My husband and I have had a lot happen in our lives over the past several years: the birth of our son, the death of my husband’s father, a new career for me, some hard times and good times. We have both been busy with the day-to-day demands of life, so we decided to take a weekend to focus solely on each other. To do that, we drove six hours to a Marriage Encounter Weekend at Virginia Beach in April. Overall, it was wonderful. The weekend is for people who want to strengthen their marriages; my husband and I are already happy in our marriage, but we liked the idea of taking our marriage from good to great.
The weekend consisted of listening to three couples talk about their ups and downs as they responded to various prompts. The couples had been through some very tough things in their lives that Larry and I were thankful we had never experienced, and they were very up front about what they had gone through. After each session, the spouses attending the conference were given a prompt to write about separately in their notebooks, and then the couples came together in their hotel room to read what each other wrote and talk about it. After some time, we would get a call on the room phone to come back down for the next session.
What I liked the most was hearing Larry say the things that I do that he appreciates (that I didn’t even realize he noticed, and that I don’t even think much about, like saying “hey dear!” when he walks in the door each evening). We both told each other what initially drew us to each other; it brought back lots of memories. I thought a lot about how we have changed and grown positively as a couple. We both get along really well, but we don’t necessarily tell each other those things we’re thinking all the time.
Spending time together, writing each other love letters, and the romance were the best parts of the weekend. We renewed our vows to each other at a beautiful candlelight ceremony. The hardest part of the conference was that sharing so many thoughts over the course of a weekend begins to feel draining sometimes — even when you have positive things to say.
The workshop started on a Friday evening, went from early on Saturday morning to late Saturday evening, and then right back at it from early Sunday morning to late that afternoon. By about 11 a.m. on Sunday, we both started to feel really cooped up and ready to get out of the hotel. We knew the beach was so close, and we were inside a hotel. We wanted some fresh air. We ended up leaving a couple of hours early because we had pretty much reached our limit of being inside, knowing that we would go to work the next morning.
We felt kind of bad about leaving early because we did not want to disappoint the workshop leaders; we wanted them to know we were really thankful for everything they had shared. I feel like that weekend was the best thing that could have possibly happened for us — or could happen for any married couple who wants to really dig into what it takes to emotionally support one another. There are different types of Marriage Encounter Weekends, but the one we went to was excellent — no role playing, no group sharing or general cheesiness. The weekend did have a spiritual component, but I think people of various denominations (we are independent) and those who are not Christians still could have felt comfortable.
I highly recommend Marriage Encounter!