On the Mend

Jan. 20-26, 2005
On the Mend
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Christian Peer Ministry Helps Couples Rebuild Marriages

Retrouvaille –– the word means “rediscovery” is a Christian ministry that offers a lifeline to couples whose marriages are in trouble. The program grew from marriage encounter retreats that focus on marriage enrichment, but instead teaches couples the tools they need to rebuild their marriages. “Retrouvaille takes the concepts from marriage encounter and, using those same communication tools, teaches couples how to communicate, rebuild trust, forgive the past and really learn about themselves and their spouses,” explained Kim Doyle, a Retrouvaille presenter and former participant. Marriage Encounters events are one weekend long. Retrouvaille begins as a weekend event but is followed by 12 additional sessions. There is also an ongoing support system through CORE (Continuing our Retrouvaille Experience).

The Retrouvaille weekend begins with husbands and wives re-establishing communication and working to gain new insights into themselves as individuals and as a couple. The program is presented by three married couples and a priest. The team couples, who have experienced disillusionment, pain, anger and conflict, offer hope as they share their personal stories of struggle, reconciliation and healing with others. Retrouvaille is Catholic in origin, but is open to all faiths and to couples at all stages in their relationships –– even those who may already be separated and divorced. When Shawn and Kim Doyle began the Retrouvaille experience, they were on the verge of divorce. They had tried counseling with both a priest and a secular counselor but were unable to get past the hurt and resentment present in their marriage. “I saw a notice in our church bulletin while we were living in Minnesota,” said Kim. After obtaining additional information, Kim presented it to her husband Shawn. “I knew that we were absolutely struggling,” said Shawn. “At that point, I thought I would give it a try. I knew I was going to come out of that weekend either getting divorced or knowing where I stood.”

That was in 1998. Since then, the couple has not only rebuilt their marriage but also became actively involved in the program on a national level. When Shawn had the opportunity to move to the Binghamton area for his job, Kim looked to see if there was a Retrouvaille program available in the southern region. There wasn’t. “We felt like we had the call to come here and a lot of that had to do with Retrouvaille,” said Kim. “We felt that this is what God was calling us to do –– start a Retrouvaille chapter in this area.” Shawn’s job transfer allowed him and his wife to spend more time together. Previously, his life of non-stop travel ultimately caused theeir relationship to deteriorate. “Shawn traveled so much that when he came home, I felt like he was intruding on my life,” said Kim. “I definitely felt the stress in the household when I came home,” he added. “We had no relationship,” said Kim. “That went on for six to eight years. Even being in the same room with him was extremely difficult. But after the three days at Retrouvaille, I had new hope for our relationship.” Kim said that she and Shawn were living their own lives, rarely doing anything together. While other forms of counseling didn’t work, Kim said that the testimonials of the other couples at the weekend program helped a great deal. “We realized that others had overcome major obstacles using the tools that were taught,” said Kim. “The feeling of unconditional love by the participants was a very spiritual experience for me. I had pulled away from God and the church and felt very isolated in my misery.”

Matt and Cheryl Jarrold had a similar situation where Matt was continuously traveling and only home on the weekends. While he longed for a home-cooked meal and some down time, Cheryl couldn’t wait to get out and get a break from taking care of the kids. “That caused a lot of conflict and the disintegration of our relationship,” said Cheryl. “We were both doing our own thing –– living a married singles lifestyle.” When the Jarrold’s 14-year-old son had to step between them to break up a fight, the couple knew that they needed help. “That was a real wake-up call,” said Cheryl. “I was devastated for him.” Just days after that climactic event, Matt saw an article about Retrouvaille in the Press and Sun Bulletin. At the same time, Cheryl’s mother handed her the article. “After talking to Kim and getting some preliminary information, I knew we had to do something,” said Cheryl. “I thank God my mother showed me that article.” Matt agreed to try the program, but with some apprehension. “Most of my concerns were, ‘Do I have to share personal information? Do I have to talk in front of a crowd?’ But you don’t have to do that. The only sharing is between the couples,” said Matt. “The weekend is like a glass of water thrown in your face,” said Shawn. “It gets you going.” “The post weekends reinforce the concepts taught on the weekend as well as introduce new topics,” added Kim.

“Retrouvaille gave me a sense of hope,” said Cheryl. “I knew that given the tools, we could put them to good use. You learn to communicate all over again. Through all of this, we knew we still loved each other.” “It’s always better to be proactive than reactive,” added Matt. “Life happens.” For more information about the Retrouvaille Program call Kim or Shawn Doyle at (607) 797-0790 or visit these websites: www.retrouvaille.org or www.helpourmarriage.com.

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