by Jenifer Truitt, Executive Director of Ziglar Family
Two weekends ago, for the first time ever, my husband and I went on a marriage retreat. Last week, we celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary.
What in the world took us so long??!!
Well, to start, we are like many other parents out there: we have been busy raising our daughters, and weekends have been sucked up by kids’ activities, grocery shopping, house cleaning, and even church functions. We’ve taken vacations, but a marriage retreat —where the sole focus was the state of our marriage — wasn’t even on our radar.
And honestly, that was a mistake.
If you are married with children, put your marriage first. Your relationship with your spouse should be considerably more active than your relationship with your children. You should pay more attention to your spouse, talk more to your spouse, do more for your spouse, and spend more time with your spouse than you pay, talk, do, and spend with your kids. Nothing more effectively secures a child’s sense of well-being than knowing his parents are taking care of their relationship.
This is a straightforward concept, which I’ve also heard stated by empty-nesters like this:
Take care of your marriage, or when your kids leave the house, you might find yourself living with a stranger with whom you have nothing in common.
My daughters are 16 and 18, so we are a little late to the party for putting our marriage first, over the kids, but the good news is that we did discover on our retreat weekend that we still have a good foundation for our marriage — perhaps with a few cracks in it from several years of putting it on the back burner, but definitely repairable.
And we’ve both made that commitment to shift our focus to the health and wellness of our marriage going forward. (The funny thing is that the girls have so much of their own lives going on now that they probably won’t even notice!)
Last year, our Ziglar Family founding partner, Bill Blankschaen, shared “Why Your Marriage Needs a Weekend Getaway,” which covered four excuses we make for not investing in this important practice:
Who has the time for a relaxing weekend? The reality is, we all have time for what is important to us. Our calendar reveals our values. Think about how you spent the last weekend. Which part of it was more important than the long-term success of your marriage and family?
We don’t need a marriage weekend. Our marriage is OK. If OK is the goal for your marriage, you may be right. But why settle for just average when your marriage could be transformed into a legacy-leaving, world-transforming, passionate relationship with eternal impact?
We don’t have the money. Retreats don’t have to be expensive. They can cost no money if you want to get creative and plan them that way. It comes down once again to your priorities. Is your marriage important enough to take the time to transform it? Money follows our priorities and reveals them, as well.
Who will watch the kids? While childcare can seem like a legitimate barrier to a marriage retreat getaway, it doesn’t have to be. After all, who is likely to benefit most from you and your spouse getting intentional about your family plan and purpose? Your children. So get creative about childcare. If you have an awesome mother-in-law—like I do—then you’re good. Your children’s grandparents can be a great place to look for help. Ask friends. Explain what you are doing and why, and see if others don’t step up to help. If all else fails, ask your pastor or spiritual leaders for ideas.
Speaking from my personal experience, don’t wait until you’re looking at an empty nest before it occurs to you to do a health check on the relationship that you entered into with the expectation of it being vital enough to last your entire lifetime.
“Marriage is not a noun, it’s a verb.” — Barbara DeAngelis
Have you ever taken a marriage retreat? Share about your experience below!