Over the weekend, my wife and I participated in the Worldwide Marriage Encounter hosted on Saipan, and I thought I would share some thoughts I had from my experience. Before I get into it, I do want to say that I don’t agree with everything that is promoted in this event and some things I strongly disagree with. However, there were some really good things shared. It was fantastic to see couples whose body language on Friday screamed, “WE DON’T WANT TO BE NEAR EACH OTHER!”sitting as close as possible to each other with looks of adoration by Sunday afternoon.
We arrived Friday at 6:30pm and joined the line of fellow attendants waiting to drop bags off and deposit phones, watches, keys, reading material and any connection to the outside world. The goal of this weekend was to focus on your spouse and only your spouse. You may have noticed I said they took watches too. We had no idea of the schedule all weekend. They would worry about that so we could just focus on each other.
I will admit that the lack of schedule or even length of time we had in private between lectures was difficult for Brittany and me. Being told that as soon as we hear the knock on the door we had to come down immediately made it hard to relax. We were kept in a constant state of readiness in case the door was knocked on.
The talks themselves had some beneficial information. If you’re a couple who struggles with communication, especially how to talk about feelings, I would say it’s worthwhile to go and learn their communication tool. (Only one tool is presented in detail in 10 hours of lectures.) Brittany and I didn’t get much out of the weekend, since communication is something we, as a long distance couple, were forced to learn well or end things. Nevertheless, we did garner a couple of useful insights.
They talked about the importance of talking about how something makes you feel, no focus on fixing the problem, on your spouse, anything. Focus on what you feel. Basically you both pick something to “dialogue” about then write about how you feel. Describe that feeling using metaphors, similes, colours, tastes, textures and a ‘1-10 how strong is it’ scale. Following that you exchange letters, read, work out who has the stronger feeling then “dialogue” about it. This looks something like:
Couple is talking about husband’s feeling of fear about their finances.
Wife: “Is that feeling of fear like when you rolled the car?”
Husband: “No. That feeling was mixed with panic.”
Wife: “What about when you thought you were going to lose your job when the company downsized?”
Husband: “Yes! That is what my fear is like. You are now experiencing my feeling.”
The entire weekend is about talking about your feelings. There are no tools provided on how to deal with things once they’re brought up, which I think is dangerous. Some couples need serious help to navigate the situations to which strong emotions are attached. Being left to their own devices isn’t always beneficial.
In short, this event is not for every couple. If you want help knowing a way to talk about your feelings and a weekend of practice, you might find it helpful. If you have serious marital issues that go deeper than just buried feelings and emotions, professional help may be wiser.
From my wandering around the interwebs this morning, there is a Christian version of this event called United Marriage Encounter. Judging by what I read, it seems to be the same event – just with a Christian spin instead of Catholic. I dare say that as a Christian this would be more my cup of tea.
Just my two cents.