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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,951
January 10, 2018
How To Save Marriages In Crisis
By Mike McManus

January is the worst divorce month of the year. All defer filing over Christmas.

Half of America's marriages have ended in divorce since 1975. Children of divorce are
three times more likely to be expelled from school or to have a baby out of wedlock as are teens from intact homes, are five times more apt to live in poverty, six times more likely to commit suicide, and 12 times more apt to be incarcerated.

Those who marry a second time have a 70% chance of a second divorce.

Most pastors send couples in crisis to a Christian counselor. However. most couples are not helped. Therefore, Michele Weiner Davis helped create an alternative, a "two-day intensive" in which a therapist meets with a couple from 9 am till 4 pm over two days allowing ample time to explore issues in depth.

This enables couples to consider their goals for their relationship and concrete steps to stop fighting and achieve more love and connection. "A portion of the sessions is devoted to teaching couples relevant relationship skills," says Ms. Davis.

Many of these couples are at a crossroads with one spouse considering divorce. They are encouraged to shift from blame over what's going wrong - such as arguments or sarcasm - to look for how to have argument-free days, parenting differences handled collaboratively and positive actions that are encouraging.

The cost of two-day intensive couple therapy varies from $1,200 to $5,000 depending on the location and the therapist. For more information, go to

Fortunately, there is an alternative two-day intervention that is much less expensive called Retrouvaille, a French word for Rediscovery. It is a weekend retreat led by three couples whose own marriages nearly failed. They tell their stories of recovery and are walking parables of hope. After a talk, they put the men in one room, women in another, and ask them to write for ten minutes on an assigned topic, such as "What do I have difficulty talking to you about?"

Husbands then meet with their wives, read what each other has written, and respond to each other in private. Then then return to hear another Lead Couple who tells their story, and write to each other on another assigned topic. By Sunday afternoon, couples arms are all around each other.

Nearly 200,000 couples have attended Retrouvaille (800 470-2230). About 75% of couples save their marriage.

President George W. Bush described Retrouvaille in 2002: "There are programs for couples with serious problems - alcoholism, infidelity or gambling. Trained mentor couples who have experienced severe marital problems themselves teach other couple how to repair their marriages. Using this approach one national program reports being able to save up to 70% of any troubled marriages."

Twenty years ago, Rita was so disgusted with Tony that she filed for divorce. However, her daughters were devastated. About that time she heard of Retrouvaille, which she attended with Tony. "We did not know what to expect," she told some couples in Macomb County, outside of Detroit.

"As the weekend unfolded, the presenting couples shared personal experiences about problems they once had in their marriages, and how they were overcome."

Tony recalled, "We found we were not alone in having a struggling marriage. We began to see hope. The couples were so honest and caring. It was good for all of us."

They not only saved their marriage, but were inspired to become a presenting couple. "It was an opportunity to not only continue to heal our marriage and to help save marriages of other couples. Our personal struggle involved a great deal of perseverance and love. We learned that love is a decision - not a feeling," Tony recalled.

He noted that in a recent year there were 34,500 divorces in Michigan, and only 59,000 marriage, a divorce rate of 60 percent, making Michigan the most divorce-prone state in the Midwest.

However, 4,200 couples on the edge of divorce, have attended Retrouvaille in Detroit. "Result? Eighty percent are still together!" proudly proclaimed Mark Squier, who organized Retrouvaille with his wife, Betty, in 1981.

"How do you know that?" I asked.

In the last ten years, volunteers have called up couples and asked them how they were doing? Eight out of 10 couple were still together.

Therefore, I urge couples in crisis to go to and look for weekend retreats that will be held in your area. The cost: Each couple is asked to make a donation to help cover costs. This one donation covers all weekend expenses, including hotel and meals, and post-weekend sessions.

There is no better way to save a marriage in crisis.


Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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