, and he was calm when he didn't understand what I meant.  That lasted for 6 weeks which is way better than last year.  It was the week before our retreat that I was over the project, so was he and we were both getting frustrated.  I snapped at him a few times, and he didn't say anything in the moment, so I assumed he was letting it roll.  Until he didn't.  He blew up at me, and when I thought he was done and was sitting down to dinner to decompress after a crappy day, he gave me a bit of a verbal beat down, I returned the favor, and we stewed for a little bit.  Thankfully, because of all of the work we've been doing, we recovered much quicker and as far as I know, no apartment websites were searched.  The irony was not lost on either of us that it happened two days before our retreat.

When we went on our first marriage retreat last year and had such success with it, we decided that it was going to be an annual thing.  We got a new credit card with the higher cashback rate than we already had and it would be used to fund it yearly, so we weren't even paying anything out of pocket for it.  It would be easier to put off if it was coming out of savings or something, but we view it as marriage money, and it's to be used for nothing else.  If we have any leftover, we roll it into the next year.

One of the things listed to do in the time away according to the book is to take at least an hour to yourself.  Whether you're getting a massage, reading a book, reconnecting with nature, it's your time to not have any expectations or demands on your time.  It should go without saying that you should be unplugged the entire weekend/night so checking email and scrolling Insta are no-nos.  The first time we did this, the place we rented didn't have many spots to escape to.  I curled up on the couch to read, and he went on the back porch.  I remember when I was done, I peeked out at him and was going to either press my face or boobs against the glass.  But when I saw his face as he was listening to music from his youth, he looked so sad.  My heart broke wondering what he was thinking.  I told him later of my plans, and he said he was kind of saying goodbye to a childhood he tended to look at through rose-colored glasses.  It was something he would put on such a high pedestal at times, I felt like our current life could never live up to it.   I was sad for him but hoped that realizing it wasn't always what it was built up to in his mind meant there was more hope for our future.

This year, I booked a place that appeared to have some room.  It had more room than the previous place but not as much room as we would've liked.  A different aspect of this place was we wouldn't be alone, we had a band of misfits to keep us company.

Half of these animals were like "feed me only, do not try to pet me" and the cats were like "I'm going to bite you and scratch you when offered food and twirl your legs for the one that's allergic and head-butt you for ownership."  Why couldn't there have been dogs?  Anyhoo.

For us, bonding over building a campfire and keeping it lit should be a must-do for any marriage retreat.  You have to work together, be patient, be creative when you need kindling, and have a built-in stress reliever when it finally catches.

Oh, did I mention s'mores?  (Hershey Gold s'mores are the shizz yo.  Calories don't count on a marriage retreat.)

It's also the perfect setting for long conversations under the stars and gives you time to reconnect.

The next day my alone time was spent reading.

You can see, I wasn't alone, but they left after they saw food wasn't involved.  It was so nice to finally dig into Driving Miss Norma that the Mr got me for Christmas.  That's 8 months I didn't make the time to sit down and read it.  When I got up to go check on the Mr, this was my view.

(Cat Life)

We did go out for a few hours, and had lunch at a favorite spot, held a puppy at a store, and got some stuff for breakfast the next day.  The rest of the time was spent there.  I got a new book about 5 months ago called Hold Me Tight:  Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.  (Just ONCE I want a short title.  "You Broke, I Fix.")  We didn't read all of it but got into a few of the scenarios and talked about how they related to us.  We had talked about how we'd improved solo and that the fighting was definitely way better than the previous year's growing pains.

I pulled out the relationship agreement we made the previous year and said there was one problem, we didn't do any of it.  We might have the first month or two we got back, but it got put away, and that was that.  We'd already done a lot of work on ourselves at that point, so that wasn't even a good excuse.  We became prolific note writers when the Mr was heading off for work.  I'd leave a note in his lunchbox or the table for his breakfast, and he'd leave one on my laptop.  There were occasional cards and flowers, which is nice, but the meat and potatoes of the agreement were still sitting on the plate, like Christina waiting for Joan to cave on the raw steak.  (Points if you got the reference)   He looked at it and agreed we screwed the pooch on that which is kind of sad.  Yes, we've had a lot going on this year and we actually have been so much happier this year relationship-wise even though it's been in the running for worst year ever, part two from last year.  That is when you need to connect and be the best version of yourselves the most.  We agreed to put it back on the mantel and make a point to do the things on the list.  One of which we've already failed at today which was taking 10 minutes to clean a little but the Mr put together the second half of some furniture for the workout space. So that's getting something cleaned...kinda.

Oh, didn't I tell you?  We thought the best way to celebrate a successful marriage retreat was to put together IKEA furniture!  We're rebels like that.

Are we 100%?  No, and we never were, if I'm being honest just because of all of the issues we brought with our young selves.  I think it should be mandatory that during your senior year in high school that you go through therapy before going out into the world.  We all are just so ill-equipped in one way or another and that is such a transitional period.  My parents had me at 17 and 18 and you saw how that ended.  I didn't want the Mr and I to go out like that but I also wasn't willing to pretend we were both happy when we weren't.  We both deserved more and thankfully want to have more...together.  You can walk the walk, but if you can't talk the talk when it matters to make sure both people are being heard, feelings are taken into consideration and to learn to fight fair, then you're doing your marriage/relationship a disservice.  Both parties have to be willing to own their part of the failure to communicate.  It's not one person changing so the other person is finally happy with them.   I liken it to Atreyu going through the second gate in the Neverending Story explained here.  It's both of you putting in the work and acknowledging some not so great things about yourself and making an effort to actually change it which is hard and needs consistent tending to.  That's what the first year has taught us, and now we have to take the relationship agreement seriously, and my goal is to say "yeah, we totally nailed most of that this year!"

We are very happy with our results and our choice to do "self-therapy" if you will.  We've both been to therapists and know their value but we also know what works for us.  We were open to various methods and thankfully this has produced results that we're still seeing every day.  I know not everyone has the self-discipline to go that route.  You have to decide for yourself what plan of action will most benefit you both.


We want to thank you all for the amazing comments and messages of support and empathy you showed us over the past few days.  You have no idea how much it means to us.  There is nothing scarier than sharing something so personal but this community has always had some good eggs which is why we felt safe doing so.  There are too many people ashamed of going through the same thing we were/are because our society is more focused on appearances than being real.  So many of us are suffering in silence because we think people will judge us, be disappointed in us, try to tell us what to do or we'll shatter their image of us.  We all need to spend more time trusting that other people need to hear our stories because maybe they will learn from us.  If any of you need to vent or confide in one person who isn't too close to a marital situation you may be going through, feel free to comment or message me.

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  1. The retreat this year was just what I needed on many levels. My brain was fried between studying for my upcoming test and just work being ultra crazy lately. It renewed me even though it was a short time away and then it also reminded us both that we need to keep practicing or we will have slips like we did just a few days before. Thanks again everyone for the kind words of support!

  2. I would 100% read a book written by you both called "You broke, I fix"! Get to it! 😉

  3. It's so great to hear how you guys have come full circle and have utilized all the tools you've learned about. You're keeping lines of communication open on full throttle and that can only continue to help, both in the big things, and the everyday little things. So good you have your joy back!!


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