How a Marriage Retreat Helped Our Relationship


Marriage. Is. Hard.

Do I need to repeat it for the people in the back?

Whether you’re newlyweds celebrating your first year anniversary or a seasoned couple on year 15 – MARRIAGE IS WORK! It’s two people raised in different ways, sometimes different cultures, and with different experiences in love. Adding children to the equation, financial differences, temptation, and pressures from everyday life can put a strain on the love you once had.

Marrying into the military lifestyle, however, comes with a different set of stresses and worries. Being married to a servicemember who has to deploy to dangerous areas or leave for training often, while adding all of the above is definitely work. Not to mention – the divorce rate for married military couples is super high because so many servicemembers marry for the wrong reasons, but trust me, it can work if you want it to.

Our Marriage Story

My husband and I met in 2009 through mutual friends, while we were in two different states. Our dates consisted of Skype video calls, phone calls, and text message interactions for two years. We became best friends but didn’t meet in person until the summer of 2011. He deployed in 2010 and came to visit me during his R&R (which stands for rest and recuperation, or a break during his deployment) and we spent a short time together before he went to see the rest of his family. He asked me to marry him a few months later and then we got married February 2012.

Every year since we got married in 2012, though, he’s been gone at least 5 months out of the year. And every time that he leaves we have to figure out how to get back into the groove of marriage and parenthood, and co-existing with someone who’s been out of your house for a while.

Learning to communicate with each other, despite our distance and different time zones, was imperative to make our marriage last. But we really struggled with reconnecting once he returned because it was hard moving forward without feeling like we were in each other’s way. He didn’t understand the routine that the kids and I had without him, and I didn’t understand the damage from seeing things at war and the PTSD that was affecting him.

I once suggested counseling to my husband and he quickly shut that idea down. Unfortunately, the word COUNSELING triggers a belief that your marriage is failing to many people, including my husband. So, I searched for a marriage retreat that could help and found out about the Army’s Strong Bonds retreat program.

This marriage retreat was exactly what we needed. Little did he know, it was a lot similar to counseling except in a group setting.

They provided us with childcare, a hotel for a staycation, and we received counseling in a fun group format that didn’t seem invasive (so, my husband didn’t even realize that it was a form of counseling). The marriage retreat gave us an opportunity to open up through games and interaction.

Drawings from our table of what we love... can you tell which one is mine?

What We Learned at the Marriage Retreat

We learned about a book called The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts and it completely changed our outlook on our relationship. I remember seeing an interview on The Steve Harvey show about this book, but we never really tried to apply it to our marriage.

It was a game changer.

It taught us that sometimes we show our love and appreciation based on what our love language is, assuming that’s what our partner wants, but it isn’t their love language. The five love languages are basically the way people speak and understand emotional love. My love language is words of affirmation, while my husband’s love language is acts of service.

Here’s a little infographic I found online that shows the five love languages & how to speak your partner’s language:

How to Speak Your Partner's Love Language

Source: The Ladies Coach,

We also learned about our personality types (I’m INFP, by the way) and effective listening. We had to listen to each other tell a story without interrupting, and that was honestly so difficult for me. My husband kept laughing because he knew I would do that. I just like to ask questions, but I realized that the more I asked him questions during his story – the more his story changed to accommodate my questions.

Yeah, I still ask questions … but mindfully lol.

Personally, I don’t think a perfect marriage exists. However, if both people are open and willing to work toward the common goal of happiness, marriage is a pretty wonderful and special thing. But if you ever feel the need to enhance your marriage by way of counseling, try out a marriage retreat. Here are a few resources to help lead you in the right direction to find a marriage retreat for you and your spouse:

For military couples, check out Military One Source’s article on marriage enrichment programs by branch:

If you are not affiliated with the military and in search of a marriage retreat or enrichment program, I would suggest doing a google search for marriage retreats in your area.

Hope this helps!




  1. November 23, 2018 / 6:52 am

    We took this course and watched the video each week and we thought it was so eye opening we’d been married over 20 years at the time now we are married 39 years and we still use that great information we highly recommend the course or any course on marriage we are not a part of the service thank your husband for serving

    • chancookie
      December 4, 2018 / 8:07 pm

      Wow, 39 years! That is amazing! I hope our union lasts that long as well.. thank you for sharing.

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