Retrouvaille helps save a 20-year marriage

Len and Phyllis had been married 20 years and were planning to retire soon to a lifestyle of serving others through an organization called Nomads – a community of people who live in RVs and travel around the country to work on all types of building projects for those in need.
But as retirement drew near for Len, he questioned his love for his wife. He felt like something was missing – that he needed to go in a different direction.
Far from an idyllic retirement traveling into the sunset together in an RV serving others, Phyllis and Len found themselves separated.
Phyllis was in a state of disbelief. How could this be? She cried. She worried about her financial status (she had reduced her hours at work to make all the retirement preparations); she was angry because she had all the plans in place; and she was homeless because they had sold their home to go out on the road.
But despite the shock of Len’s comments and in the midst of all this turmoil, she still had feelings of love for Len along with the many warm memories of two decades of married life together. She was not ready to give up her marriage without a fight. With her mother’s encouragement, she decided to give it another try.
The couple went to counseling, but it wasn’t helping. Then she heard about a program for troubled marriages called Retrouvaille.
Len didn’t want to attend, but it turned out to be a life-changing experience for him.
“It taught me a little more about her and a whole lot about me,” he said.
“Retrouvaille taught me to open up. I keep everything locked up inside and then I snap.”
It wasn’t an easy weekend for Phyllis and at one point she decided to leave. On her way out, Len came running down the hall to stop her.
“Len really renewed his commitment to me and the marriage that weekend,” she said.
So what is this program all about? 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 world-wide. 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.
There is also a priest who 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 dialogue 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.
After their Retrouvaille experience, Len and Phyllis did retire and have been going around the country for several years in their fully-loaded, 16,000 pound, 39-foot long Fifth Wheel. They have helped to renovate damaged houses from Hurricane Katrina; worked on a ranch in Oklahoma for boys who come from abusive homes; built retreat houses and a variety of other relief projects.
They both sing the praises of this Christian organization and how working together and with other Christian people has helped their marriage. Len says serving others has drawn them closer together.
“Doing this work 24/7, you have to not only love each other, but you need to like each other. And we do because we’ve learned more about each other. I can now see that we had a pretty good marriage, but we got too comfortable and things got stale. Now we enjoy life…we talk to one another a lot…we give each other time so we can be together now.”
Len thought he no longer loved Phyllis. Retrouvaille opened his head and his heart to the things going on inside of him that made him feel that way. Now Phyllis and Len are more in touch with both their own and each other’s feelings in their marriage. And that has made all the difference.
Every time Phyllis hears about someone getting divorced, her advice to them is, “Don’t give up. Sit back, think about it, work it out, do whatever it takes.” The many hundreds of people that Phyllis and Len are helping in their Nomad ministry are glad they did.
All weekends are held at the Malvern Retreat House in Pennsylvania. The schedule for 2014 is Feb. 7-9, April 25-27 and Aug. 8-10.
For more information, call 215-766-3944, 800-470-2230 or visit the website

Deacon Craig and Judy Bickel are Retrouvaille presenters.

Categories: Latest News

About Author