Retrouvaille is a program designed to help heal and renew couples who are in trouble with their marriage, including those who are separated or divorced.
Where did Retrouvaille originate?
Retrouvaille began in 1977 as a French language weekend for hurting marriages in the province of Quebec, Canada. It was adapted into English by the community in Toronto, who also revised and strengthened the contents of the weekend and developed the post-weekend programs. From 1982 Retrouvaille has spread through the U.S.A., South America and then into Australia and to others countries in the world.
Who is it for?
A wag once said "marriages might be made in heaven, but they sure take a lot of work on earth." With so many marriages ending in divorce, bishops in many countries have called for a ministry for hurting marriages. Pope John Paul has also called for a similar ministry. Retrouvaille is one response to that need. Retrouvaille (sometimes called by the English equivalent - "Rediscovery") offers a weekend experience with follow-up sessions which help couples reflect on the strengths as well as the difficulties of their marital relationship.
Couples from all ages and backgrounds attend. Some are separated or divorced, but want to try again. Many have struggled to stay together, sometimes with outside help, but more often not knowing where to turn. What all these couples have is a desire to build a stable relationship. Although Retrouvaille is Catholic in origin and orientation, couples from other religious backgrounds attend. In the screening process for Retrouvaille, both husband and wife are asked individually and confidentially to indicate their desire to seek help in their marriage. There can be no existing third party relationships. Couples already in counselling are asked to get the approval of their counsellor. Persons with chemical dependency are also urged to seek help for their situation. Prior to the weekend, participants are given details about the weekend and make a commitment to the follow-up program. The screening process intention is to avoid major surprises or false hopes.
What happens at a Retrouvaille Weekend?
Retrouvaille is presented by married couples and a priest. The program tries to have as leaders, couples who have grown through serious disillusionment, pain and conflict in their relationships. These couples offer hope as they share their personal stories of struggle, reconciliation and healing. As the team couples talk about the very intimate and deep hurts they have experienced, participants can find the courage to express some of their own pain. In sharing their values and insights, team couples offer a message so different from society's model if independence and selfishness. Hurting couples are invited to see how listening, forgiveness, communication and even fighting are healthy tools for building a stable relationship.
How does a Retrouvaille Weekend enhance a Marriage?
Counsellors are forced by circumstances of time to focus on the problems and solutions to the problems. In Retrouvaille, we are able to focus more intensely on persons and feelings, on the whole relationship, and to build on the natural strengths of the couple. When you look at a fly under a microscope, you see only part of the wing. Couples sharing their experience and talking about their struggles can help a hurting couple to look beyond just their pain to rediscover each other again." The primary goal of the ministry is to provide help for couples who live in the disappointment and pain of a marriage in trouble. The weekend helps couples communicate and to gain an awareness of themselves and of their relationship. The post-weekend phase of the Retrouvaille program is as critical to a troubled marriage as the initial weekend experience. The degree of disappointment, hurt, deterioration and despair in hurting marriages cannot be healed in one weekend. Restoration takes time. The post-weekend provides a support group as couples discuss concepts of the importance of listening and intimacy. At a time when extended families, neighborhood groups and positive parish communities are limited the couples can at least find support from this source.
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