This last October 6-10, I participated in The Hideaway Experience: Marriage Intensives, which was one of the most amazing marriage experiences I have ever been a part of. I was invited by my friend Todd Sandel (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Executive Director of LifeGate Counseling Center), and by Steve and Rajan Trafton (owners and operators of The Hideaway). The Hideaway is located just outside of Amarillo, TX, situated beautifully on the edge of the Palo Duro Canyon. If you know nothing about the Palo Duro Canyon, it’s the second largest canyon in the United States, and the painter Georgia O’ Keeffe said this about it:

“It is a burning, seething cauldron, filled with dramatic light and color.”

Needless to say, it is a stunning place to have a marriage retreat, and the setting fits nicely with their vision:

Our vision for The Hideaway Experience is simple but sure: we want to see broken marriages healed and restored.

The name ‘Hideaway’ comes from a very special verse in the Bible.

Psalm 27:5 says, ‘For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me upon a high rock.’

Our God has a father’s heart. And when we find ourselves broken and wounded by the experiences that life throws at us, our Heavenly Father wants to gently hide us in a safe place to heal and restore us.

The Hideaway is a place we firmly believe that the Lord has appointed for such healing to take place. So we have made every effort to make the Hideaway an environment suitable for this miraculous event from the level of excellence in our accommodations, to the top professional counselors that will work with you, to the kindness we will show you from the minute you arrive to the second you leave.

Marriage is our passion and our ministry. We believe that healthy marriages are the key to healthy families, and that healthy families are the key to healthy and fulfilling lives.

We sincerely hope that we can serve you and help you discover the amazing marriage we believe God has for you.

4 Days, 4 Couples, 2 Therapists: Intensive Couple’s Model
Four days, four couples, two therapists, and between 6-8 hours a day of couple’s group therapy. This is the powerful dynamic of the intensive therapy model they use, and it is very powerful to participate in. My role during the retreat was to sit in what is considered “third chair”, which is basically an observer and co-therapist to the “lead therapist” and the “second chair” therapist who are there to guide the couples through a weekend of transformation for their marriage. Much of the leading work in this area of Marriage Intensives is being pioneered by Dr. Terry Hargrave who is currently on faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary in their Department of Marriage and Family Therapy. Look for a book in early 2011 that will outline more specifically the model of therapy that The Hideaway uses to help couples so successfully transform their marriages.

Solitude, Accommodations, and Hospitality
There are lots of things that make this marriage intensive so great, but two things that really stuck out to me during my time there were the solitude and hospitality. First, one of the things that the owners, therapists and couples will say is that they were really able to slow down, unplug, and really connect with one another because they were sequestered away from the busyness of life in order to better focus on their marriages. Second, another thing that makes the intensive so great is the wonderful accommodations. My friend described it as staying at the Ritz essentially, and he was right. From the beautiful and cozy accommodations, to the constant snacks, and the five star food, this place is hard to beat. I can’t remember the last time I ate so well in a four day period, but it’s more than just the food. Third, the owners, Steve and Rajan Trafton, and their staff do such an amazing job of providing for each couple, therefore, each couple has the chance to just let go, and really, really focus on each other. It’s the Texas hospitality that one expects, and then some.

Renewal and Transformation
There are a lot of reasons, and a lot of excuses for why couples don’t work on their marriages. Time? Money? Energy? Kids? Jobs? Stress? Et cetera, Et cetera. But put off the work too long, the marriage starts to take a path in the wrong direction. Marriage needs daily work for it to thrive and continually grow. So whether your marriage is on the rocks, or whether you feel like it just needs a “shot in the arm” I would recommend that you really consider The Hideaway Marriage Intensive. I was only there as a “third chair” therapist, but in those four days I learned more about my own marriage than I ever previously have (and my wife wasn’t even there). I saw lives literally change in four days, and couples were sent forth on a new path and in a new direction for their marriage.

Don’t let any of the excuses above keep you from devoting what is needed to keep your marriage continually growing.