In 1937, Walt Disney released his first feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and thus, the concept of the “fairy tale ending” was born. With eyes wide from wonder and little hearts filled with hope, children watched as the Prince rescued Snow White from eternal sleep.
The universal take home message that silently infiltrated their sweet, innocent hearts was that love conquers all. Little girls began to dream of the day that their prince would come and young boys complied with their damsels in distress by riding in on their horses and rescuing them during imaginative play.
The idea of the “fairy tale ending” was perpetuated and enhanced through Cinderella and solidified by the time that we met Sleeping Beauty. Perhaps Walt did children of this generation a disservice, as the unintentional implication was that love was simple and marriage long lasting.
It didn’t take these children long to realize that love was complicated and that marriage was far from guaranteed. Walt Disney would have done us all a favor if he had released a sequel, depicting how Show White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty made it work with their Princes for the long haul.
Today, children are still afforded the precious opportunity to watch Walt’s Princess heroines fall in love, while dreaming about the days that their own “princes will come.”
In today’s age, the “fairy tale ending” has become somewhat aligned with the magic and allure of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. While we unwaveringly believe, we’re not completely confident about their credibility.
Thankfully, society has developed several safety nets in the form of counseling, literature, and resources, for those whose fairy tale endings are not so simple.
Additionally, intensive marriage retreats have recently come onto the scene for those who have perilous, gaping holes in their delicate nets.
Who and How a DIY Marriage Retreat Can Help
Intensive Marriage Retreats were originally developed to assist couples with severe, pervasive, and long standing issues that were putting them at risk of separation or divorce. Intensive Marriage Retreats sought to offer treatment in condensed time frames, where couples would be able to meet treatment goals in several days, instead of in several months in more traditional counseling settings.
Licensed marital counseling providers were employed to utilize non-confrontational approaches in individual, group, and private settings to assist couples with matters, such as unfaithfulness, betrayal, and addiction. The ultimate mission of Intensive Marriage Retreats was to rescue and reinstate troubled marriages, while empowering, motivating, and reengaging both partners.
Since their inception, Intensive Marriage Retreats have progressed and evolved to not only assist and target troubled marriages, but to also encourage growth and to stimulate stagnant ones. All retreats seek to address marital stressors and conflict, while restoring the relationship building blocks of intimacy, friendship, and trust.
Retreats educate couples about conflict resolution, stress management, and healthy communication patterns, while stressing the importance of understanding, connection, and empathy. Retreats help couples to re-prioritize goals, regroup, and rediscover why they fell in love in the first place. Finally, Retreats work to strengthen and improve the emotional and mental health of each individual partner.
In addition to licensed professionals, retreats are now hosted by pastors, spiritual guides, and religious leaders. Pastors and religious leaders incorporate scripture and religious principles into the retreat’s curriculum, while spiritual guides focus on healing emotional baggage, aligning the mind-body connection, and clearing chakras, or the energy flow within. Retreats are offered in various resorts, camping grounds, religious sites, and through virtual technological means.
Couples with limited financial resources, childcare issues, and restrictive availabilities have begun to create “Do It Yourself (DIY)” Intensive Marital Retreats at home. These couples have utilized literature, DVD’s, the Internet, and other resources such as books that couples can read together to create and partake in their own exercises in the comfort of their own homes. Assignments can be completed without time restrictions or pressure and can alleviate the financial duress of taking off work, or finding childcare.
It is critical to note that DIY Intensive Marital Retreats should only be employed and implemented by couples looking to rejuvenate their marriage and not by those with severe and complex issues. Couples on the verge of separation or divorce may risk doing further damage to their relationship if they attempt to independently discuss and process difficult and complicated issues without the assistance of a skilled and licensed professional. It is strongly encouraged that these couples reach out for professional guidance and referrals if interested in any type of marriage assistance or rehabilitation.
DIY Marriage Retreat: How to Create Your Own At Home
The concept of a DIY Marriage Retreat at home may sound appealing, but can also be intimidating and daunting for those couples unsure of where to start. Partners need to be agreeable and committed to devoting a weekend to each other, to their marriage, and for the sole purpose of the retreat.
Couples with children, jobs, or other responsibilities need to resolve child care, inform employers, and fulfill tasks so there are no impediments or interruptions during the weekend.
Couples need to inform family, friends, or other important parties that they will be unavailable and then “disconnect” by turning off all electronic devices, including cell phones, computers, and tablets. Both partners need to pledge that they will refrain from checking email, social media accounts, or text messages and abstain from making phone contact with others.
Meals should be discussed and planned accordingly to avoid impromptu trips to the grocery store during the weekend. The goal is for the couple to isolate themselves from their everyday responsibilities and from the stressors of life so that they can focus solely on themselves, each other, and on their relationship.
Couples should plan for the weekend in advance by creating an agenda that tackles all topics that partners would like to address. Additionally, couples need to decide on the types of activities they would like to incorporate for fun, intimacy, and bonding purposes. While making the agenda, equal balance needs to be maintained between time spent on emotional issues and time spent on fun, relaxation, and relationship building activities.
Potential DIY Topics to Explore
There are a plethora of topics that could be considered for a DIY Marriage Retreat agenda and need to be agreed upon by both partners. Larger topical categories can potentially include communication, conflict resolution, and goal-setting, with many possibilities for sub-headings under each topic.
Communication topics would serve to address and rectify ineffective communication patterns. Couples can explore the types of communication used in the relationship, including passive, assertive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive styles. Barriers to communication can be explored, along with the differences in communication styles between each partner.
Couples can gain insight about the differences between each partner’s communication style, along with how it impacts their partner and the overall relationship. If there is a lack of communication between partners, both parties could explore how it originated and perpetuates, discuss feelings around it, and strategize ways to improve it. Couples can talk about active listening, nonverbal body language, speaking clearly and directly, and the importance of tone and volume in interpretation.
Conflict resolution topics would assist individuals in evaluating the overall effectiveness of a couple’s ability to resolve conflict situations. Couples can assess if partners fight fairly, discuss feelings during conflict, and determine if arguments are resolved peacefully and with a team mentality.
Couples can identify whether partners utilize “below the belt” methods while fighting, such as name calling, nit-picking, blaming, or bringing up issues from the past, along with how to eliminate these methods from the relationship.
Goal setting topics would allow partners to assess whether individual and marital goals are being addressed and if each partner feels fulfilled in the relationship. Couples would have an opportunity to survey if expectations and goals are being met and if they are content overall. Individuals can assess the current state of relationship, ensure that both parties view things similarly, and set individual and marital goals together.
It is important to note that this is a small sampling of topics that could be explored, as many more possibilities exist. Other samplings of topics can include intimacy, finances, forgiveness, spirituality, work-life balance, family, friends, and boundaries.
Activities and What They’re Meant to Achieve/Accomplish
An agenda for a DIY Marriage Retreat should include multiple activities that are focused on fun, relaxation, and team building. All activities should be agreed upon by both partners beforehand and should be endeavors that both partners enjoy.
Examples of fun activities can include cooking a meal together from scratch, taking a walk, playing a game of tennis, or reading a book together. Fun activities should remind couples of positive memories from the past, allow couples to try something new, allow partners time to enjoy each other’s company, and serve to rebuild the underlying friendship.
can include couples yoga, meditation, couples massage, a nature walk, or a soak in the hot tub. Relaxation activities are meant to be restorative and portray outcomes of emotional enhancement, an increase in mindfulness, gratitude, and appreciation, and result in the dissolution of inner stresses and tension.
are comprised of any endeavor where the couple has to work together towards a unified goal. Couples can participate in piecing together a puzzle, completing a logic problem or word find, baking a cake, or volunteering to help others. Team-building activities intend to strengthen the “we” mentality, to bond the couple, and most importantly, to increase intimacy, connection, and closeness.
Sample 2.5 Day Itinerary for a Weekend DIY Marriage Retreat at Home
There are many ways to organize a weekend DIY Marriage Retreat itinerary. There is no right way or wrong way to develop and implement one, as long as you allot equal time for topic discussions and activities.
The advantage of creating your own itinerary is that discussion topics and activities can be formulated to tailor the individual needs of the couple. If a couple were to attend a Marriage Retreat run by professional providers, they would have to follow an itinerary designed to suit and address the issues of the “average” couple.
Couples reap the additional benefit of being able to modify the itinerary as they are going through it. For example, a couple might decide that a certain topic does not pose as large of a problem to them as they suspected. If this were the case, the couple would be able to simply swap out the topic for a more beneficial one.
Additionally, a couple might decide to alternate a fun activity in lieu of a relaxing one if they feel more spontaneous and adventurous. On the contrary, a couple might decide to swap out a fun activity if they feel drained or overworked and are seeking some quiet and relaxation.
The final plus of a couple creating their own itinerary is that couples are already familiar with activities that they enjoy and locations where they are offered and available. Couples can further mold and style specific activities to suit their particular tastes, interests, and skill sets.
Sample Friday Night Itinerary
5:00pm-5:30pm: Icebreaker activity, Conversation starter game
5:30pm-6:00pm: Topic Discussion: Goals, Expectations for the Weekend
7:00pm-7:30pm: Topic Discussion: Spirituality/Religion
7:30pm-9:30pm: Fun Activity
Sample Saturday Itinerary
9:00am-10:00am: Team-Building Activity
11:00am-11:30am: Topic Discussion: Communication
11:30am-12:00pm: Topic Discussion: Work-Life Balance
1:00pm-1:30pm: Topic Discussion: Financial Health
1:30pm-2:00pm: Topic Discussion: Conflict Resolution
2:00pm-4:00pm: Couples Relaxation Activity
4:00pm-4:30pm: Topic Discussion: Intimacy
4:30pm-5:00pm: Topic Discussion: Family (Children, Extended Family)
7:00pm-7:30pm: Topic Discussion: Individual Goal Setting
7:30pm-8:00pm: Topic Discussion: Socialization
8:00pm-10:00pm Couples Relaxation Activity
Sample Sunday Itinerary
9:00am-10:00am: Individual Relaxation Activity (Couples split apart)
11:00am-11:30am: Topic Discussion: Forgiveness & Healing
11:30am-12:00pm: Topic Discussion: Boundaries
1:00pm-3:00pm: Team-Building Activity
3:00pm-3:30pm: Topic Discussion: Gratitude & Appreciation
3:30pm-4:00pm: Topic Discussion: Future Goal Setting
5:00pm-7:00pm Fun Activity
Wrapping up the DIY Marriage Counseling At Home
It would be nice if our fairy tale endings came with 24 hour roadside assistance from seven dwarves, a fairy godmother, and three fairies. We would never have to worry about our pumpkin coaches breaking down on the intertwining and complicated road of life.
However, by now, we know that we have to work long, hard, and diligently at our relationships for them to last. Walt Disney never depicted Intensive Marriage Retreats in any of his animated productions.
If he did, Snow White and her Prince would have likely discussed the dangers of evil queens and poisoned apples, Cinderella and her Prince would have explored the impact of evil stepsisters and glass slippers, and Sleeping Beauty and her Prince would have identified the hazards of curses and spinning wheels, all from the comfort of their own castles.
Despite this, Walt Disney’s refreshing idealism about magic and love will forever serve as an important motivating factor in our culture’s continued pursuit of the “happily ever after.