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Encouragement for the straight men

Whilst we have many a wonderful man come along and enjoy our One:Retreat day or weekend; over the last couple of years I have had so many women tell me that they would love to come along but they are really struggling to get their male partners to agree. Indeed, this is reflected in the gender of those who enquire. Around 85% are women. This doesn’t surprise me, but does make me want to investigate why?

So, I turned to my partner (who is a man) for advice. Then I conducted a short survey of every straight male friend I saw that week (I’m not sure they were thrilled about bumping into me, although to be fair, my questioning normally revolves around sex, so they were more than happy to engage on this one). And then I went to the Internet. Interestingly all the answers I received fall into one of these five categories:

  1. “I’m going to get ganged up on, I’m basically walking into my own execution.”
  2. “I don’t believe in all of that touchy-feely emotional stuff.”
  3. “You’re just going to tell me that it’s all my fault.”
  4. “It takes time and costs money. Can’t we just read a book, listen to a podcast or watch an episode of Love Island?”
  5. We’re completely fine, we don’t have problems, so what’s the point?

Because there is nothing else quite like what we do, I think people can too easily put us in a ‘couple counselling’ box, so firstly I need to differentiate between what we do at One:Retreat and ‘couple counselling’. Whilst I am a fan of couple counselling, on the whole it doesn’t have the best statistical outcomes. The renowned John Gottman, amongst others, says that just 35% of couples in marital therapy get clinically significant immediate improvements. After much research I am of the belief that this is down to the fact that it takes a BIG DEAL of an issue to get both parties there, and by then it is often too late.

Knowing this, we saw the importance of creating something to act as an MOT for your relationship – in whatever great/average/poor state you find it to be in – in order to help it to be the best that it can be and before it gets to the point of no return.

We took away the intensity of the setting – where one counsellor is in the room with two people and the issues that surface are rebounded around the walls of the room and back again. We (and our couples) love the fact that when you pitch up to one of our events that you can look around at other ‘normal–looking’ people and feel reassured that you’re not the only people in the room who is willing to give this thing a go! It’s also quick – just one day or one weekend, rather than 6 weeks of appointments.

And finally we made it about the both of you, equally, and privately. Both partners matter, both are important and neither is wrong and neither is right. We are just individuals with different personalities, values and needs in terms of desire, who muddle along together and sometimes get a bit stuck in a rut. So we help you with seeding some thoughts and some questions, and let you do the rest. No one needs to know, unless you would like to share with us or bend our ear over anything – which we are very open to.

So how do you get him to come along? My suggestion is that you find the right moment to express to your partner how important it is to you, be vulnerable, and allow him to be honest both to you, and to us, about his fears and hesitations in coming. We can take it and we’re used to it, so don’t be worried about that element. We are always happy to talk on the phone and answer any questions, address any fears. There’s just not much joy to be had in limping through life with a less-than-great relationship when you could be excited and expectant at what the next adventure might hold for you both.

Many of the men who come to us, tell us that despite their concerns, they are so grateful they came because the content has been really helpful for them.

I am yet to see any negative feedback as a result of a day or a weekend talking about how to understand each other better, and therefore improve a relationship that you are faced with every single day, and go to bed with every night.

Examples of feedback from straight men who have attended:

“I think the communication made it clear what to expect and the day exceeded expectations”

“Simple, clear and focussed on the key relationship areas”

“A very well thought-out and relevant programme with broad appeal”

“Challenging but fruitful conversations”

“A good preventative to couple counselling”

“I thought it would be more ‘marriage guidance’ – it wasn’t so I was relieved and felt able to contribute more as a result.”

“I’ll be honest and say I was dreading it – but I actually really enjoyed it and learnt so much about myself and my partner which has made me excited about our relationship again”.

Susannah Baker

After giving up a senior nursing role spanning 14 years, and moving to North Devon, Susannah is now a founder and trustee of The Pickwell Foundation, the owner of a holiday business; an interior designer, partner to Steve and a mum to two teenagers. Keeping her hand in with the nursing side, she works as a Community First Responder for the South West Ambulance Service. The question of 'what makes relationships great', together with a real curiosity of how people stay together for a lifetime, has always caused much fascination.   On a search to discover some answers for herself, One:Retreat was born.

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