Being Locked Away With Your Partner Might Be Good for Your Relationship
Here’s a new wrinkle on couples counseling. You and your spouse get locked away together, spending time alone for six weeks in a small room in a Transylvanian castle. No, it’s not Dr. Frankenstein’s Six Weeks to a Marriage Cure, and it’s not even new.
A recent story on the BBC’s website referenced below, focused on a medieval approach to solving marriage problems. Back in the 1400s, the bishop of this Romanian diocese suggested that couples do indeed lock themselves away so that they could resolve their issues. This approach, which began in the fifteenth century, if not earlier, was in use for three hundred years. And, according to folklore, this “therapy” was actually effective in keeping couples together.
I, personally, wouldn’t recommend such treatment, but there are some aspects of it that could explain why it might have worked.
First, the couple had to share everything in a small 300 square foot space. So, they had to co-operate whether they wanted to or not. Typically, when couples are having a tough time, they spend less time with each other, often trying to avoid contact. This only isolates and polarizes them more and leads to more negative thoughts about each other. Avoiding each other might be more comfortable than potentially tense interactions, but it is doing nothing to solve the problem; in fact, it is often making it worse. Absence doesn’t make the heart go fonder when you’re angry.
Second, the couple was cut off from any other outside input or influences. This medieval approach was probably today’s equivalent of cutting off all social media and e-mails. Other people’s opinions are often more harmful than helpful because your friends are not objective about the situation. And most people are not objective when talking to their friends about their situation. In fact, most people are looking for agreement not objective advice from their friends. This is why independent, trained professionals are the ones to turn to when you are having relationship problems.
Certainly there are far more distractions in today’s world than there were in 16th century rural Romania and this makes it much easier to avoid, rather than confront, the issues. Now, being forced to spend all your time with a spouse with whom you’re angry might sound horrendous but the fact is that emotions often fade after time, if they are allowed to. Being forced together for a few weeks might allow the anger to subside, which would mean that you could then engage in a serious and useful conversation about your relationship.
Third, being removed from the world for more than a few hours, especially in sparse conditions, is also likely to change your perspective on life in general. Being removed from the humdrum routines, automatic chores and daily behaviors, is likely to allow you to consider the purpose and meaning of your life. This would be a very good perspective from which to consider your relationship.
Forced martial confinement is not on my list of therapy tools, neither is sending my clients to Frankenstein’s castle. However, having couples spend quality time alone to address the issues, is a valuable exercise. Taking a step back from everyday routines to look at the bigger picture of life, is valuable for everyone, especially when you’re struggling in one area of your life, particularly in your marriage. All the relationships you have are important to your meaning and purpose and certainly you want, and need, a spouse who can support, love and nurture you in a way that is consistent with your goals. One of the values of a specific marital retreat, is that it provides this quality time in a positive atmosphere, allowing time and space to think through your personal goals and your marital issues.
My goal in counseling is to provide an environment where my clients can reflect on their issues in a non-judgmental atmosphere of support, honesty as well as experience and knowledge. Let’s face it, it beats being locked away in a medieval castle for six weeks.
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