Over the course of our 26 year marriage, my husband Tony and I have attended our share of marriage conferences. While each had value, we didn't experience any life changing (or I should say marriage changing) moments. That is - until we attended the You're Still The One marriage retreat weekend, held once a year around Valentine's Day. We learned practical communication tools, some of which we even used with our children.

One element, of a five-part communication tool called CTR, helped us to rephrase our complaints to “I notice ______. I prefer ______.” This tool releases marital and family tension like a pressure cooker valve releases steam. It allows you to better express your preferences in a discussion and prevents the other person from becoming defensive or overly sensitive. It helps create an environment where you can feel heard and valued.

We also learned what a “valid” expectation is. I often felt angry or frustrated when my expectations weren’t met, however, an expectation is only valid when both parties agree upon it. If I think my husband should do something and do it a certain way but he hasn’t actually agreed to it, then my expectation is not valid.

We learned to appreciate each other's differences instead of allowing them to be a source of conflict. And when conflict does arise, we can solve our problems with the tools we have been given.

In addition to a once a year retreat, we attend “Connect,” a marriage group that meets monthly at the High Mountain Church in North Haledon, N.J.  “Connect” is centered on Biblical principles that can be applied in practical ways to marriages of every faith.  The gatherings consist of times of teaching and group sharing. There is also an opportunity for couples to work alone on specific topics and practice a variety of communication and relationship building skills.  Couples from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and denominations come each month to share the journey together.

“Connect” usually meets on the second Saturday evening of each month. In addition to the skills we develop, we also enjoy times of sidesplitting laughter. I think the best testimonies come from the husbands who were initially dragged there by their wives but now say it is the best thing they've ever done for their marriage.

New couples are always welcome. For further information, please call the church office at 973-427-2575, email: Hmchurchoffice@gmail.com or visit www.highmountainchurch.org.  


Susan Panzica is a Jewish Jersey girl who loves Jesus, her family, the ocean, and mangos. Her passion is to bring an eternal perspective to earthly matters through writing, speaking, teaching, and coffee dates. A quasi-emptynester who works with her chiropractor husband, she thoroughly enjoys when her college age children are home, with or without all their friends. Susan is a speaker, women and children’s Bible teacher, and writer of the devotional blog Eternity Café.

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