A couple that wants to nourish their relationship over a lifetime is swimming against the current of our culture today. We must be able to create the kind of support we need so we don't feel like we have to work on our relationship issues in isolation.
Belonging to a supportive couples group is one way to reduce that feeling of isolation and realize that other couples have their own versions of nearly every problem we face together. Other couples can also be a source of wisdom, perspective and humor that lightens our journey of intiimacy.
My wife and I have been facilitating a couples group in our home for many years and this page contains tips for how to get one started, how to sustain it and how to keep it fresh and interesting.
Two or three couples is all it takes to get a support group started. Contact a couple of your close friends that you believe have an interest in supporting intimacy. Select a book like Couple's Play or another suitable relationship book. We have used Hendricks' Lasting Love, Chapman's The 5 Love Languages, and Gottman's Eight Dates. We also base our topics on articles or excerpts that we come across. Our group prefers that my wife and I facilitate but it can be a rotating responsibility as well. Once the small group completes the initial book study, others can be invited to join. Our group has occassionally grown to eight couples and that seems to be the maximum we can handle. The intimate setting begins to be compromised when the group gets too large. A sweet spot would probably be about six couples.
I recommend that you have a seasonal start and stop. That is, have all couples commit to attending as many meetings as possible until the book chapters have been completed. Then take a break and reconstitute the membership for the next cycle with a different source of topics.
We have only two agreements in our group: 1) Speaking is optional at any meeting but when speaking, you may only speak for yourself, not for your partner or for you as a couple (unless you have your partner's permission). 2) Anything you hear from others is held in strict confidence and may not be shared outside the group without the others' permission. Your group may adopt other agreements that support you. Just make them easy to understand and implement.
We have settled into a frequency of once a month. This just works best for our couples' schedules. Saturday night is also preferred by most in our group, especially those with school age children. So, every fall we float the second or third Saturday of the month for the upcoming "season" of couples gatherings. Couples weigh in on which of the two Saturdays each month they are available to meet. Then we lock in the season with the dates most couples can attend.
Most couples do not lead predictable lives so we need to roll with what life throws at us. For example, 2020 will go down in history as the pandemic year. Gatherings in our living room were replaced with virtual gatherings done by video conference. We recognize that our need to support each other is greater than ever so our screen meetings were just as precious and urgent than our in-person ones were.
We schedule 2.5 hours, with roughly one-hour check-in and topic introduction, followed by a half-hour breakout exercise and tea break, and a one hour followup/debrief. These times are necessarily fluid. After everyone is arrives, we often start with a centering exercise, a moment of silence or meditation, or a few deep breaths together. Then we check in, usually in a way that relates to the topic of the evening.
As a facilitator, I am one of the participants, not a coach. So, I resist the temptation to coach anyone in our group. If you want to share a suggestion or perspective or how you handled a similar dilemma, just ask permission. Then make an offer, rather than a pronouncement. Assume that couples don't want to be inundated with advice unless they ask for it.
Mix It Up
Sitting around talking is okay, up to a point.We often try to include an exercise that is non verbal. Couples may practice a Spoon Tune, or a gazing exercise, or a foot massage, or a dance. Pairing a non verbal exercise to the evening's theme is good reinforcement and engages other senses in order to embody the material. We also have purely social events, like a a picnic in summer or a holiday party in winter, allowing for a stronger and more playful social connection.
The List of Topics is Endless
In addition to themes based on chapter headings or subheadings, add some other topics that are interesting to your members. Your list may include: sharing favorite love songs and poems, the sensual meaning of food and drink, write a love poem and share it with the group, and describe your experience of the second (or third) level of Eros.
Check this Page Again
This page will be updated periodically with more ideas for your group so check back occassionally. Also, feel free to email your questions to me. I am happy to do what I can to help you build a culture around you that will support a lifetime of love and intimacy.