The Pros and Cons of Going on a Couple's Retreat

Getting away for some pressure-free, stress-free time with your partner sounds like a terrific idea. After all, how can two people not get along in a beautiful spot with no kids, no irritating coworkers, and no nagging bosses?

Couples retreats have both pros and cons, so weigh both before you sign up. Here's what Danine Manette, JD,  author of Ultimate Betrayal, Mary Jo Rapini, LPC, an intimacy/sex relationship therapist, James Wadley, Ph. D., a marriage, family and sexuality therapist, and Terri Orbuch, Ph.D, have to say.

The Pros

  • Getting away from the everyday routines and participating in a dialogue with a third party on hand to offer perspective can be very valuable, says Manette. "It's a wonderful opportunity to connect and work through issues," she says.

  • A retreat can guide you to a better understanding of each other and encourage you to take more of an interest in each other,  Rapini says.

  • Since you're surrounded by other couples who have the same issues as you do, you won't feel isolated and as though you are the only ones in the world with marital issues. "The community of others is very important," Rapini says.

  • You can learn the skills to communicate and feel closer to each other because the retreat provides the necessary tools to rebuild and re- enhance the relationship. "And when you learn to communicate again, you feel closer to your partner," Wadley says.

The Cons

  • A couple's retreat can be very costly. They're often held in beautiful places, where the cost of the room and board may be prohibitive to many people. "If finances are one of the issues causing stress in your marriage, you could exacerbate the problem by spending thousands on a retreat," Manette says. (Sometimes, a retreat offered by a church is less costly, so don't just discount going on a retreat for financial reasons. )

  • A retreat can be a huge time commitment if you've got kids and a job. You have to arrange sitters, take time off from work, and make travel arrangements. It's worth it, if both partners are on board. "But when only one member is really motivated and interested, that can be extremely challenging," Orbuch says. "When the other person is not engaged and not involved, it can be very difficult."

  • It can be hard to choose which style of a couples retreat would be most meaningful to you and your partner. If you function well in a group setting and enjoy hearing the experiences of others, a retreat that stresses a lot of group activities would work well. But if you're a very private person who'd prefer not to have anyone else know about your relationship struggles, a more personalized, private approach may be the best for you.

  • If a couple's relationship is so bad that by the time they reach the retreat, they're acting out their resentment, a different type of therapy might be more effective. "Couples can be very angry with each other and sign up for a retreat as a last resort," says Rapini. "In these cases, a retreat just might be too difficult. The couple may benefit more from one-on-one private counseling by that point."