Strong Bonds help strengthen marriages

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jennifer Pierce
  • 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
GROTON, Conn. -- On April 12, 2013, the 103rd Airlift Wing's Chaplain's office hosted a Strong Bonds-sponsored marriage retreat for couples of the 103rd Airlift Wing. The theme of the program was "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage," which is part of Mark Gungor's marriage seminar video series.

According to Tech. Sgt. Jessica Rawlinitis, a Chaplain's assistant with the 103rd Airlift Wing, what prompted the Chaplain's office to host this weekend-long marriage retreat was, "The Air Control Squadron just returned from deployment and some of the Airmen were having marital issues. The Chaplains recognize that marriage is important and when you make the vows 'till death do us part,' you have to put in the effort to make it work."

The two-and-a-half-day marriage retreat began on Friday, April 12 in the evening and ended Sunday, April 14. Airmen and their spouses were able to check in for the weekend at the Mystic Marriot Hotel & Spa located in Groton, and after a brief introduction by Maj. Eric Wismar, acting wing chaplain for the 103rd Airlift Wing, the couples dove head first into the seminar. The idea was to learn about the two very different brains of men and women and how they interrelate and can clash with each other in a relationship.

"It is our differences that attract us to each other and it's what later drives apart," said Mark Gungor in the pre-recorded video seminar.

Couples were able to take this message and think on it for the night, directing them toward the retreat's objective to develop a strong bond within the marriage.

Saturday offered a continuation of the differences in men's and women's brains and continued with the interpretation of each husband's and wife's Flag Pages. The Flag Pages are the results of an individual's personality assessment. Instead of focusing on each person's weaknesses, the assessment focused on their strengths. Each person's strengths in turn show their spouse what they need emotionally from them for their relationship to thrive. This exercise was an eye-opening experience for the couples as they were able to recognize what they needed to work on so their spouse would receive the affirmation that they require in their marriages.

During one of the candid group discussions, Tech Sgt. Jeffrey Cloutier of the 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron, who attended the marriage retreat with his wife, Beth Cloutier, said, "We wish something like this was available when we were a younger married couple. I recommend this program especially for the newer married couples."

The day ended on Saturday with "homework" for each couple to have a date night and enjoy themselves.

On Sunday, the last day of the retreat, a relaxed atmosphere filled the room as the couples filed in for breakfast. Stories and laughter were shared as couples recounted their date nights and extolled the virtues of the program. Tech Sgt. Chris Grizzle of the 103rd recruiting office attended the retreat with his wife of 10 years, Sonia Grizzle, who is the manager of budget and financial planning at Yale-New Haven Hospital. He reflected on the weekend and shared his thoughts.

"This weekend has given me insight into the female mind and how they think. I will be able to keep this in mind when issues may arise in my marriage," Grizzle said.

"I believe my marriage will benefit from this weekend as I know I need to work on communication and show Chris how much I appreciate him," said Sonia Grizzle.

The retreat ended with the recitation of "Honey, I'm Sorry Vows" led by Chaplain Assistant Staff Sgt. Mary Brown. The husbands and wives each recited their version of the vows to each other as they held hands. Tissues were readily available as this was an emotional experience for everyone.

Master Sgt. Angel Huertas from the chaplain's office worked the event and also brought his wife of 28 years, Grace Huertas, with him. He emphasized the importance of what a marriage retreat like this does for the Airmen of the 103rd Airlift Wing.

"The Guard's priority is getting the best out of its Airmen. In order to do that, the Guard understands that the Airmen need a solid foundation at home. If the Guard helps an Airman, he will be a better husband, a better dad and, ultimately, a better Airman. After all, when I deploy, my wife deploys too. She's home picking up the slack made by my absence. We both have to be strong as a couple; we have to understand and support each other," said Huertas.

Overall, the marriage retreat weekend was a resounding success. Anonymous questionnaires completed by each couple all stated that they would recommend this marriage retreat to other couples. The chaplain's office is planning another marriage retreat for September 2013.