Strong Bonds retreat offer tools for military marriages

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jennifer Eaton
  • Utah Air National Guard JFHQ/PAO
Thirty Utah Air National Guard members and their spouses registered for the Strong Bonds marriage retreat held over Valentines weekend at a local hotel. Organized by the Chaplains Office, lodging, meals, and all curriculum materials were complimentary for participating couples.

Strong Bonds is an Army program designed to help build relationship resiliency through education and skills training. The "get away" provides an emotionally safe environment in which couples can address the effects of day-to-day, as well as military lifestyle stressors.

Retreat facilitator Master Sgt. Steven Sandoval, from the Air Guard Chaplains Office, believes the curriculum "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage" arms couples with easy to use visual tools for navigating the unique circumstances military couples face.

"The program helps individuals learn key aspects of their spouse's motivations and how to encourage them in a meaningful way," he said. 

The retreat began with dinner Friday evening, an introduction to the seminar, and the first modules of the video presentation. Saturday's training continued through early evening, after which couples were encouraged to have a date night to connect and discuss important takeaways. Sunday, participants were able to further explore their "Flag Page" composites, including how individual key traits compared to those of their partners.

The Flag Page is central to the retreat's curriculum, and while not a personality test per se, it does offer insight into motivations and differences between partners in hopes of helping them foster better ways to support and encourage one another.

"The way it's structured, you can actually come away with something tangible to take home," said Senior Airman Brendon Guymon from the 169th Intelligence Squadron.

His wife Jerrica admits she was a little skeptical at first about the idea of attending the retreat, but quickly changed her mind.

"In particular, the Flag Page exercise was a great opportunity to better understand who we both are and how we act," she said. "I think all couples should take advantage of the opportunity to find out how we react to things and why."

Sandoval, who has been married for 20 years, said the information is as relevant to him as any of the couples attending.

"I need this; we all need this," he said. "It's a positive way for anyone to enrich their marriage, because no matter how good we think we have it, it can always be better."

The next weekend retreat will be held in August. Individuals interested in attending can call the Chaplains Office at 245-2655 for more information.