How This Intensive Marriage Retreat Works

Note: Before deciding if this Marriage Retreat is right for you, please be sure to read this page. We want to make this unique Intensive Marriage Retreat available to couples who can really get maximum benefit from it. This page includes a list of issues not appropriate for a Marriage Retreat, as well as a description of those most likely to benefit from attending. It also includes a detailed description of every element of the schedule and other important topics...

Ready to Buckle Down & Make Progress?

This two-day, one evening clinical marriage retreat is for all couples, (not just those who are legally married...) If you are in a relationship that you're invested in making better, this intensive marriage retreat provides the time to work in specific areas that are problematic for you, and develop and refine skills for new ways of relating. Whether you're recovering from an affair, have fights that last for days at a time, or are just cold and distant, (and have been for years), you can benefit from this Marriage Retreat. We even accept couples where one partner has filed for divorce, but want to give it a sincere "last shot" at reviving their bond.

This 2.5 day Marriage Retreat is equivalent to SIX MONTHS of sessions in 45-minute marriage counseling. Included are two free one hour-20 minute follow-up sessions, to reinforce your learning. It is one of the many unique features of this evidence-based couples retreat.

couple at a table looking intently at each other

6 months of couples therapy and two 1-hour 20 minute follow-ups, to reinforce your learning.

A Typical Week-end Intensive Marriage Retreat Schedule:

Algerian couple back to back laughing

This is your time to be together and enjoy one another. 

Friday Evening:

Make the most of this special time alone.

Most couples prefer to arrive earlier on Friday. This gives them time to settle in, and not feel rushed after a long distance travel. After you register, we will provide you with a list of excellent accommodations for your week-end get-a-way. This marriage retreat is to focus on your relationship, your partner, and yourself. When you create a strong marital bond, you create a strong family.

You'll arrive mid- to late afternoon and settle into your hotel or bed and breakfast. Your 'Friday-night Warm-up' session is schedule for a 2 hour session.

The first portion of our work consists of learning more about your goals, and information-gathering about your marriage or relationship, with a structured interview called "The Oral History Interview." The Friday Night session gives both of you a chance to "warm up" for the week-end to come.

The Oral History Interview focuses on the time you were most attached to each other -- most in love-- and leaves most couples feeling more hopeful and positive about their relationship, and it is a good way to begin your evening together during this most intimate Couples Retreat.

Haven't made dinner plans for the week-end? Make your reservations now for a Saturday night dinner. Our 4-5 star restaurants fill up quickly! We'll also provide you with a list of excellent places to dine in advance.

Day One of Your Couples Retreat


9:30-10:00 am

Videotaping Communication Patterns

Good Morning! You've already completed the Oral History Interview, and we begin our day with a check-in, and a 10-minute videotaping to study your communication style and micro-expressions.

10:00 am -11:00 am

Individual Meetings.

Next, one of you (Partner A) will have an individual session with your therapist. This is a chance to get to know you as an individual, your background and family of origin, and any other issues you'd like to discuss.

For Partner B:

Break: We'll offer you a place to relax for the hour. Settle into a comfortable spot to grab a cup of tea or coffee, make a call, check your email, or just hang out for a while. There's a cafe close by we'll suggest to you.

11:00-12:00 pm

Partner B returns and complete an hour with your couples therapist. Partner A has a break.


12:00-1:30 pm  Lunch Break

Your couples therapist will take a break for lunch, and process the information provided, to include in the Feedback Session. You'll both have time to talk, eat, and be together.

"The Oral History Interview focuses on the time you were most attached to each other -- most in love-- and leaves most couples feeling more hopeful and positive about their relationship..."
science-based couples therapy

We'll talk to you about you, your relationship, and the strengths and areas of improvement.

Feedback Session

Your couples therapist will provide you with their insights gathered during the assessment process. Couples are often surprised by how much information we've integrated about their family situation, and how this guides the way we plan to proceed:

  • We'll talk about what we see as your relationship strengths,
  • as well as issues we need to focus on in this Couples Retreat.

We base our recommendations on:

  • The assessments you've completed ("The BIG BIG Book"),
  • our couples interview;
  • Our individual interviews;
  • Our couples interview;
  • And the videotape we've done of your  communication patterns.
  • our couples interview;

We invite your own insights and feedback as well.


At this point, you have just completed one of the most thorough marital diagnostic assessments available today.

Late Afternoon

2:45-3:00 pm  Break

3:00-4:15 pm

We begin our work.

Here is where the treatment begins. We will begin to focus specifically on the issues that brought you here, in a way that enables you to stay calm, alert, and focused.

4:15-4:30 pm

First Day Wrap-up and Questions.

Your questions are important to us. We take the time to make sure you understand the process. For online help, we provide you with an extensive Knowledge Base that can act as a refresher for all that you are learning.

Couples Therapy has moved from "theory" to "scientific findings." Your ability to understand and apply this knowledge is crucial to our success...and yours.

African American couple sitting on a couch seriously discussing issues

We focus on issues in a way that enables you to stay calm, alert, and focused, to express your feelings.

The 'State of the Union' part of the Intensive Marriage Retreat is designed to:

  • Assess the dynamics that have brought you into therapy.
  • ​Outline detailed goals to resolve your relationship
  • Help you to determine the best next steps.

Our goal for this first day is to help you to understand the elements in your marriage or intimate relationship that need to shift, and to provide a framework that helps you to understand the steps needed to have a more functional, intimate (sexually and emotionally), and adaptive relationship.

    You now know:

      • what's problematic in the way you are relating;
      • why it is problematic, based upon over 40 years of real science tracking over 3,000 couples;
      • what we'll be doing tomorrow to discover new ways of relating; and
      • how we'll practice solidifying this learning by focusing on your actual relationship challenges.

    Ready to start your evening?

    You'll have a lot to ponder, but let it rest.  Have an enjoyable dinner with easy talk.


Day Two of your Marriage Retreat

9:30 am - 4:30 pm

Starting the second day, you will have already been introduced to a number of key concepts in becoming the "Masters of Marriage" rather than the "Disasters of Marriage." 

Don't worry if you didn't catch all the ideas.  We'll introduce them again to you, if they're relevant to your particular relationship dynamics.  The important focus now is for each of you to talk from the heart in a way that maximizes your chance to be heard, and resolve resentments and regrettable incidents.

Our clinicians are trained in a variety of approaches, both evidence-based and clinically-based and will use the interventions that are best suited to your situation.

Australian couple talking over breakfast

It is tempting to keep talking outside of the retreat, but try to keep the conversation light.  You'll be working hard while in session!

You may have started to formulate answers to the following questions:

  • What are our specific relationship strengths and vulnerabilities?
  • What has happened in our lives that have created problems for us?
  • What has happened in our lives that have created problems for us?
  • What is the “demon dance” both of us engage in, despite our best intentions?
  • What behaviors do we exhibit that have been shown to cause marital dissolution? How do we change these?
  • How good are we at soothing ourselves and each other? Why is that a worthy goal?
  • How can we make our fighting less heated and more productive?
  • How do we rebuild our friendship if we've grown distant and lonely? What are the “hinges” that swing the big doors that cause feelings of isolation and loneliness?
  • What is the proper ratio of "salt" (positive interactions) to "pepper" (negative interactions) in happy couples?
  • To what extent do we each have a “chip on our shoulder” that contributes to our problems? How is this like a light switch?
  • How are the behaviors of men and women in a relationship different?
  • What specific skills do women and men each need to develop? How are these different?
  • What is “flooding,” and how does it impact the way we relate?

Your second day is structured based upon the therapeutic goals and treatment plan suggested during the conclusion of your Assessment. Your couples therapist is an expert in couples therapy. They will tailor your following day based on interventions that best suit the issues you present.

Here are a sampling of the types of issues we might work on during the second day:

  • Techniques to promote productive dialogue and strengthen intimate friendship;
  • Ways to disrupt “The Four Horsemen:” (Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt & Stonewalling) and promote feelings of hopefulness and interest;
  • Enhancing rituals of connection, and creating a shared value and meaning system;
  • Practice interventions that interrupt problematic patterns & habitual ways of relating;
  • Learning to regulate and channel anger constructively.
  • Processing “regrettable incidents” productively.
  • Develop more compassionate ways to understand your partner’s point of view, and listen with a more open heart.
  • Understanding your own emotional reactions and how these impact your partner.
  • Working with ignored or rejected bids for attention.
  • Healing problematic issues that exacerbate discrepant sexual desire;
  • Working with issues that contribute to an overall negative relationship climate.
Asian couple laughing arm in arm

Most couples feel relieved and hopefulness after this intensive marriage retreat.

Less Stressful, More Connected

Most couples can’t believe that the time has gone by so quickly!

Unlike most couples work or traditional marriage counseling, the Gottman approach does not promote a stressful environment for couples, and Johnson's evidence-based work in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy helps both of you remember why you want to be close and intimate again.

valentines day

Remember why you got married in the first place.

Follow-up Sessions

Two additional one hour, 20 minute sessions are provided free of charge.

These sessions allow you the time to process and consolidate your learning. While you can decide when these follow-ups occur, we suggest you use these video conferencing sessions two-six weeks after your intensive.If your sexual relationship doesn't improve on its own after our intensive couples therapy retreat, this sexuality retreat will put you both back on track!

How do you prefer to use your follow-ups?

  • Video conferencing
  • Mini-half-day intensive
  • Private, Confidential Couples Sex Therapy Retreat

The choice is yours.

These can be scheduled at the end of the marriage retreat, or at a later date.

When sexuality is a presenting issue, many couples devote an entire week-end to enhancing their sexual functioning in a follow-up marriage retreat.

Intensive Marriage Retreat isn't Designed For:

While weekly sessions are appropriate for most clients, the intensive process works best for couple who are not in:

  • undisclosed, ongoing, or recent affairs;
  • suffering from a current active addiction;
  • have ongoing violence or threats of violence by either spouse;
  • or suffer from a mental illness that isn't being treated.
  • This particularly includes suicidal or homicidal thoughts, or a history of serious harm you've done to yourself or another person.

What's this Marriage Retreat Like?  Marriage Retreats in the Movies.

Hollywood seldom does more than create in us impressions, feeling states, of what real therapy is all about. In Hope Springs, Kay (played by Meryl Streep) and Arnold (played by Tommy Lee Jones) are living separate lives. Every night he falls asleep in his lounger while watching a golf show on TV. She wakes him and they head off to separate bedrooms. Every morning she greets him with bacon, eggs, forcing a bright smile. He doesn't notice. Through her smile, you can tell that Kay is dying inside emotionally. Kay is determined to change her marriage for the better, and makes an appointment with an Intensive Marriage Retreat therapist Dr. Feld (Steve Carell) with her own money, and buys both of them a plane ticket. Arnold is not impressed, demanding she come to her senses. The movie brings us through uncomfortable scenes as Dr. Feld tries to explore the sex lives of this couple, married 31 years.

The discomfort of these scenes feels real to us.

A marriage retreat in Hope Springs

What is also real about this movie, is how brave two people who love each other need to be, to revitalize the most important relationship of their lives: their marriage. And we do see that courage every day in our offices. Watch it for free here:  Hope Springs

To learn more contact our Intake Coordinator Daniel at extension 2: