Children of marriages saved by Retrouvaille share their stories

by Marc and Julie Anderson
mjanderson@theleaven.org

It is estimated that more than a million children witness the breakup of their parents’ marriage every year.

But four young people from the Kansas City area say it doesn’t have to be that way.

They believe their parents’ marriages were saved by a program called Retrouvaille . . . and that countless blessings have flowed from that.

Kaitlyn was 3 when her parents attended their first Retrouvaille weekend. Both her parents had been married previously and were really trying to make this marriage work. 

But they were struggling. When they learned of Retrouvaille, a peer-based marriage support ministry first developed by the Catholic Church, they took the leap and signed up.  

Kaitlyn believes if her parents hadn’t made that choice 10 years ago, her life might have turned out very differently.

And although she was too young to remember her parents’ relationship before Retrouvaille, she definitely sees her parents practicing some of the skills they learned during the program in their daily interactions.  

“They communicate well. They don’t, like, hold it all in,” Kaitlyn said. 

But they definitely try to keep things calm when they have disagreements, and she knows that’s a direct result of Retrouvaille.

When Kaitlyn’s parents forget to practice those skills, she said, it’s really obvious. 

“When they don’t [practice those skills], there’s more arguments, and it’s not as peaceful in the house,” she said. “When they do, though, it’s happier, and I feel like there’s no tension.”

Even though her parents might occasionally disagree, Kaitlyn said she never has to worry whether they will get a divorce. Plus, she doesn’t have to make difficult choices such as which parent to spend the weekend with. And for that, she’s grateful.

“We’re a together family,” she said. “We’re not a divided family.”

•••••

Worrying about one’s parents is something Carmine, 14, and Gianni, 17, know all about.

Although it’s been eight years since their parents attended their Retrouvaille weekend, the boys recall the pre-Retrouvaille days well — and not happily.

“It was very off and on. They were good at times,” said Gianni, “but bad at others. They were never even throughout. It was a roller coaster, to say the least.”

Carmine agreed:

“One day, they would be fighting. The other day, they would love each other.”

According to the boys, the roller coaster lasted about four years, and Retrouvaille brought much peace and healing to their entire family.

“It’s been a lot calmer [since then],” said Gianni. “It’s been much more even. It hasn’t been up and down. There hasn’t been a fight since, just nothing.”

Carmine agreed and said their parents “started talking and thinking more about each other and how [their behavior] would affect each other.”

That’s not to say their parents don’t ever disagree, said the boys.

“There’s been disagreements, but they don’t turn into full-on yelling matches like they used to do before Retrouvaille. At night, there would be screaming and yelling, and we haven’t had anything that severe since,” Gianni said.

Like Kaitlyn, both boys said they think their parents learned valuable communication skills from Retrouvaille. Also, Carmine said his parents learned how to “show their real emotions to each other instead of holding it in [and then exploding]. 

“They talk to each other now,” he added.

Both boys said their stress levels have decreased dramatically compared to before their parents started Retrouvaille.

“It makes me less nervous,” said Carmine. 

He doesn’t worry about what he might hear his parents say to each other — and he never worries anymore whether his parents might divorce. 

Instead, he is free to concentrate on his homework, school and activities.

“I think people should consider what would happen to the kids and how things would impact them and their emotions,” said Carmine. “I played baseball, and I always worried if I was going to go home and if they were going to start fighting. . . . My grades have gone up. They’re all A’s now.”

Both boys said they’d encourage married couples to try Retrouvaille before getting divorced.

“Just think about your kids,” said Gianni.

The program is great for the couple, said Gianni, but even better for the kids if it saves the marriage. 

He’s very glad his parents gave Retrouvaille a try. 

•••••

Unlike Carmine and Gianni, Jamie does not recall her parents’ relationship prior to Retrouvaille. 

“I was nonexistent when my parents went to Retrouvaille,” said the 29-year-old. I am through and through a Retrouvaille baby.”

Jamie was actually born a year after her parents’ Retrouvaille weekend.  

Even so, Jamie sees the effects of Retrouvaille in her life.

Retrouvaille taught her parents valuable skills, she said, especially about how to communicate.

“To this day, my dad, if he has something serious to communicate with any of us, will write us a letter,” she said. 

It was a skill her parents learned during Retrouvaille.

Like Kaitlyn, Jamie said she feels as if she might have some advantages coming from a home with parents who stayed married to each other. One is in her beliefs about marriage itself.

“I know it’s not an option just to quit,” she said

“I never, ever once had the fear one of them was going to leave,” she continued. “I got to come home and never have the fear or anxiety that one of them was going to leave.”

She and her two sisters, she said, knew they wouldn’t consider marriage until they found someone who shared their belief in the permanence of marriages. Today, both her sisters are happily married.

Ironically, Jamie said her mother grew up in California during the 1960s, always assuming she would one day find herself divorced.

“I think Retrouvaille, for her, not only saved her marriage, but also made her want to be a Catholic,” said Jamie. 

Her mother has since converted to the Catholic faith.

As an adult and a teacher, Jamie has seen firsthand the struggles students of divorced parents face. The lack of stability, she said, creates many worries in children.

They just wind up worrying about a lot of things they shouldn’t have to worry about.

“Where are we going to sleep tonight? Is Mom going to be nice to us? Is Dad going to pick us up from soccer? They don’t know,” she said. “The only stable place they have is in their classroom with their teacher who is always there.” 

“The moods of many of my students,” Jamie continued, “would shift drastically, depending upon what parent they were coming from.”

Those same students, she said, also often struggled with their schoolwork.

Looking back on her own childhood, Jamie is glad her parents tried Retrouvaille. Her worries growing up were those of typical kids, nothing more.

“Retrouvaille is so affordable and convenient that you don’t have an excuse not to try it,” she said. “I wouldn’t exist if my parents hadn’t gone to Retrouvaille.

“So, I guess I owe my life to Retrouvaille.”

Next Retrouvaille weekend

Date: Oct. 25-27
Registration deadline: Oct. 24
Registration fee: $200*
Location: Kansas City
Ways to register:
• Call Paul and Tracy Satterfield at (800) 470-2230.
• Send an email to: 2017@retrou vaille.org.
• Complete the online registration process at: helpourmarriage.org.
*No couple is ever denied an opportunity to heal their marriage due to financial difficulty.

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