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Getting ready for 'happily ever after'

Retrouvaille offers
help for troubled marriages

for marriage

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Opportunity to
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in Alameda

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placeholder February 8, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 3   •   Oakland, CA
Weddings & Anniversaries

Jeff and Donna Heusler lead the Retrouvaille program in the Diocese of Oakland.

Retrouvaille offers help for troubled marriages

In 1989, Jeff and Donna Heusler's marriage was at a crossroads.

"My wife and I had separated," Jeff Heusler said. "We were separated for a year and a half." There was the strain of living separately; it was time for a decision: divorce or getting back together?

Retrouvaille Marriage Help

When: Feb. 26-28 or
Sept. 16-18 in Dublin

Register: Retrouvaille.org or contact Jeff and Donna Heusler, 510-276-4118

What it is: The word Retrouvaille is a French word meaning rediscovery. Retrouvaille, which began in Canada in 1977, is designed to help troubled marriages regain their health. The Retrouvaille program consists of a weekend experience combined with post-weekend sessions. The program, which emphasizes communication, provides the tools to help put marriages in order again.
A sister at St. Felicitas parish in San Leandro recommended Retrouvaille, a program designed to assist troubled marriages. The Heuslers drove to Sacramento for the weekend that would change their lives.

As the program leaders began telling the stories of their own marriages, Jeff Heusler recalled, "We looked at each other. 'This is us.'"

Retrouvaille, he said, is "nothing magical." It teaches a method of communication. And, he said, like with any program, "the program doesn't work unless you work the program."

Not long after their reconciliation, the Heuslers became presenters with Retrouvaille. "We've done other ministries," he said. "It's been Retrouvaille that we've stayed with.

"God's the reason we stay," he said. "God called us to this ministry. He didn't say for how long."

"There is also the sense of giving back something that was given to them. "If somebody wasn't up there for us," he said, "we wouldn't be together."

Retrouvaille pronounced re-tru-vi with a long I, is a French word meaning rediscovery began in Quebec, Canada in 1977. The Retrouvaille program includes the weekend experience, followed by post-weekend sessions.

While the program literature emphasizes that Retrouvaille provides the tools to help troubled marriages, Jeff Heusler's description is even more colorful.

"Who hasn't experienced difficulties in their relationship?" he asked. Those who need a "tune-up," he suggested might benefit from Marriage Encounter, another program offered in the diocese. But if you need "an engine overhaul," that's where Retrouvaille comes in.

The Heuslers who have been married "42 years off and on," he said are among the couples who tell the story of their marriage at Retrovauille weekends.

When they tell theirs, he said, some couples have commented to each other, "We're not so bad."

"I don't mind anymore," he said. "Everybody's got a story."

Among the benefits of a Retrouvaille experience, he said, is for the couple to surround themselves with people who are also trying to put their marriages on more solid ground.

"They're all hard," he said of marriage. "Nothing's easy. Every phase of life has its challenges. We have tools to help you get through them."

A Retrouvaille weekend might include a couple married six months, and a couple married 50 years. "Both of them surprise me," he said.

At weekend's end, he said, the long-married people say they wish they hadn't waited 30 or 40 years to get help.

Also at weekend's end, "you're on cloud nine," he said. He recalled going to Sacramento with his wife. "We argued on the way up," he said. "We talked on the way back."

The post-weekend sessions proved crucial to the Heuslers' reconciliation.

In the fifth session, he said, "We had this 'aha' moment. I was ready to move on."

The session's title was "Love is a decision," he said.

On the way home, she said, "Let's go all in."

Later that night, he said, his 9-year-old son heard him crying. He told his son about his dilemma: stay or go?

His son asked him, "Dad, do you still love Mom?"

The decision was made.

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