Long-time pastor Bill Wellons and his wife of over 30 years, Carolyn, tell couples how they managed throughout their marriage to get away alone together in order to seal their relationship as husband and wife.
Long-time pastor Bill Wellons and his wife of over 30 years, Carolyn, tell couples how they managed throughout their marriage to get away alone together in order to seal their relationship as husband and wife.
Bob: Throughout their marriage, Bill and Carolyn Wellons have planned a getaway every six months or so. It's always been hard to get away because life is going so fast; but, as Carolyn says, it's hard not to get away, too.
Carolyn: The benefit of having these getaways is really, like Bill said, intentional parenting—intentional in our marriage relationship. It's making sure that good intentions get done. When you get away every six months or so to talk, dream, and plan about things, then, the important things of life are on the agenda—they're on the radar—so, they get done.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, December 28th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Do you ever wish you could buy some marriage insurance? Well, we may have some thoughts for you about that today. Stay with us.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. Just a couple days left in 2011—been a good year.
Dennis: It has been a great year.
Bob: It’s been exciting around here over the last several days as many of our listeners have been getting in touch with us and saying, “We appreciate the ministry of FamilyLife Today.” We just want to say thanks for those of you who have called or who have gone online to make a yearend donation.
Your donations are critically important at this time of year, especially because of this matching gift fund that was established earlier in the month and that has no grown to more than $4 million—the largest matching gift fund that we’ve ever experienced, right?
Dennis: That’s right, Bob. In order to take full advantage of this matching challenge that these—well, these stakeholders in FamilyLife Today have really established, we need you as a listener to step up and make a donation to FamilyLife Today and say, “I want to keep you on the air.”
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Bob: Time slips away, that’s right.
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Today, we want to talk, as we’ve talking about all this week, about—
Dennis: I'll see you later, Bob. (Laughter)
Bob: Oh, you're out of here?
Dennis: I'm out of here.
Bob: Well, are you going to hang around for the program before you leave—can't you?
Dennis: I’m going—yes—I just need you to be brief today, as we have the program, because my bags are packed and—
Bob: "I'm ready to go. I’m standing here outside your door—hate to wake you up to say goodbye.”
Dennis: Barbara and I are heading out for a getaway with a couple of very good friends.
Bob: Who happen to be our guests on today's program.
Dennis: That's right. Bill and Carolyn Wellons join us again. Thanks for coming back.
Bill: It's great to be back.
Carolyn: Thank you.
Dennis: —and thanks for getting away with us.
Bob: I hope you can all stay around long enough; so that, I'm not here doing the end of the program all by myself.
Dennis: I hope you have a good weekend, Bob.
Bob: This whole concept—we have been talking this week about couples getting some time—carving out some time to get away just to focus on their marriage, their family, to relax, refresh, renew.
You guys have written a workbook called Getting Away to Get It Together that has projects couples can make a part of that weekend; so that, it can be a little more purposeful and a little more intentional. I just imagine some couples are going, "That sounds really good, but I just don't know how we're going to pull something like that off."
Dennis: Well, Bill and Carolyn have been I the ministry now for almost 35 years—pastorate. People don't think of that as being a high-stress, high pressure job; but trust me, folks, it is.
The ministry is very hard on marriages and families in the midst of meeting other people's spiritual, emotional, and physical needs in the ministry. So, Bill and Carolyn in the process of their marriage—surviving over 35 years of the pastorate—have developed a workbook to equip couples with many of the practical things they've learned.
Let's start with some basics here. How often do you do this?
Bill: Our goal is to do it twice year.
Dennis: How many nights?
Bill: We have found, Dennis, that two nights and parts of three days is the best. We've done the one-night retreat; but it's kind of like about the time you start unwinding and are really beginning to make progress, you have to start thinking about packing up to go home. So, we recommend at least two nights—like leave a mid-afternoon and come back a mid-afternoon.
Bob: Let me stop. You said your goal is twice a year, but Dennis asked the question, “How often do you do this?”
Bill: I was afraid you'd catch that, Bob.
Bob: In reality, how often do you get away—once a year?
Bill: Once a year, for sure. Most years, we have actually done two times, but I wouldn't want to sound ritualistic so much. There are seasons of life where it is more challenging and so forth and so on. So, I want to admit to that. Again, we have mentioned a project that we have found a lot of value in because it made us—put us on a proactive basis in our calendar coordination—we look at that at home. We try to take a monthly overview at home, too. It's not like you do it one time, and you've got it all memorized.
Dennis: I want to stop you there because what you were saying was you used these planning retreats to establish a calendar where you're actually planning the planning retreats while you're on a retreat. Is that what you're saying?
Bill: Absolutely. You're setting some dates—you're trying to block out some times in advance.
Dennis: How far out?
Bill: In our case, we'd go about every six months.
Bob: So, on one retreat, you'd plan the next one.
Bob: I’m just imagining, again, Mary Ann and me sitting down and saying, “Okay, let's block out this weekend in October when we're going to go out.” Now, as October gets near, life starts to crowd in. You start looking at that weekend, and you say, “Can we afford to do that?” Then, you're back to the issue of “Well, what's your priority?” What do you have to do? What other things can you dump over? This has been something that you've been reluctant to cancel, right?
Carolyn: Well, I was going to say as a young mom having something to look forward to, getting out of town was really a priority for me. There was so much daily living of the taking care of children, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and so forth that having something to look forward to, to get out of town, was one of the highlights. That was part of the success of it, I think.
So, we tried hard not to cancel it once it was on the calendar. Sometimes, we'd have to postpone it. If things were coming up and the issues at church were so busy or challenges were so consuming at that time, we would postpone it but rarely. We really tried to keep that. It was such a priority for the health of our marriage and our communication. We needed it.
Dennis: For Barbara and me, I don't think we ever canceled one. The reason was our calendar is such we typically had to go out a year. We knew if we canceled, it might be another six to twelve months before we had the possibility of having another one. We, also, found, for us—now, this is just who we are—we liked three nights away.
Typically, we always got out of town much later on Friday night than when we thought we'd get out of town. So, we arrived at a log cabin or at a hotel or wherever we were going to stay—9, 9:30, 10:00 at night—totally whipped, exhausted; slept in the next morning. It was kind of like at that point the retreat was starting.
Dennis: If you come back on the third day, you've got about 36 hours—less than 36 hours before you have to come back.
You guys had some solutions about babysitting; and my challenge—my most practical application would be to the husbands: Take responsibility for the babysitter or for the childcare and solve this problem for your wife. For Barbara, this was the greatest gift I could give her.
Bill: I totally agree, Dennis. I had to learn that through trial and error, but it absolutely provides so much security and confidence to your wife. It just puts her in a totally different frame of mind to do that.
We did a variety of things from hiring someone and paying them to keep our children while we were gone. We have been blessed. Carolyn's mom, in particular, has just been a wonderful grandmother to our children and on many occasions kept our children for us. Then, we also traded off with other couples. We would keep their kids; so, they could have a getaway together. Then, they'd do the same for us.
Dennis: What about how you managed this financially and places to stay?
Bob: You're a pastor. You're not raking in big bucks; so, getting away to a resort—
Bill: I'm not. Again, we've done a variety of things. I remember some retreats in a state park in a popup camper where we got away.
Bob: Hang on, hang on, hang on. Time out.
Dennis: That really sounds romantic, doesn't it?
Bill: I didn't say romantic.
Bob: Were you all into this popup camper idea for the retreat?
Carolyn: We did. We did that with our little children several times when they were younger.
Dennis: Now, wait a second, we're talking about Getting Away to Get It Together.
Bob: I'm talking about just the two of you in a popup camper?
Bill: We did do that with our families, but we still utilized state parks. They have cabins, or they have places that you can stay in that were less expensive.
Dennis: So, you did not have a planning retreat in a popup camper?
Carolyn: I don't believe we did.
Bill: You guys are getting awful technical. I guess we didn't.
Bob: I'm just trying to imagine, “Hey, honey, let's go away for a weekend in a popup camper.” I'm sure there are some wives who would go, “That's great,” but—
Dennis: We should have paid Bill more.
Bob: It's the walking back and forth to the bathroom that probably would be the end of it for my wife, right there.
Dennis: Yes, exactly.
Bill: We have also been grateful recipients of friends who had a cabin or a small house on the lake or something like that that made those available to us; so, that, again, was a tremendous opportunity for us. Then, like I said, I think, in one of the earlier broadcasts, we took advantage of off-season times at places when the rates are significantly less.
Let me just say one thing to the guys because I know how they're thinking, because it's how I thought—you think, “How in the world am I going to save enough money to go off and do this? Is it worth it?” I would just say that having a retreat with your wife is the best investment you will ever make. You will get the best return on investment of your money for that than you will on anything else you do in your marriage.
Dennis: Yes, your book, Getting Away to Get It Together, which lays out how you can have one of these planning weekends, is really a small portion of the cost of the weekend. If you look at your marriage maintenance and just refreshment, it is a practical way to invest in it on a semi-annual basis.
Bob: I want to mention the book, too, because we've talked about the projects that are in the book that give couples an opportunity to be prompted to connect relationally. That's really what you've done. You've given us some relationship prompts here.
We've talked about a couple of them already this week, but just give us some ideas about what you've included. I presume these are things that came to mind over time as you were doing these, right?
Bill: Absolutely, they did. We didn't have 12 projects the first time we had a retreat together, Bob. They did occur over time and progressively, but we found ourselves repeating some things and, then, starting some new things. So, we started to capture the ideas because they were so simple. They were so easy to do for us, and we knew anyone could do them.
Another one that we've enjoyed is about the kind of legacy that you would like to leave as a couple. Again, it's a very simple thing. You just take some time as husband and wife. You talk about values, principles, beliefs, and convictions that you want to represent your marriage and your household—to begin to say, “Well, this would be like our covenant. This would be like the legacy of our house. This is what we want written on the walls of the relationships of our family.”
Dennis: One of the things that we haven't talked about this week was a dark valley you all traveled through. Carolyn, you had breast cancer. You actually used one of these planning weekends to celebrate her final chemo, and you went to Maui. Now, which one of these projects did you do at that time because that had to be a tremendous planning retreat?
Carolyn: That was a celebration of just life itself. As you were saying, Bob, there are 12 projects in this getaway planning book. You look at them before you go on a retreat, and you just look at two or three that for that season of life is most pertinent to your marriage at that time to talk about.
So, for getting through those weeks of chemotherapy, just looking out on the horizon, like I mentioned before, having something to look forward to—“We're going to Maui. We're going to celebrate. We're going to have a wonderful vacation”—I can make it through this time.
Sometimes, you feel like that just in the day-to-day life of changing diapers and wiping noses and fixing meals and all—it's just having something to look forward to. That was certainly the ultimate of our getaway destinations. They were not all like that, but—
Bob: You didn't stay in a popup camper in Maui, did you?
Carolyn: No, we didn't.
Bob: Just making sure.
Dennis: As I look back on those times when Barbara and I got away—yes, there was the benefit of romance in our schedule and the pace of life and all that, but I think the getaway not only kept our marriage vibrant; but it enabled Barbara and me to stay on the same song sheet as we were raising our kids.
You know, it's so easy to drift apart as a couple in your relationship, but it's real easy to drift apart in raising kids. We both have different context and backgrounds from which we come, and we're parenting out of those backgrounds. Like you were saying, Carolyn, we've got a perspective where we think we're right, and our spouse isn't necessarily agreeing with us.
For Barbara and me, those weekends enabled us to work through a lot of the static; hear one another; I think, adjust to one another; and ultimately, come to an agreement around plan and how we're going to relate to our children.
Bob: Over 35 years of marriage, you guys have invested a lot of time, a fair amount of money, some energy—you have taken the time to make this investment in your marriage. I'm sure there are folks who think, “That's good for them. I'm not sure we need it.” It's kind of like the people who say you should change the oil every 3,000 miles, and you think, “Can I really go five? What happens if I go ten?”
My question is where do you think your marriage would be—how do you think things would be different if you hadn't made this a discipline in your relationship?
Bill: I don't think I'd have near as clear an understanding of my wife and our family as I have as a result of taking it. I don't think that we would have been on the same page. I think we would have found ourselves colliding in the midst of a busy kind of a rat-race world, having to make final decisions on the fly; and probably, would have resulted in some conflict and greater disharmony.
Again, for us, the great discovery was just how proactive this put us as a team in managing our home and our relationship.
Bob: Carolyn, what do you imagine life would have been like if this hadn't been a part of things?
Carolyn: Well, we would have been going on separate tracks and having our own agendas that we felt like were right. So, we were pretty self-sufficient, and it would have been a lot of tension and more conflict. The benefit of having these getaways is really, like Bill said, intentional parenting, intentional in our marriage relationship. It's making sure that good intentions get done, and then, you get satisfied and grateful.
Bob: I can imagine, Dennis, that a lot of couples who arrive at that new stage of life that's the empty-nest stage—if they've not being doing the maintenance, they do arrive there; and they're at two different places. Whereas the couples who have made this discipline of getting away regularly a priority in their marriage, they get over that hump of the empty nest a little easier because they've been teaming up all the way along.
Dennis: You can drift apart in six months; but if you have a little wheel alignment of a getaway, where you kind of bring the schedule and the relationship back into alignment and instead of being on two separate tracks, as Carolyn was talking about, that will keep that situation that you described from happening.
Barbara and I had a—well, it was more than a weekend getaway—we had more than just three days to get away when we became empty-nesters. We used that as a time to get away to talk about how we wanted the rest of our lives to look like as empty-nesters. We moved from the empty nest to what we call “prime time.”
Bob, before we're finished today, there is one last question, which is one of those reality questions that I want to ask Bill and Carolyn. I know they experienced this, but I want you to share with our listeners how they can get a copy of Bill and Carolyn's book.
Bob: I'll do that, and I’ll try and make it quick because I know you've got to get out of here.
Dennis: My bags are packed.
Bob: We do have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy. Of course, this week if you make a yearend donation to help support FamilyLife Today, we’ll send you a copy of Bill and Carolyn’s book at no cost. It’s our thank you gift to you for your support.
Of course, you donation this week is being matched dollar for dollar up to that total of what is now more than $4 million in our matching gift fund—largest matching gift we’ve ever had access to. So, we’re asking all of you to do whatever you can do to help us take full advantage of that matching gift. We have to hear from you this week for that to happen.
Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, click the button that says, “I CARE”—not only will your donation be matched dollar for dollar, but we’ll send you a copy of Bill and Carolyn’s planning guide, Getting Away to Get It Together—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, make a donation over the phone, and just ask about the planning guide when you call; so, we know that you’d like to receive a copy of it and we’ll be happy to send it to you.
Again the toll-free number, 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word “TODAY”; or make a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Dennis….
Dennis: Bill and Carolyn Wellons have been our guests on FamilyLife Today, and we've been talking about Getting Away to Get It Together how couples can have purposeful planning weekends.
Bill and Carolyn, I've got one last question for you here. When Barbara and I did this three days we were talking in whole sentences without being interrupted. There was no noise around our meals.
Carolyn: You kind of remember why you married each other.
Dennis: Absolutely—why we were attracted to each other in the first place. We're driving home, and then, there's that moment called "reentry."
Dennis: Reentry. I'm going to tell you something: I need to hear your best tips for couples with families—when you step off the oasis and step back on the mainland. I mean, usually you walk back into illness, diapers, griping, complaining, blaming—
Dennis: Yes. Babysitters are tied up in a corner. It's like we'll never do this again. What's your best tip for reentry? I want both of you to make a pass at this.
Bill: Well, I totally identify with your explanation of reentry. In the same way, I could feel the chains sort of dropping off as I drove out of town on the front end. I felt like the ball and chain was being reattached as I came back into the city.
The best tip for me, Dennis—there's really two aspects to it. One just has to do with anticipation and real expectations. What you have been on has just been—you've jumped off the world's treadmill. You stepped off of it. The treadmill was still running, but you stepped off of it to go away for a few days together.
So, yes, peace came back. You began to talk in complete sentences, you felt rested, and all that; but you're exactly right. You're going to come back in, and that treadmill is moving faster than you're walking—and just having a healthy expectation about that, praying about that, realizing that the warfare a couple has in this world.
The enemy does not want us to be unified, does not want us to be clear, does not want us to be relational, on the same page, and all that. To be aware of that and praying and anticipating that, I think that's the best that you can do.
Carolyn: Well, I agree. We would look at each other and laugh in the car when we were driving back into town and say, “Are you ready? Are you ready?” “Okay, we're ready.”
There is something about that partnership—knowing that you and your husband or you and your wife are on the same page, that you've connected, that you're partnering together, and then, keeping a sense of humor. I mean, it's just comical. If you step back and look at it—about all the demands that the children are typically going to be more demanding, more challenging at the time. So, if you can just glance over in the chaos there and kind of smile at each other and say, "Here we are. Here we go."
Bob: You didn't ask me, but my tip is to arrive back home after the kids are in bed so that you can go right to sleep—
Dennis: Very good.
Bob: —and when you wake up the next morning you go, “Was it all a dream or did we really have that time away?”
Dennis: My best tip is as you walk back in the house: Expect a test. You've gotten away to get together. You are one. You’re lockstep. You're headed in the same direction, and, all of a sudden, these little critters come up. They immediately start to try to divide you. Expect a test but be resolute and develop some kind of non-verbal signal, whether it be a wink or a hug or a smile with your spouse that lets them know, “Hey, sweetheart, here is the test.”
Carolyn: We're in this together.
Dennis: We're in it, and we’re in this together.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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