Could A Couples Counseling Retreat Help You Find A Relationship Breakthrough?

Updated April 6, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Couples who have been together for a long time often discover that maintaining a happy relationship takes effort. Many of them turn to couples therapy for guidance, which is helpful in lots of cases. However, sometimes it can be hard to get the full benefits of counseling when the pressures and distractions of ordinary life keep demanding your attention. That’s where a couples counseling retreat can help.

A couples retreat is an immersive, intensive experience that can feel like a combination of a vacation and a therapy session. Attendees stay for a day or two in a relaxing location where they can focus entirely on connecting with each other. This process often allows participants to confront their relationship issues in more depth than an hour-long therapy session allows. Keep reading to learn what a couples retreat could do for you and your partner. 

Work toward a stronger and healthier relationship

What’s the purpose of a couples counseling retreat?

The basic idea behind a couples retreat is to set aside a substantial chunk of time to work on your marriage or partnership with no distractions. A typical session of couples therapy lasts for 45-60 minutes, which puts a limit on how deep your discussions on any specific issue can go. 

Your therapist will often give you exercises to perform between sessions so you can continue working on your relationship full-time. Yet day-to-day life is full of other demands on your time and attention. Between dealing with work, bills, chores, children, and other family obligations, many couples have a hard time remembering to apply the lessons learned in relationship therapy. Some may find themselves skipping sessions entirely.

A couples retreat takes you away from the usual pressures, responsibilities, and interruptions. While the event is in progress, your only task is to improve the way you relate to your partner or spouse. This focused, dedicated time may enable you to come to new insights or overcome blocks in your relationship that you find hard to address amid your daily routine.

Some couples therapy retreats may target specific types of relationship challenges. For example:

  • Lack of emotional vulnerability
  • Communication challenges
  • Infertility
  • Aging and menopause
  • Retirement
  • Chronic anger
  • Sexual dysfunction or dissatisfaction
  • “Empty nest” syndrome
  • Infidelity
  • Financial troubles

Other retreats may simply be meant to improve your overall relationship health.

What to expect from a couples counseling retreat

Couples therapy retreats can vary from one-day events at conference centers to multi-week stays in tropical resorts. Most involve at least an overnight stay, and many are designed to take place over a single weekend. If you’re currently seeing a relationship counselor, they may be able to recommend some specific options that work with your schedule and budget.

Couples retreats often take place in scenic, remote settings intended to promote a sense of calm. This isn’t always the case, and there’s no reason to think that a retreat in the heart of a town or city will necessarily be less effective. Of course, for many couples, the opportunity to visit a beautiful place while working on their relationship can be part of the appeal. 

The retreat itself will probably involve a mix of the following:

  • Intensive counseling sessions
  • Exercises and activities to help you connect with your partner
  • Wellness and relaxation activities such as yoga, hiking, massages, and games
  • Periods of unstructured time for you and your companion to unwind and discuss what you’ve learned

However, most are attended by multiple couples, and some of the activities may involve discussing your thoughts and experiences in a group setting. 

You may be thinking “That sounds nice, but what can it do for my relationship that ordinary therapy can’t?” Here are a few of the potential benefits of a couples counseling retreat:

Trying something new together

Some long-term relationships may suffer because they fall into a rut, where nothing much changes or varies. And while weekly sessions of couples therapy can help to some extent, they might start to seem like just one more routine. There’s some evidence that pursuing new, exciting, and challenging experiences can be an important part of maintaining lasting love.

A couples retreat may help provide a much-needed jolt of novelty. You’ll be traveling to a new place and trying new things together, rather than showing up at the same office you’ve been coming to for months. This may help restore some of the passion that’s been lacking in your relationship.

Intensive quality time

Another factor that may drive a wedge between partners is the simple fact that they get very little time to themselves. When your interactions with one another happen mostly in the handful of hours between work and bedtime, your sense of intimacy may fade. It might seem like a no-brainer that spending more time talking would help you feel closer as a couple, yet it’s not always easy to prioritize quality time.

This can be an enriching experience that lays the groundwork for a renewed sense of closeness.

Trying new techniques and exercises

Even if you’ve been attending couples therapy for months or years, there may be lots of therapeutic techniques you haven’t yet tried. Couples therapy retreats may offer a wide variety of exercises designed to help you:

  1. Evaluate your relationship patterns
  2. Work through your emotions
  3. Build affection between you and your partner

Often, these will be things you’ve never encountered in your ordinary counseling sessions. You may find that one of these new approaches provides the breakthrough you’ve been waiting for. They may also teach you helpful new techniques you can continue practicing after the retreat is over, such as meditation or positive visualization. 

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Work toward a stronger and healthier relationship

Learning from other couples

As we mentioned above, couples retreats aren’t usually solo affairs. You’ll usually be accompanied by at least a few other couples. This may feel uncomfortable at first, but it can also be a valuable learning experience.

By hearing about the challenges other couples have faced in their relationships, you may be able to see your own in a new light. Observing an unhealthy dynamic in another couple may clue you in to the fact that the same thing is happening between you and your loved one. 

Time and space for deep discussions

By attending a couples retreat, you’re setting aside a focused chunk of time to address the pressing issues affecting your marriage or partnership. That’s an opportunity you may not have very often in your daily routine. Many people wind up cutting important conversations short or putting them aside for later, letting the stress build up until it erupts in fights about unrelated issues

At a couples counseling retreat, you’ve removed any excuses not to have the hard but necessary conversations you avoid in other settings. There are no errands to run, no kids to feed, and no job you need to get up early for the next day. Instead, it’s just you and the person you’re trying to reconnect with. This can allow you to talk in much more depth about your relationship than you can manage in a couples therapy session.

Retreats may work best when paired with therapy

A couples counseling retreat can often help you uncover useful insights, learn new skills, and possibly even help you rekindle the spark in your relationship. However, it likely can’t take the place of long-term counseling. Despite the limitations of couples therapy that we discussed above, it provides an excellent way to put in the steady, long-term work that’s often needed to fix damaged relationships. 

If you’re not sure how you can fit therapy into your schedule, why not try online counseling? This approach lets you meet with a relationship counselor from home (or anywhere with an Internet connection), which often makes regular attendance easier. 

The evidence suggests that this form of couples counseling can be just as helpful as face-to-face sessions. For example, one randomized trial published in Frontiers in Psychology found no difference in the effects of Internet and in-person couples counseling. Both groups showed significant improvement in both mental health and relationship satisfaction that persisted after the end of treatment.

Takeaway

A couples counseling retreat can give you a structured timeperiod to work on healing your relationship in a relaxed and comfortable setting. It can be an opportunity to deepen the work you’re doing in regular couples counseling, and it may be a chance to learn something new about yourself, your partner, or both.

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