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Program Offers a Lifeline

The Inland Register

Eric Meisfjord
Editor PO Box 48,
Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340
FAX: (509) 358-7302

Published every three weeks, circulation 10,100.

Retrouvaille program offers a lifeline for troubled marriages by Bonita Lawhead,
Inland Register Feb 10 1999

With America¹s national divorce rate at nearly 50 percent, it seems clear that the institution of marriage needs help. A program with a French name in use for nearly 20 years is making a small dent in those statistics.

The program is Retrouvaille, a Catholic-originated program started in Canada about 1979 to help bring healing to troubled, hurting marriages. Couples who sign up for a Retrouvaille weekend often do so because nothing else has helped them. The couple¹s marriage may be on the rocks and they figure they might as well give the program a chance. ³We didn¹t have anything to lose,² many of them will say.

For the couples who go through Retrouvaille (which is a French word that means ³rediscovery²), the program helps them ³rediscover² that their marriage and their love for each other is worth saving and gives them new communications tools to help break patterns of angry behavior.

Listen to Pat and Cheryl, married nearly six years:

Pat: ³We were able to re-achieve emotional intimacy. It (Retrouvaille) doesn¹t deal with problems; it deals with feelings the problems have caused. It increased communication (between us) and has made a big difference. It was the most powerful weekend I¹ve ever experienced.²

Cheryl: ³It¹s given us, and me, a second chance. I have no doubt (our marriage) would have failed. We seemed to have lost or overlooked how our actions make our spouses feel. It had such a positive effect; it¹s a wonderful program.²

Keith and Jan, married 19 years, entered Retrouvaille as a last resort:

Keith: ³I found the weekend to be extremely emotional and moving. It was definitely a learning and a bonding experience. It opened up channels of communication between us and gave us tools to meet the challenge of communicating. It¹s a very valuable program for the community.²

Jan: ³I¹ve never seen so many people impacted in such a short period of time (during Retrouvaille). It gave us a way of talking to each other where it¹s safe. We knew we had areas that needed to be addressed, and we can have conversations (about them) and not get in heated arguments.²

Both couples strongly recommend the program to anyone in a hurting marriage.

Retrouvaille is modeled after the Marriage Encounter program, but there are some ³signficant differences,² said Sister Carol Ann Warnke who directs Retrouvaille at St. Joseph Family Center in Spokane. One of those differences is that Retrouvaille has a 12-lesson follow-up done in a period of six weeks following the weekend. About 70 percent of the couples who complete all seven weeks say they are ³very satisfied² with the results, and the divorce statistics bear this out: for Retrouvaille couples, the divorce rate is one in 1,105. Couples who have finished the seven weeks are invited to join the Retrouvaille support group called Cor. A few go further and are trained as presenters.

Retrouvaille is open to all married couples of any age or religious denomination, and each weekend accommodates 13 couples. Some couples are separated and some are already divorced. Not all couples can qualify for the program; many have personal issues that must be handled first. For some couples, cost can be a hindrance, but Sister Carol Ann said sponsorships are sometimes available.

A couple¹s spirituality and life centered on God is the major focus of the program. One of the key components is that the weekend¹s workshops are given by trained Retrouvaille couples, assisted by Sister Carol Ann as coordinator and Father Eugene Glatt of Rosalia as spiritual moderator.

Many couples appreciate the Retrouvaille couple presenters, who share stories of their own marriage. Testimony from those who have worked through a hurting marriage with Retrouvaille gives credence to what they present and hope to those listening. Retrouvaille is international in scope, and there is an 800 telephone number that can be called‹1-800-470-2230. This telephone line connects couples with the closest Retrouvaille in their area code.

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