What happens when romance slows down and real life begins? We took our vows seriously, “for better and for worse,” but how do we get through the obstacles of daily life in marriage and raising a family without white–knuckling it? We are surrounded in today’s culture by increasing divorce rates, where marriage is disposable and affairs look sexy. Who do we turn to when we’re in the trenches of life, grasping for straws, and attempting to stay God–centered? In the Catholic Church, there are cheerleading squads dedicated to the vocation of marriage: World Wide Marriage Encounter and Retrouvaille.
Our story: married separates
After fourteen years of marriage, three beautiful children, a lovely home, many friends, financial success, and a wonderful parish, we had to admit that our marriage needed some desperate attention. While we seemed to be the picture perfect family, complete with white picket fence, we often felt alone and disillusioned. We had allowed our lives to be overtaken by daily tasks—earning a living, raising children, caring for ourselves and loved ones—all worthy endeavors. We were working very hard, but we were not working together. In fact, we were doing very little together—our lives had become separate. At our low point, about the only meaningful thing that we did together was to sleep in the same bedroom. Unfortunately, the name to describe that kind of relationship is roommates, not husband and wife.
Each day, I felt trapped in our marriage and trapped in my own home. I was surrounded by the burden of many responsibilities, which I carried out with little to no enthusiasm. Our marriage had molded into a path of two individuals on a married singles journey, in pursuit of daily activities: one dedicated to work, the other raising kids. We had taken a vow to make our marriage the cornerstone and foundation of our lives, front and center, but ours had become an afterthought at the end of each week, if there was time available; the leftovers. We tried different counselors over the years, but to no avail.
Much shame was attached to the idea that I had failed and did not have a successful marriage. I could not imagine getting divorced and leaving my spouse and children, but could not imagine living one more day like we were. I felt alone and miserable. By the grace of God, Retrouvaille gave our marriage a much–needed overhaul.
Day to day, we learned we were missing the point, forgetting that our marriage commitment was a top priority, and stronger even than a priority, it was our vocation. Just like a priest or Eucharistic Minister delivers Communion during Mass, so are the husband and wife called to deliver the sacrament of marriage to each other. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that this is my vocation “if I feel like it” or “if it’s convenient” or “working” for me. Marriage is about self–sacrifice and successful marriages are outwardly focused, not inwardly focused.
What Retrouvaille does
Retrouvaille is a French word meaning “rediscover.” The Retrouvaille ministry was the answer to many prayers. The worldwide Retrouvaille has communities in twenty six countries. It begins with a much needed weekend together for hurting couples struggling with frustration, hurt, boredom, stress, addiction, or affairs. A team of three veteran couples and a priest facilitate the initial retreat. After completing the weekend, couples attend six sessions. These sessions are crucial to marriage recovery and focus more acutely on causes and conditions of who we are as individuals. Attending this weekend was a taste of humble pie for us. I was skeptical of how this might help our marriage, but figured that if I completed this program, I could walk away from our marriage with a clear conscience knowing I had tried everything and that the marriage was beyond repair. To my surprise, there was a shift in my heart and mind that weekend. I believe it was the Holy Spirit.
I am happy to report that we not only have a full toolbox of techniques that help our marriage but also lifelong friendships in Retrouvaille with other couples worldwide. Unshared pain is wasted pain. We feel called to share the story of our marriage in the hope that others will come to learn that their marriage is worthy of God’s love. To trust, love, forgive and commit to our spouse are all decisions that we make each day.
Phil and Robin Kain reside in the Roscoe Village neighborhood of Chicago. They have 3 children and attend St. Benedict’s Catholic Church. They are passionate about the Retrouvaille ministry and presenting weekends in the United States.
By Phil and Robin Kain