Confession: I was that annoying kid who enjoyed sitting in the front of class learning new things. I liked to know the answer. Joshua, on the other hand, was less than a stellar student growing up and based on the amount of inappropriate laughing at the yellow ribbon events, most of the soldiers in his unit were also familiar with the back row antics of elementary and middle school but I digress.
This weekend wasn't really what I expected at all. Yes-there were power point slides but they weren't overwhelming and the class was small, only 24 couples (although they had apparently been approved to fund up to 100...but more on that below). The small size, for me, really kept the intimidation factor down. Another thing we found helpful was the lack of uniforms. Everyone, even the chaplains who ran it showed up in civi's which automatically made it more relaxed. The classes were good and the chaplains were both funny and helpful.
The retreat was at a nice hotel about ten minutes from Bricktown (for those unfamiliar with OKC, Bricktown is the downtown area popular with restaurants, clubs and entertainment). Classes began on Saturday morning with several breaks including a long one for lunch and we were out by 4pm and strongly encouraged to go on a date...which we did and it was excellent. Then, Sunday, we had classes in the morning and were able to leave after lunch. The classes covered half a dozen different areas and although we used a workbook, we didn't go through the whole thing or even try to. We skipped around but still felt that we got a well-rounded and whole experience.
The only real downside (aside from the frigidly cold conference room-like put on a parka cold) was that so few people even knew about it. Originally the retreat was unit specific but because they didn't get the response they had expected, they opened it up to the entire 45th and yet, still only 24 couples went. The main reason, in my opinion, wasn't a lack of interest (because let's face it, at worst it's a free night at a hotel) but instead a lack of awareness. We basically stumbled upon it but I'm glad we did.
So, if you or your spouse is in the Oklahoma Army National Guard, know that there are Strong Bond Marriage retreats for you (you must be married not just engaged or dating and I have no idea how the Army handles same sex marriages). Whether you want to learn to communicate better, are in a good place and just want to make your marriage stronger or things aren't going so well and you need a good place to start contact your chaplain or the main chaplain office and sign up. There's another Strong Bond Marriage Retreat this fall and we were told they plan to apply for funding for a Strong Bond Family Retreat sometime in October (no idea if or when that funding will be approved and the retreat will take place but we're more than likely going to attend because let's face it, kids are a major area of stress on a marriage, even if your marriage is rock solid).
In a nutshell...
Would I do it again? Yes.
Would Joshua recommend it? (I specifically asked him before I wrote this post) Absolutely.
Did we learn new ways to communicate effectively? Yes.
Did it help our marriage? Most definitely.