When a new client calls our office, that person has a unique story to tell. As I have mentioned in other blog posts, our firm represents all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds and all kinds of lifestyles. We have people who have cheated on their spouses, and we have those who have been cheated on. We have people who accuse their spouses of substance abuse, and we have those who have been accused.
We also hear from spouses who aren’t quite sure about divorce, but the other partner is ready and may have even retained an attorney. It matters not if the client is a woman or a man; if she or he does not feel “ready,” they are often tearful, upset, and wondering if they have done enough to save the marriage. When this happens in a consultation, we give the client another option. We hand them a brochure for Retrouvaille.
Retrouvaille is help for couples who are struggling to remain together, or who have separated (or divorced) already, but want to rebuild their relationship with each other. It is not a seminar, it is not a retreat, it is not counseling. It is learning from the presenting couples, who have experienced heartache, struggles, disillusionment, pain, and conflict, and yet, they have also experienced reconciliation and healing. Using communication skills, these couples have mended their marriages. Their goal is to teach other couples the same skills. Attending couples do not share their troubles during the initial weekend; they are there to learn to put the past behind them, to learn to forgive, and to see each other in a new and different way.
Recently, in The Atlantic, there was an article entitled “The Secret to a Fight-free Relationship” by Rhaina Cohen. One of the couples described in it learned early in their relationship to set aside time for “contract talks” – periods of time to discuss their issues in a non-threatening way. Every few months, the two pull out their lists of disagreements and respectfully talk over what happened and possible solutions. Sometimes, some of the problems listed have disappeared or become trivial and are never addressed. Almost always, the initial pain and emotion are lessened, making the talk time less stressful and more productive.
Retrouvaille is similar to the contract talks; couples are encouraged to meet weekly and discuss their answers to a pre-chosen question, and to address other items, such as disagreements or issues of contention, or to figure out positive things, like upcoming weekend plans or vacation ideas.
Conflict is inherent in any kind of relationship; each of us has a unique communication style, and let’s face it, we are all self-centered at times and unable to see past our own needs. Allowing ourselves time to step back from an intense moment, or sticking with a new skill, even when it’s hard, for the benefit of the other person, will likely result in stronger relationships and personal growth.