Strengthen Your Marriage with a Planning Retreat

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How's everyone's January Renewal coming?  I realize last week's post on nutrition, fitness, and sleep was a bit of a brain dump on my part...since I don't plan on writing about that stuff very often here, I sort of felt like I needed to share everything all at once!  I'm not going to do that to you this time.  Just one thing to focus on today: Relationships!

I decided to focus mainly on your marriage, because being "on the same page" with our husbands is so critical to a peaceful, productive home, and we'll be touching on relationships with your children next week when we get to our "homeschool" focus.  Specifically, I'd like to share an idea with you that has been incredibly helpful for my husband and I for the last few years: taking a weekend retreat together once a year to dream together, cast a vision for our family, and plan steps we need to take to reach those goals.  We have done several of these little getaways so far and it has been so helpful for us!

Step 1: Prepare!

It's best if you go with something of a plan.  My husband is a real spreadsheet whiz, so he usually gets that ready ahead of time.  We like to cover categories like marriage, children, homeschool, work, our family's home-based seasonal business (deer processing), and health/fitness.  (Hmm, sounds an awful lot like our examen focus areas, doesn't it?) Your categories might be different.  The important thing is to know ahead of time what you want to cover.  It also helps if you're able to think through some of these areas a little bit on your own before your retreat.

Obviously you'll also need to plan where you're going.  We have found that the location isn't all that important for this, except that it's nice to go somewhere you both enjoy.  What's more important is the type of place you choose to stay in.  We like to stay in a vacation rental rather than hotels.  It allows us the freedom to spread our stuff all over a house, has more privacy, and we can cook most of our own meals together instead of eating out.  Check out Airbnb  or VRBO for nationwide listings.  Of course, you could do this at your own home, but we really like to get away...it makes it feel special and getting away together for a weekend is just fun!

Step 2: Retreat!

There's really nothing very complicated about taking a planning retreat together.  You plan it, and you go!  Once you start talking about your goals and dreams for your family, you'll find that you start to hone in on the direction you're wanting to go.  Don't be surprised if some conflict comes up now and then...you and your husband might not always agree on everything!  This is fine, and actually a good thing.  It's much better to be discussing these issues ahead of time, when you're out together having a good time, than later when the issue just pops up in "real life" and you have to deal with it on the fly.  By talking through your plans together ahead of time, you will avoid more destructive conflict later!

Make sure to take good notes as you go.  We usually brainstorm ideas in each area and come up with a massive list.  Then we go back and refine the list down to the things we think we can actually accomplish.  Don't be afraid to dream big.  If you feel a desire or call to something, put it on your list, even if it seems impossible.  Then at least you can pray about it, think it through, and determine if that "impossible" goal is something you can or should begin taking steps toward!

Be careful not to overwhelm yourselves.  It can be easy to get carried away with all the great stuff you want to do.  Try to be realistic!  Set just a few concrete, measurable goals in each area.  For example: in the category of your marriage, maybe you want to go on a nice date once a month.  Write that down and then get it on your schedule.  Or maybe you decide you need to exercise more.  Put a number on it, like 3 times a week.  Then schedule it!

Don't forget to have a little fun while you're away together, too!  Eat out at a nice restaurant for one meal, and plan to do something fun to break up your planning times.  One year the house we rented had a ping pong table in basement.  Since we both love ping pong, it was perfect!  And of course, don't forget to pack that little nightie that you can't wear when your kids are around.  Ahem...you know what I'm talking about.

Step 3: Come Home

Your goals might feel a little different once you're back at home.  You'll be reminded of all the little distractions of every day life and how hard it can be to stay focused on the things that really matter.  Try to make time as soon as possible after you come home from your retreat to sit down together with your whole family and share your goals for the year.  That way your kids aren't left out of the loop and everyone knows what to expect, and what is expected from them.  You could even ask your children to set some personal goals too!

Finally, remember to treat your husband, your children, and yourself with plenty of grace.  Unexpected things will happen that might throw your plans off track.  You might just find that you planned too much and can't accomplish everything you hoped.  That's just fine!  The important thing is that you and your husband are in it together.  You've planned together, worked together, dreamed together, and maybe failed together.  But through the whole process you have been on the same page rather than running in different directions.

So, my assignment for you is to propose this idea to your family, decide if it would be helpful for you, and then plan it!  

Have you ever done anything like this in the past?  Was it helpful?  If not, are you considering giving it a try?  I love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below!

Other posts in this series:

A Fresh Perspective on New Year's Resolutions

5 Simple Spiritual Practices for Homeschool Moms

Why Feeding Your Mind is Important for Homeschool Moms

The Big 3: Nutrition, Exercise, and Sleep for Busy Moms