Are Marriage Retreats Worth Attending?

Are Marriage Retreats Worth Attending?

Are marriage retreats or classes worth attending? I venture to say that most of them aren’t. Here’s what one woman wrote who loved her marriage class:

“We attend a marriage class that lays a case that most of what we are taught in conservative Christian churches is not actually biblical – instead, it’s cultural. I can’t explain all of it in this format, but it boils down to two things. First: husbands are commanded to love their wives the way Christ loved the church. The church being referenced was a sinful, messy, unloving church. And Christ loved her so much he brought healing and gave his life. So, according to our church class, husbands should come home from work and connect with his wife’s heart. Minister to her. Hear her heart and be a safe place to vent. Carry her load if she needs a break. Bring healing to her.

“The second premise is that in order to love her like Christ he has to recognize the ways his flesh, pride, and creature comforts put himself and his comfort above his wife. And he has to learn to recognize her emotions and feelings. And ask himself, ‘If my wife was married to Christ, would she still be feeling x, y, z.’

“They say that the ‘helpmeet’ is our calling. Our assignment. But not to serve his flesh. Instead, we help him best to become Christ-like by being transparent with our heart. Open. Pointing out to him when he is hurtful or mean or rude so he can recognize his flesh and crucify it in his pursuit of being Christlike. Women, then, Pursue right relationship but with more freedom to be authentic.”

In other words, the husbands are to pursue their wives’ supposed needs and cater to their emotions and feelings while the wives continually point out their husbands’ sins. I’m sorry, but this isn’t biblical at all and actually extremely harmful to marriages. Christ doesn’t try to connect with our heart. He transforms it. He doesn’t chase after our emotions and feelings. He commands that we take all of our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.

This is the problem that I have with most marriage conferences/classes. They focus solely upon the husband’s responsibility and water down the wife’s responsibility so that she no longer has to be a submissive, obedient wife. No, she must fix her husband by being his holy spirit, according to these retreats.

This marriage class actually makes it seem as if husbands are their wives’ help meets. When he comes home after a long day at work, he is to “connect with his wife’s heart, minister to her, hear her heart, and be a safe place to vent.” Rather, women should be taught that when their husbands come home from a long day at work, they should have their homes as clean and tidy as possible and a good dinner ready to be served. Give him a hug and a kiss and teach the children to do likewise. Make him feel like the king of his home. The nonsense this woman learned simply makes women more unhappy in their marriage, because their expectations placed on the husbands goes through the roof.

This marriage retreat also teaches “mutual submission” and that the “head” as in the husbands are head over their wives simply means “source” which is ridiculous. These types of marriage retreats do more harm than good. Did they teach about a wife submitting to her husband in everything? No. Did they teach about a wife being obedient to her husband as Sarah was to Abraham? No. Did they teach how a wife is to win her disobedient husband by living in submission to him with godly behavior? No. This entire marriage retreat was on how wives should have the perfect husbands who meets all of their emotions and feelings. This is NOT how Christ loves the Church.

Don’t be fooled, women. This is why Created to Be His Help Meet is the best marriage book of all time. It teaches how wives are to live towards their husbands. It focuses solely on the wife’s responsibility which is all that we will be held accountable for. And yes, we are to serve our husband’s flesh contrary to what was taught at this class. “She that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:34). Jesus even told us that the greatest of all is the servant of all.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Ephesians 5: 22-24

38 thoughts on “Are Marriage Retreats Worth Attending?

  1. I’ve lost all hope in churches when it comes to teaching true biblical marriage material. Feminism has taken over. I agree Created to be his helpmeet is an excellent book, lots of biblical truth but no one fears God anymore it seems. The word of God doesn’t change and is very clear when it comes to marriage.

  2. Waste of money. Instead, use that money to get a babysitter if needed, and book a nice overnight getaway where you two can have some stressless alone-time.

    1. I agree, Heidi. My husband and I attended a marriage retreat when our youngest children were very young. It was gifted to us, and while we appreciated the weekend away, it was through our church, so it was with other couples, who were good friends. As fun as it was to be with the group, outside of the sessions, we all spent time together. What we needed most at that time was couple time.

      While we haven’t studied it in-depth, I believe my husband’s love language is spending time together.
      Now, we try to spend the equivalent of a weekend away each year (mid-week can be cost-effective and less crowded, depending on the destination), and that time has been the most valuable in our marriage. We only travel 2-3 hours away, so we’re accessible in the event of an emergency.
      Our children spend those couple of days with grandparents, who enjoy the time immensely. It’s a win-win for our whole family.

  3. Lori, do you have any advice as to how I can try to make things up to my husband? I have done a lot to hurt him over the years and even though I am doing better now the past seems to haunt us. The same things come up in arguments over and over which let’s me know we have not healed or grown as much as I’d like to think. I find myself sticking up for where my heart is now but I’m not even sure if I should do that. I’m lost sometimes. I trust the Lord and I do notice that things are better when I’m in the word and reading your teachings daily but things still get pretty heated between us when he has too much time to think about the past. I don’t have any excuses for the the things I’ve done to hurt him. I’m just wondering if you know of any special things I could do or say to let him know how sorry I am and how much I love him. He doesn’t trust anything I say and it makes it very difficult to get through to him that I am serious about our marriage and our life. I love him with all my heart and live in constant fear that my past sins will eventually drive him away. I know I am difficult to deal with at times, I have been through a lot in my life and don’t have an easy personality. He says I complain often but to me I just feel like I am talking with him about things going on. We do live a pretty stressful life as he has struggled with back problems and hasn’t been able to work much lately, not to mention we have 5 sons. I don’t have the money right now to order “created to be his helpmeet” and it’s not at my local library so please if you do have any advice you could give on how to help him feel better with me I would so greatly appreciate it.

    1. Dear Catherine,
      I’m not Lori, but there’s tons of good stuff here on the blog to research.
      My general thoughts: you have 5 boys that are watching how you and your husband are reacting toward one another. It’s crucial that they see you being respectful toward him. They are the next generation, and we are in need of strong, godly leaders. Much of what Lori writes is geared toward us women having quiet, peaceable spirits supporting our husbands. This is something that we all need to continually be working on. Bringing up the past in arguing leads to nothing good. You need to determine that you will not fall into that trap no matter how much he brings the past up. Nothing negative. Only positive conversation. Having a husband that’s out of work due to injury is tough. They usually don’t like being out of work, so everything bothers them. Be sensitive to not bringing up anything to do with the topic of money especially if there’s not much of it. Try and maybe prepare his favorite meals while he’s home. Offer to rub liniment on his back or a hot pack applied to the injured area. Treat him like the king of the castle…. things that you know he would appreciate. Listening quietly and attentively while he speaks makes him feel like you truly care about what he says. The only change you can make is in yourself. The beauty however in letting the Lord work in your attitude and actions is that your husband will see the change and will begin to react differently toward you. This won’t be done overnight. You very likely will have bad days, fall back into bad habits, but don’t let that stop you. Apologize in a humble and contrite manner, sincerely asking for forgiveness. Wake up the next day determined to do better. Keep praying to the Lord for your relationship. He will give you the desires of your heart. The more you yield yourself to the Lord, the more the fruits of the Spirit will be revealed in you! Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, self control, faith…

      1. Thank you so much RMR.
        I have been coming back to my comment to see if anyone had any words of encouragement and you made my day. Sometimes it just helps to have some godly counsel to me personally. You have given me some great things to consider and work towards and to be honest I’ll probably come back and read your words again and again. I don’t have one Christian friend or older woman to go to in times like this. My whole family just tells me to give up and move on but I know that is not what I want or the Lord’s will for me. Thank you again, you really helped me!

        1. You are very welcome, Catherine. I was nervous on how this would be received, so I’m glad that it was helpful to you. No, don’t give up on your marriage (unless it’s an abusive situation to you or the children). It’s not disposable, no matter what our culture is teaching. I would be willing by email to chat from time to time if you’d like. I don’t have twitter, instagram or FB, though. If Lori is willing (and you too), she could give you my email address or vice versa. I’m not a perfect wife or mom and have my weak areas in being submissive, but if I can lend a listening ear, I will.❤
          p.s. If at any time your husband does not want this to happen, we will need to stop, ok?

  4. This is why I hate marriage conferences, most sermons on marriages, and most Father’s Day messages. Husbands can do no right, wives can do no wrong. It leaves us husbands feeling defeated and taken for granted. It is destructive to the marriage relationship.

    1. I agree, but the reverse can also be very destructive to a marriage (wives can do no right, husbands can do no wrong). I realize that many of you are coming from the area where women are taught they are perfect and men are horrible, but the truth is that both are sinners, both are imperfect, and neither one is right all the time.

      After nearly twenty years, my husband recently made the suggestion we attend a marriage retreat. This came entirely from him; I didn’t suggest it. I told him I didn’t really care one way or another. He made the arrangements, even got the babysitter — which he has never done before if we have ever done anything. You could knock me over with a feather. I don’t know what to expect. I’m not at all keen on the idea myself, but obviously it looks like I’m going….

        1. Sure, if you like. I am at the point where I simply don’t care, so trying to muster up any enthusiasm is a major undertaking…whatever…my initial reaction is one of suspicion, like what is going to happen now, type of thing.

      1. I agree, A Mom. It is never good whenn one spouse is made to feel like a failure. The reality is that each person in the marriage has both strengths and weaknesses. Personally, I think the best thing a spouse can do for the other is to encourage them rather than be critical.

  5. It’s disgusting that the churches charge money to “help” people with marriage and their sins.

    “Got a problem with gambling, adultery, homosexuality, masturbation, alcoholism, pornography, drugs, anger, or any other sin, brother or sister”? “Wonderful! Just pay $1,000 and you can attend this counseling”.

    The church is full of the money changers again! The same problem that Martin Luther attacked with his 95 Theses. Catholics were charging indulgences for people to get to heaven. Paying for counseling with marriage or sinful addictions is NO DIFFERENT! Shame on the Christians who mistake gain for godliness. Remember the time when Jesus offered to heal the boy for 500 shekels? Yeah, me neither. Remember the time when Naaman was healed of his leprosy and Elisha charged him a fortune for it? Me neither! As a matter of fact, Elisha refuses the riches Naaman tried to reward him with, and his greedy servant, Gehazi, was given a plague for lying and taking the money, and a plague is coming to the corrupt Christian churches. 90% of the Christian churches aren’t teaching or obeying the Bible.

    1. Yes! I 100% agree…this has bothered me for so long! and it’s not just paying money for counselling services, but paying money for a conference on say the Holy Spirit, or Spiritual gifts, or healing etc… and the conferences are far from cheap! Hundreds of dollars! I honestly wonder what God thinks about this…shouldn’t any kind of biblical teaching be free to everyone?
      And I’ve been to churches where the pastor has a new book out every year or so and new music albums every few months it seems, yearly conferences costing $1000’s and they just seem to promote them at every given opportunity. Let me tell you there was very little spiritual growth in that church!

      1. L – my church is advocating holding diocese conferences VIA Skype/video. The savings is a strong selling point, the small churches can’t afford the expenses.

      2. When I was in therapy, I found someone who charged on a sliding scale, $35 a session. Unfortunately, this counselor was not Christian and I only went to her twice because on the second round she was telling me I should get a divorce. The one I did find that was very good didn’t take our insurance plan and it was $100 a session. I went once when I was really in bad shape and didn’t go back, obviously — way too expensive. I know they are highly trained, but it was ridiculous. It ends up out of the reach of those who need it the most. I felt like someone was telling me that unless I was rich I wasn’t worth it.

  6. What about marriage retreats led by good, godly husband and wives, who teach wifely submission and that women should be home full time (when children are small)? Are these types OK? It might be helpful for young women to learn to submit at such a retreat.

      1. What if my church teaches godly Scriptural gender roles? My church leaders are all about female submission, male church leadership and they are strongly against abortion. They even preach that women should stay at home until their children are teens! Their retreats are led by submissive, godly women, under a man’s supervision.

          1. HI Belinda, I certainly have no right to judge what is godly or ungodly, but the Bible plainly states that wives are to be keepers at home and to submit to and obey their husbands in everything. Nowhere does scripture say that when children reach a certain age then it is okay for wives to cease being keepers at home and go to work. The youngest of my three boys is about to turn 22 and none of them live at home any more. My role is still keeper of the home, serving and obeying my husband in everything and making sure I am always available to meet his needs. I have never held any kind of job, outside of my daily housework, nor will I ever. A friend of mine attended a marriage workshop and came back trying to explain and justify “mutual submission” to me. I strongly believe that there is no such thing as mutual submission, it is just a twisted concept that feminism has tried to insert into the traditional wive’s role in marriage. Absolutely nowhere in scripture does it say that husbands and wives are to submit to each other. Wives are clearly instructed to submit to and obey their husbands in EVERYTHING. I truly enjoy trusting my husband leading and taking care of me, and submitting to him and obeying him publicly without reservation. Again, not judging anyone, this is just how we have kept a fantastic marriage going strong for almost 24 years!

  7. I am not a fan of marriage retreats. There is no “secret” to a good marriage. The Lord doesn’t work in secrets. What we need to know is in the Bible. Follow biblical principles in your marriage, and you will have a good relationship with your spouse. As far as the little details go (like date nights and stuff like that), that is going to be different per marriage and should be worked out between the spouses, and not be advice given at marriage retreats.

    Something that is sort of related to marriage retreats are women conferences. I went to one recently (out of pressure, not really wanting to go), and I wish I didn’t. It was a waste of time and money. I left feeling terrible about myself because I wasn’t this strong woman that had no fear, and no problem with getting things done. I even had started to doubt God’s love for me from the messages because they made me feel so terrible. The sessions might as well have been sermons. Sermons that were unbiblical and poorly executed. My husband was not very happy about it, and told me that I am never going to one again. I have no problem with that. It took a good week to start to feel better. It’s far better to learn from reading your bible, your husband, your pastor, and/or a trusted mentor that your husband agrees with.

  8. It’s funny you post this. I’ve been on the fence about needing to attend a marriage retreat of some type, but we desperately need one that is grounded in biblical principles and the corresponding roles. Are there any out there? I’m tired of fighting an uphill battle to take headship back and explain how she is to help and follow. It would be great if there was somewhere that actually modeled this dynamic practically because this isnt working for us.

  9. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…. Hosea 4
    Many evangelical churches are man (and woman) centered and teaching has been downgraded to part biblical and part self help. Thank you for teaching true biblical womanhood. Sola Scriptura!!

  10. I had a breakthrough in my marriage simply by reading this blog. A few comments ago a wife who had been married for a number of years said something to the effect, “I’ve learned that if my husband is hungry or tired (or stressed about something) if he is not as kind towards me Or says something hurtful I need to just let it go and not argue with him because the emotion will pass and he will eventually share with me what is bothering him.”

    So anyways, I do my best to make sure that food is always prepared, sexual needs met, and if he’s tired it’s because he works VERY hard to provide for us. So, my husband has been a grouch these last two days…traveling with military and just really stressed out. He yelled at me and I remember thinking:
    1. Lori said don’t be over sensitive
    2. He is stressed
    3. I think I’m helping him by reminding him of things but it is coming off as nagging so I NEED TO BE QUIET.

    Today he came in after work and I had something cute on (that helps too lol both of our sons were napping) and he said “do you love me?” And literally just held me in his arms and I said of course I do honey, why do you ask. He said I just wanted to hear you say it, I’ve been stressed about work and then he continued and I listened and I am so grateful to God for this blog. Truly truly truly women we must listen to the older wives and realize that wisdom is applied KNOWLEDGE. I pray each day for wisdom as a wife, mother and lady. I desire PEACE in my family and that is something I can control, if I would’ve responded harshly back we would’ve argued which I HATE so I’ve learned that emotional STINGS are ok it’s not emotional abuse it’s simply my husband being himself and if he can’t be himself in on stressed out days then it’s not fair I only want him when things are all good,This blog is phenomenal

    1. As a retired military Soldier, I must say your husband is blessed. There are many stressors in the military, which doesn’t excuse poor behavior, but can be overwhelming. We (guys) don’t express ourselves well and rarely have a safe place to do so. I am praying for you and your family.

    2. That is such a great testimony to hear. We older ladies who are trying to mentor the younger are often discouraged. I know I am. Women are so harsh in their thinking and are hard to reason with oftentimes. We don’t want the younger wives to experience some of the heartache we have and that is why we mentor. Please try ladies to have teachable spirits❤️

  11. Thank you Lori, you’re right back the actions with scripture. I just kept saying in my head “Lord crucify my flesh, everything is not always about me. Help me be understanding” I kept repeating and I know it can be hard bc naturally I want to express emotions or ask “what’s wrong” but I think even that can be aggravating when under his type of pressure and @Chris thank you for your prayers the military is such an honor yet a Huge responsibility

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