A Triple-R DisasteRRR

marriage counseling
Even before we were married, Alan and I believed in the value of “getting away from it all.” Taking a break from life’s daily stresses allows us to spend extended time with the Lord and each other, to get fresh perspective, to assess our priorities, to play together, and to pray together. We call our getaways “Triple-R Weekends,” for our three main objectives: Romance, Recreation, and Renewal.

Over the years, our getaways have taken place at retreat centers, friends’ vacation cabins, inexpensive motels, and more luxurious resorts during their off-seasons. We’ve filled notebooks with our goals for our children and ourselves, and we’ve made lots of “whoopee.”

But sometimes, even the “experts” can fail in the area of their expertise. Several years ago, we set out on a getaway to Sedona, in Arizona’s magnificent Red Rock country. We had our time all mapped out: golf, romantic dinner, quiet evening relaxing, and the following morning set aside for some serious but relaxed planning.

We enjoyed our round of golf at the Oak Creek Country Club with its magnificent views of towering, red sandstone formations. Both in good spirits, we headed to the Hideaway restaurant, a romantic Italian spot, tucked away along the bank of Oak Creek. We strolled arm-in-arm back to our room and prepared for our “quiet evening relaxing.” That’s when the plan began to unravel.

As I phoned home to check on the children, Alan flipped on the television. At least, he attempted to flip on the TV, because nothing happened when he pulled out the button. He checked to be sure it was plugged in, fiddled with a few more knobs, and finally called the front desk to report our malfunctioning tube.

The manager retorted that there was nobody on duty until the following morning and we “didn’t need the TV anyway.” Alan replied that if we paid for the room, the TV ought to work, and asked if she would replace the TV, discount the cost of the room, or give us a different room with a working TV. She said that we were free to check out.

Alan was growing a little hot under the collar. But I could practically see steam coming out of his ears five minutes later, when the manager showed up at our door. She swept imperiously into our room to check if the TV was plugged in. Their verbal exchange became a bit heated, and when she finally stormed out of our room, Alan threw a not-so-kind parting remark in her direction.

It would be an understatement to say that the incident put a damper on our evening. I felt embarrassed, indignant, and ashamed, and began defending the manager to Alan. I was self-righteously upset with him for the way he had “lost his cool” with her. We went to bed and attempted some romance, but, for me, the incident hung like a dripping gray cloud over our bed.

When we woke up in the morning, that cloud was still there. Eight hours of sleep had not dispelled it. Neither did another hour of discussion following breakfast. In fact, after using the communication skills we teach in a nine-hour workshop and in marriage counseling sessions to help couples understand each other and work through issues such as this one, and even praying and asking one another’s forgiveness, we were unable to dissolve the cloud.

We spent the rest of the weekend in a sort of armed truce. We went for a walk, chatted on a superficial level, and watched TV on the replacement brought by our “friend,” the manager. In terms of accomplishing our original goals of planning and romancing, the weekend was a flop.

Later, a trusted friend helped us work through the issues and truly forgive each other. I saw that I was assuming the brunt of responsibility for our conflict, judging myself as too picky and critical, yet resenting Alan for not seeing his part in the whole affair. I learned that I needed to recognize my specific contribution to our disrupted unity, confess it to God and to Alan, ask forgiveness for my part, and leave Alan’s part in the Lord’s hands.

Alan also learned to take responsibility for his side of our conflict. He realized he’d been insensitive of my feelings and unwilling to admit that no matter how right he was, his way of expressing himself was wrong. We both had to see that the kernel of the conflict was pride and wanting our own way. We learned that instead of attacking each other, we had to attack the issue itself. Our unity was restored, and we learned how to avoid some of the pitfalls that entrapped us that weekend.

We encourage you to schedule time and get away for your marriage’s sake. Get recharged and rejuvenated emotionally, physically and spiritually. As you begin your own adventures in Triple-R Weekends, we hope you will remember that even the best-laid plans with the finest of intentions can turn into disaster. This is no reason to lose hope in the process. In his daily devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says, “What we call the process, God calls the end.” Don’t give up if your first attempt at a getaway weekend is not a smashing success, and talk to a marriage counseling specialist if things get tricky.

This incident occurred after we’d been taking Triple-R Weekends for twelve years. But six months later, we were more than ready for another one, and what we learned from our previous mistakes made it all the more wonderful.

Alan and Pauly Heller are founders of Walk & Talk Ministries. They write and speak on marriage and marriage counseling around the country. Their books, Learning How to Trust… Again, and Marital Mystery Tour (available for purchase here) are wonderful marriage counseling and enrichment resources.


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