To say relationships are difficult is as huge an understatement as saying “life is hard.” Relationships, and especially marriages, are absolute hell on Earth…when it comes to dilemmas and complications. When executed well, a marriage is a masterwork of cooperation, domestic bliss, tandem living, and social support. To see a marriage that functions properly is more impressive than beholding a Bugatti Veyron wind through the curves of the Dadès Gorges pass. Well, almost.
Unfortunately, most of our marriages and relationships tend to run badly, hurt as much as they help, leave us feeling lonely, and end with our stuff in the yard, on fire. Combating this and being able to live with the person we profess to love is as important as oxygen. More, even, since oxygen isn’t likely to shove a pillow over our face in the night or poison our next meal. But learning to change ourselves and the relationship dynamic as a whole requires help. That’s where the 5 best marriage boot camps, couple’s retreats, and counseling getaways come into play. They’re intensive programs built around teaching you to be a better partner, and have a better marriage.
Buyers need to definitely beware of marriage boot camps. Like corporate getaways, weekend empowerment seminars, or fitness escapes, the efficacy of a particular marriage counseling program has a lot of variable mileage. There’s also the trick of carrying home the tools you learn and applying them in the trenches of normal life. It’s possible that what some people need and helps them communicate better with their partner might not be right for you.
The below options are the best we’ve found of these relationship retreats, but your own research is needed to know if one or any of them can aid you. Since these are each costly, and that money can be easily wasted, we advise extreme caution before trusting your mental health, and the health of your relationship to a strange counselor. Adding financial woes and coming home no better than when you left is a step backwards.
Even a good therapist or therapy team is ineffective if they aren’t well-suited to their clients. There’s not a one-size-fits-all marriage-saving retreat. You may easily – far too easily – go through this entire list, attending every session offered and find out that they all fail to help you. If you feel the least hesitation in going forward with the process, we advise you abort and find a local counselor that feels right and fits you well.
If you have time and money to burn, these have a slight chance of aiding you. In truth, you’re better off with a long-term couple’s therapist that can work with you on a consistent basis.
All these marriage escapes – pardon, marriage camps – have hyperbolic names. They’re all bad, but this is far and away the most ridiculous. The “Soul Adventures” take place in Arizona, which isn’t as idyllic as some, but focuses more on the journey than the scenery. Soul Adventures steps out from the crowd largely by talking exhaustively with you and your partner in advance to ascertain your needs, what you hope to accomplish, set goals, and prepare to make the most of your time there. That shows a dedication that we found lacking elsewhere, as others tend to expect you to drop in and then start with all that, wasting precious time (and sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet…just sweet money). They then work to tailor your experience to your relationship.
The first sign we had that the Academy had something to offer was the fact that couples will be turned away if there are substance abuse or domestic violence issues. Your application will likewise be rejected if you are embroiled in an extramarital affair. Other retreats will happily take your money, give you lip service, and send you on your way with a pat on the head and a receipt for far too much. The Relationship Rescue is in Indiana, which is centrally located and keeps costs down. You can opt for various lengths, and lodging is included in the price.
First, note that this is run by Dr. John Grey, but not the one who wrote “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” so if that’s your hope, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. This Dr. Grey has a quarter century worth of marriage counseling, though length is not an indicator of success. Both group and individual retreats are offered in gorgeous Sonoma County, and bear Bay Area prices to go along with it. Naturally, things like food, lodging, or whatever else aren’t included, but the range of prices is the best in the business. The focus is largely on communication and empathy for your partner, as with most retreats.
Marriage Quest is among the most expensive options, but is also superior to others in a few notable ways. The couple who run the retreat are a living example of how to make a marriage work, which is often better than all the accreditations in the world. They’re also outfitted with advanced degrees, though you may want to look into what colleges gave those. The retreat is private and intensive, with couples meeting with the pair several times over the course of 3 days. It’s in Vermont, which is achingly beautiful, but travel and lodging aren’t included in the price.
Gottman gets high marks from us for using a name that doesn’t sound like a spinning class or a soft-core porno. Instead, it sounds like a place where you’ll be strapped to a table and injected with blue and/or amber fluids. Gottman is located on an island off of Washington state, which has gorgeous hikes, biking, and other romantic outdoor activities that help make the process feel like a vacation. It’s also well-executed, though costs a lot considering you’re there with a group of 7 (usually) other couples. The lack of privacy and directed personal attention feels a little like a cattle call, but the workshops and information they disseminate provide you with workable solutions that go home with you well. There’s also the choice of an $800 seminar, should the full retreat be a little costly. If nothing else, it’s a good introduction to the program before you drop that big down payment.