Couple on a walk in an article by Lisa Rabinowitz on marriage retreats.

Do Marriage Retreats Work? Answers From A Therapist

You knew that you should have contacted a couples therapist already, but you thought you could fix your problems on your own. But nothing has changed, and now you are facing the fact that you need some outside help.  You’ve heard about retreats, and you’re wondering, “Do marriage retreats work or not?”

How Are Marriage Retreats Different From Traditional Therapy?

Marriage retreats (sometimes called Intensive Couples Therapy) will get to the root of the problem quickly and help you learn how to resolve it. 

Traditional couples therapy is different from intensive couples therapy because it usually takes longer and has multiple goals. When you don’t want to attend couple therapy for months or longer, marriage retreats are the answer. 

The longer sessions provide you with an opportunity to dive deep into your issues and discover how to overcome the obstacles creating them. Marriage retreats can reduce your therapy process by one to three months due to their intense focus.

13 Issues Addressed On A Marriage Retreat

If you are looking for a couples intensive to improve your relationship, you can learn about and improve in the following areas:

  1. Communication, listening and feeling heard/seen by your partner
  2. Intimacy, sex and sexless marriage
  3. ADHD and infidelity
  4. ADHD and lying, communication and arguing
  5. Conflict resolution, fighting, arguing and lowering the stress in your relationship
  6. Conflicts with kids, parenting, friends, and in-laws
  7. Financial strains, poor money choices, planning for the future and different values about money
  8. Addictions and the impact they have on your marriage
  9. Trauma and attachment and how to create an intimately secure relationship together
  10. Appreciation and affection
  11. Respect and boundaries
  12. Emotional distance and defensiveness
  13. Valuing each other’s differences

Are Marriage Retreats Effective?

If you are curious and want to know, “Do marriage retreats work? And how effective are marriage retreats?” the answer is they are incredibly impactful and have a fast, specific and measurable impact on your marriage right away. 

Think about it this way: When you take time away from your work, phone, bills, your kids, and the dog to exclusively spend time on your relationship, it’s bound to improve it.

You will have time to address, talking about and explore the areas that need work and/or repair and focus on what areas of your relationship need fixing or a tune-up. 

You will learn skills and tools that will help you navigate conflicts, build trust, increase appreciation, and improve your communication. 

You will learn how to be on the same team and have each other’s back instead of criticizing, yelling, shutting down or repressing your thoughts and feelings. 

This concentrated effort on all of our parts is what makes marriage retreats so meaningful for couples. Therapy and couples counseling are wonderful tools, but marriage retreats cut to the chase faster and that means you make progress quickly. Instead of weekly sessions that cover the same hours over many weeks, in a marriage retreat you target the issues that are plaguing your partnership in quick order. This allows you to stop kicking the can down the road and get serious about repairing what can be repaired and setting a trajectory for what needs time and patience to heal.

It is very effective and as a couples counselor, I can tell you it works.

How Do Marriage Retreats Work?

When couples find a quiet place and take time for themselves, it’s a magical opportunity to provide a time and space to look inwards and explore each other and the relationship. 

Without distractions and other people and things to deplete your energy, you can rediscover the partner you fell in love with and reconnect with them. The intimacy that you once had can be reignited when you feel loved, heard, and cared about again. 

Sometimes we can get so lost and preoccupied with the day-to-day life activities, we don’t realize that our relationship has been put on the back burner. And even if you realized that the relationship was not being tended to, you might not have known how to fix it.  Retreats can help with that as well.

Answers From A Therapist About Marriage Retreats

How do you know if a marriage retreat is for you?  A marriage retreat or marriage intensive will be a great opportunity for you if you are looking to jump start your relationship and get it off the cliff of divorce.

As a couples therapist, I can’t make any couple do the work or help them if one or both partners want to blame the other partner for the issues, but if you really want to improve the relationship, then marriage retreats will help you be happier and more satisfied.

Marriage retreats are also greatly supportive when:

  • You discover an affair or have a sudden discussion of divorce, the concentrated time together will address your concerns, issues and goals.
  • You or your partner have ADHD and you have been struggling with lying, infidelity, miscommunication, differences in household labor/work, frustration with kids or other ADHD related issue, a marriage retreat will give you concentrated time together to address your different communication styles and how to work more harmoniously with each other.
  • You are looking to explore how to increase your intimacy and romance.
  • Your sex life is mismatched with one of you wanting sex more than the other and that causing stress in your relationship.
  • You will learn how to have fun again, especially after your kids have grown and left home or you really just want to spice up your relationship together. 
  • You’re considering divorce because you can’t think of what to do to fix the communication and reduce the fighting BUT you really would rather stay married and repair your marriage versus leave.

Here’s the truth, as your therapist, my job is to learn about your relationship and from that, I create an individualized marriage retreat that meets your relationship goals and addresses the core reasons why you’re seeking out a marriage retreat at all. When you come to the retreat experience open and honest, even if you’re unsure about the possible results, marriage retreats work. It requires an openness on your part to be willing to making changes in your relationship, but when we start from that place, marriage retreats work.

How do I prepare you for your marriage retreat?

I prepare you for the experience with what I call “prework.” This includes homework to get you both on board for the sessions ahead and to help you both create the mindset that is optimal for the outcomes you most desire.

Once you’re completed your retreat, I also do “post-work.” This extra material is how you take the commitments and intentions home with you and really make the marriage retreat real in your life. Counseling is a great setting to explore the conversations, topics and to challenge couples to grow, but the work has to happen at home if it’s to stick and really be the change you want in your relationship. Post-work is the extra step that bridges the time in sessions to your real life and it’s very important so I add it in as an extra benefit for you and your partner.

Are marriage retreats non religious?

They absolutely can be. I individualize every retreat to meet your needs and if you want to approach your time together with a focus on communication, reducing arguments and improving your sex life, we can do that. Equally, if you’re a couple where your connection to your religion is a part of your marriage and your commitment to each other, please let me know and we can include that as well. There is no requirement that marriage retreats come from a religious background or modality. They can but it isn’t a requirement.

So to answer your question of, “Do marriage retreats work?” my answer as a couple therapist is yes. If you are willing to put the time and energy into the marriage retreat, you can discover a better version of your relationship. Make sure you are ready to discuss your concerns and be ready to hear the answers to all of your questions

I offer marriage retreats virtually in 1, 2 or 3 day formats. Relationship retreats are designed to help you sort out your toughest challenges and they can be incredibly helpful if your marriage is on the rocks but you truly are not ready to quit or divorce your partner.

Please reach out today for a complimentary consultation to see if a marriage retreat can help you.

Updated 1/23/24


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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