Unwilling spouse? What happens at Retrouvaille?


Hi everyone. THanks for the replies. I still am not totally convinced that making the trip would be worth it when we can sit and write to each other (like we do anyway) and discuss what we wrote and really open up to each other. Yes there are still some major issues in our relationship but neither of us are in denial that we have problems.

I think the difference between us and some of the couples that experienced retrouvaille is that when it really comes down to it, the words said by DH about divorce are the most hurtful things because I don’t like to hear them. In all reality, DH will not leave and I won’t leave. We’re like the Roses to a point in War of the Roses…firm in our resolve to stay in our marriage (first BIG difference…they wanted the house, not their marriage :slight_smile: ). We watched that the other night and were laughing at some of the arguments because it sounds like us. DH hugged me and said I know we’ll always be together as long as you never say to me “When I look at you, when I watch you eat, when I watch you sleep, all I want to do is smash your face in.” We just laughed :smiley: I told him that he’d better never say it to me either!

A lot of tears have been shed over my husband and I know that he’s cried many times over me too. But there is something about this marriage that even our counselor can’t quite put his finger on…he’s commented that he’s advised many couples in less serious situations then ours and they didn’t have the commitment or the foundation that we have to stay together. \

DH and I know that our communication (especially during arguments) could be better. If he says things or I say things that are misunderstood and cause hurt, we’ll talk it over after things have cooled. We ALWAYS express love to each other when things have cooled and it’s in front of the kids. Hugs, kisses, gentle touches or caresses and saying I love you, you may have hurt me but I love you and forgive you, let’s try again to be nicer when we’re upset…our fights have decreased from daily to maybe a couple a month (but they’re big). At least it’s not a big fight on a daily basis like before. So we are improving, it’s just taking time with some of the bigger issues that DH isn’t able to deal with right now. The smaller stuff we’re working out, I’m just not patient I guess…I want everything nice all the time right now :slight_smile:

After all this being said, I have some more questions…

What are some examples of the topics of discussion at Retrouvaille? Is it like the ME experience where they say to write about something and give time limits to share the stuff you wrote? What are the things you talk about?

No one seems to want to share the specifics and that’s what I am looking for, not “You just have to go to understand”. Like I said, I’m not one to make a decision based on statistics alone, or success stories alone. A lot of infomercials offer those things and even Christian counselors, etc. do too (don’t forget I work in a Christian bookstore so we get lots of marriage books, some good, others not so good). The majority of the ones that we have (Ed Wheat, Gary Smalley, Willard Harley) all have common themes. I am wondering if Retrouvaille takes those things and just works those.

So would anyone be willing to share SPECIFIC examples, not just one example, of some of the topics of discussion, NOT HOW YOU OR YOUR SPOUSE RESPONDED, because that’s too personal.

For example, does it ask you to recall one moment in your courtship that made you realize that this was the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with? Then you have to discuss your individual memories? I have a book called, Let Me Ask You This. It has tons of questions to ask each other to learn about each other, questions that aren’t always easily answered.

Is that what Retrouvaille is?

What happens at the follow ups? Are they just lectures about how to keep the communication open after the meetings are done? Is that what the weekend is? Lectures then writing time?

Sorry I’m being so inquisitive. That’s one of my faults I guess. You should’ve seen me before I made the decision to recommit my life to Christ in the Catholic Church…5 years of intense questions before I started relaxing :wink: .

You poor people! I’m sorry you have to endure these loooooong posts, but it’s important for me to know!

Thank you!



Hi Kelly,

It sounds like you are more than half way to resolving your problems. The first big steps are that you know you have a problem and that you both are willing to work on a solution. I think you are now getting too analytical about the Retrouvaille. Sometimes it is about faith. We all have heard many good things posted here. No one has said, boy I went there and it was awful! Put your faith in them and in God and give it a try.

Also, I strongly suggest that you pray to your Guardian Angel for guidance. It is your Guardian Angel’s responsibility to guide you through life. Use that resource.

I also wanted to make a comment/clarification on my prevoius post. I was not suggesting you go to a councilor out side the Catholic faith. What I was saying is that Dr. Lund’s book on how people communicate is very helpful and insiteful. I am sure all of us read books and articles written by non-Catholics which have very good information.

May God Bless you and your spouse and keep up your efforts.



This is what I was going to say. You are making every excuse in the book NOT to go, when it is obvious that what you are doing now isn’t working either. You need help, or you wouldn’t be posting here. So have some FAITH! If you open yourself to God and allow Him to work through this, you can get amazing results. You are not trusting God. TRUST in Him that He can use this for good. You are obsessing about the letter writing part to the exclusion of everything else. Let go of that, and ask God for discernment. If you still feel that you need some help, GET IT! Stop making excuses, and just do it! I made excuses for 2 years. Believe me, if I had it all to do over again, I would have gone long long before our problems got so bad. You have the chance to do that, so don’t waste it!



Thanks for the words of encouragement MJ. I firmly agree that we can learn from people outside the Catholic faith. I work in a mainly protestant christian bookstore so there’s lots of non-catholic authors in the marriage and family section…as a matter of fact I don’t think we have any that are Catholic! There’s lots to learn from all kinds of different people.

I don’t think I’m being over analytical about Retrouvaille. I just want some specific examples so I know what is involved. Please don’t take this as an argument against the wonderful things you said, becasue I do see your view. I’m just someone who needs to know in black and white examples about what something involves before I’ll jump in. I’m not one to just say “Oh, I’ll try bungee jumping because thousands have done it without injury!” When there have been hundreds who’ve been seriously injured or killed when they did the sport…I just need to know what kind of ropes, distance, latches, equipment, what’s the guys name who tells you to jump, how long he’s done this, what happens after, what do you look out for as far as injuries that may not be noticable right away, what kind of insurance do they have, etc. etc. etc… To some that’s just insane to be this way, but to me it’s important enough to know before I blindly jump just because so many others did it without a problem.

If I don’t have sufficient answers then I won’t just blindly go into something. I’ve done that too much already in my life, trusting good people (mostly Christians) who had wonderful intentions only to get burned or not get the result that was almost 90% guaranteed…

That’s just my personality. I’m not one that you can surprise easily as a result…

Even the bible gives us specific clues as to what’s going to happen in heaven!

Jesus understood that people needed answers and he gave them! He didn’t just say “I go to prepare a place for you” and ended it like that! He gave us an idea of what kind of place he was going to prepare! He didn’t just say you’ll be happy there, he said why. He didn’t just say it’s pretty, you just have to see it for yourself to understand…no! He gave us the book of Revelation to describe just SOME of the things we’ll see!

The description of heaven in the bible is beautiful! It gives enough info that makes you satisfied to know you’ll take part in that but it also leaves enough mystery that makes you want to keep working your way towards it!

So with that said, do you understand why I want specifics?

In the case of Retrouvaille, I’m not even getting enough of a description from anyone other than this:

you go for 3 days.
you write to each other in ways that you may not have known.
you exchange your papers and discuss them in private.
somehow it works.
just go, you won’t be disappointed.

This isn’t enough to even make it remotely interesting to me in all honesty. At least my doctor gave me a verbal outline of what he wanted to talk about over future sessions with my husband.

Please, forgive me for being difficult.

I just want answers, that’s all. I’m asking very direct questions and am only getting vague answers.

If no one would like to answer my questions, that’s fine. I understand, just tell me. I’m not one to get a hint. :o I need to be told directly (hubby says that’s one thing about me that drives him mad)…but that’s how I am! He’s slowly learning to deal with it though.

Thanks again everyone for at least continuing to talk to me :wink:



can i be direct with you then? forgive me if it hurts!!
I am a very frustrated wife right now whose divorce is going to be final in 5 months time because dh is not willing to reconcile at all… if there was even a slim chance that he would try anything, i would have tried it. I think the reason why you are being so analytical about this whole thing is because you have not reached that level of desperation yet!! he is still there and instead of trying to make things better, you seem to waiting for it to get worse before you do anything about it. Believe me, once things reach that point, you will be sorry that you waited so long like some of the other people have mentioned here because it could be too late!!!



Whoa! I’m not making excuses NOT to go…I’m not writing off the program at all. If a secular therapist suggested it, it’s got merit!

It is just not possible for us to go right now. Period. There is not any way that we can leave 4 young children with a stranger for 3 days and nights when our families are in no health right now to safely care for them for that long.

If things change by the fall session, so be it, we’ll aim for that one, but the January session is out, it’s too soon. We’re not in dire straights where our marriage is so bad that we’re at each other’s throats every waking minute! We actually have more good days than bad and we’re learning to work on the bad in healthier ways.

I just want answers about the program BEFORE I commit to go.

You said that I’m obsessing over the letter writing part to the exclusion of everything else.

I’m not obsessing over the letter writing part, that’s the only thing that I know for sure they do at the program. That’s the only part of the program that is very clear to me based on what I’ve been told in this thread. What is everything else? No one will tell me!

I love to write (obviously, my posts are like books!) I love communicating to my husband through letters. We got boxes of them! It’s a great therapy, we did it even before the doctor gave us different ideas to talk about!

What I want to know more about is the other things! What else do you do? What are some topics that are discussed and what can you expect when you go. Even a surgeon will tell you the planned steps from where you are going to go after you leave your hospital room from you first going to the prep room where you’ll meet with the nurses and anesthesiologist (sp?), and he’ll tell you exactly what he PLANS on doing in the surgery but won’t give you specifics as to what size blade he’s going to use to cut you with. But at least he’s going to tell you if he’ll use staples or stitches!

That’s the kind of specifics I need!

I’m not saying I won’t go. I didn’t say that in any of my posts. I’m not going to go YET and only when IT’S POSSIBLE. There are 2 or 3 sessions a year in our area to try to accomodate people.

I just want more info before I go. You research what college you want to go to, getting questions answered even though you know at every school you can expect homework and tests. That knowledge is not enough for people. They want to know what kind of courses are needed to graduate and they get that BEFORE they sign up for a degree program!

Why won’t anyone talk about Retrouvaille openly? Everyone has been so closed about the whole topic, speaking in such vague terms that it could easily sound suspicious and that’s what I would think if I didn’t have discernment.

Like I said in the last post I did, I’m just the kind of person that needs a LOT of info before I’ll jump into something no matter how nice it may sound.

I’m not making excuses. I’m just asking questions.

That’s all.



The kind folks on this thread are not giving you too much information because the program is designed that way. You are not supposed to go into it being “prepared”. I’m also not trying to be harsh, but how well has your counseling worked? You are fortunate that your husband is still “willing” to make your marriage work. You could be in my situation where my wife has asked for a divorce, but by the Grace of God, I have convinced her to go to Retrouvaille. Don’t let things with your marriage get to the point where you must go to Retrouvaille to save your marriage. It could become too late at that point.

Can things get much worse in your marriage by going to Retrouvaille? Do you see the point that very little is to be lost by attending, but wonderful things could be gained?

Look at all of the comments in this posting, on Retrouvaille.org, and all over the internet: There are hundreds of people who are together pretty much only because of Retrouvaille. Sometimes you just need to let God handle things. Do you find this to be one of those times?

I’m praying for your marriage and for God to give you the strength to open yourself up to Retrouvaille.

Kelly, what exactly are you afraid of?



Oh Mariam, I’m so sorry for your pain. This is where I don’t think anyone really understands where I’m coming from though.

DH and I are not in the kind of position in our marriage that you (or many others) are or have been in. We simply have a very difficult time communicating about things that are deep topics, important things that we see so differently.

We’ve been through the worst time in our lives and we both vowed to never again go back to where we were even as little as 5 years ago. We were desperate enough to know we needed help and we sought it. It wasn’t until the doctor suggested Retrouvaille that I began looking for answers last year. I haven’t had my questions answered yet, that’s why I’m still asking.

Yes we still struggle, yes we still get frustrated and DHs first instinct is always flight (hence the word divorce being the first thing uttered from his lips when things get hot). He understands that his reaction hurts me and the marriage. He is seeking help as to why he automatically cries divorce when that’s the farthest thing from my mind in a fight.

Retrouvaille was suggested by the therapist simply because he said that it would help us to learn how to communicate.

That’s fine.

I just want to know HOW.

So far all I got is you write to each other and share what you said in your letters.

We do that now.

How is Retrouvaille different? What is so special about this program? That’s what I want to know, but no one will open up about it.

Everyone is accusing me of making excuses not to go, I think they think I’M the unwilling spouse (as the topic of the thread suggests) but I’m not the one who started the thread and neither my husband or I are unwilling to go. We just can’t right now!

Can I be any more clear about this?

We will go when we can.

We are not making excuses why we can’t go.

Our marriage is not perfect but we aren’t on the way to divorce court either.

I’m so sorry that your husband won’t even budge. I know many couples where one or the other spouse is bound and determined to not take any responsiblity for the relationship crumbling.

My husband and I know we have problems. We also know many of the things are that we do to each other that hurt the relationship. Those are the things that we’ve been working on together, reminding each other “Saying this hurts me” and we say I’m sorry an awful lot to each other when before we wouldn’t even stay in the same room for more than 5 minutes.

We’ve been through the worst times and we’re not going back. Even our therapist has told us that he’s seen couples go through less than we have and not been able to stay together. He really gives us a lot of credit for toughing it out and committing to this relationship even though it’s been hard.

May God give you peace now. I’m so sorry that you have to go through this divorce.



Hi cmujake. You just gave me an answer to one of my suspicions…that you aren’t allowed to talk about the program, just encourage someone to go.

So it’s safe to assume that this is not a standardized program based on what is being said here. It can change from one session to the next. At least that’s the impression I am getting.

I read the website and had many questions that were not answered. So I called. The teacher wouldn’t answer. My therapist didn’t expereince it so he can’t answer questions other than he knows it has a high success rate.

God has handled our marriage more than we are willing to admit. If it weren’t for him we would have divorced after our first child and we wouldn’t have had the next 3.

I’m not afraid. I’m not making excuses.

I just want my questions answered. That’s all.

Thanks to everyone for being kind to me. I know I can be frustrating to talk to sometimes. :slight_smile:



thank you and i am glad that you are not at that point… God bless the both of you for the strength!!



Kelly if you marriage just needs help with communication then go to Marriage Encounter.
You may find one closer in your area then Retrouvaille. There’s World Wide & National Marriage Encounter. Same program, run by two different groups. Marriage Encounter has the same program structure as Retrouvaille, but the questions are different. It’s less intense. I’ve been to both Marriage Encounter & Retrouvaille. The method of communication is the same.

Even if we went through the program with you step by step it still won’t give you a real understanding of it. Kind of like the difference between seeing a picture of a fantastic dessert or actually tasting it. (Closest analogy I could think of at the moment.) The reason why many details aren’t given is because things are then misconstrued or misunderstood. Since I mentioned writing your spouse you keep saying you already do that. I wrote my husband a hundred letters but not this way. You can’t teach brain surgery by reading a book, you have to learn “hands on”. It’s different, trust me- it is not just jotting your thoughts and feeling on paper.



Thank you mariam…it’s not easy to discuss something that pierces your heart so deeply.

Everyone, I thank you for talking to me. Hopefully my questions will be answered. I can even go through and make a list, perhaps that would be easier than going back and reading my posts. They’re awful long.

I do have to go and prepare dinner and start prepping for Thanksgiving dinner too.

I’ll try to continue this later on but if not:

Have a very happy thanksgiving!

God bless!




I feel like I have no business posting on this thread, but there’s an analogy that’s begging to be made.

I have been on many spiritual retreat weekends (not related to marriage) in my life. Each one probably had an outline or “curriculum” of sorts. After each one, if I were to sit down and type up a transcript of everything said on the weekend, it would be an accurate–yet entirely incomplete–account of the weekend.

The Holy Spirit needs to be factored in, and He will minister to each member of any such gathering in His own way. He will also use the group leaders, working through them.

I used to lead retreats for young people, and while each one was similar, I couldn’t guarantee that I could predict the ways in which the Holy Spirit would guide the next retreat.

I don’t know if it helped, Kelly, but if you’ve been doing research for a year, I figured it’s worth my taking a risk to post it! :o God bless you.



I’m a teenager who’s been reading this thread. For the parents: I really hate divorce. And I’m sure your kids would too. I hate it with a capital H.
Please, it will cause me and my siblings nothing but pain to not have the love of both my parents. I would be indebted to my parents if they did everything that was in their WILL to save their marriage. That they trust God fully and wholeheartedly, even if it meant that they were going into something almost blindly. We ask for so many proofs, and evidence just to try something that is ultimately good; what’s the harm in trying whatever it is that will save one’s marriage–what will happen if one never tried it? You won’t know unless you take that leap. Deny yourself, don’t let pride be your God.




Thank you unworthy you couldn’t have said it in a more beautiful way.



Miriam hit it right on the head, it is the level of desperation each couple has to save their marriage. And honestly Kelly it doesnt sound like you have it. You are going through pain obviously you would not be in this thread. But I must say that what happens at Retrouvaille is different for every couple ,persay. We are also asked not to say to much because it gets misunderstood so quickly,(like what you have done).

** Even if we went through the program with you step by step it still won’t give you a real understanding of it. Kind of like the difference between seeing a picture of a fantastic dessert or actually tasting it. (Closest analogy I could think of at the moment.) The reason why many details aren’t given is because things are then misconstrued or misunderstood. Since I mentioned writing your spouse you keep saying you already do that. I wrote my husband a hundred letters but not this way. You can’t teach brain surgery by reading a book, you have to learn “hands on”. It’s different, trust me- it is not just jotting your thoughts and feeling on paper.
__________________** Rayne said it the way it is like it or not.
Hopefully you dont take it the wrong way.:o



I don’t take what’s being said the wrong way…it’s just that I’ve made it clear that I understand where everyone is coming from over and over again.

It’s frustrating when I’m being accused of not trusting, making excuses, not having faith, not having discernment, being afraid, and wanting a full blown script of what happens at the meetings.

All I’m doing is asking simple questions that are not being answered…I’m getting a very distinct impression that those who have attended Retrouvaille are being unfairly secretive to those of us who would like some more info about what’s involved.

I will repost my questions in a list format and if anyone wants to answer them, I’d be so appreciative if they were ACTUALLY answered instead of just being told, “You have to go to understand.”

Again…let me CLEARLY state:

I am NOT looking for a play by play rundown of what happens at a Retrouvaille meeting.

I am NOT looking for PERSONAL experiences, your marriages being saved are a pretty good clue that it worked for you.

All I want is GENERAL information.

Questions will be in a different post.




Articles say that Retrouvaille helps couples talk to each other and accept each others feelings. But it doesn’t say how, I want to know more about how it works.

Here are the questions I’d like answered if someone would kindly oblige:

  1. Is Retrouvaille a series of meetings to “learn” how to communicate?

  2. What happens if the communicating isn’t going the way the program intends?

  3. Does Retrouvaille help the spouses unselfishly empty all their needs to accomdate the other to try to reinforce what true love is? In other words how deep is the therapy (for lack of a better word) and who oversees it if there is a lot of couples?

  4. Is the teaching process through a lecture only? Are you given a workbook to follow? Is it both?

  5. Is it a program that simply helps open lines of communication that are blocked or completely closed or does it address other issues too?

  6. Does Retrouvaille help individuals who have problems dealing with other peoples opinions and/or emotions?

  7. Does it accomodate those who suffer from any kind of mental or emotional disorders by using a different method of teaching? Is it a general outline that all couples follow regardless of where they are mentally and emotionally?

  8. Are the couples professional counselors, certified in anyway or just Retrouvaille graduates?

  9. What are some examples of the topics of discussion at Retrouvaille? Is it like the ME experience where they say to write about something and give time limits to share the stuff you wrote?




Kelly, I could answer your 9 questions, but the answers may not be correct or what U want to hear. …It is my experience and what Retrouvaille gave / did for us.

To get your answers, you need to go to Retrouvaille.

The experience is phenomenal … It was beyond anything I had expected when we went in April this year. It is hard to explain.

If you would still like answers to the 9 questions… PM me and I will try my best to share my experience with you.



I have read each response to this thread and want to say something for those who are willing to do anything to save or improve their marriage. Good for you and it will be good for your children. My sister is divorce recently. Her husband was not willing to work anything out and just wanted out and was having an affair. They did go to Retroville, but still got a divorce about 7 years after the Retroville weekend. Like many say here, both of you have to be willing to work on the marriage. My ex BIL was in denial and said he was happy in his marriage and there was no problem. He just said on November 7th on the stand at a contempt and custody battle hearing, that he was always unhappy in his marriage with my sister. He described it as horrible. Of course, he lied, for it was not all bad, but he is so angry and my sister an him are bitter enemies now. This is so horrible for the children. They have two and my niece is tore apart that her parents who she loves are not together. She is more tore that her daddy remarried to a “wicked stepmom.” She is very depressed, has suicidal thoughts, and cries a lot and has excessive anger. All this at the age of 9. Please, do anything to save a marriage for each other for the sake of the children. Many people say that the couple is better apart and can become better people without the other, but I don’t think that applies to many couples.

Also, for those of you that do not want to go to Retroville or just want to know more about it, maybe another program would be better. I know of a program that is not Catholic, but nondenominational, and I have attended that has helped many marriages, but again some also still get divorced. The program is called, “Weekend to Remember” by Family Life. You can visit them at www.familylife.com. The only complaint I have on the weekend, is that they believe in birth control and so their talks on sex reflex that. IT is a conference in which you also get a chance if you ask to see a pastor one on one also. It is a funny weekend also. Many of the talks are married couples and they relate to you and their problems and yours with humor. We were laughing so much. They also have at the end of the confenence a kind of “altar call” in which you can accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. AS I said, it is not Catholic, but if you are a good Catholic and know your faith, this weekend could save your marriage. On the weekend we went, their was a couple whoo had divorce papers waiting to be signed when they got bad, they witnessed in front of all there that they were not going to get a divorce and work things out. I have personal friends, who invited us on this weekend and who are also devote Catholics, that had divorce papers also. SHe was the one who wanted the divorce and let me tell you, she spoke some harsh words about her husband. He didn’t give up and said if she still wanted a divorce after this weekend, he would give it to her. SHe did not want it and wanted to work things out. They are so happy now. He had to forgive him of some past hurts he caused her. With God anything is possible. They do address this kind of hurt, adultery or pornography, on this weekend too.

Just thought I mention this weekend even though it is not Catholic. If anyone wants to know more, I still have the book they give out on this conference and what we do or did. It helped our marriage, but we should be using what we have learned and are not. That is also what happened with my sister and her ex-husband after Retroville. I think this is a common problem.

God Bless to you all who try to save your marriage. I will keep all of your marriages in my prayers. I ask you pray for mind also.


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