We'd visited several one-on-one marriage counselors for months at a time with little benefit.

This program can be life-changing for a troubled marriage.

My wife and I had marital problems spanning years. We'd visited several one-on-one marriage counselors for months at a time with little benefit. I found "Retrouvaille" on Yelp (the unusual French name is pronounced RET-rove-eye) We're in a MUCH better place than several months ago. Bear with my detailed review below - there's a lot to describe.

First, this program is a Catholic-based ministry but DON'T LET THAT DISSUADE YOU if you're not Catholic. Couples of all faiths are welcome. I was raised Jewish and am an atheist now; my wife is a non-practicing Lutheran. We'd absolutely go through the program again. Maybe 10 percent of the overall time and content has a Catholic slant to it, but it really isn't overbearing and there's minimal focus specifically on Jesus or Catholic doctrine, just general spirituality and occasional references to God. Tune out what doesn't jibe with your belief system. 90 percent of the program is non-religious instruction on building the tools you need to save your marriage. They offer Catholic mass outside of the core hours of the program if that's your thing. All couples were heterosexual; I'm not sure if gay marriages would be welcomed in a Catholic program.

It's VERY different than seeing a counselor - it's NOT counseling, group therapy, or other treatments. The non-profit program started in Quebec in the 1970s (hence the French name which means rediscovery). It's been so successful there are Retrouvaille programs worldwide. The website retrouvaille.org offers a lot more information.

The first phase of the program is what they call "The Weekend." You spend an entire weekend from Friday night through late Sunday afternoon at a local hotel. (Our weekend was held at a nice Hampton Inn in Oldsmar). Besides the room, all meals are covered. You MUST stay continuously through the entire weekend - it's an intensive process. You need to make arrangements for childcare, etc. The program heavily subsidizes the cost of the weekend - considering two nights hotel and all meals and the program materials were covered, it was quite affordable for what we got from it. They don't want cost to prevent couples from entering the program. Several couples were from out of town - some came from as far away as Orlando and New Orleans. If you can't find a local Retrouvaille weekend coming up soon enough and need help NOW, consider going out of town!

During our very intensive "Weekend" in August 2017, we heard other volunteer couples that completed the program lecture about their own struggles and how they were working at overcoming them. The commitment of these volunteers to help others is inspiring; one couple began to "restore" their marriage 30 years ago and still actively provides lectures. (They say that their own marriage grows from administering the program). You'll learn techniques for communicating your feelings both in writing and verbally called "dialogue". You'll learn that feelings are neither good nor bad, they just are there. The unique thing about "The Weekend" - you attend lectures in a large room (we had 35 couples in our weekend at the hotel), but break from the larger group numerous times and GO UP TO YOUR HOTEL ROOM for personal exercises in dialogue. You DON'T spill your guts about your private problems to a bunch of strangers. The use of a hotel to facilitate private discussions in hotel rooms is innovative and worked well.

My wife and I turned a corner during "The Weekend". By Sunday, we communicated much better with each other than we had in years. It felt like there was hope that we could reconcile things further. We celebrated our 20th anniversary a couple weeks after "The Weekend" and it was wonderful to see things were on the right track.

THE WEEKEND'S JUST THE BEGINNING though. There are eight consecutive weeks of "Post Sessions" (included with your fee) that take place in Tampa on Sunday afternoons for about 4-1/2 hours each. (Out of towners during "The Weekend" can go to a local chapter for the Post Sessions). These are IMPORTANT; hopefully you've seen the program's value and commit to this additional investment in your marriage. At the Post Sessions, you get a thick workbook and learn a LOT about other issues that contribute to marital problems - conflict resolution, personality types, communication techniques, how your family history affects your relationship, etc. This is where the REAL work happens. We completed the entire Post program and attended every session. You can always go back in the future if you think it will help you. Retrouvaille is committed to your marriage for life.

Good luck in saving your marriage and I'm so thankful I discovered Retrouvaille!

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