I don't believe in divorce but I was getting one

By Lisa Fleagle - Catholic Anchor
Sep 27, 2014

A little known program that has saved thousands of marriages is now enrolling people in Alaska for the October Retrouvaille session. With our state currently at the top of the charts for divorce rates, I felt it time to speak up about my personal experience to help others avoid a broken marriage.

At this time last year, I had tucked away in my dresser an 88-page divorce decree that narrated my descent into alcoholism, loss of myself, fear of my husband and the absolute death blow to marriage: infidelity. With the divorce, I was ready to write the last chapter of the story of our family. Though I created the story, I mourned and resented every word written down; for I am Catholic, and Catholics do not believe in divorce.

My husband and I both felt unappreciated, neglected, stifled and cheated. Tempers erupted as we both blamed the other and clearly believed the person we fell in love with had completely changed. After five counselors, we were unable to even be in the same room.

Amid this despair, I asked God to help me forgive so I could co-parent without damaging our children. After days of praying and reading the Bible, I felt God was leading me to forgive not only the actions but the soul of another broken individual, completely, with love to save our marriage. With this revelation, I went into a fit of self-pity crying out to God in defiance and questioning why. I felt trapped in a miserable situation, but worse than that, I feared our children would mirror our hurtful relationship when they married.

Like most of us, I wanted to get to heaven but not by becoming a saint, martyred in a marriage that oozed misery to all involved. I could not see God's plan for us. It was at this point that I was told about Retrouvaille.

The program proclaimed to be a last chance lifeline for marriages. The only cost was a $100 deposit and a donation later, based upon the value you feel you received. Retrouvaille is a French word meaning rediscovery, and the program consists of a weekend with follow-up sessions concentrating on communication, positive healing and rebuilding damaged marriages.

Soon after I called the national hotline; a couple who lives in Palmer and coordinates the Alaska program returned my call. Along with the date and location of the weekend seminar, I was told to find childcare, bring snacks and be prepared to turn off our cell phones for an entire weekend. I had doubts the program could help with our complex and destructive dynamics, but I underestimated the power of God.

The people in the program poured out their hearts to us. We heard from an 80 year old couple who had been divorced after 35 years of marriage, and through Retrouvaille, are now happily married. Another couple spoke of infidelity and another who fell apart in the wake of a critical illness. Through their transformative stories and with the communication tools, we began healing.

The process unfolded gently over the weekend as we were encouraged through exercises that strengthened our communication in ways we never imagined possible. We learned real marriages go through many difficult stages before finding peace. These stages of marriage are romance, disillusionment, misery and awakening. During the disillusionment stage, individuals are no longer able to maintain their best behavior and begin to show their less desirable sides to their spouse. Unable to find help to develop further, many couples linger in the disillusionment or misery stages until they decide to divorce. Due to the high acceptability of divorce in our culture many couples never make it to the fourth stage, awakening.

We left our Retrouvaille weekend reawakened to God's desire for our marriage: to have commitment, trust, love and forgiveness. Other couples from our weekend experienced similar results, including a couple married almost 30 years but living separately for the last four years who are now reconciled. Most of the couples walked into the seminar heading for divorce and walked out holding hands.

Coordinators are eager to keep the bi-annual program in Alaska and are seeking at least 15 couples who would like to change their lives. Registration is now open for the October session. Early registration is encouraged to allow for scheduling of hotel rooms and catering.

In a world that makes divorce so acceptable, it is more important than ever that people know that Retrouvaille saves marriages. To attend a Retrouvaille weekend, you need not be Catholic, or even religious; you only need an openness to create healing. For more information, call (800) 470-2230 or go to retrouvaille.org.

The writer received a B.A. in communications from Nicholls State University. After college she lived in Alaska for many years, married an Alaskan Native and has two children. She worked in public relations and has had several articles published in Alaska.