You may not have heard about an intensive marriage counseling retreat before…
but it’s a tried and true way to put some focused attention on marriage issues you and your spouse may be facing, and do it alongside a couple who has a heart for your marriage, a vital knowledge of the scriptures, and a deep dependence on the LORD to be the true Counselor.
This post is going to answer some of the most common questions I get about our marriage counseling intensives. Alongside each point I’ve included sharing boxes (for Facebook and Twitter) so that you can make others aware of this powerful resource…
[pullquote position=”right”]What IS a marriage intensive?
The basic idea behind a marriage intensive is that you, as a couple, take some intentional, focused time to dig into the reasons behind your marriage issues so that you can discover the ways to change things for the better with the LORD’s help. It happens over the course of 2 1/2 to 4 days, depending on the need, and is not for the faint of heart. You’ll discover things you are longing to know and some other things that you probably won’t want to admit – about your past, yourself, each other, and your marriage. But the good news is that we approach it in such a way that God and His word are central to the entire process, so the help and comfort you need are ever present as you walk through the difficult spots.
[pullquote position=”right”]Is a marriage intensive only for couples facing serious issues?
It’s true that marriage intensives can have a more noticeable difference in the lives of couples who are fighting some of the bigger issues… but I think that’s mainly because there’s a greater observable “before and after” effect. But that doesn’t mean that a Christian marriage intensive is only for couples facing huge issues. If your marriage is in need of any of improvement in any of the following areas, a marriage intensive will prove very beneficial…
- Understanding each other
- Resolving the past
- Conflict resolution
- Parenting differences
- Emotional baggage
[pullquote position=”right”]What happens in one of your marriage counseling retreats?[/pullquote]
This is one of the biggest questions I get, and it’s understandable. I hope I can dispel some of the “mystery” of what we do… but it may be a bit longer of an answer than the previous two.
The way we understand scripture, the Holy Spirit Himself is our Counselor (various versions of John 14:26 state it this way). Based on that truth we assume that…
- He is the one who knows the baggage that each partner brings to the marriage, and how that baggage is impacting the present. So, we ask Him to show us those things.
- He is the only one who can bring understanding, cleansing, or healing to those areas, so we trust Him to do that as we work through each issue together.
What that means practically is that we spend a lot of time on the front end digging into each partner’s life, guided by the Holy Spirit. Each participant, in turn, will spend time in prayer seeking the Spirit to reveal the issues that need to be revealed or addressed. During that time we’ll interact, ask questions, and listen (all in that same attitude of prayer) so that we can clarify the trouble spots and the things that are fueling them.
Typically these include areas of past or present sin that is unconfessed and unrepented of, areas of past or present hurt that are not being entrusted to the LORD, issues of bitterness or unforgiveness, or areas of spiritual bondage the person has put themselves under that need to be broken. There may be other issues that surface, and we’ll deal with them as we find them… but typically these are the main ones that arise.
After revealing the issues that are “behind the scenes” we’ll walk the individual through a handful of things…
- Biblical repentance, where applicable.
- Releasing of burdens or hurts to the LORD’s just and loving care.
- Breaking of spiritual bonds, where needed.
- The steps of biblical forgiveness.
These two steps usually amount to 2 to 4 sessions of our time and pave the way for the couple to build positively toward the future with a sense of freedom from the past.
Moving through these things can be some of the weightiest stuff we do. It can be painful, fearful, unsettling, insecure, emotional, and a host of other things. But we’ve never failed to see the Holy Spirit work powerfully in the hearts of those who are humble enough to face their past and themselves with a willingness to do whatever He reveals they need to do.
After this two-part time of prayer and healing we move toward the specific issues the couple is facing presently. Often it is necessary for the first two sections to dovetail into this section as there is often hurt, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc. that exists between the marriage partners. [pullquote position=”right”]Every couple needs to learn to deal with their disagreements, offenses, and hurts in a biblical way… according to what I call a “Gospel Pattern.”[/pullquote]
What is a gospel pattern of dealing with these things? It’s pretty simple: Confession – Repentance – Forgiveness
I call this a “gospel” pattern because the steps we take to be reconciled to one another are the exact same steps we go through when becoming reconciled to God. We confess our sins (1 John 1:9).We repent of our sins (Luke 15:7). God forgives our sins (2 Corinthians 7:10).
This whole process is a work of God, when it happens in salvation and when it happens in the reconciliation of a marriage. We rely on that. We trust God to bring it about in our counseling sessions.
This may require a good deal of teaching, to help the couple understand their standing before God because of Christ, and to apply it in a way that makes a difference in the everyday issues of life and marriage.
From there we move on to deal specifically with the details of their major issues or needs.
It’s a long process, and very intense (thus the name “marriage intensive”). But I’ve never seen a couple leave without being significantly impacted in a positive way.
[pullquote position=”right”]Are your marriage counseling retreats done in groups or with one couple at a time?[/pullquote]
I know there are counselors who do these in groups, but I still haven’t gotten my brain around how they get into such important, deep, personal issues in a group setting. So, we’ve opted for doing these with one couple at a time. You’ll have two-on-two attention from my wife and I in a relaxing, peaceful setting that lends itself to the kind of work we are going to be doing together.
[pullquote position=”right”]Where do you hold your Christian marriage intensives?[/pullquote]
We do all of our intensives in a retreat facility just outside the town where we live, Buena Vista, Colorado. Practically, that means if you live somewhere else, you’ll have to figure out the cost and logistics of getting here. But I think you’ll agree once you see the place, it’s well suited to doing the kind of work we do.
The splendor and power of the LORD is manifest all around us. The cabin to the left is one of the places we hold our intensives.
[pullquote position=”right”]What is the process for scheduling a marriage counseling intensive?[/pullquote]
If one of our Christian marriage intensives sounds like a “go” for you so far, I’d suggest you do the following:
- Read through this page and our marriage intensive page with your spouse and make sure both of you are ready to commit to this.
- Begin praying for the LORD to reveal to you and to us if this option is a right fit for you.
- Contact me and introduce yourself. I’ll send you a questionnaire that will help us get a feel for your situation.
- Complete the questionnaire and return it.
- My wife and I will prayerfully look it over, and contact you to set up a video chat for the four of us.
- If all of us sense a “go” from the LORD at that point, we’ll begin talking about dates that might work to schedule your intensive.