dog, and a house, and — the couple says — they needed time alone to reconnect, if just to discuss family matters.
The first order of business was to hire an overnight baby-sitter and check into a nearby hotel. The Williamses purchased individual notebooks, a calendar, and a calculator to go over the household budget. They dedicated an entire weekend to working on their finances. “I think in the beginning of [any] marriage, there are shared goals, but you have to revisit those goals,” says Ammie. “You need to tweak [them] if [they aren't] working.” The couple also discusses individual goals so that they may be more supportive of each other. “We discuss what’s important to me as a person, so I am not just a wife and mother,” explains Ammie.
These individual goals can be professional or personal. While Paul might set professional goals such as generating his “gross billings” at his law firm for the year, his personal goal is to develop any hobby — a specific retreat agenda item he admits is so far unsuccessful. Ammie, however, might set a personal goal to get started on that book she’s always wanted to write. The Williamses are constantly revising their shared goals as a couple, too. When they were a young couple living in an apartment, one of their shared goals was to buy a house. Having accomplished that particular goal, they are revisiting old goals and establishing new ones.
For instance, budgets and expenditures are always a big item on the Williamses’ agenda, according to Paul. He says that they live in an old house, built in 1902, that needs “a lot of help from time to time.” Paul and Ammie use the retreat as a time to sit down and map out what they want to accomplish: rewiring the electricity, putting on a new roof, or building a new deck. From there, they will plan it out in the context of budge
ting and priority. Today, they are developing a plan to prepare them for life when the children are away at college. (Their oldest child starts college in four years.)
“We end up getting things done by looking at items on a longer time frame,” he says. “One year, we’ll look at things we want to do. Then, we’ll look at our time line: When can we do them? Can we do them within the year? Or do we need to [extend the time frame]? Retreats give us a planning tool. On the other side of the coin [regarding] more people-oriented things, we will sit down and talk about activities for the kids. We look at what we are doing now; where we want to enhance and augment [our children's education]; and how we do that. We’ll take steps to put one of our kids into a program during the year that we might not have thought about if we hadn’t spent time thinking about that [at a retreat].”
Sometimes a discussion on the possibility of private school comes up, but because his