Salisbury to offer couple's retreat for Veterans - W. G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center - Salisbury, NC
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W. G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center - Salisbury, NC


Salisbury to offer couple's retreat for Veterans

photos of wedding rings

The “Warrior to Soul Mate” couple's enrichment retreat scheduled for April 17-19.

By Michael Maddox, Salisbury VAMC Public Affairs
Monday, February 23, 2015

Most Veterans would agree that good communication is key to completing any mission successfully. What they may not realize is that this concept is also essential to having a healthy, successful relationship with a significant other.

This is one of the key concepts Veterans will learn to apply during the upcoming “Warrior to Soul Mate” couple's enrichment retreat scheduled for April 17-19.

“The primary purpose of Warrior to Soul Mate couple's retreat is to strengthen the Veteran’s relationship with their significant other through the teaching of communication skills,” said Salisbury VAMC Chaplain Ryan Wagers, one of four retreat facilitators. “It’s basically working toward building a solid foundation in that Veteran’s life with their significant other.”

Wagers said the retreat, which will take place at a local hotel in Concord, will provide tools for Veterans to learn to not allow past military experiences to hinder communication with a spouse.

“There are some similarities between Veterans and non-Veterans - they’re people, they’re human beings, but what creates the differences often times are the experiences that they’ve had either previous to that relationship or have been involved in as part of that relationship that relate to our military service,” he explained. “It might be related to combat. It might be related just to the different job duties – the structure of the military – understanding they were put in a very stressful aspect of life that can carry over into relationships. There are various situations in life, both behavioral disorders and other things that are part of a Veteran’s make-up that will also create barriers to communication, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

“Veterans bring along those life experiences, fortunate or unfortunate, that relate to their military service that can have an impact in their relationships,” added Wagers.

After serving their country, it can be difficult for Veterans to translate and relate their experiences to civilian life. On top of that, there is often no transition time from soldier to civilian.

“Veterans, often times when they come back, they hit the ground running. There’s not that time to talk with a significant other about some things that have happened or how they feel about communication, things that have changed in their lives – you come back and the responsibilities hit you again, only in a different way,” said Wagers. “Then, when you try to mold or bring into play what you’ve spent maybe years doing in the absence of that significant other and the responsibilities they have – the two worlds collide. They have two different expectations, not only in the end result, but how you communicate in between.”

Dr. Susan Stanton, a Salisbury VAMC psychologist and a facilitator for the retreat, said Veterans and their significant others will learn how to become a stronger team through a variety of exercises and presentations.

“There’s a nice curriculum to keep it flowing and to have them touch on a lot of the major areas that are important in relationships, but it does have a nice back and forth – it gives the couples opportunities to start conversations,” she said. “During the weekend, we also touch on a lot of areas that are important to a relationship, like intimacy, showing your love and caring, even practical matters like how you divide up chores and tasks, and interacting with people outside the relationship. I think it’s a pretty comprehensive look at some of the healthy aspects of a relationship.”

Wagers noted that the retreat is not designed to be “therapy.” It’s designed to be a “couple's enrichment experience.”

“We make that really clear because we aren’t there to be therapists, we’re there to be facilitators,” he said.

Anyone interested in attending the retreat needs to have a consult placed either through their Primary Care provider, their Mental Health provider or social worker.

“There has to be a consult request for this retreat – that isn’t something we developed, but something required nationally,” explained Wagers.

Twenty couples will be able to participate in the retreat and there is no cost to Veterans unless they decide to spend money during the Saturday night “Date Night,” where couples are encouraged to spend some quality time with one another.

For more information about the “Warrior to Soul Mate” retreat, contact Chaplain Services at (704) 638-3330.


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