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March 2016: A Time to Retreat

When Barbara and I got married, we were deeply in love – and a little nervous. We both agreed that this was going to be forever. Divorce was out of the question. But some of the marriages we were familiar with – even those of thirty-plus years’ duration – did not look all that happy. We had no idea how to “do marriage right.” What if our marriage turned out like these others after a couple of decades? Neither of us wanted to spend our lives locked in a miserable relationship, or living like unattached roommates. There had to be a better way.

Unfortunately, like many couples in our day, we had minimal premarital preparation. We spent an hour or so in our pastor’s office, where he smiled kindly and talked about the wonders and delights of marriage. But in terms of actual preparation for a life joined as one, we didn’t hear much. But the wedding was fast upon us, and we figured we would find a way.

That’s why, six months into our marriage, we responded to an invitation from our church to attend a Marriage Encounter weekend. It was our first marriage retreat, where we learned about communication, managing conflict, and other aspects of marriage from couples who had “been there, done that.” Away from the pressures and complexity of our jobs and daily, we had time to think about our relationship and just enjoy one another. The weekend was a game-changer for our marriage.

What we learned at that retreat was two-fold: (a) marriage is not a matter of luck or chance, but a matter of skills – mostly in communication and honest sharing, and (b) those skills were learnable by almost anyone. They are not rocket science! But they also don’t come naturally. And they are seldom taught in schools and, sadly, in most churches. But we practiced what we had learned, and we got better at them, and got better at “doing marriage right.” Ten years later, we went to another weekend for a refresher, and solidified those skills even more.

Shortly after that second weekend we felt called to help other couples learn what we had learned, and we received training in PREPARE-ENRICH, a marriage-strengthening tool that we could use to mentor other couples. That ultimately led to our involvement in The Marriage Alliance of Central Virginia, which is now Compass Marriage & Relationship Services. Today, our passion for helping couples form and sustain healthy, lifelong marriages is our life ministry.

A little time away from the ordinary routine of life, spent learning skills that helped us communicate better and resolve issues safely, made a huge difference in the direction of our marriage. Today we have 37 years of marriage behind us, and we are more in love than ever. One thing we earnestly believe is that good marriages are intentional – they don’t just happen. Taking some time off to improve your marriage can pay back huge rewards in the form of a healthier, happier marriage.

Your opportunity is here now: there are still a few openings left at our “Marriage Remastered” retreat on March 11 & 12, 2016. This fun, interactive overnight experience could be just what you need to enliven your marriage or take it to the next level. See the webpage above for more information, or go to to register. Make this “day away” one that will change your marriage for the better – forever!

Contributed by: Larry Compter, Executive Director
Above image courtesy of arztsamui at

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