What leads couples to our program? Financial difficulties, infidelity and family of origin issues are common problems which result in what we call “the singles married lifestyle” — couples married but doing things separately. Often this single married lifestyle begins innocently but over time drives a wedge between the couple and they drift apart.
Our program looks at the four stages of marriage – romance, disillusionment, misery and joy.
Most couples get stuck between the stages of disillusionment and misery. It is in the misery stage that many throw in the towel. It is our aim to equip couples with tools and techniques to get to the joy stage of marriage — where the emphasis is on US as opposed to the ME or I attitude found in the single married lifestyle. We explain that love is a decision, not a feeling, as is trust and forgiveness. We also encourage forgiveness setting the hurt party free. We use the Parable of the Prodigal Son to show that just as the Father forgave his Son, we too can forgive ourselves and each other the hurts of the past — we can come back to the Father’s house — the church and our homes. We can be the forgiving Father, by making the decision to forgive. We can also be the forgiven Son, by receiving forgiveness offered by our hurting spouse.
Children are greatly affected by an unhappy marriage. We have a few teachers on our team — they often share on the pain and hurt shown in the children of separated, divorced or unhappy marriages. We emphasize that the best gift couples can give their children is to decide to love each other; to put their marriage first; and to stand united in all decision involving the children. It inspires us when we receive letters from children, after their parents have completed our program, and thank us for their new Mom and Dad.
We have come across couples who are remarried and feel lost or aggrieved because they are unable to partake in the Eucharist. One example is that of a couple who married outside of the Catholic Church. The wife was non-Catholic and joined the RCIA to convert. As this was her second marriage, she had to apply to have her first marriage annulled. She became disillusioned with the Church and both husband and wife left the parish, after being in RCIA for two years and not being able to have the marriage annulled.
If God is the ultimate forgiver and full of compassion then these couples should be forgiven for previous mistakes; however, they believe that they are constantly reminded and guilty of these past relationships or mistakes by not being able to partake in communion. We have also had requests from same sex unions or couples to attend Retrouvaille. We do talk to these couples and try to show understanding and compassion to them. However, we explain that our program is presented by teams of husbands and wives and that our stories and experiences would not relate to those in a same sex marriage or union. We also have a list of professional counsellors who offer their services to same sex unions and we pass this information on.
Retrouvaille has served the citizens of Durban, South Africa for 15 years, and communities round the world for 35 years. Approximately 10,000 couples attend our programs internationally every year, about 90% of these managing to turn away from divorce, some at the last opportunity. Thank you for your time.