Kevin and Kathy Skerrett said participating in a 2004 Retrouvaille weekend played a major role in saving their marriage.
Were it not for the program’s focus on healing troubled marriages, the couple — due to celebrate their 37th anniversary in November — probably would have split up by now, they said.
"I don’t want to go back to our life before Retrouvaille," Kevin Skerrett remarked.
"Our two daughters recognized a difference in us (after taking part in the program)," Kathy Skerrett added.
Retrouvaille, French for rediscovery, is Catholic in origin and started in Quebec in 1977. The program came to the United States in 1982 and now helps couples in 28 countries. Aside from Rochester, other New York-based Retrouvaille programs are offered in Buffalo, Utica/Syracuse, Corning/Elmira and on Long Island.
The weekends are led by a priest and three couples who have previously benefitted from Retrouvaille. Through a series of talks and in-depth presentations, they share communication tools to help spouses talk about their feelings and emotions in order to improve their marriages.
The Skerretts, who now coordinate the Rochester Retrouvaille program, say about 18 couples participate in each of two weekends offered each year.
"Some couples are headed for separation. Some people are already separated and are headed for divorce. They already have the papers, and this is kind of like their last try. Then we have people who are like, ‘We just have lost the spark in our marriage,’" Kevin Skerrett said in describing the types of couples who participate in Retrouvaille.
When the weekends begin, Kathy Skerrett noted, some of the couples are not speaking to each other. Others, she added, don’t even want to share a room.
"It is usually very somber Friday night, nobody really wants to be there," her husband agreed.
But by the time the couples leave at the end of the weekend, there is a noticeable, positive difference in the way the spouses act toward each other, the Skerretts said.
"It is a night and day difference," Kathy Skerrett said. "Their faces are so different. It is unbelievable."
The weekend experience is followed up with four-hour sessions on six consecutive Saturdays, Kathy Skerrett said, noting that the post-weekend sessions may be completed online if couples cannot participate in person. The follow-up sessions are led by past participants who continue helping couples to work on issues contributing to their marriage problems.
Among frequent problem areas are personality differences; such family of origin issues as a history of divorce, alcoholism, abuse or mental illness; and differences between individuals’ wants vs. needs, Kathy Skerrett said. The sessions also include information on the "four pillars of a good marriage"– trust, forgiveness, commitment and love. Each couple receives a workbook and is given homework assignments every night throughout the six weeks, she added.
When the six weeks are over, couples may choose to take part with other couples in monthly support groups called CORE (Continuing Our Retrouvaille Experience), Kathy Skerrett said.
The Skerretts said their lives and their marriage have been changed by Retrouvaille, and they want to help other hurting couples before they get to the point of separation or divorce.
"Maybe we are biased, but we think every marriage could use Retrouvaille," Kathy Skerrett said. "No one teaches this stuff."
EDITOR’S NOTE: The next Rochester Retrouvaille weekend will take place Oct. 7-9 at Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua. For details, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call 585-293-1552 or visit www.helpourmarriage.com.