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Program Helps Mend Marriages

Church-based program helps mend marriages headed for divorce

Associated Press Some couples contemplating divorce or separation are finding that a church-based program designed to salvage troubled marriages is breathing much needed life back into their relationships.

After 38 years of marriage, four children and 13 grandchildren, a Macomb County judge granted the divorce of Rolf and Alyce Young. He delayed the effect of his decree for 30 days. In that time, the couple decided they wanted to stay together.

That was in 1991. Now the Washington Township couple is happily married and helping others who are contemplating divorce.

"We knew we wanted to save our marriage, but we weren't sure we had the tools," Alyce Young told the Detroit Free Press recently.

They were referred by friends at their church to Retrouvaille

Retrouvaille -- French for "rediscovery" -- is for married couples on the verge of divorce or already split. It operates under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church, but the 18-year-old program receives no church funding and is open to all, regardless of religious affiliation.

Retrouvaille uses a weekend session at a hotel, and six follow-up meetings. Although it has a spiritual element, it is not a religious retreat or sensitivity group. It is run by teams of married couples who have been through the program, not psychologists or therapists.

The Youngs attended a Retrouvaille weekend in November 1991 and believe it is the best thing they ever did for their marriage. They were so impressed, they trained as a "team couple" and now run the Detroit area's program.

"We've never been this close and this happy as a couple," said Rolf Young, 61.

Retrouvaille attempts to re-establish trust and communication in damaged relationships, he said. It operates from the premise that most marriages can and should be saved.

"What we do is try to get to the couples to communicate on a feelings basis rather than on a solution of the problem basis," he said.

It's a lesson the Youngs learned the hard way. Their relationship had been troubled for some time, but they didn't recognize it until the mid-1980s. Rolf Young sought a divorce.

"When the children left, we didn't know how to be a couple," said Alyce Young, 60.

But by 1990, Rolf had moved out and the Youngs were back in divorce court. They sold their dream home.

"The problem had become a forgiveness thing. She could not forgive me for filing for divorce without telling her. I finally asked her, 'Can you forgive me before I die?"' Rolf said.

With the help of Retrouvaille, Alyce forgave her husband for filing for divorce. It taught the couple how to talk to each other and how to accept each other's feelings.

Retrouvaille has helped couples through infidelity, money fights, sexual problems, emotional abuse and work-related stress, said Mark Squier, who, along with his wife Betty, coordinated the area Retrouvaille program during its first few years.

Betty Squier said Retrouvaille tries to contact participants two years after they go through the program to see how they are doing. Sixty-six percent of the couples who attended in 1993 were surveyed earlier this year. Of those people, 82 percent were together.

For more information on Retrouvaille , call 313-237-6052 anytime. There's a $375 fee, but help is available for couples who cannot afford it.

Copyright 1995, The Detroit News

Or call 1-800-470-2230 in the United States