When life gets hectic for Michael and Kelly Caruso, sometimes they can barely fit in a date night. So the Tampa couple, married 22 years, will devote two entire days to each other when they attend a weekend retreat for couples Jan. 23-24 at the Don CeSar Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach.
The retreat was put together by You&Me.We, a program of Family Resources, a nonprofit that serves families of Pinellas County. Last March, You&Me.We hosted the popular Black Marriage Day, a nationwide event that celebrates marriage, at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum. It held its first retreat for couples in July, also at the Don CeSar, and all spaces were filled.
A few spaces remain for the upcoming retreat, which can accommodate 60 couples.
This year's retreat, called "Be a Better We," will focus on communication between partners and understanding how subtle exchanges can affect the mood of a conversation.
"It's a meaningful time to reflect individually and together as a couple," said Michael Caruso, who also attended the July retreat with his wife. "Both of us gained some self-awareness on some things we do in an argument that we may not even realize. We've really seen the improvement it's had with us and our three kids."
Some of these skills, said Caruso, include ending a discussion before it gets too heated and revisiting the topic when both partners are calmer.
A running theme throughout the weekend will be getting to know each other's background, which shapes opinions, according to Karri Schaufele, marketing and outreach supervisor for You&Me.We.
"We all come from our own thinking and state of being," Schaufele said. "It all comes from our family upbringing. Understanding each other's family of origin helps us understand each other and our relationship."
Several marriage and family therapists will lead small-group workshops on understanding myths and reality in the differences between the male and female brains, learning to manage everyday stressors on a relationship and telling one's unique "couple story."
The retreat is meant for all kinds of couples, no matter the state of their relationship or length of time they've been together.
"It's the whole gamut," Schaufele said. "We have a new couple that was newly married and other couples that've been married over 20 years. Everybody can take (something positive) away from it."
Tania Karas can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or firstname.lastname@example.org.