I won a luxurious vacation to an exquisite resort in an exotic location for a weekend of professional marriage counseling and financial therapy. Unbelievable!
SO unbelievable that it is not even true.
The truth is that Leif and I created our own retreat for a little reflection, planning, and fun. I got the idea from my friend Daisy and I thought having one would be a great way to jump-start the new year. You can call it a retreat, a board meeting, a planning session–whatever works for you.
Leif and I go over our finances regularly but we don’t revisit our goals very often. In fact, we hadn’t set new goals together in quite a while. The idea of the retreat is that couples set aside a day or a weekend to review their previous goals, celebrate their accomplishments, reflect on their progress, and set new resolutions or goals to work on together. If you don’t have the time or means to get out of town for a real getaway, you can do what we did and plan a day away from home with no distractions and an agenda that includes at least one meal out, fun activities, and planning time.
When I suggested the idea of the retreat to Leif I said,
“Hey, Leifer. When I was at Daisy’s she had these cool binders she let me look at. They were her family retreat binders. ‘Retreat’ like she and Sean Martin take a weekend or a day or whatever and go over their finances and their goals, yada yada. It was SO great–I loved it! We should do that. We should totally do it.”
He looked at me over the top of his reading glasses from his spot on the couch. He just looked at me.
It was great that he agreed, but it felt to me like I’d asked him to put a ring in his nose so I could lead him to a day of shoe shopping. If your person would jump at this idea and insist they get to pick the restaurants and activities, you are partnered with a very different person than I am.
It turned out to be a wonderfully fun and productive day though, I tell you!
Here’s how it went. Phase 1: Breakfast at one of our favorite places–one of those coffee joints that belongs to the old folks and the hipsters and the farmers and the families and the business crowd, the food is sourced locally, and the coffee? She’s good.
We talked about the previous year. What did we accomplish? What were we proud of? What did we screw up? What lessons did we learn? It might have been considered a bad year because in the spring we lost more than half of our income when Leif’s company unexpectedly (within 24 hours) ceased operations. Instead of looking for a new job, he and a few of his cohorts started their own venture. It’s been stressful but we’ve learned a ton of lessons about our financial health, our attitudes, each other, and how we feel about a lot of things.
As most years go, a lot of good things happened, too. The flip side of the lost income meant starting a new business and we’re working on and hoping for the best. We celebrated Zach’s college graduation! We followed through on a goal to spend more time with our friends and could mark something every month that we did with them.
Phase 2: We finished breakfast and since we’d both been so sick, we decided to take a drive to the mountains instead of the first activities we’d thought about. Great idea because then we would be captive in the car without any distractions other than the winter scenery. It was also a private place to talk about our relationship. The conversation started like this: Question #1 On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate our marriage? Question #2 What can I do that would cause you to feel more confident in our future as a couple?
Whoa! Question #1 was a doozy and got the important conversation going to #2. If for nothing else on this day, I am grateful for those two questions. Like I said, the year has been stressful and we had fallen short in a lot of areas. Here’s the beauty of this whole retreat thing though. It got us to the nitty-gritty of why he responded the way he did and why I felt the way I did. Not to share too much, what I mean is that is caused us to have a long overdue conversation and get things moving back in the right direction. That’s always a good thing for a relationship. I think we both felt a lot better afterward.
We also talked about things we could do as a couple that we rarely or no longer take the time to do, what we’ve always wanted to do, and what we wanted to accomplish together. We had good, honest, important conversation and I was reminded that it’s not always easy to be the kind of person you would want to be married to.
If we hadn’t been sick we would have gone for a cold bike ride or a hike or visited the art museum since we haven’t visited in a long time. Instead, we enjoyed beautiful, sunny, snowy scenery. We got out a few times to watch kids sled down the hill toward Payette Lake and some brave, industrious teens shoveling the show off the lake to make their own ice rink. We came up with activities, goals, and resolutions for the new year, set a date when we would check our progress, and headed back to town.
Phase 3: On the way back we talked about our finances. That didn’t take too long because we’d been talking about them on a regular basis all year long. Since Leif was driving, I was taking notes and writing down our resolutions, etc.
Phase 4: We ended our jump-start with appetizers and a drink and then an exciting movie (we finally saw Catching Fire!). See how that went? We alternated between work and fun all day . . .
This was the first year we’ve done a retreat or a jump-start. I’m sure we’ll get better at them as far as agendas go, but it was a good day. It was a relief and encouraging for both of us to know where the other was coming from and an excellent way to get the new year started on the same page.
Have you ever gone on a retreat with your person to plan things out and set goals together? What did you do? How did it go? Are there any guidelines or models you follow? There are a lot of them out there but I’d love to know what your resources are. Remember you can find Daisy’s template here.
My lessons from our jump-start retreat:
- Share your entrees. It costs less and you really don’t need huge plates of food.
- For the love of Pete and all that is sacred and special, talk to your person – Just. Talk. Because sometimes you’ve got to slog through the muck to get to the good stuff.
- I’ve said it before, if you take the time to make something good, it probably will be.
- I still really dig my guy.
- We need a lot more snow.