Program provides lifeline for troubled marriages

Program provides lifeline for troubled marriages


“He just walked out during our first big fight. We were still newlyweds. I was devastated.”

Adam and Helena Cerquoni were in their mid-50s when they married; both had been married before and had children with their former spouses. During their courtship some troubling issues came to the surface, but they were “so much in love, they just knew it would all work out.” Besides, they were both devout Christians and figured God would help them once they had taken their vows.

But once married, they found themselves unable to resolve their differences because they had no way to talk about the difficult issues without arguing. Helena learned to simply not bring them up, until the day came when she couldn’t hold it in anymore.

What are some of the issues for couples who have been married before? Finances, moving into a new house, different styles of parenting, feeling threatened by the spouse’s relationship with the former husband or wife.

After Adam came back, Helena suggested seeing a marriage counselor, but Adam wouldn’t hear of it. He got angry because he didn’t believe in confiding in counselors and figured they could work things out on their own. But things just kept deteriorating and finally, three years into the marriage, Helena was miserable enough to know things could not go on as they were.

“I was ready to move out,” she says. “Adam still believed our marriage was doing OK, but I knew, unless things changed, I was done.”

She begged Adam to go with her to a program called Retrouvaille, and he reluctantly agreed.

Retrouvaille is a French word meaning “rediscovery.” It’s an international program designed to heal troubled marriages. It was founded in the 1970s in Canada and is credited with saving tens of thousands of marriages worldwide. Retrouvaille is based upon Catholic/Christian principles but is open to all married couples regardless of religious beliefs.

The program consists of a weekend experience and various presentations in the weeks that follow. Retrouvaille is presented by married couples who themselves have experienced disillusionment, pain, anger and conflict. They offer hope as they share their personal stories of struggle, reconciliation and healing. A priest participates in the weekend, although it is not a spiritual retreat, nor is it a sensitivity group, seminar or counseling. It offers a different message from the current secular themes of self-gratification and self-reliance.

The weekend helps couples discover how listening, forgiveness, communication and the dialogue process are powerful aids for building a loving and lasting relationship.

Those who have attended Retrouvaille say it is no-nonsense, pulls no punches and focuses upon honest and direct communication between spouses.

So how are things for Helena and Adam now?

Adam is glad Helena “roped him into it.”

“We are not unique in our struggles,” he says. “Everyone has differences, but they can be worked out.”

They have learned how to communicate in a new way that helps them to better understand each other. He says Retrouvaille “gives you a road map that helps you think before you speak and be more Christ-like to your spouse.”

Helena sees the tools taught by Retrouvaille as a way to diffuse issues before they become too serious. For her, communicating means listening to the other on a deeper level of understanding. Occasionally, she even finds that due to poor communication, they have been arguing over things they actually agree upon. The Retrouvaille process helps them to recognize this.

Slowly they have experienced good changes in the way they relate to one another and in November, they will celebrate eight years of marriage.

The story of Adam and Helena is but one of tens of thousands of marriages that credit Retrouvaille with putting them on the road to healing and a fulfilling relationship in marriages that may have otherwise ended in divorce.

The next Retrouvaille weekend will be held from April 8 to 10 at the Malvern Retreat House in Pennsylvania. For more information about the program, call 215-766-3944 or 800-470-2230 or visit

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