April 15, 2011

Marriage Weekend with The Annoyed Army Wife

The Annoyed Army Wife

Sky and I are at the Army Strong Bonds marriage retreat this weekend. That mean mama gets a couple days off. I'm kicking off my long weekend of guest bloggers with the cream of the crop- the one and only Annoyed Army Wife! This chick is fabulous, and definitely one of my favorite bloggers- I was pretty much beside myself when she agreed to guest blog for little old me. If you're part of the milspouse community, you've probably already subscribed to her, but if this is your first time reading, please go check out the rest of her blog- she is hilarious, very witty, and all around awesome. Oh, and she just happened to live in Chambana during some of her college years- giving her even more bonus points in my book!

When Erika asked for guest bloggers I jumped at the opportunity!  I’m so excited to be here while Erika and Sky are on a marriage retreat.  I’m the annoyed army wife, and my topic today is actually about marriage retreats because my husband, OccDoc, and I just got back from one last week.

I signed us up for the Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend back in September.  Yes, over 6 months ago.  I actually signed us up for two weekends because at that time we had no idea when OccDoc was coming home from deployment in Afghanistan.  The good news for us is that OccDoc came home 6 weeks ago just in time for this weekend.

Let me step back and fill you in, OccDoc and I got married Dec. ’07 in Vegas but didn’t tell anyone (and still haven’t).  We got married in the Catholic church in Nov. ’08 which we finally let our family and friends in on our gig.  Before our priest could marry us in the church we had to do some sort of marriage prep.  The priest was in Chicago and we were in Maryland, so we couldn’t exactly pop by his office for some counseling.  He strongly suggested (i.e. forced/threatened) we go to Engaged Encounter before he (or any Catholic priest) would marry us.  I was pissed!  Pissed!  How dare he demand that I/we give up a weekend to sit in a freakin’ circle with a guitar and sing This Little Light Of Mine or whatever went on during such retreats.  OccDoc and I had been together for 3 years already, and I had moved across the country twice with him.  We were committed, dammit.  I was even swearing up a storm on the car ride over to the hotel for the weekend.  After 2.5 days I was a reformed believer in Engaged Encounter.

We talked about topics we had never thought about talking about.  It’s not that we were hiding things from each other; just some of those things had never come up.  And we exposed what was going on deep inside.  It was a really magical, well, I guess the correct term is spiritual, weekend.  Completely amazing.  So, when I asked OccDoc if he wanted to go on a Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend he was excited and said yes.  Those of you who read my blog know that I’m not a super religious person; you probably didn’t even know what religion I was.  I can’t quote a scripture to save my life and have never read the Bible, so don’t discount a weekend like this even if you are like me and not religious.  Like, don’t stop reading, people.

This weekend was different than the engaged one.  There were 12 – 15 couples attending, each with a different story.  OccDoc and I (I think) we married the least amount of time: 3 years.  And I think one couple said they were married 28 years – they may have been the longest of the participants.  There were 2 couples that were our age and seemed like we’d get along great.  Both of the women were pregnant, awesome.  OccDoc and I were the only childless, non-pregnant couple there.  Way to feel like winners.  There was an air force couple there as well.  It was funny, the air force wife and I totally dominated one of the meals by talking about deployment and reintegration issues.  I’m sure it was really boring for the ‘normal’ couples at the table, but maybe it gave them a real look into our lifestyle.  Or maybe they just tuned us out, who knows.  I know Erika and Sky are attending the Army Strong Bonds weekend, so their experience will be different since the couples will be mainly army folks.

Let me give you an idea of what they are going through this weekend.  It might not be the same, but it will be similar to what OccDoc and I did, I bet.  We arrived at the hotel and were greeted by about 3 couples, a tad overwhelming.  Everyone was really happy and asking us what church we belonged to.  Uh oh.  Our reply was, “Oh, we’re new to the area and still shopping around.”  Two years is still new, right?  Yeah, I know we need to find a church like ASAP, it’s on our To Do list.  We hustled out of there and to our room to unpack.  We both tried to remember the name of the church by our house in case we got asked which church we attended by a priest or something.  Yes, we were prepared to lie.  To a priest.  We know that’s bad.  Fortunately, it didn’t get to that point, mainly because a few of the couples went to that church and would have blown our cover.

Anyway, after we unpacked we headed down to the kick off ceremony.  There was a presentation team consisting of a priest and 3 married couples.  These couples were like uber-cute in love couples.  My husband and I have an excellent relationship, but we aren’t fawning over and pawing at each other in public.  We might hold hands.  As the weekend progressed, however, we went from holding hands to leaning our heads on each other’s shoulders, yeah, that’s about how romantic we get in public.  The weekend was divided into several different modules.  One of the couples and the priest would talk about a particular topic.  The couple would draw from their experience and the priest would throw in a religious twist.  The priest for our weekend was really quite funny in a corny, old, priest-like way.  Kind of like a G-rated version of my Grandpa, but no swearing and no inappropriate jokes, unlike my Grandpa.

After the presentation was over we would use our workbooks to review a discussion question about the topic just presented.  Even though it was a group setting the whole weekend was very personal to each couple.  It was very private.  The men and women would separate; the women would back head to the couple’s room to write an answer while the men would stay in the conference room to work on their answer (we switched off so the guys weren’t always stuck in the conference room).  Once the timer dinged, the spouse in the conference room would get up and head back to their room.  We would discuss our answers in the privacy of our own room, and the presenters would call us on the phone when it was time to come back to the group for another presentation.  No big scary group sharing.  Which was a bonus for OccDoc.  I, on the other hand, love public speaking so I won’t have minded it, but alas I didn’t get the chance.  That was how it went for pretty much the whole weekend.  I know you might think a lecture would be boring, and ‘Oh my gosh, how do people present things without the use of powerpoint?’ but the presentations were really, really engaging.

The focus wasn’t so much on specific topics, like how do you feel about the way your parents raised you?, it was more like when do I have a hard time listening to you and what are my feelings about that? type of questions.  Some of you are probably freaking out right now because I typed the F-word.  Feelings.  Yeah, we had to talk about our feelings.  Scary!!!  It took awhile to shift from talking about the issues/topics to actually opening up and talking about the F-word, but we made it through unscathed.  You’re probably thinking talking about feelings sounds lame, you won’t be the only one, but the weekend was very well done and I think all of the couples really grew as a result of it.

Will the weekend improve OccDoc’s and my relationship even though it’s pretty good and solid?  Without a doubt.  We’ll have to do our ‘homework’ and commit to it, but our relationship is well worth the work.  Will a weekend like this save a troubled relationship?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  If the couple is willing to be open to the process, roll up their sleeves and work, then maybe yes.  If the couple is just there for a weekend in a hotel with catered food, then maybe no.

Have I piqued your interest?  Do you want to know more about my weekend or Erika’s?  We would be happy to talk to you about it.  Feel free to contact me at annoyedarmywife {at} gmail {dot} com (and Erika at chambanachik {at} gmail.{dot} com).

Have you been to a marriage workshop?  Which one?  What did you think about it?

-The Annoyed Army Wife for

3 kind comments from you:

Anonymous said...

Such a wonderful idea for any couple in a relationship. More and more I come to realize that when we're in relationships, so many hugely important topics aren't discussed ahead of relationships becoming increasingly serious. And not because of avoidance of issues either - simply, as you say, because the topics don't come to mind. I'm not religious either, but I think these are an awesome idea for couples. Thanks for sharing your story of the weekend.

Mowenackie said...

T and I went to the same Strongs Bonds/PREP marriage enchrichment seminar that Erika and Sky are at, only we took it back in May of 2009. We both loved it and thought it gave some really good tools for relationships. We've fallen off of using some of them but were reminded of their importance this weekend and are considering going again...just for a refresher. Or we could just dig out our old workbooks, but we're lazy.

Keri said...

I've thought about a marriage retreat, but I think my husband and I would laugh the whole way through it. I think it's a good opportunity though, especially for those with young kids. Ours are old brats. lol. When they're little, everyone is exhausted and there is no time for lovey-dovey. Hope it helps to reconnect..lord knows we all need that time!
The Glamorous Army Wife

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