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Couples retreat helps move past skeletons in the closet

*Veronica and Darryl came for the marriage retreat after both realized their relationship just wasn’t getting better on its own. They were committed to their relationship but couldn’t figure out how to bridge the ocean that was growing between them.

Veronica

Veronica grew up with her parents and a brother and sister. Her dad was a gruff and angry man who spent his working years trying to make their small farm successful. Instead of playing, she and her siblings did chores around the farm from a very young age.

During the evening time, Veronica’s dad sat in his living room chair and drank. The more he drank, the angrier he got. He would yell and terrorize her and her sister by telling them how useless and lazy they were, and would put them down for the work they had done around the farm. It seemed her brother was the only one who could do anything right.

Veronica remembered her dad tying her favorite cow behind the barn when he was really drunk and angry and making her watch as he beat the cow with a shovel. The more she protested, the more viciously he beat the defenseless animal. Veronica was forced to watch in silence praying he wouldn’t kill it.

Darryl

Darryl grew up on a farm as well. He too worked from an early age doing whatever needed to be done. His dad was a man of few words but those he did say were often mean. As a child and teenager, Darryl worked hard to win his dad’s approval by doing everything exactly as his dad liked it. When he was done his chores, he would wait anxiously while his dad checked them. It felt so deflating when Darryl’s dad either said nothing or told him what he had done wrong.

The Relationship

Veronica and Darryl married young–in part to get away from their families. They had two kids in elementary school.

Darryl worked long hours driving truck. He was often away for days at a time leaving Veronica to care for the kids alone. When Darryl did get home, he was tired and didn’t participate in the family’s chores or activities. Whenever Veronica asked anything of him, they ended up arguing. Darryl felt Veronica didn’t appreciate all the hard work he did for the family. He worked really long hours so the kids could participate in all of their out-of-school activities and could enjoy the toys, clothes, and other things they bought for them.

Veronica felt utterly alone in raising their children. She felt unappreciated and criticized. They often argued about finances, household tasks, and the number of stray dogs she had adopted. Although their arguments were usually over quickly, neither felt they were ever resolved. They both knew they were growing further and further apart.

The Retreat

Darryl and Veronica wanted to learn how to communicate better. They both wanted to get some recognition for all that they did for the family and wanted to figure out how to feel closer to one another.

During the couple’s retreat, they learned about ideas from the Gottman method called the Sound Relationship House. They learned how to approach each other differently and how to really listen to understand. Veronica learned some ways to calm herself down and take breaks during their arguments so she could come back and discuss things.They practiced different ways to argue and were surprised to resolve some arguments that had previously felt entrenched.

They discussed ways to feel more connected with one another and planned weekly dates and discussions. Darryl made a decision to do things differently than his dad and committed to talking about things he was proud of Veronica for and what he liked and admired about her regularly.

By the end of the couple’s retreat, both felt more hopeful than they had in a long time. They realized continuing the journey was going to take some hard work, but they had a clear idea of what they needed to do to get there.

Veronica realized she needed to deal with some unresolved issues from her childhood. She planned to start individual counseling upon their return.

*The names and details have been altered for reasons of confidentiality.

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