Small Beginnings: The two hour marriage retreat

I know Iíve been writing a lot about fishing lately, but Iím not quite done. Our fishing date which was aeons ago yielded a little more material so hang in there and endure one more column about fishing! In addition to becoming a contributing factor in the worst cooking disaster I have ever pulled off, and also bringing to my attention a great spiritual truth, our brief fishing excursion produced one more unexpected result. It refreshed and renewed my appreciation for my husband and the gift that he is to my life.

I donít know if any of you have ever been on a marriage retreat, but they are getaways for couples designed to enhance your relationship and reinforce the positives in a marriage. Sometimes retreats like this can last for days and cost hundreds of dollars. Often they feature speakers who give advice and share tips on how to improve communication or how to handle conflict. Marriage retreats are great and I would encourage any married couple to experience such an event, regardless of how long you have been married. We have been on a few over the years and we have always found them fun.

The beauty of our little fishing expedition for me was that it had just as much benefit as a costly, time consuming marriage retreat in my opinion. As we shared our little rock outcropping that night, we werenít holding hands over a candlelit dinner (we would probably never do that anyway). We werenít playing an awkward game where you sit for several minutes without speaking just staring into each otherís eyes (we couldnít really do that without bursting out laughing). We were interacting very naturally and spontaneously, focused on our individual fishing but doing it in tandem. Somehow we worked together as a team, careful not to cross our lines or tangle each other up. We traded spots frequently so the other party could reach a different sweet spot and have a better shot at catching something.

Much of the two hours we spent fishing we didnít even speak, and when we did talk, it was about mundane things like if there was a half of a night crawler somewhere that needed to be used before we got out a fresh one. I know this doesnít sound like much of a retreat and perhaps it even sounds to some of you like a dreadful date. How could two people find anything romantic or remotely personal about a few hours standing on a rock in silence getting mud caked under your fingernails? It may be unusual, but it works for me.

So maybe what I am trying to describe to you is completely strange and bizarre, but when a man helps you climb down the bank and makes sure you donít twist your ankle, you feel loved. When he untangles your line for the third time in a row and doesnít murmur or complain about it, you feel loved. When he keeps trying to tell you where to fish because he wants to set you up to catch a bigger fish than he has, you feel loved. I would rather have these simple sincere expressions of caring all day long because I know they are authentic and come from a heart of love.

Granted, some of these things are easy to miss. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, much of the ordinary kindnesses we offer to one another are lost and taken for granted. Thatís why I think this simple act of getting away from it all to an old fishiní hole is the perfect retreat. Inexpensive. Quick and hassle free. Spontaneous and sudden. Itís a model that I think can be duplicated easily in numbers of ways including a hike or a walk, a bicycle ride, a cruise in the car or a round of mini golf. You can turn any familiar summertime activity into an extraordinary marriage enriching experience with a quick change of perspective. If you are married, I hope you find a way to retreat together and rediscover the little things that keep a marriage strong and healthy. It might take a dozen nightcrawlers and two hours by the river, but I think the return will far outweigh your investment!