Local News Archive
Print Issue: January 7, 1999
Retrouvaille Offers Hope For Troubled Marriages
BY PRISCILLA GREEAR
ATLANTA--Retrouvaille, a Catholic ministry for couples in troubled marriages and for separated and divorced couples considering reconciliation, helps participants to better understand their relationship while teaching them practical skills to bring healing and renewal.
The next Retrouvaille program begins Jan. 15-17 and it will also be offered on three future dates in 1999. Open to couples of any religious background, age and length of marriage, Retrouvaille is encouraging couples with problems to participate and benefit from the experience.
Wed like to get more Catholics on the weekend, said Atlanta program coordinator Marianne Scales.
Established in the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 1985, Retrouvaille is presented at a local hotel by a priest and three trained, volunteer couples who have participated in the program themselves.
Typically 20 to 30 couples attend. Both members of the couple must have a willingness to participate. They are also asked to resolve any extramarital affairs and to acknowledge alcohol or drug problems before registering.
Volunteer couples, sharing personal stories of pain, reconciliation and healing, give talks on values, conflict, forgiveness, sexuality, trust, intimacy and marriage as a sacrament. Other topics include expressing feelings, understanding behavior patterns and how they affect the spouse, taking responsibility for ones actions, understanding the influence society has on marital expectations, communication skills and seeing marriage from a spiritual perspective.
The focus is to help couples, who may be coping with serious and diverse problems such as infidelity or the death of a child, realize how forgiveness and communication can help build stable relationships.
Scales, who attended Retrouvaille with her husband 10 years ago and has been a volunteer since then, said the program offers hope.
We mostly share our pain and what our stories are and we share how weve recovered from that pain, said Scales. Were not counseling, not telling them what to do.
Scales said the program helps people know and accept themselves in order to better communicate their values and needs with their spouses and to accept their spouses.
(Couples) leave their troubles on the back burner and look at themselves first...realizing that they are children of God.
God is like a spiritual presence, she said, although the program is not a retreat. We talk about God in our lives, God in our marriages. The spirituality is the core of it, but I dont think that the people that come on the weekend have to have a lot of spirituality. God gives us grace.
Couples who attend do not share their experiences with other participants or with the presenters. After each session, each couple meets alone to practice with each other the communication technique learned. As healing requires time, couples who attend the weekend are also encouraged to attend four follow-up Saturday sessions involving more in-depth exploration of weekend topics. In addition, various support groups are offered to continue the healing process.
A couple in their mid-30s from Warner Robins who participated in November, said the program has given them communication tools and hope for their 16-year marriage.
At times geographically separated by work, the couple, who asked not to be identified, said they have also had problems with communication, finances and fidelity.
In facing the problems, the wife said her struggle has been in not listening, yelling, blaming her spouse for their problems and trying to change him.
The husband said he has struggled with his difficulty expressing his feelings, with wanting to be alone and make plans without considering his wife and trying to ignore problems instead of addressing them.
Despite marriage counseling, the husband said he considered divorce last year.
The difficulty was in communicating....She did want to communicate and I didnt. Id rather just wish the problems away or hope that in time theyd subside or disappear, he said.
His wife felt deeply rejected.
I was doing everything and anything just hoping to keep my marriage going. I was beginning to hear, I dont want to be with you. The thing that made it most difficult and painful was my solution was all about what would work for me and I was being insistent upon it instead of letting him explain his feelings, she said.
From the Retrouvaille experience, the couple has gained a new desire to overcome marital difficulties and has begun setting aside discussion time daily. The wife said Retrouvaille is helping her to develop better listening skills and to become more accepting of her spouse without trying to change him.
I dont think were out of the woods yet. I think were more aware of each other and were more able to share where were coming from--our opinions--without feeling threatened, she said. Even though we still have challenges, things to work out--I think we always will--we have a hope that we havent had in months and months and months because of the stories weve heard, because of the example we saw in the group.
For the husband, the weekend has given him a greater recognition of his wifes efforts to sustain the marriage as well as a desire to communicate with her and an awareness of the availability of tools to help him do it. The weekend is not going to be a fix for your marriage. You learn that the tools are out there, he said. For those of us who arent good at communicating, our field of view of whats out there is pretty limited.
It has gotten better but theres still struggle, he said. I know were not where we want to be, but were going to get there through our work.
Retrouvaille, French for rediscovery, was founded in 1977 in Quebec, Canada, and is now held throughout the U.S. and in several other countries. A study in California found that 73 percent of participants were still married one to five years after completing it.
Participating couples are requested to make an anonymous donation which covers all expenses, but those unable to pay may still attend. Retrouvaille currently has under 20 volunteers and also seeks additional volunteers, who must have been through the program, to help in various areas.
For information or to register call Greg or Susan McGrail at (770) 475-1548 or Scales at (404) 705-8834, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the program web site at http://www.retrouvaille.org.
Editor's Note: In 2003, the Retrouvaille Atlanta Community established a website to help the metro couples find out more about the local Retrouvaille program. The website can be found at: http://www.retrouvailleofatlanta.org/