Couples find help, hope through Retrouville
By LISA SCHULTE
The Catholic Voice
Couples don't marry with the idea of hurting one another or of making spouses suffer. They get married because they love each other.
Over the years, however, that love can fade and couples may find themselves in a hurtful relationship and on the verge of divorce.
For these couples, participating in the Retrouvaille program might be the last attempt to save their marriage.
Retrouvaille (pronounced re-tro-vi) helps couples heal and renew their marriage relationship by offering them the chance to rediscover themselves and the love they feel for each other. Through this like-to-like ministry, couples learn effective ways to communicate with one another.
Although it's a Catholic program, married couples of any faith may find it helpful.
'The idea of Retrouvaille is to get them back to thinking about why they got married in the first place," said Frank Pytlik, coordinator of Retrouvaille in Nebraska.
It also gives couples hope that they can save their marriage, he said.
Retrouvaille, a French word meaning 'rediscovery," is not a spiritual retreat, a counseling session or a social gathering. It is an opportunity for couples to talk with one another about issues such as intimacy, sexuality, trust and forgiveness, and to hear the stories of three presenting couples and a priest.
Retrouvaille begins as a live-in weekend experience and continues with six follow-up sessions. The topics discussed on the weekend are put into practical application at the follow-ups.
Giving help and hope
Retrouvaille teaches couples how to communicate through dialogue, which allows each person the chance to share feelings without being interrupted or ignored.
It was through dialoguing that Pytlik and his wife, Lea Ann, were able to save their marriage 10 years ago.
The couple had been married for 30 years "“ struggling for at least 20 of them "“ and had already begun divorce proceedings when they attended a Retrouvaille weekend in Kansas. They had gone through counseling with their parish priest, but it just hadn't seemed to work. Retrouvaille was their last resort.
The communication skills they learned from the weekend and at the follow-up sessions helped them make more sense out of what they were hearing at their counseling sessions.
'After Retrouvaille, I was able to understand how Lea Ann was feeling about things," Frank Pytlik said. 'I got to be a little more open-minded and I also got some hope for our marriage. I heard other people's stories and I could relate to pieces of everybody's and I thought if they could do it, we surely ought to be able to do it."
Dialoguing helped Lea Ann Pytlik get to know her husband in a much deeper way, she said.
'Our problems with finance and budget and kids, how to discipline and what church to go to, they could be worked out through dialogue," she said. 'We could talk about them in a very non-threatening way and get the feelings of the other person. It helped me to know Frank in an intimate way again that I probably never knew when we got married."
In addition to helping the couple avoid divorce, Retrouvaille had such an impact on the Pytliks, who live in Cortland, Neb., that they eventually helped to bring Retrouvaille to Nebraska in 1999.
'If we hadn't gone to that weekend we probably wouldn't be married today," Frank Pytlik said.
This year they are celebrating their 40th anniversary and serve the Retrouvaille community as weekend leaders.
'God really worked a miracle in our lives," Lea Ann Pytlik said. 'We want to give back because we got so much from it ourselves."
A blessing for presenting couples
Currently, Retrouvaille weekends are offered two times a year in Nebraska. The Pytliks said they would like to offer one more, but are having trouble finding married couples to facilitate the follow-up sessions.
John and Sharon Anderson of Holy Family Parish in Omaha have been a presenting couple on Retrouvaille weekends since it was first offered in Nebraska. Although they never went to a Retrouvaille weekend as an attending couple, the Andersons said their own marriage has been strengthened by Retrouvaille and they invite other couples to become involved in the program.
'Retrouvaille was sort of like a booster shot. We started learning more about each other and talking more on a daily basis about how we felt," he said. 'I think Sharon and I have a great relationship and the surprising thing is that it just keeps getting better. Retrouvaille is probably a big part of that."
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Visit Retrouvaille International at www.retrouvaille.org.
To register for a weekend:
In Nebraska, call 1-888-317-5654
In Iowa, call 1-800-470-2230
Frank and Lea Ann Pytlik at (402)798-2121
John and Sharon Anderson at 346-8429