“We couldn’t talk without arguing.”
“We were living like two strangers in the same house.”
“After every meltdown, I feared our marriage might not make it.”
“The loneliness was unbearable.”
These are just some comments couples often make about their marriages before attending a Retrouvaille program.
“Retrouvaille” is a French word (pronounced Retro-VIE, with a long I) that means a “rediscovery” or “reunion” of long-lost friends meeting again and renewing a cherished friendship.
The Retrouvaille program has two main phases. The first is a weekend away, usually at a hotel or retreat facility, although it is not a spiritual retreat. Neither is it a counseling session, and there is no public sharing of couples’ problems. In fact, Retrouvaille prides itself on respecting each couple’s privacy at all times.
The weekend begins on a Friday evening, presented by three married couples who have completed the program themselves and know firsthand the pain and misery of a hurting marriage. There is also a priest on the weekend who is part of the presenting team; however, the program is ecumenical in nature, and all married couples are welcome, no matter what their faith is (or isn’t).
During the weekend, the presenting team provides tools to help couples share forgiveness with each other and renew their trust and intimacy. Couples learn a method of communication designed to help them share their feelings in a deeper, more vulnerable way, leading to better understanding between them. The weekend ends Sunday afternoon with Mass.
The second phase consists of 6 or 12 weekly sessions presented by other Retrouvaille couples who help provide support to the couples and expand on what they have learned on the weekend. These communication techniques are further developed to explore additional areas of the relationship.
“During the weekend and the follow-ups, couples work on all aspects of their marriage, including conflict management,” said Domenic and Anna Procope, the coordinators of Retrouvaille of Delaware Valley. “Some of the other areas we examine are: our families of origin; the masks that we wear; intimacy and sexuality; and forgiveness and learning to trust again.”
“We say that the experience is complete when you have done the weekend and the follow-up discussions,” said Father Andrew Torma, M.S.C., a Retrouvaille presenter, in residence at Sacred Heart Villa, Center Valley. “I’ve learned about the capacity to heal any type of broken relationship through listening to the feelings of the spouse.”
Couples can also participate in a third phase, a monthly support meeting, called CORE (Continuing Our Retrouvaille Experience). It allows for casual and supportive interaction with other couples.
Some people wonder how Retrouvaille is different from Marriage Encounter (ME). Father Torma has presented for both programs: ME since 1978 and Retrouvaille since 1992.
Father Torma explained, “ME strengthens a marriage; Retrouvaille saves a marriage. We say you deserve Marriage Encounter, and you need Retrouvaille.”
When asked how the program evaluates success, Father Torma responded, “It doesn’t. The couple does that. Personally, I see many couples leaving the weekend with a sense of hope.”
The Retrouvaille website says 76% of couples are still married to the same spouse at the five-year anniversary of their Retrouvaille weekend.
Each community sets its own registration fee per couple. No one is denied the chance to heal their marriage due to financial challenges, and assistance is available.
For more information or to register for a Retrouvaille weekend, visit www.HelpOurMarriage.org or call 215-766-3944 or 800-470-2230. All inquiries are strictly confidential.