Retrouvaille (pronounced re-tro-vii) is an international community of people dedicated to saving marriages. The name comes from the French word for rediscovery, and its goal is to save marriages by showing people like you how to rediscover the loving marriage that the two of you have hidden away.
The program begins with a weekend event hosted by three couples and a priest or Christian minister. The weekend is not a retreat (although you do go away for the weekend). It is not sensitivity training. It is not marriage counseling. There are no group discussions; it is not group therapy.
You do not tell anyone your problems. Instead, the three presenting couples candidly tell you about the marital problems they went through – severe problems which nearly cost them their marriages. They go on to tell you how they overcame their problems. Then they tell you how you can do the same.
This is truly a great concept, and very appealing to those who are reluctant to try, or opposed to, marriage counseling. You don't have to tell some stranger about your issues, won't be labeled as anything, and aren't called upon to "share with the group."
But you get a good look at how others deal with very serious problems. You discover how not-alone you are in having a troubled marriage. Hearing them talk about having the courage to tackle painful issues instead of sweeping them under the rug will give you the courage to do so, too. You gain hope for your marriage as you learn how to deal with your issues like they did.
After the weekend, you attend follow-up sessions to reinforce the concepts you learned and to learn new ones, thereby encouraging you to rebuild your relationship. One participant described it as a path of breadcrumbs leading you to a happy marriage.
Because the follow-up sessions last only a few months at most, and because people can easily backslide into old habits and behaviors, you have the option of joining a support group that helps you to continue to make progress.
Does Retrouvaille work for everyone? Well, like any other marriage help program, it only works when you make it work. It can’t take away the pain or restore the love, change your ways of thinking and feeling, or heal your marriage. Only you can do that. But, Retrouvaille can show you how because the couples who run it have done it themselves. And if you try, you might succeed like they did.
Retrouvaille is for married couples, whether living together or separated. However, and this is a little surprising, even couples already divorced have taken Retrouvaille. One event reported having 31 couples attend - 15 were already separated and 5 divorced (one of which were atheists). The program helps couples at any stage of marital distress.
The program was started by Catholics, and is based on the Marriage Encounter model. But Marriage Encounter is designed to strengthen marriages that are already healthy, and is less about dealing with marital problems.
Retrouvaille does not hold prayer sessions or try to convert anyone to any religion. You do not even have to be Catholic to participate. If fact, some groups offer Christian Multi-Denomination (CMD) weekends. As their main website states: "Couples of all faiths and those with no faith tradition are welcome and encouraged to attend." Actually, the religious parts are rather minimal, and the focus is to teach skills needed to heal a marriage relationship.
You can go to the Retrouvaille main website at helpourmarriage.org to learn more, and to locate a group close to you. However, not all groups and locations are listed there. If you do not see one nearby, do a search for “Retrouvaille (your location).”