Thursday, March 17, 2011

you and me... and celine dion.

Last Saturday night, R and I found ourselves laying on the floor of a hotel banquet room in Alabama with nothing but our pillows and candlelight, answering questions like, "Where do you see your marriage in 5, 10, and 15 years?" Not our typical Saturday night, indeed.

Last weekend we went to a marriage retreat at a resort on Perdido Beach. You see, R found out the the Navy offers these retreats free of charge for active duty military, and when we hear the words 'resort' and 'free of charge' in the same sentence, we're in. I was looking forward to something a little less rustic than the last free thing the Navy offered us. Plus, We never turn down an opportunity to learn a little more about how to improve our marriage, so it was on! We packed up and drove the 50 minutes or so to our beautiful hotel along the beach and settled in for a weekend of free meals, beautiful beach scenery, and unexpected surprises.

The weekend consisted of group time where we discussed different topics, then had some exercises to practice as a couple. A lot of these exercises were interesting and beneficial. We discussed love languages, (R's is gift-giving and mine is words of affirmation) did the Myers-Briggs personality temperaments, (R is a 'doing what should be done' type and I'm a 'smooth talking persuader' type) and talked about needs vs. expectations. Mostly we enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. Except for some super corny moments when we had to bite our tongues and try and get through it. Like Friday night.

Friday night, as the Chaplain was wrapping up the session, he asked us to turn our chairs and sit knee to knee with our spouse. Then he asked us to look into each others eyes and don't speak, just listen to the words in the song he was about to play. Then he turned on Celine Dion.

Yes, Celine Dion.

This exercise taught us a lot about our relationship. It taught us that R, despite how lame he thinks something is, will still follow rules, especially when the Chaplain can see him. Cari, the smooth talking persuader on the other hand, who is facing away from the Chaplain, will try not to laugh, she will roll her eyes, make faces at R to get him to laugh, and generally act up because while her marriage can always use improvement, what it can do without is Celine Dion.

And if we thought that exercise brought us closer, we were in for a real treat on Saturday night. Again, as Chaps was wrapping up the evenings session, he instructed us to go to our rooms and bring back two pillows, a blanket, and if we wanted, we could slip into our pajamas. (We did not slip into our pajamas because if pajamas were acceptable clothing for being in public, I wouldn't need to change out of them in the morning before I left my house). When we came back to the meeting room with our pillows, all the chairs had been cleared away and the room was lit by little candles on the floor. We were told to find an area with a candle next to it, and get comfy. We could only get so comfy on the floor of a hotel banquet room, and when we did, we were told to answer a series of questions to each other. The questions started out mundane and just got deeper and deeper. And we started out generally well behaved, and just got more and more slap happy.

Well when you take two kids who aren't thrilled about laying on the ground and tell them to ask each other a bunch of super deep, intense questions, what you get is a fit of laughter. And you know how when you aren't supposed to laugh, so it makes you crack up even more? Yea, that happened...

The view of the Gulf from our balcony.

Our introductions. We were the second youngest marriage, and definitely the youngest couple.

A group exercise.

Group photo at the end of the weekend.

Here's the thing; even though some of the exercises were super cheesy and we weren't totally on board the whole time, we actually had a blast. Most of the sessions spurred interesting conversations and a better understanding of each other. It was nice to spend a whole weekend focused solely on improving our communication and spending quality time together.

And at the end of the day, if we're growing closer by laughing at Celine Dion and "intimate" talks on the floor of a hotel, we're still growing closer.

And nothing will make you laugh more than Celine Dion.

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