One day, during a marriage seminar, a man I deeply respect just happened to mention going on something called a “vision retreat” with his wife. A vision retreat? That was the first time I’d heard of it. I asked what it was.
He couldn’t believe I didn’t know. “You’re the marriage guy and you’ve never had a vision retreat?” he asked. My friend told me how, every year, he and his wife get away for several days without the kids. They talk and pray about every area of their marriage, working through their issues and enjoying their time alone.
“When we come home, we have a plan for our children, our finances, our sex life, our schedule—every area of our marriage,” he said. I thought that was one of the best things I had ever heard. Ever since, Karen and I have scheduled a vision retreat for our marriage every year, and we’ve been teaching other couples to do the same.
Setting aside time to seek God for your marriage will transform your life, your relationship with each other, and your relationship with God. Here are a few of my rules for a productive vision retreat.
1. No kids.
If you take your kids, it’s not a retreat. Leave them with your parents or a trusted friend or family member. Get away alone, together.
2. Aim for three to five days.
You need to allow yourself enough time to relax, get your heart right, and connect with your spouse.
3. Do it at least once a year.
If you’re fighting regularly or have major life changes on the horizon, you might need to do it more than once a year. When Karen and I find ourselves nagging each other or arguing, we understand it’s time for our vision retreat. We fight because there’s something unresolved between us. A vision retreat can help us resolve it.
4. It can be anywhere.
If you want to go camping and are comfortable doing that, then set up a tent out in the woods. If you’d rather go to a fancy resort, then do that. As long as it’s a place where you’re not too distracted to seek God.
5. Schedule each day.
For half the day, you pray and talk. The other half of the day, you have fun. Karen and I usually spend our mornings in conversation, then we spend the rest of the day enjoying ourselves.
6. Talk about the big issues.
The first time Karen and I went on a vision retreat, we discussed our kids, my schedule, and money. Those were our big issues. Those were the things that kept us aggravated with each other. What issues cause the most tension in your marriage? That’s what you need to discuss.
7. Don’t be afraid to fight.
When you bring something out in the open that has been unresolved in your marriage, it’s going to lead to some hard conversations. Some couples are uncomfortable with the idea of a vision retreat because they don’t like conflict. But would you rather have two days of hard conversations, or 15 years of a chronic, unresolved problem in your marriage?
8. Surrender your marriage to God.
This is the most important thing. A vision retreat isn’t two strong-willed people butting heads on an issue, but two submitted people trying to find God. Say, “God, we want what you want. We surrender our marriage to you.”
9. Finally, listen.
Don’t bully. Don’t dominate. Listen to your spouse share his or her heart. Spend time in prayer. Sit together in God’s presence until you hear from Him. I firmly believe He will give you a vision for your marriage if you’ll just listen.
After that, you’ll return to the “real world” and pursue that vision. Have you ever gone on a vision retreat with your spouse? If not, then I hope this year is the year you do it.