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Retrouvaille to the relationship rescue

Couples communication key to successful marriages

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Saturday, Feb 22, 2014 06:00 am

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There’s a belated Valentine’s Day present option that might just be the saving grace for the relationship. Retrouvaille is an international program designed to help improve respectful communication skills for marriages that have fallen into discord. It began as an extension of Marriage Encounter, a different couples therapy program out of Québec. Since 1982, it has expanded to more than 20 countries around the world.

Its name comes from the French word that means “a new beginning or to begin again,” explained local spokesperson Ann Lewis.

“We cover everything from the family of origin right through to the death of a spouse. It’s forgiveness and trust, sexuality, intimacy… everything,” she stated.

Family of origin, she continued, refers to each partner’s family that she or he grew up in. “It’s really, really important in a marriage because we don’t pack our own suitcases when we go into our new marital home. We pack up everything we’ve learned at home: our values, our morals, our expectations, and so on. Very often, there is a clash between these two people that have different expectations and values. Sometimes the clash is really severe.”

Retrouvaille is a three-part program that starts with an intensive instructional weekend that focuses on the positive and avoids accusations, blame and judgment. That is then followed by 12 post sessions that take place in the immediately subsequent weeks. The third phase of the program is called Continuing our Retrouvaille Experience, or CORE. It features monthly gatherings with social time and potluck dinners followed by more presentations on relationships. This is to offer lifetime support to nurture the couples who have taken the program.

“Those post sessions are vital because we carry through with a lot more information including conflict resolution. Not all conflicts can be resolved. We don’t suggest that anybody should shoot their mother-in-law,” she joked. “We don’t bring conflict management into the picture until way further down the road after these couples have got in touch with their own feelings, one another’s feelings and learned how to communicate respectfully. We don’t want any more throwing of plates and so on.”

It is offered by three volunteer couples who were previous participants of the program and a Catholic priest or Protestant pastor and spouse. Lewis elaborated that the sessions are still “ecumenical” and are appropriate for people of all faiths. It is not considered group therapy, as couples don’t need to talk about their problems to the whole group. Instead, there is a collective class before each couple breaks off to private rooms where they can have further dialogue on the subject matter. Dialogue, after all, is the backbone of relationships, she said. If communication isn’t working then the relationship isn’t working.

“A lot of couples don’t express their feelings, especially men. Men have trouble expressing feelings. It’s wired into them.”

Edmonton Retrouvaille started in 1997 and offers three programs each year, with the first one taking place on the weekend of March 14. The next sessions take place in August and November.

Registration is $100 but Lewis added that no couple is ever turned away if they cannot afford the fee.

Contact Lewis at 780-577-1474 or visit for more information.


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