Unwilling spouse? What happens at Retrouvaille?


My wife and I are going to Retrouvaille on December 1. I asked her to
do it because I felt we owed it to each other after 8 years of marriage
and our 2 beautiful children. She agreed, but only if:

  1. We had separate rooms at Retrouvaille.
  2. If after attending, she still wanted to end the marriage, that I
    would not contest.

I agreed to the conditions because I at least wanted to get her there.
I feel like Retrouvaille is Our only real chance (she won’t go see a
counselor or our Priest). From my readings on Retrouvaille (I have
spent countless hours researching), both individuals have to be open to
the program. I asked her to go with an open heart, open mind, listen,
participate, and let whatever happens happen. We used to be so happy
and feel so special when we felt each other’s love. That has
dissipated over the years, but I know that we can get that back again
if we both try. I am concerned that she says she will go with an open
heart, open mind, listen, participate, and let whatever happens happen,
but does she mean it. She is putting up her armor to try and protect
herself. Does/can something happen at Retrouvaille that will break her

I am interested in anyone’s personal feedback and would like to email
regarding if anyone has the time.

I am 100% committed to saving my marriage and family. I am excited, yet very nervous about Retrouvaille.


All I can say, is Wow!, and that the words you wrote could have been mine. It sounds like your difficulties are different than mine, as I have done things that have hurt my wife so deeply she doesn’t feel that there’s any way to recover from them. I desperately want to have us try Retrouvaille (we haven’t lived together for two years, but still have no papers signed–but they are imminent now). I have not begged and pleaded with her. I have asked her to look into it, which she did, but has come to the conclusion that since she can’t “commit 100%” she doesn’t want to go. Like you, my fear is that if, with the attitude she has, that we went that we wouldn’t have a high probability of success. I have not given up the hope that we will ultimately go. Her feelings are that no one has suffered the hurt that she’s suffered and come back to save their marriage. She, too, will not see counseling together, dismissing it as “all they want to do is beat you back into your marriage”. We, too, have two absolutely wonderful kids, but they are older I’m sure than yours (they are now adults). And both us have categorically stated that the most important thing to both of us is our family.

I wish you great success, and hope your wife’s heart is touched.


cmujake, I will pray for your marriage.


I am new here and ran across your post. I think I can be of some assitance because my husband and I were in the same boat we attended the weekend in Jan 05 and it was the best thing we have ever done as a couple and for our children.He was the one that was hesitant and it became a make or brake deal for me. BUT I prayed for him and for us because I was ready for a split. Anyway all I can tell you as long as you can get her to go thats all that matters. Not only will her armor brake but it will soften her heart. You will learn how to communicate in a way that will be effective for healing your marriage.I truly believe the Holy Spirit is active in this ministry because it helped us. I wouldnt be so nervous though, relax and give it up to Our Lord He knows what to do. And if you need anything feel free to email me. You will meet alot of great people!!!


I was the unwilling spouse. I went to our Retrouvaille so my ex would quit bugging me and shut up finally! Guess what? It worked anyway. I had no intention of getting back together with him, I figured it might, just might, keep us from fighting so much in front of our son. Long story short, we ended up reconciled and remarried (we had been divorced for 2 years) in the Church. We now have 2 more children. It is a wonderful program, and if someone will go with even the smallest intention of getting something out of it, the program works. It broke through all my defenses, and made me realize that God was in control of our family, not me. You do need to do the follow up too, though. Go to the post-sessions and the CORE sessions, they make a big difference. I will pray for you.



Thank you very much for your words of encouragement.

I know that the follow up sessions are very important. My wife flipped out when she saw that there were 6 sessions. She said, “you told me I only had to go to the initial 3 days; you did not mention any other sessions. You tricked me.” She then said that she wasn’t going at all. I told her that she didn’t have to commit to the other 6 sessions. Just go to the first weekend see what happens. The next day, she agreed to go.

From your words, you seem to have been in the same mindset as my wife. Could I email you to get a better idea of where you were at in your mind?

May the Lord Bless You.


What does happen at Retrouvaille? The question wasn’t really answered on this thread.

Our therapist recommended it, and I called for some info and what happens isn’t really clear. There is no one to watch the 4 kiddies for a whole weekend and hubby isn’t one to just let perfect strangers care for the kids and I fully agree with him. So even if they offered child care at the weekend retreat, our minds would be on the safety of the kids, not on the task at hand, whatever that is.

Is Retrouvaille a bunch of meetings to “learn” how to communicate, and then you’re required to put what you learn into practice before you leave? I at least know it’s not a group session, but who’s overseeing the progress, if any, when there’s maybe 2 or 3 couples who “teach” and perhaps a single priest? What are you supposed to do? A Dr. Phil? Sit across from each other and stare at each other while someone tells you to just be quiet and look at the one you married, remembering why you married the person? I’m the kind of person that isn’t content to just jump into something without knowing exactly what’s involved first.

Also the Retrouvaille chapter in our area isn’t really in our area, it’s almost 2 hours away and that’s not something that’s easily doable either when our van isn’t that great to travel the city in, let alone take a short road trip. So we couldn’t even leave at night and come home to drive back in the morning. We just can’t afford that kind of gas money!

I wish that they’d just write a book or do a video or something for people who aren’t able to make it to the meetings. At least it would be something to use until situations improve for us, in other words, the kids are older and we have a better vehicle! Even if they offered an online session, that would be nice.

Can anyone answer my questions? I’ll pass the info onto my husband.

He admits that he’s not a good Catholic. After being a lifelong protestant he entered into the Church in 2004 with me and the kids. Today he’s not practicing the Faith. He’s even been called a cafeteria Catholic by our therapist. I’m trying to do NFP but he’s not supportive of me. He respects my decision but isn’t happy that he has had to abstain for so long while I’ve been going through so many different changes before, during and after weaning the baby. There’ve been quite a few months where it wasn’t until after looking back have some days been deemed usable but it wasn’t known at the time because I haven’t established any set pattern. A man has needs he says, and any man in his situation will tell you it’s very frustrating and they’d understand how he feels.

So without saying too much, he’s reinforcing that his physical needs are stronger than he can handle and he’s not going to stop being a “man” even for my sake. To me his love of self is greater than his love for me but that’s another story. He said he is who he is and I can’t change his personality, to just accept him.

By my making him feel accepted in this (and other areas of course), I can have whatever I ask of him. He always refers to when we were dating 16 years ago and how I loved him unconditionally, he wants that back.

According to him, and he’s told me numerous times, I have to make him feel like a man before he can give me what I need as a woman. I can’t ask for him to give more than he’s able right now even though my emotional needs have been greater since the birth of baby #4. Can Retrouvaille help the wife learn how to empty all her needs and ignore them temporarily to cater to her husband in order to hopefully have her needs met one day?

That’s a MAJOR question that the therapist hasn’t been able to answer for me in all our sessions. He skirts around the issue and in all honesty I don’t feel the need to go to him when in my eyes, it’s only been going around in circles with some progress being made but only on an individual level, not a couples level.

Sorry for the vent. I needed this I guess :smiley: So I will continue to reflect on Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, 1 Corinthians 7…there’s so many…

But after all this ranting, could someone answer my questions about Retrouvaille? :slight_smile:



Kelly it’s been 9 years since Retrouvaille for us so memory isn’t as sharp as some other might be but I do know it saved out marriage. Would you rather your kids be with babysitters for a weekend and save or drastically improve your marriage relationship or would you rather risk what may happen if things don’t get better?

No this is not Dr. Phil. You learn a process called dialoging. It involves writing down a response to different questions given throughout the weekend. Each spouse writes in seperate areas and then come togther privately to exchange what they’ve written. It is a method of expressing thoughts and feelings on issues in writing that really helps the other understand with out feeling attacked, insulted ect. The couples don’t teach as much as they present their own stories. There is no group sharing, no psycho babble.

The reason why there are no books or tapes is because it’s something you need to experience not watch or read about. It’s a process. It’s hard to explain why it works so well but it truly does. Our marriage was hanging on by a thread. The body language of the couples there changes dramatically from when they first arrive to right before they leave. You see couples sitting stiffly apart when they arrive often looking hostile toward each other. But on the day they are about to leave they are sitting close together, some holding hands.

If you want to make a marriage work it’s going to take work and when things are not going well a video or book is not going to suddenly fix things. You need to be there, immersed in it. Find a way to go, you will not be sorry -I promise you. You kids need happily married parents that’s more important for them then them missing mom and dad for one weekend. Find a way and go. If it could help us I know it can help anyone.



While my wife and I have not been to Retrouvaille yet (we are going December 1), I agree with Rayne89. My wife also had concerns about where the kids would be. I had already arranged for my mother to keep them.

Rayne is right; figure out a way to go or always wonder what might have been. Your kids need both of you in your life on a regular basis.

I cannot say at this point what Retrouvaille does. I can tell you, though, that I have received emails from many wonderful people telling me their stories of where they were at and how Retrouvaille helped them through.

Don’t make excuses as to why you can’t go. Find ways that you can go. Don’t worry about where the kids will go (you’ll find someone responsbile), don’t worry about the cost of gas (you’ll make money to cover it), etc.

Just go. I’ll pray for you.


Yes, just go. I made all the excuses too, and put it off for a long time. In retrospect, I wish we would have gone sooner. It IS worth it.
As for what happens, it is a very structured program, there is no ‘sitting and staring at each other’. It teaches new ways of communication, and has outlines for you to follow. You know what to talk about, and how to do it. The weekend is set up in several different presentations, led by 3 presenting couples and a priest. NO group counseling, you don’t have to talk to anyone else if you don’t want to. The way it is set up, if you go with an open heart, intending to get anything at all out of it, you will. Somehow the process just works. I know many many couples that are married now only because they went to Retrouvaille, and we are one of them! Please give it a chance, I know of nothing more effective at getting the two of you to really communicate. It works where counseling doesn’t.


Retrouvaille is a wonderful program and I agree, do anything to get your spouse’s there. Once there, it is up to them. They will here of many marriages that have survived some of the most trying relationships. I admit, my husband and I attended, but he went only because it was an ultimatim. It is a great program, only if both partners are committed. For my husband, he can only express himself in anger, not in communicative words or writing so therefore the program went sour for us. Fortunately, for us, by the grace of God we are still together. Our togetherness is not what it could or was, but the way I see it, we are together. My husband found it too be work and evidently our marriage isn’t worth the effort. Yes, I am hurt by that thought and he knows it.


Thank you for the prayers! We can always use them!

See what I still don’t understand is the whole concept of Retrouvaille…is it simply to open communication that is closed? Does it do anything to address past hurts that still fester? My husband won’t let go of the past (as I said previously) and that’s a big issue that he’s not willing to deal with yet (key word, so that still gives me hope, I’ve just learned not to hold my breath when he says things). He has other areas to work on that are more important to him I guess, the main one being the need for me to make him feel like a man. Does Retrouvaille deal with these kinds of issues?

What about when DH doesn’t want to discuss something that is important to me? He’ll not talk to me, he’ll listen sometimes but won’t engage in a conversation, he will cut it short and find an excuse to walk away because the topic might be unpleasant or he’s just too worn out (as he says) to have yet another discussion. What about someone who cannot communicate on a daily basis? DH will sit and talk with me about an hour a month on a topic of discussion I initiate. Usually our talks are “safe” about things that he likes and does on the computer or a movie he saw or likes (sometimes we like the same things) but there’s no meat in these talks. Does Retrouvaille help individuals who have problems dealing with other peoples opinions and/or emotions?

I still don’t understand how writing letters to each other on a long weekend is any different than writing letters to each other and exchanging them then turning them into the therapist to read who then makes suggestions like “Instead of saying ABC, which causes a negative response, try saying XYZ instead and see how this different approach affects your husband.”

If that’s basically what Retrouvaille is, only more intense because it takes place over a long weekend, well we’ll get the same kind of outcome only it will take longer I guess. AT least that’s what I see in the posts so far. Have any of you gone through marriage counseling before Retrouvaille, wrote letters to each other and had the therapist help you reword some of the things you were trying to say in order to be more gentle and less defensive? There’s some great workbooks out there that also have plans to follow to open communication. Why is Retrouvaille different than those if the 3 couples or priest don’t really interact with you? You’re on your own anyway to follow the plan on the weekend retreat, at least to me that’s what it seems that those who’ve experienced it are saying. Am I wrong?


Kelly you have to go to understand. They’re not just any old letters they teach you a way to communicate. It is different then any other marriage improvement book or method I’ve heard or read about. Nobody reads your letters except each other and nobody corrects them. Past hurts? Issues that one spouse doesn’t want to address -trust me we had them. My husband was just beginning recovery as an alcoholic at the time trust me we had issues. I’ll pm you.


Hi Kelly,
I can tell you from experience that for me it not only healed my marriage but it opened it up to where we are now able to communicate much better, even if I sometimes dont like what he says or the other way around. We did try marriage therapy but it was fruitless and pointless to me. Something similar to what you did. We paid alot of money too.
Our weekend was 2 1/2 hours a away but we made the decision after the weekend to continue with the post sessions also being that far. And it was well worth the drive and sacrifice. We even missed our 1st daughters 1st reconciliation. My parents took her.
The letter writing is set up different than anything I have seen before, and you can buy whatever dialouging system you like but you cant buy the couples that you will meet and the tools that they have. The support is phenomenal. I think that is what really helped my husband. Other men set the example for him to be a better person. And the same for me with the women.If you think that its too intense or too far away maybe you should consider a marriage encounter many parishes have the information. And they might be closer to you too.


I’ve been convinced for years that Retrouvaille is what is needed to save my marriage, however my husband is absolutely unwilling to go. We did counselling, and he quit several years ago. Our divorce is pending the sale of our home, which has been on the market for nearly a year. The closest Retrouvaille is 2 hrs away (and the follow-up sessions are also 2 hrs away). When he does work, it’s on weekends (as is the weekend and the follow-up sessions).

Any thoughts on how to proceed?




I agree with other posters about going. Just get there. We flew my sister to our house to stay with DD and we flew half way across the country to attend our session.

However, our experience sounds quite different than most. DH was completely unwilling to attend. He did not try at all and left during the first session Saturday morning. He walked out of during the group talk. When I went back to the room at the break, his stuff was gone. I did find him outside waiting for a cab.

I write this not to discourage, but to remind you of the power of prayer and the sacrament of marriage. Not only are we still together, our marriage is stronger than it ever was. Don’t give up!!

Also, I don’t know about the sleeping arrangements at all locations. But at ours, we had the same room, but all the rooms had two single beds.


We did Retrouvaille in April 2006.
We did the weekend and then made 2 of the 6 followups. It was very helpful. We also signed up for a CORE group, but have still to make it to a meeting. We intend to cover the other 4 sessions as soon as it is possible.
I realise from experience how hard it is to put aside the time for your marriage …but it is needed. The kids will be safe and still there after you go and they will benefit from your going to Retrouvaille. Take it one day at a time and Trust in God, he takes care of everything.
I am now home recovering from surgery (5 days ago) and DH is to go for surgery next month.
We celebrated our 10th Anniversary this September (which may not have happened if not for Retrovaille).
The weekend is a very touching experience… you are not forced to do anything…also you and your spouse can have separate rooms…it is totally up to you.
I will pray for all you couples going to Retrouvaille.
Please do not hesitate to PM me.



If you do not have the time to read this entire post please skip down to the bottom where I give some suggestions!

I have read the responses to your post and the responses to it. While I never attended a Retrouvaille I feel I may have some good advice for you and all that have responded to you.

I am 60 years old and have been married for 35 years (this past Sept.). As with any relationship we had our ups and downs. Early on in our marriage, my wife and I decided to attend “Marriage Encounter” not because we had any realtionship problems but we wanted to have the best possible mariage and M.E. was what was available at the time.

From what I read in the responses to your post, Retrouvaille sounds very much like what went on at Marriage Encounter. Basically, the format was to sit in a group and have a presentation on a particular subject by either a Priest or a M.E. couple. Then we went to our rooms and wrote in a booklet our thoughts and opinions on the subject. We all went back to the main hall for some additional last minute general discussion and then were directed to return to our rooms where we exchanged our written comments with our spouse. NO ONE else ever saw what we wrote. In silence we read each others comments and then had about a half our to discuss what we wrote to each other. A bell rang and we started all over again with a new topic. This went on for the entire wee end.

In addition, to the presentations, we did have some open discussion that one could make public comments if they so desired. For us that was a masing. Because we heard couples say they lived together for 10, 20 or even 30 years and really did not know each other. They were presenting to their spouse an image reather than their true feelings. For example, the macho-man image what in reality the guy was scared!! Scared of not being able to provide for his familyfinancially. others were scared because they hated the responsibility of raising kids etc. (Not that they did not want kids, but they were not sure they could be good parents.)

Here is the advice part!!

While I thought M.E was great and helpful. I soon realized not all of us can communicate by the written word. Or could express ourselves via the written word. So I began to do some research.

While I am an Orthodox Roman Catholic, I am about to direct you to a Morman councilor. Dr. John Lund. He wrote a book called: “Avoiding Emotional Divorce”. It is by far the best book on communication I ever read. NOT only for couples by for ANY interpersonal relationship. The condensed version of the book basically states that we do not all communicate the same way. There are three basic ways we communicate and we need to know the other person’s method of communication. Some are Verbal, some are Task oriented and other are Physical (touch).

This is a must read for anyone that wants a relationship with another person. Let me give one example. How many times have you heard someone say, You do not love me! The typical response is: what are you talking about? I go to the crummy job everyday so we can live here! Yeah, but you never give me a hug!!!

An example of a task oriented person talking to a physical person. Dr. Lund book is only about 128 pages but it will change your life!! Not only the relationship with your spouse, but how you deal with other people. Some people when they do a good job want a raise, others could care less about the money but want public praise and others want that pat-on-the-back.

Here is a link to the book: deseretbook.com/store/product?product_id=100037799

My final suggestion. Pray, pray and more prayer. Try fasting as well.

May God Bless you!



That’s why I hate to give specifics when people ask about it. When they hear ‘write letters to each other’, everyone freaks and thinks that is useless, and don’t want to go. That is just the beginning of the process. There is so much more! And yes, your concern about past grudges and holding onto things, is one of the MAIN issues dealt with. It is impossible to state in a few words here what all is involved, but here are some statistics I’ve heard. Marriage counseling in general has a less than 10% success rate. Retrouvaille is about 80% effective in keeping couples together. So yes, it is different than counseling.
You need to make the commitment to go. Ours was not near our home, and involved a long drive every time too. But it was SO worth it. I guarantee you we would still be divorced if I hadn’t ‘caved’ and finally agreed to go. It is that powerful. We had been divorced for 2 years before we went, and are now remarried, much more happily than the first time. You’ll never know if you don’t go. What will happen if you don’t go is that things will stay the same or get worse in your marriage. This is a real chance for positive change. Please think about this very hard, for your children’s sake. They need you to be together. Is it worth a long drive and finding a babysitter for the weekend for your children to have a stable home? I think so. They would too. Trust me. My son had a lot of problems over our divorce. Do you want your children to have to deal with that? I hope not. Do it for your kids, if not yourself.


I cant say that I agree with MTKJ60 there are alot great Catholic Resources when you are looking for help especialy in the marriage department . Like Dr. Gregory Popcak you can also have a one on one discussion with him his website is www.exceptionalmarriages.com they have Pastoral Solutions. Especially for couples where one spouse is absolutely against a retreat. They have great advice. They can also tell you what other resources they have.
But I do agree with the prayer and the fasting:)

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