By Dennis and Barbara Rainey
It’s amazing how quickly you can start to drift apart in marriage. You can’t connect well when you’re always busy, always on the run.
Weekly date nights are a huge help, but even those don’t give you the time for the rejuvenation a marriage relationship needs on a regular basis. That’s why one of the best commitments you can make with your spouse is to get away together a couple times each year … away from the family, and away from your normal lives.
How long has it been since you spent extended, focused time with your spouse? Not just an evening at a restaurant, but a couple of days away from your usual environment to catch up with each other? In too many marriages, the demands of the ordinary grind seem to overwhelm the possibility of extraordinary excitement.
Barbara and I take what we call “planning weekends” which give us an opportunity to evaluate our marriage and family relationships and, if necessary, redirect plans. Because of our fast-paced lives, we needed to pause once or twice a year to rest, count our blessings, and dream some dreams.
During our parenting years these weekends gave us a chance to focus on our relationship and then talk about our children’s needs. When we became empty nesters, we got away to talk about how we wanted the rest of our lives to look. We moved from the empty nest into what we call “prime time”!
The getaways are effective in keeping our communication current, and they’re just plain fun. Without any of the everyday distractions, we can concentrate on romancing each other. I can give Barbara flowers and speak tender words. She can give me undivided attention as I unwind and share from the heart. We can stay up munching snacks, listening to music, or talking … and we don’t need to worry about getting up in the morning to meet a demanding schedule.
Purposes for a getaway
First and foremost, it is time together with each other and with God. We want to have plenty of unhurried, quiet time to listen to the Lord, to pray together, to just sit. If our lodging has a fireplace, we may plop for hours in front of the fire with our feet up, not going anywhere, not doing anything, not answering any phones, but just sitting quietly talking—or not talking. Sometimes we read Scriptures or another good book to each other. To busy people like us, these hours are refreshing and satisfying almost beyond description.
A second getaway purpose is planning. This activity is especially important to Barbara, a committed planner. Sometime during our escape we pull out our calendars and talk about where we are headed for the next week, the next month, the next six months, the next year. We also talk about upcoming vacations and family gatherings. The process of planning always helps you revisit your values, especially in this more laid-back setting where there is time to discuss the questions, “Are we on track? Are we doing the things that are really important?”
A third purpose of these getaways is romance and pure pleasure. We reconnect soul to soul, heart to heart, and body to body. There should be no pressure to this aspect, and it certainly shouldn’t feel like a performance situation. But these precious hours together need to be relational, a time of caring and sharing and meeting each other’s spiritual, emotional, and physical needs.
If she likes to take walks and talk, then take an entire morning to walk and talk. If he likes to wake up and enjoy making love followed by a breakfast of steak and eggs, go for it. The point is that you need to concentrate on satisfying the needs of your spouse.
Getaway preparation, ideas, activities
Each couple needs to find a place and plan a schedule to satisfy unique needs. However, we think every couple should avoid skimping on time—even if it means going less often. We have found that the best scenario is to be gone at least two nights, which involves part of three days.
A two-night getaway works best, however, when you are able to leave by early afternoon on the first day. Barbara and I learned by experience that we had trouble leaving early on a Friday for a weekend getaway; often we didn’t arrive at our destination until 9 or 10 p.m. We realized that a three-night retreat worked best for us.
Cost is often the first objection raised to the getaway idea. First let me quote Bill Wellons, who wrote the book Getting Away to Get It Together with his wife Carolyn. “A retreat with your wife is the best investment you will ever make,” he says. “You will get the best return on investment of your money for that than you will on anything else you do in your marriage.”
Besides, you don’t need to be wealthy to plan a memorable getaway. A little creativity goes a long way. An inexpensive place we’ve found is a cottage in a state park, especially in off-season when it’s cheaper and there are few distractions. We’ve also stayed in the off-season at no cost in a friend’s condo on a lake. Another excellent idea that can reduce expenses is to add a day or two at a suitable spot at the conclusion of a business trip.
Childcare arrangements and expenses are often barriers for younger couples. You may want to try to work out a deal with friends to take care of your kids for a weekend and then do the same for them later. (Husband: You will come out a big winner if you take responsibility for making getaway arrangements, including lining up the baby-sitter.)
Here are more ideas:
· Don’t drive too far, especially for a two-night trip. A maximum of two to three hours in the car is plenty. If you drive much farther, by the time you arrive it may be late and you will be exhausted. And you still might have to buy groceries if you are staying in a cabin or condo. We’ve made these mistakes … been there, done that!
· Go somewhere remote. If you are far off the beaten path, you will have to turn to each other for your entertainment and conversation. Get away by a stream, in the woods, a place that doesn’t have the usual distractions—no TV, no internet. The thought of such a media-deprived setting may send you into withdrawal, but just try it! Peace and quiet will grow on you, and you both may be pleasantly reminded of dating days that were more carefree and spontaneous.
· Don’t stay near a mall or shopping district. We’ve tried that and learned it’s tempting to waste away too many hours shopping, eating, or seeing movies. We also avoid staying in locations that feature tourist attractions.
Here are additional suggestions for making the time romantic and memorable once you’ve arrived at your getaway location:
· Make a plan to avoid distractions. This will be difficult in the digital age, when we reflexively pull out our smartphones and turn on a television to avoid even 30 seconds of empty time. Commit to one another that you will stay off the phone, off social media, off the internet. Tell your children not to call unless there’s an emergency.
· Do the fun things you both enjoy but seldom take time for.
· Build in surprises over the weekend for your spouse. What would truly meet her needs for romance? What would spell delight for him? Be a student of your spouse, and do something special to meet her or his needs.
· Once you’ve settled in, start your conversations by recalling the highlights of the last 6-12 months. How has God worked in your life, and in the lives of your children?
· Write a love letter, then read it to your spouse.
· Work on an area of your marriage or family that needs attention, such as planning, scheduling, or lovemaking.
A getaway fight?
Sometimes, no matter how careful the plans and how much effort has been invested, your beautiful weekend may be marred by conflict. We know all about this too. Sometimes we had arguments as we drove to our getaways! By being together in a strange place with plenty of time on your hands, it’s possible that unresolved matters will surface.
If you ever find yourself in such conflict, be the first one to repent and initiate restoration of the relationship, even if you believe you are only 10 percent wrong. The truth is, you are probably more guilty than 10 percent! But back off, admit your fault, and realize that enjoying the relationship, not fighting, is what your getaway is all about.
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