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Debbie and Derek have been married for over 20 years. The most important part of their love for one another has always been their shared values. Derek has always been a hard worker and a good provider. Debbie was born to be a mother.
Debbie remembers watching Derek with his nieces and nephews before they married and knew he had the patience to be a good dad. Derek also watched Debbie with his nieces and nephews and also appreciated her maternal instincts.
Both decided as soon as they were married that they wanted to start a family. Four children arrived in quick succession. It was hard on them being such young parents, but they believed in the value of family and put everything into their children.
Evenings, weekends, and annual vacations were spent with the kids being at the center. Conversations consisted of operational to do’s: who was taking and picking up who to soccer, gymnastics, skiing, or music lessons; what time meals would be eaten between programs; who was making sure homework was done, and who would organize play dates, dentist or doctor appointments. Life was very busy!
At the end of each day Debbie and Derek would fall into bed exhausted. Each year they thought it might get easier, but it seemed the next year just brought new activities and busier lives.
Spending time alone consisted of sleeping. Sex happened only sporadically and although both of them wanted more intimacy, they weren’t quite sure how to fit it in, especially because it often seemed like one of the kids was sleeping with them!
Neither Derek nor Debbie complained though. They were proud of the sacrifices they made for their kids even if at times it felt as though they were merely workmates or roommates.
The years continued to tick by. The last of their kids was about to finish high school. Both Debbie and Derek began to get nervous. Once the kids were gone, what would they do? They hadn’t thought of themselves as anything but parents for years. What would they talk about once the kids were gone?
Derek contacted this writer when he saw couple’s retreat information on my website. Could a retreat help a couple that had grown apart years ago? Could it help them discover what they liked about each other now besides their parenting?
I sent the couples some forms to complete prior to the retreat. In them I discovered both had been considering divorce for a few years. Both admitted to feeling a bit bored together, felt insecure and unsure whether the other still cared, and had no idea had to fall in love again.
During the retreat, we talked about their best hopes in their relationship. They discovered, much to each other’s surprise, that they both wanted more intimacy. They wanted to hold hands, to give or get a massage, to go out on dates, and to snuggle in bed in the morning.
Debbie wanted to initiate sex but was uncertain if Derek would like that or would reject her. As homework they talked about what they wanted to experience together in bed, and talked about seduction techniques they would both like. Both were again surprised that the other wanted more intimacy—and from only one another!
We spend time talking about ways they could build their friendship and feel connected once again. Part of that included creating a plan for how to talk about conflict instead of avoiding it, and how to express love in a way that really made a difference to the other person. They knew part of their shared values now included the priority they put on their relationship.
By the end of the retreat, Derek and Debbie remembered what they liked and loved about each other. They left my office holding hands talking about a trip they wanted together in the near future.
Debbie and Derek are a fictitious couple made up of the many people I’ve worked with during my couple’s retreats.