We speak to the woman aiming to improve one marriage at a time with the first service of its kind in the Middle East.
With divorce rates in Egypt rising 83% in the last 20 years and few steps being taken to fix the epidemic, The RE is a new couples’ retreat looking to push the boundaries of what a marriage can be. The first of its kind in the Middle East, it uses the concept of the traditional, let’s call it ‘western’ retreat, but with Egyptian nuances. While the concept itself is nothing new, it’s the way in which founder, Rasha Salama, applies it that makes all the difference. Essentially, The RE a retreat specifically tailored for Egyptian couples.
The retreat provides three types of services; individual couple’s retreat, group couple retreats and events, the latter being the base of the project, which initially started off as a series of events for couples in 2017.
All programs are created with Egyptian cultural norms and considerations kept in mind, though Salama is quick to explain that this doesn’t mean that the programs are restrictive. For the individual couple's retreat, Salama designs unique programs that are specific to each couple, by evaluating and understanding the couple's dynamic.
“I have an assessment meeting with every couple, so that I can understand what makes them tick,” she explains. “I get to know what their interests are and the nature of their relationship. I ask them questions about how they met and the challenges they face with each other and from there I’m able to tailor a program, suited exclusively to them.”
I don't believe in settling, at least on a personal level. I don't want an ‘okay marriage’, I want a happy one.
The founder, who holds a bachelors in Psychology, and masters in Counseling Psychology, revealed that the challenges faced by the couples range from trust issues, to arguments on how they’ll raise their kids, to a difference in personality traits. The assessment of the couple is what will determine the nature of the program and the types of activities and games chosen for them.
"We either plan the whole itinerary for them and it's not limited to just traveling within Egypt, but abroad as well. So when it's abroad, we get in touch with the travel agencies and everything. It's also not just about the sightseeing in the country they're traveling to; we add the activities and the games. Or if the couple has their own travel itinerary, then we stick to it but apply the program we tailored for them," elaborates Salama.
When asked about the challenges she's faced in opening The RE, Salama says that it's mainly the men that are skeptical of the unorthodox method of group couple retreats. She speculates that it could be because men by nature are more focused and driven by their work. The RE aims to change that notion, emphasizing the importance of a healthy relationship, in that it reflects on each individual's personal wellbeing and general mental health.
"So far, most of the skepticism we've encountered was from the men, who initially aren't really comfortable with the notion of partaking in activities. It's only once they’re in the retreat that they realize how much fun it was – not only to spend time with other couples, but with their partners as well," elaborates Salama.
Having worked as a couple's therapist for years, Salama has a fitting background and is well researched opinion on the matter. When asked about why she founded The Re, she reveals that she had gone through a bit of turbulence within her own relationship. At the urging of her husband, they left the kids at home with their grandparents, packed up and went for a much needed scuba diving trip. Upon coming back, she felt like a changed person; her relationship with her husband was back on track and was ready to live her best life. And that's when it came to her, these are the types of things that bring couples closer and keep them in a happy marriage. Sharing experiences together, that do not revolve around work, or the daily routines, is what does it.
"I don't believe in settling, at least on a personal level. I don't want an ‘okay marriage’, I want a happy one. I want to enjoy and experience my best life. And that's what I want to give people. This, in essence, is what we want the retreat to achieve," Rasha explains.