By Tami Tack (with loving support from her husband, Kim Worrall)
How to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary? By spending a weekend together at White Sulphur Springs at a Hoffman Couples Retreat! Long-time Hoffman grads with a healthy and satisfying marriage, we nonetheless experienced conflicts and bumps that seemed to self-perpetuate. I was particularly adept at pointing out my husband’s Dark Side patterns and overlooking my own. It was painful for me to admit I had patterns because it felt like I was somehow admitting defeat. (I might have a pattern of needing to be perfect.) From this place of blame and defend, we created Vicious Cycles, and yet, even after diagramming them and identifying each of our patterns, the problems persisted. We believed that if each of us transformed our identified patterns, our marriage would be smooth sailing. Not so!
Commit to the Work
Very aware that we had work to do, we signed up for the Hoffman Couples Retreat. Just the process of completing the homework for the retreat was beneficial in that I became painfully aware of how I had mistakenly assumed responsibility for things that were not mine, and didn’t claim responsibility where I needed to. I began to examine my role in our marriage, and made some changes simply based on my awareness. As I took my time completing the homework, I became increasingly aware of how very precious my marriage was, and how much I was taking for granted. As often happens with the Hoffman Process, the shift began to happen as soon as we committed to doing the work.
Arriving at the Couples Retreat, we felt the support of the community of couples gathered for the weekend. Similar to the Hoffman Process, we met as a large group for teaching and guided experiences, but we did our private work separately. My husband and I had some of our most profound conversations sitting in the forgiveness garden, in the labyrinth, and next to the creek. The rules during Hoffman Process forbid romantic encounters, so it felt a bit odd (and delightful) to be snuggling with my sweetie, and seeing other couples showing affection with each other.
Relax Into Loving and Being Together
The homework assignments during the retreat were simple and transformative. Gazing into my beloved’s eyes for several minutes took me to places I’d not been for years. Hugging this sweet man for 20 seconds gave me time to truly relax into loving and being together. We enjoyed the process of asking each other the questions in our notebook so much that we purchased a card deck of open-ended questions, developed by the Gottman Institute, so we could continue this practice at home.
It wouldn’t be a Hoffman weekend without bashing, and yet this weekend we not only bashed our own Dark Sides, we identified our couple’s Dark Side. Now I was fighting not just for my life, but also for the life of my marriage. No longer was I bashing alone; I had a partner whom I love dearly. Together my husband and I bashed our Couple’s Dark Side, and demolished it with purposeful teamwork.
Continue Using It At Home
Although all the planned activities and experiences were very useful, the new tool of Embodied Transference Process created the most powerful shift for us. We first identified “twinges,” those little irritating things our partner says or does that trigger us. One of us would say our partner’s twinge statement and hold space with compassionate curiosity while the other recalled and re-experienced a memory triggered by this statement. As the person holding space listened to this memory, a deeper understanding emerged, which led to compassion rather than judgment. Most of the time, the person recalling and embodying the memory was no longer triggered by the twinge statement. Both of us experienced a softening, a releasing of resistance. Our teacher coached each couple through this process, and then we practiced it on our own until we developed the confidence to continue using it at home.
The weekend closed with a ceremony in which each couple spoke their newly written vows to each other. Watching 14 other couples as they shared their love and were witnessed was deeply moving, and the perfect way to complete our weekend. We are very grateful to have had this experience and recommend it for all Hoffman couples.