• 02/20/2021
  • Sauna

How Sauna Saved Our Marriage

“Fifteen, two. Fifteen, four. A pair for six. A pair for eight.”

We were playing our third game of cribbage, sitting on a porch, wrapped in towels, steam emanating from our wet hair. We were cooling down from our first round of sauna and breathing in the crisp air which was a welcome reprieve from the heat and löyly.

Our weekend getaway was the first of many trips to get our next fix. This sauna addiction has led us to cold northern lands, in contrast to our prior adventures to the south and west in search of warmer weather.

The obsession began April of 2015. My younger brother invited us to Madison, Wisconsin over Easter weekend. So, my husband, our four kids, my parents, grandma, and older brother drove from our home in Minnesota to stay at a vacation rental near his apartment. The owners of the rental had an electric sauna attached to their personal residence that guests were welcome to use.

The second night we were there, we laid our kids down to sleep and Christopher asked me to join him for a sauna. He grew up in California and didn’t usually thaw until mid-summer, so he used hotel saunas to heat up during the long winter months. I didn’t love sauna and, at the time, I didn’t particularly love my husband either. From the outside, our life looked good. We ran our own business from home. We homeschooled our four beautiful children. We were debt free except for our house. Because of these things, we could travel whenever we wanted. Our life seemed perfect.

But underneath the facade was a toxic marriage riddled with resentment, anger, hurt, loneliness, and discouragement. For the past year and a half, we were like two strangers living in the same house. We functioned as business partners and as parental units, but there were only hints of a marriage.

So when Christopher asked me to sauna that evening, I reluctantly agreed to go, for reasons that still escape me. After changing into swimsuits, grabbing a few towels and flip flops, we walked the country block to the sauna. April. Wisconsin. At night. Swimsuits. IT WAS COLD!

Shivering upon our arrival, we quickly cranked the sauna dial to high and waited to heat up. It took a while for us to warm up and start sweating. But after some time, we couldn’t stay any longer and braced ourselves for the cold night air as we opened the sauna door.

Gasp! We started at a brisk pace to get back to the house, but with each step and each breath, we slowed down. There were no cars, no people, no street noises. Just Christopher and I. Under the stars. In our swimsuits. Leaving a trail of steam as we walked along the quiet country road. And then it hit. That feeling of euphoria. We both felt invigorated and more alive than we had felt in a very long time.

“Let’s do a weekend getaway with a sauna.”

What began as curiosity about the history of sauna became an obsession with authentic Finnish wood-fired sauna. We started with the soft stuff like watching YouTube videos and reading a few books. But it quickly escalated to seeking the nearest wood-fired sauna. Our addiction has led us to places like Thunder Bay, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and northern Minnesota. Christopher even created a Facebook group and a website to document and share this obsession!

Our new love of sauna naturally created a space that allowed us to be vulnerable with each other again. It’s hard to be defensive and cruel when you’re sitting naked next to someone, sweating profusely, feeling your heart pounding in your chest. It’s hard to think about anything mean-spirited when the water hisses on the rocks and löyly dances through the sauna. It’s hard to hate someone when you’re cooling down next to the lake, drinking lemonade, watching the sunset, and feeling euphoric.

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Post sauna sledding on one of our sauna adventures

Discovering sauna reminded us of what it was like to explore something together and be on the same team. It started the process of peeling away the layers of resentment, hurt, and loneliness, and allowed healing to begin in our marriage. That process is not complete since marriage is not a “one and done” thing. But we are in a much better place.

I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that our marriage is a journey. It ebbs and flows. There are times when we feel close and connected (like in a sauna) and times when we are more distant because the kids have been sick, work has been stressful, and frustrations are running high. But finding those things that allow us to be vulnerable and honest with each other are critical to our marriage journey. And for us, this time around, it was sauna that saved our marriage.

Rice, J. (2017, August 10). How Sauna Saved Our Marriage. Sauna Digest. https://saunadigest.com/how-sauna-saved-our-marriage-60ad372713fa

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