And I'm pretty sure its YOU! - (hilarious title of a book about marriage peddled at A Weekend to Remember)
I'm not a typical oeey gooey pastor's wife (Piano playing, casserole baking, home schooling church lady standing faithfully beside my man with a big fake smile on my face.) So I've resisted things like "Women of Faith" and Weekend to Remember" conferences thinking that they are really hokey. But lately, I must be getting soft. I went o Women of Faith a couple of years ago and loved it. I've started reading my hubby's Christianity Today magazine cover to cover and quoting it to him, and now I attended my first "Weekend to Remember" marriage conference.
Despite being encouraged by many church members of other pastoral couples that the conference was worth our time, Kumar and I always scoffed at the idea. I thought these weekends were kind of hokey, meant for country bumpkin couples who want to confirm their "respect, obey and submit" type marriage. Who knew we would be delightfully surprised?
Location: Hershey, Pennsylvania. The sweetest place on earth, over Valentines Day weekend, no kids - what's not to like? Hershey is just a few hours away from where we live, so its a perfect weekend getaway. The hotel is cozy in winter - lots of fireplaces and comfy couches, and there's great restaurants (I must have put on 3 pounds in the weekend alone) and Outlet shopping nearby. Although trying on clothes after those yummy chocolate desserts is not recommended.
Lessons Learned: Kumar and I want to be married a long, long time, and we recognize that we need help with that goal. Even perfect couples grow and change. Life throws us all kinds of surprises, and staying together through these problems requires work.
The sessions are fairly basic, covering communication styles, gender differences and a Biblical perspective. Sure, you could probably learn this stuff by reading a book together. But are you and your spouse really going to read a book together about marriage? For me it's like working out. I can exercise in my home, but somehow if I'm doing yoga in the living room, after about 15 minutes, I end up sitting on the couch with a snack. However, when I'm at the gym, with a live instructor and 20 other people watching, I worker harder and last the whole hour.
There's something nice about knowing that other couples have similar or different issues as yours (we ALL have issues), and hearing strategies to work on your specific deficits. Sure, there were parts that I thought were basic and I did hear more about child rearing than the feminist side of me wanted to. But for the most part, I think they handled it all well.
Surprises: I didn't feel preached at in a bad way. I didn't feel like it was hokey. I even felt they handled controversial issues like physical/emotional abuse and sex in a thoughtful way.
The only downer for me was that the men at the conference did most of the talking. Even in the video clips that where they showed psychologists and marriage therapists talking about marriage, they were all men. What's up with that? Are women not respected in this field? The American Psychological Association reports that in 2005 "nearly 72 percent of new PhD and PsyDs entering psychology were women." I'm not sure if this is the norm at these conferences, since the website lists its speakers in couples. But my experience, (adding to with my past negative experiences with gender equality within Christianity) was a little patriarchal.
I was happily surprised to see that their materials were well balanced in terms of racial equality. There were all sorts of people there, couples like the one I described at the beginning of the blog, other couples who were fully tatooed and pierced, and then many "normal" couples like me. All wanting to improve their marriages.
If your relationship could a push in the right direction, we havea special savings code for people that we refer. Enter NEW HOPE FULTON, when registering for a weekend to remember getaways at any location. There are also special military and pastor rates. We're all imperfect people, on this imperfect earth, trying to make our lives "perfect" - stop faking it and get real.