Rediscovering Lost Love

Dec. 15-21, 2005
Rediscovering Lost Love
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Retrouvaille Program Offers Hope for Troubled Marriages

VESTAL — Shawn and Kim Doyle know the Retrouvaille program works because it saved their marriage. They were on the verge of a divorce after 18 years of marriage and their children were being torn apart in the process. They were living in Minnesota at the time and had even tried counseling with their parish priest. “We felt so frustrated,” said Kim.

Then, in 1998, the Doyles attended a Retrouvaille Weekend. “It’s the most time we had spent together in eight years,” said Kim. The Retrouvaille program begins with a weekend experience in which husbands and wives are helped to re-establish communication and to gain new insights into themselves as individuals and as a couple. Three married couples and a priest present this part of the program. The team couples, which have experienced disillusionment, pain, anger and conflict, offer help as they share their personal stories of struggle, reconciliation and healing.

By participating in the weekend, couples discover how listening, forgiveness, communication and dialogue are powerful aids for building a loving and lasting relationship. Kim said that as a result of attending the weekend program and their continuing contact with other Retrouvaille couples, they now are able to communicate respectfully about their wants and needs. “We’ve asked God to be a part of our relationship,” said Kim. “We look for Christ in the other person, but we believe we should be Christ to one another. It affects the way you communicate and respect one another. Now we make each other our first priority. Our communication skills have improved — that’s been the biggest change for us.”

According to Retrouvaille’s web site, www.helpourmarraige.com, many judges, lawyers and counselors have learned that the tools of communication taught in the Retrouvaille program are what the couples needed more than a divorce, legal advice or counseling.

The post-weekend phase of the Retrouvaille program is as crucial to a troubled marriage as the initial weekend experience. The three-month follow-up program consists of 12 sessions. It serves as a support group for the couples as they discuss concepts of the weekend, new insights into conflict resolution and the importance of listening and intimacy.

Once couples have completed these two phases of the program they are invited to become part of an ongoing support program called CORE (continuing our Retrouvaille experience). These monthly meetings contain both marriage enrichment and a social component. “CORE is the lifeboat of the program,” said Kim. “It gives continued support for couples who are striving for successful marriages. We need a support group. It is so easy to fall back into those unhealthy ways. It’s a beautiful thing — this sharing between other couples.”

“We meet with 17 other couples every month. We are excited to see everyone each month to see how he or she are doing. We make it a date night — we usually go out for pizza or go bowling.” Bill and Dee King, of Litchfield, Pa., are another couple whose marriage has been helped immensely by their participation in the Retrouvaille program.

In August 2004, when the couple was living in North Carolina, Dee read about the Retrouvaille program in her church bulletin. By that time, the Kings had been married 10 years. Dee was extremely frustrated by the lack of communication, intimacy and understanding in their marriage. “By the time I read about the program, I was desperate,” said Dee. “I was ready for a divorce.”

After talking about the program with her husband, she asked him to make a call to register for the Retrouvaille Weekend. “He actually made the call,” said Dee. “It showed me that he was committed to our marriage. He took the initiative — that told me a lot.” After participating in the Retrouvaille Weekend in September and the remaining two phases of the program, Dee feels that her perspective of her marriage is different now. “Before, I was looking at things through my eyes only — I was me-centered,” Dee explained. “Now, I look at a situation and ask: ‘Where is he coming from and how can we make this decision together?’”

Bill likes how their participation in the program has changed their marriage. “We were going downhill,” remarked Bill. “There are some pretty amazing things that can happen. It’s very important to have good communication skills. I’ve also learned how to bring romance back into our relationship. I recommend the program to everyone.”

Retrouvaille had its beginnings in the Province of Quebec, Canada. In 1977, the first Weekend program was presented to French speaking couples. Later it was translated into English by the Retrouvaille community of Toronto who strengthened the contents and developed the Post Weekend phase In 1982, the Toronto community began sharing the program with other communities throughout Canada and the U.S.

The Doyles were active Retrouvaille facilitators when they lived in Minnesota. After moving from Minnesota to Vestal in 2004, they continued to stay active in the Retrouvaille ministry. Previously, couples in the Southern Tier traveled outside the area to attend the Retrouvaille Weekend, but now, on Jan. 27-29, the weekend program will be offered for the first time in Owego, N.Y. The couples had previously been able to complete the post-weekend and CORE phases of the program in the Southern Tier area, but not the initial weekend experience.

Kim said she and her husband continue to stay active in the ministry is because of the devastation they have seen that’s been caused by divorce. “We see too many families that choose divorce,” said Kim. “I want to tell as many people as possible that this program can work for them. God has blessed us beyond belief. He’s called us to do this.”

For more information about the Retrouvaille program call Kim or Shawn Doyle at (607) 797-0790 or visit www.helpourmarriage.com.

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