Help! Saving a Sinking Marriage

Posted by Brian Kohls

The Retrouvaille weekend teaches couples ways to work. Has your marriage become drudgery? Are you often angry with or resentful of your spouse? Has work or a hobby or friends become more important than fulfilling your marriage vows? Has your spouse hurt you so badly or so often that you are considering divorce?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may need Retrouvaille. "It (Retrouvaille) is a program which gives couples tools that they can use to help fix a broken marriage," said Dale Paulin, who with his wife, Sue, are community coordinators for Lakeshore Retrouvaille, which serves the Diocese of Green Bay and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee."It is in using these tools that healing can begin in the marriage," he added. One tool Retrouvaille (ret-ro-vi) emphasizes is communication between husband and wife."I see it as a crash course in learning a way of communicating that helped us to know and understand each other better and that we were able to take home with us to use," Sue Paulin said. "The program showed me how to move beyond the unhappiness and despair I was in, how to forgive and to trust again."

Healing began when Paulins attended a Retrouvaille weekend in Wausau, in 2003. After their Retrouvaille weekend, a process of healing took place. "Personally, I know I have received a great deal of forgiveness from my wife," Dale said. "I have been able to forgive my wife.... I accept Sue more for who she is now, and I feel close to her again, closer than I have since the early years of our marriage. I am committed to my marriage now and to my wife."

Sue said Retrouvaille helped save their marriage."I can share my feelings with Dale and know that he understands my feeling even if he may not agree with or like a particular feeling I shared," she said. "We continue to work on conflict resolution and have come a long way from where we were.... We still use the tools that we learned through the Retrouvaille program. We put our marriage first, so our disagreements are no longer about someone winning or losing."Not counseling. Retrouvaille is not counseling, group therapy or an encounter group, Sue said. Rather, it is a program "specifically designed to help couples in hurting and broken marriages to rediscover themselves, their spouses and a positive relationship once again."One couple who used the tools they learned at a Retrouvaille weekend and experienced the healing aspects of that ministry are Brad and Alice Jensen, members of St. Bruno Parish in Dousman."The presentations were healing for our marriage," Alice said. "The themes are geared toward greater understanding and acceptance of our spouses and ourselves."Brad said he hesitated to attend a Retrouvaille weekend, but his wife changed his mind."My wife was persistent and insistent," Brad said. "It was easy (to attend) because we had a recognizable need, but difficult because it ... (was) never convenient to take off for a weekend."

Would it help?Although the Jensen's ultimately attended the February 2006 Retrouvaille weekend at the Cousin Center in Milwaukee, Brad conceded that, prior to attending, he still wondered if the program would help their marriage."I went in with trepidation and I came out with delight," Brad said. "I gained a better understanding of her emotional needs and how to meet them."A Retrouvaille weekend includes presentations by one of the Retrouvaille team couples and a priest, followed by a question and quiet reflection before each couple returns to their rooms for private sharing. Each presentation focuses on a specific area of marriage."The couples are never asked to share their problems with anyone else," Sue said. "The focus remains between the couple themselves."Includes a priest. A priest is an important part of the Retrouvaille weekend."People sometimes ask why there is a priest on the team," Dale said. "We believe the importance of the priest on the presenting team was described ... by a comment one woman made after she and her spouse attended a Retrouvaille weekend. She said ... 'he is presenting God ... a God who is there with us through every phase of our marriage.'"

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