From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Couple credits Retrouvaille experience for helping save marriage

the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 6, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Retrouvaille is a weekend program with follow-up sessions, for couples who are experiencing troubled marriages. The emphasis is on a new technique of communication between a husband and wife.

The word “retrouvaille” means “rediscovery” – a couple learning to rediscover those parts of their relationship and each other which brought them together and kept them together.

During the weekend, a series of in-depth presentations are given. Each presentation, given by one of three married couples and a priest, focuses on a specific area of a marriage relationship. After each presentation, the couples will have a chance to reflect, and then discuss it with their spouse in the complete privacy of their room.

The weekend is not a spiritual retreat, not a sensitivity group, not a seminar, nor is it a social gathering. The couples are encouraged to put the past behind them and start “rediscovering” one another again. The weekend is not a miracle cure. The six post-weekend sessions have been designed to continue the marriage renewal begun on the weekend. These post-weekend sessions review earlier concepts in greater depth, present new ones and help to apply these concepts to their own marriage.

Roy and Betty Wheeler are a contact couple for Retrouvaille. They offered their personal reflections on their experience with the program.

Betty: When my husband and I separated it was to be a short “time-out.” After a few weeks, some misunderstanding in a situation brought about a lot of anger and feelings of betrayal on both sides, and we seemed to shut down emotionally towards each other.

Our “trial” separation extended to about nine months. Divorce seemed inevitable. But somehow neither of us could bring ourselves to pull the plug on our marriage. Only God knew the process we would have to go through if we were to find our way back to one another.

The Retrouvaille experience was the tool God used to break our impasse. We were required to face each other. After all the months of alienation we were not quite prepared for the emotional excavation that took place. We communicated, deeply, and did so in a way that was non-threatening.

The Retrouvaille experience confirmed what I thought was missing in our relationship: deeper communication. I enjoyed the aspect of sharing. It was against the relationship rules to take offense when spouses revealed what was in their heart. We were free to share our struggles in a way that was not offending. That helped create a situation where openness and trust could begin again.

It was a challenge to come back together and restore intimacy after the time apart. I struggled with guilt for the things I did that contributed to our break. I still struggle against returning to the old behavior patterns that led to our problems in the first place. I struggle with hardness of heart from going over the same ground, from stress. I realized that I don’t want mediocrity and I won’t settle for less than what I’ve seen is possible.

During our Retrouvaille experience I learned about forgiveness and the sacrament that is marriage. Remembering these things keeps my heart in a place of willingness, where I can ask God for the grace to not give up.

I know God was and is with us. Since he is love, I have faith that he will increase the love we have for each other as we continue to choose love, forgiveness, and openness.

Roy: It is hard for me to think back to our nine-month separation. During that time my heart ran an emotional roller coaster. We were offered various marriage courses, seminars, counseling, and so on, but I was unwilling. Finally I agreed to go to Retrouvaille.

As a result of experiencing Retrouvaille, our separation ended, and I tasted something that I had never tasted before: a hope and encouragement that our marriage could be better than ever.

My Retrouvaille experience was the tool the Lord used to bring us back together. It brought back the hope that I had lost: that our marriage still had a chance.

We give thanks to the God of Hope who heals and restores, and give thanks for those who have offered their lives in making the Retrouvaille experience a possibility.

(Retrouvaille weekends for Idaho and Eastern Washington are held at St. Joseph Family Center in Spokane. Spokane weekend dates are Feb. 14-16, May 16-18, and Sept. 12-14. For more information contact: Roy & Betty at: 888-251-5911 pin 8422 or 208-255-5978.)

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