by ka edong aka edwin soriano
It was both ironic and funny, I must say.
I told them: “I’ve attended the Discovery Weekend four times. With four different women!”
I was at the dining table with the Lay Chaplains of the Discovery Weekend, Tito Jojo and Tita Ditsy Sumpaico who led the retreat from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. Beside me was this beautiful lady nodding in agreement. In the same dining hall, we had 23 other couples enjoying their meals with fellow participant-couples at the 3-day stay-in retreat.
In this article, I share my experience attending the Discovery Weekend FOUR times. I’ll share with you some of the key learnings I had, specifically: Three Ways to Respond to your partner’s feelings. Very important if you want to have a meaningful relationship.
I’ll share with you why I attended four times, what I learned from each and how I continue to discover more about myself, my partner and my God.
The Discovery Weekend is a marriage preparation seminar. Participants come into the seminar with their partners and discover more about themselves, their partners and their life journey.
Thus, I found it a bit ironic and funny to reveal that I was at the Discovery Weekend for the fourth time. Haven’t I discovered enough?! LOL!
Having attended the Discovery Weekend 4 times makes me an expert in it! Oh yeah! I’ve experienced DW with three different Lay Chaplains (the retreat masters, usually a married couple). I’ve experienced DW with three different partners (more on that later). I’ve experienced it as a participant and I’ve experienced it as an auxiliary couple assisting in the logistics of the seminar. I should get aloyalista award for this!
So let me share with you what I’ve learned through the Discovery Weekend(DW).
I knew that the DW would help me understand myself more and understand my partner more. It was, after all, a marriage preparation seminar.
On the first night, a Friday evening at a secluded compound in Quezon City, we were told that by the end of the seminar, there are three possible results.
1.) Not ever: The couple could realize that their core values are too different from each other, thus agreeing (hopefully peacefully) that they are not meant to be together for life. And that is all good. Better that they discover this earlier than later.
2.) Not now: Another result, you can discover that you need more time to get to know each other better.
3.) Now na: And the third result is to affirm with each other, after discovering many more things about yourselves, that indeed you are deciding to live a life together.
Note: I’m using my own terminology here.
The Treats of the Retreat
The Discovery Weekend has an interestingly unique format. It helped me learn each and every time I attended. It was a different experience each time.
I won’t go into the details of the weekend because I want future participants to discover for themselves what the Discovery Weekend is all about.
This is what I can share from my experience. Through the Discovery Weekend …
Treat #1: I learned more about myself.
The weekend “forced” me to think about what I hold dear and true. The weekend “forced” me to express how I feel about certain issues and concerns. And I willfully made the most of the weekend by taking each exercise to heart. I expressed all I knew and felt, even if sometimes it took so much humility and letting go of my ego just to be really truthful with myself and with my partner.
Treat #2: I learned more about my partner.
I learned a better way to listen to my partner. I learned that I can listen with my ears and my mind. I can think of many rebuttals as she spoke. But at the very end, I know that the best way to listen is to listen with my heart.
What is it that my partner is truly expressing? What is she feeling? Am I truly understanding her feelings?
Here lay one of my key take-aways from the weekend, a very important tool for my relationship. I learned how to dialogue. I would say that through the years, I have learned and improved in the way I dialogue. Dialogue is less of an exchange of words and more of understanding (with my heart) how my partner feels. Dialogue is a respectful conversation where feelings expressed and acknowledged, .
We have a line that goes:“Feelings are neither wrong nor right.”
Feelings are feelings, they are what they are. Own your feelings, respect your feelings. And respect the feelings of your partner — they have every right to feel the way they choose to feel. Respect your partner by respecting her feelings.
Treat #3: I learned more about relationships.
I got to discover that there are many issues between me and my partner that many other couples are experiencing as well. During the retreat, we discover new tools that both Rezza and I can use in our relationship.
During the weekend, we listened to couple-sharers who told their stories relating to the topic.
Topics range from the difference in values or upbringing of the person, differences of the genders, etc. The sharers read out loud their stories like a duet, one telling her story, then the other telling his story, interwoven like a beautiful tapestry.
We have a Lay Chaplain, usually a married couple (other times it’s a priest). The chaplain(s) give context to the topic at hand, give insights, they expound, analyze and emphasize points that guide the couple-participants towards the most important parts of the retreat.
There is always is period of reflection where individuals have an opportunity to discern how they think and feel about certain concerns.
And, most important, there is time for dialogue with your partner. This is your chance to share to each other your reflections. This is the opportunity to express what you think and feel, a chance to listen to your partner and a chance to clarify what each of you value the most.
Treat #4 and #5: I learned more about my relationship with my God and with my community.
There was a very meaningful question in the retreat about our relationship with God. It was such a blessing to be sharing and listening to the different stories of different couples. It was a blessing to be with people who were working on their relationships. Because we all learn from each other. And our experiences are blessings from which other people learn from.
My experience with Discovery Weekend
I’ll be very honest. In all the times I attended DW as a participant, I felt that I was totally prepared for marriage with the partner I was with. Let me share with you a few experiences. Just know that these were all my experiences and I thank the Lord for letting me go through all these. My partners at those times will have their own story, and I respect their story, whichever way they express it.
There were times — many times — that I would be frustrated with the conversation I was having with my partner. I would be exasperated at how much I was trying to express myself and not be understood by my partner.
There were many times when my patience wore thin, and that I raised my voice in our conversations. I knew that these feelings — both mine and my partner’s — needed to be expressed. Maybe we weren’t doing it correctly at that time. Dialogues take practice. And the mere expression of feelings was a good step forward. So much better than keeping our feelings bottled up, un-expressed. Nakaka-constipate yun!
One time I attended, I felt short-changed by my partner. As if my partner was summarily dismissing the conversation because she has had enough of the discussion, or as if the conversation was going nowhere. (That was a very telling sign. That specific relationship ended with me not knowing why she left me back then after a 13 year relationship.) Maybe I wasn’t listening enough. Maybe I was denying too many of my own faults. Maybe, and it was all part of a journey. Definitely, we both had our contibution to our break-up.
Another time I attended, my partner and I confideda concern with the Lay Chaplain. After having a short private chat, our chaplain told us two words: “Date more.” Our chaplain saw through us. She probably saw things that my we didn’t see in ourselves. Our chaplain recognized that we needed to get to know each other more.
In retrospect, our chaplain was right. We broke-up, ended our engagement. It was a rough break-up for me, I didn’t think I would be devastated (again) after all the pain I had gone through from a previous failed relationship. This was yet another part of my journey. I’m getting better everytime 😉 .
In both first and second times I attended the DW, I always went away with better awareness of myself and my partner, equipped with better tools to nourish our relationship. I bless the Discovery Weekend for helping me with my relationship at that time even if those two prior relationships eventually ended. I know that this was all part of my broken road being blessed by our good God.
Very recently, I attended the Discovery Weekend for the third time. This time, I was with my fiancee Rezza. We were engaged to be married two months after the retreat.
Our retreat was not all nice and rosy. I did have my frustrations and my struggles. Rezza understood me, sometimes more than I understood myself. She knew many sides of me that I wasn’t acknowledging.
I knew better to listen to her, to be open to her, to pray for acceptance of each other’s thoughts and feelings.
In a very meaningful way, I understood Rezza at a very deep level. I knew what was important for me. I understood what was important for Rezza. And we both knew that there was always a higher intention, a higher purpose where we could both agree and where we were both happy.
Three ways to respond to your partner’s feelings.
Hint: Only one way helps both partners grow.
As a way to spread the blessings of Discovery Weekend, I’d like to share one of the very powerful lessons I learned.
There are only three ways to respond to your partner’s feelings.
For instance, if one partner expresses: “I feel disappointed about how delayed we are with …” (wedding preparations, for example)
1.) Rejection. Non-acceptance of the feeling expressed.
“That’s not true”
or “That’s not right”
or “You shouldn’t feel that way” …
THAT is rejection.
In the sample replies above, there was no clarification of the feeling and no acknowledgement of the feeling. There wasn’t a chance for the partners to reconcile the feelings and the issues related to it.
2.) Toleration. Sweeping the issue under a rug.
“If you would just limit your spending then I’ll be able to save more.”
or “What if I stopped writing for my sideline business, would you stop attending your weekly girl’s night-out?”
In the above replies, both take the form of a negotiation. It’s as if one or both partners need to “give-in” to resolve an issue. Ultimately, one or both of the partners are “giving-up” something just to create a temporary relief from the real issue.
3.) Acceptance. True acceptance and respect for each others feelings.
“Do you feel disappointed because of … ?” (clarification)
“I now understand that you are disappointed…” (acknowledging the feeling, accepting the feeling as neither wrong nor right.)
“What I feel about this situation is …” (expressing your own feelings)
“What is your higher intention or motivation? How can we make things better for both of us?” (Searching for the higher intention)
This is what Rezza and I learned, also with the help of our NLP background. What is important is to search together for the higher intention of both individuals. Trust that in most if not all situations, there is a higher intention that both of you will agree, where both of you will be happy, and both of your needs/intentions/motivations will be addressed.
In retrospect, I can relate the three responses — Rejection, Toleration, Acceptance — to each of the three relationships I had when I attended the Discovery Weekend.
The first time I attended DW, I was in a relationship with my college sweetheart, let’s call her Chief. In that relationship, I felt that I was living too much in a “nice and rosy” world without any problems. I failed to see the signs. When Chief tried to express her concerns, I was trying to listen to her through logic. I felt she was wrong based on my logic. I was REJECTING what she was expressing and I was using logic as my basis.
In turn, at some point, she just got too exasperated when we weren’t connecting. She shut me out, stopped communicating with me. When our relationship turned sour, Chief didn’t explain fully what was happening.
The way I see it today, I feel that she was REJECTING her own feelings. I felt as if she stopped giving herself a chance to express her truth.
She was also REJECTING me by shutting me out. I felt she stopped giving our relationship a chance to make things better. It takes two to tango. It looked funny dancing alone. Thus ended my 13 year relationship with Chief.
After dusting myself off from my heartbreak, I entered into another relationship. Let’s name her Lulu.
At that stage in my life, I was on the success track, the self-empowering mindsets track. I was fired-up to make this relationship work, against all odds. This time, I was determined to make things work. I knew I had my own baggage. I acknowledged that she had her own baggage.
I felt as if I could move the mountains just to give Lulu a relationship where she could be happy. And this was a huge mistake on my part.
I found myself giving up many of my passions because Lulu didn’t agree with what I believed in.
For instance, there were times that I just needed to choose between serving at PSI (a leadership and success seminar) with my PSI friends or spending time with Lulu. Although I felt very nourished, empowered and happy with my PSI frinds, Lulu didn’t like my PSI circle of friends. She chose to be un-involved. That left me torn, having to choose between spending time with Lulu OR my PSI friends.
In a more extreme case, I had to choose between spending time with my brothers OR spending time with Lulu — because she didn’t like my brothers. She would say: “Hindi ko naman sila pakakasalan, eh.” (I’m not marrying them, anyway.)
I didn’t force her to like them, but a part of me was torn each time I needed to choose between my passions OR my relationship with Lulu. I died each time.
In retrospect, I was TOLERATING things with Lulu. I was giving-in and I was losing my soul. I could imagine that she too was giving-in and “putting-up” with my eccentricities or inadequacies. She too was TOLERATING me. She too was TOLERATING what I held dear to me. She wasn’t at peace with the person that I was. Eventually, it turned out to be the same for me, I wasn’t at peace with the person I was with.
I bless both these past relationships with Chief and Lulu. I know that our good Lord had given me these relationships so that I may learn lessons from them. I pray that they have found meaning in the relationship I had with them.
The third time I attended the Discovery Weekend, I was engaged to Rezza, to be married two months after our retreat.
I came into the retreat totally open to whatever else there was to learn from the Discovery Weekend. I was open to learning about myself, and learning about Rezza. I knew that although it was essentially the same retreat, I was coming in as a different person, and I was coming in with a different person. I was ready to make the most out of our Discovery Weekend.
We had our own share of arguments, disagreements, differences. I’ve learned that it’s all part of the package. If I wanted a partner who agreed with me 100%, then I should have just married myself, right? 😀
We frantically took notes at the retreat, something we learned to do as participants in numerous seminars and being ourselves trainers. We took all our dialogues to heart. We had heated discussions too. Many times, I had to take a few minutes of “time-out” because my emotions were running high.
Rezza and I learned about searching for our own and each other’s higher intention. I would think and ask:
- What is it that Rezza was *really* trying to say.
- Beyond all the details, the tactical stuff, what was it that Rezza really aims for?
- What was her higher purpose?
This has become one of our most powerful ways of communicating. On a deeper level, it is about understanding each other’s higher intentions. 😉 (Thank you NLP!)
This is what ACCEPTANCE is about. Respecting each other’s feelings, values, beliefs. And aiming to understand each other’s higher intentions.
When we discussed our issues at a higher plane (not on the level of tactical things said or done), we start to understand that we both want the same or similar things in our lives. And then we have clearer minds to work together towards our shared higher intention.
My Latest Discovery Weekend
Rezza and I tied the knot two months after attending the retreat. And we work on our relationship day-by-day. I know better this time that there are no assurances, and that we just need to nurture our relationship day-by-day.
Two months into our marriage, Rezza and I served as Auxiliary Staff for the Discovery Weekend.
We helped make sure that the participants of the retreat were appropriately supported with the right materials, music, lighting, airconditioning, food, visuals and everything else that could help make the retreat effective for the participant-couples.
This is also our way to refresh ourselves with the lessons of the Discovery Weekend. We took a brand new perspective listening to our Lay Chaplain couple. We listened intently to our couple-sharers as well as our couple-participants, all blessed by the retreat.
Fourth, Fifth and Nth Discovery Weekend
Going back to our dinner table with our lay chaplains Tito Jojo and Tita Ditsy, I mentioned to them that it was my fourth time to attend the seminar with four different women.
“Who was the fourth woman?”, you might ask.
Her name is Rezza.
She is no longer the Rezza I knew before our wedding.
She is a different person each passing day.
She grows, she heals, she discovers.
She is now my wife Rezza, my best friend, my confidante.
In a similar way, I am a different person now.
I’m aim to learn more openly, love more deeply, live more purposefully.
We’ve learned to discover more of each other in many different ways. It’s a continuing discovery. We learned through the Discovery Weekend that travel is a powerful way of discovering more about ourselves and about our relationship. Just recently, we spent 8 days in Cambodia. I love experiencing things for the first time with Rezza.
Thanks to ALL the lessons I learned through this retreat.
Yes, all four times that I attended the Discovery Weekend.
And truly, we are who we are today because of all the experiences we’ve had in the past.
I look back at what I went through just to be ready to be Rezza’s best friend.
I give praise to our good Lord because: God blessed the broken road that led me straight to Rezza. 🙂