When daily chores become overwhelming and a busy schedule leaves little time for your significant other it’s time to take action, or a little pleasant inactivity, as the case may be. Cairo West Magazine caught up with Marriage Counselor and founder of the RE, Rasha Salama, to explore the benefits of escaping ‘together’.
When and Why to Seek Help
RS: In Egypt, in a recent survey it was reported that the majority of couples seek professional help when they are at the edge of divorce; that is, after they have been suffering from marital distress for years. Nonetheless, more and more people are accepting the idea of couples or marriage counseling, and it has become more common for couples to visit a marriage counselor when they have failed to find any other solution to their problems.
There is no single reason for marital or relationship struggles. Besides the daily stressors that negatively affect the relationship, lack of communication, trust issues and financial responsibilities are amongst the key reasons for problems arising.
I also believe that we, as Egyptians, do not invest enough time and effort into our relationships and do not see it as a priority. We focus our energies on learning about parenting, marketing trends, fashion trends, even bitcoins and do not bother researching how to maintain a healthy relationship. There are tons of articles on the Internet and hundreds of books that can help us avoid marital problems and help us deal with them when they arise. This is one area in our life that is fundamental to our wellbeing and our fulfillment in life partially depends on our fulfillment in our relationship.
How Can a Retreat Help?
It is no surprise that every relationship has its challenges and addressing them is fundamental to the growth and sustainability of the relationship, because avoiding them creates a build-up of negative emotions that lead to resentment between partners on the long run. Going on retreats is recommended by relationship experts at least once a year and up to three times a year. A couples’ retreat is a time for couples to detach from the stress of their lives and responsibilities and focus on their relationship and their partners.
A retreat is also time alone away from children, family and friends. The retreat allows partners to break the routine and boredom in their lives and increase the intimacy between them. This will lead to a greater and stronger bond. Simply, couple retreats are a refresher to the relationship. In the RE we plan the retreats to address a particular relationship challenge by setting goals and after the couple return from the retreat we assess if the goal was reached; if no, then why not, and if yes, then how can we sustain it amidst the daily routine of the couple.
A retreat is minimum a weekend and up to 10 days. The RE tailors its retreat duration to meet the client’s need.
Tailoring the Retreat
The first step in tailoring a retreat is to address the marital challenge of a particular couple is through an assessment meeting in which we understand the nature of the couple’s relationship and their personalities and interests. At the end of this meeting, we come out with a core issue around which I design the retreat. According to research, 69% of marital problems are perpetual issues; that is, in every relationship there is a particular topic that couples keep fighting around even if the situation is different.
In group retreats, we choose a generic topic like prioritizing or communication or trust and build the retreat around it from a broader perspective, allowing for individual time slots to explore and address individual issues and needs.
How is a Retreat Structured?
Since the RE is focused on delivering a transformational experience, our programs are centered on fun. This is tricky because what is fun for one partner does not necessarily have to be fun for the other. So we make sure in the assessment meeting to identify what is fun for each individual (same applies with group retreats). The program revolves around games and activities.
We turn every step into a game; for example, when the couples are headed to breakfast, instead of walking to the restaurant we ask them to each takes a different route and whomever gets to the restaurant first is the winner and gets to be served breakfast by the other partner. Through such a game we add a challenge for couples and allow them to try something new and enjoy a laugh.
The 4 Types of Retreats
The RE has 4 types of retreats: a romantic getaway, an adventure retreat, a cultural retreat and a combination (of all three) retreat. A romantic getaway would ideally be a relaxing destination. An adventure retreat would take place in a destination where there are loads of things to do, such as diving, zip lining, bungee jumping, sky diving, camping, fishing, and so on. A cultural retreat would take place in a destination with museums, music concerts, art galleries, etc. The combination retreat would be in a destination that is relaxing, with some adventure and a cultural element.
Since the RE retreats are tailored, the couple gets to contribute in the retreat destination. A beach destination can be a romantic getaway where the couple get to enjoy and relax on the beach, or an adventure retreat if they participate in any water sports or activities like diving, surfing or kayaking and it can also be a cultural retreat if they explore the nearby village.
We are planning three group retreats in 2018, two of which will be inside Egypt and one abroad. Our first group couple retreat is scheduled on the weekend of the 8th to the 10th of February in beautiful Ras Sudr on the Red Sea. This is a romantic getaway kind of retreat where couples will relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Red Sea while learning how to prioritize their partner and their relationship. “Us First” is the title of this retreat.
When couples are tense and drowning in their marital problems they need couples counseling not a couple retreat, unless they are willing to put their problems aside and instead of focusing on their problems, they make a conscious decision every second of the day on the retreat to focus on building their relationship, and not on solving the problem. This however, requires a very disciplined type of couple and is usually risky.
I would recommend a couple’s retreat to every couple that has not reached the downward spiral phase in their relationship yet but need some time together to maintain their healthy marriage status quo. A couple’s retreat is also very useful for couples that have completed couple’s counseling.