Retrouvaille: ‘Rediscovering’ a bond and helping couples heal

By Becky Aubut, Anchor Staff

SEEKONK, Mass. — As the celebration of Christ’s birth comes to an end and the New Year beckons, many couples will be working on their New Year resolutions, which may include wondering if their next Christmas festivities may be celebrated apart from one another. Many couples experiences problems so serious in their Marriage that divorce may seem like the inevitable conclusion to the relationship; but many couples are also finding a new way to solve their Marriage crisis through a program that helps them heal and renew their Marriage commitment.

Retrouvaille (pronounced re-tro-vie; a French word meaning “rediscovery”) is a program that offers tools to rediscover a loving relationship. Consisting of a weekend experience with a series of post-weekend sessions, the main emphasis of the program is on communication in the Marriage between the husband and wife that will allow couples to work on their problems and begin the heal. Retrouvaille New England has an upcoming weekend being held in Framingham on January 9-11, and the current coordinators for RNE not only are part of the team of presenters, but former attendants of Retrouvaille itself.

“We ended up in a tough situation in 2005,” said Tim Hayden. “We were both in favor of working on the Marriage and getting the problems resolved.”

Tim and his wife Barbara, residents of Seekonk and parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Seekonk, had been active in various parish ministries for years. After they recalled seeing the Retrouvaille program in the parish bulletin, Barbara made some inquiries online and ultimately registered the couple for the program.

“One of the things the program offers is the ability to come into a group and feel that they’re supported, regardless of where they are,” said Barbara. As teams share during the weekend, they offer, “hope to the couples. Some of us have been in train wrecks and are working to come out the other side, or we have come out the other side. Regardless of what the couple’s circumstances are, they have the power to do that if they choose to and wish to recreate their Marriage.”

Inspired by their experience, the Haydens have part of the Retrouvaille program in several positions, including their current three-year stint as coordinators; but they feel their biggest impact on the program is their work as one of the team presenters, who along with a priest are part of the weekend and follow-up sessions.

“People initially come through the door and say they want to put their Marriage back the way it was,” said Barbara, “and over a period of time they start to realize they have a safe place to look at themselves and their Marriage, and they realize that maybe they don’t want to go back to the way it was, that maybe their best option is to recreate something that is new and vibrant.”

Though a Catholic priest is available to lead Mass, for Confessions or to speak to anyone during the weekend, the Retrouvaille program is open to open to any Christian, but they must be married: “It is only for married couples,” said Barbara. “That’s a challenge because we’ve had an increase over the years that have been in long-term relationships, but it’s a peer ministry and that’s not our peer group.”

And while the weekend is designed as a launching pad for building back a relationship that was lost, the follow-up sessions are just as crucial for continuing to form a solid foundation as a couple: “It offers continuing support. The couples are still struggling. The repair and rehabilitation of a Marriage is a process, it’s a journey not just a snapshot. During the weekend we have them sheltered. We shut them out of their home as much as possible,” said Tim, adding that couples are asked to leave cell phones and other electronic devices at home or in their hotel room during the weekend so that they can concentrate solely on themselves. 

“When we send them home Sunday night, all of a sudden they’re without their support of the rest of the group with whom they bonded over the weekend,” continued Tim, “so by coming back together six times after the weekend, it gives them that continuing support. We give them more information and the method of communication that they need. They continue to get to work on it, and when they’re home struggling to continue that, they can call up a team or ask questions at the next session and we can help them. It’s a continuous process.”

After the follow-up sessions are done, that process also includes monthly sessions that offer an open-door policy for those looking to reconnect with Retrouvaille and its members. 

“It’s about the strength and energy of being with couples dealing with trouble and struggling to work through it,” said Tim. “It doesn’t matter the situation, in fact we don’t ask them. Retrouvaille stresses anonymity and we never share any couples information. We tell them it doesn’t matter why they’re here, this community is here to support you and help you on the road and on the journey.”

We live in a culture where other areas in a couple’s life, like the workplace, have become an acceptable area to air troubles in a Marriage, creating “a disposable mentality,” said Tim. “We throw it away rather than fix it.”

“When you do that, in some environments you’re surrounded by four heads and eight eyes,” said Barbara “and that’s the safety of Retrouvaille. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, your ability to come into a safe environment and get support and talk about your relationship; it’s safe and in that group, it’s commonplace.”

Every couple should know their problems are not unique, said the Haydens, and that the program is more than just a weekend, but a support system that can last a lifetime. Tim jokingly added, “If you really don’t like the process, we’ll give you your old Marriage back.”

Retrouvaille is holding three weekends in 2015. For more information on Retrouvaille, including the upcoming weekend being held in Framingham on January 9-11 (registration is due January 6), go to or

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