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Retrouvaille - Wounded Healers


"I'm telling you this to encourage you that people listen to suffering people, and people don't go to folks who 'have it all together' when they have trouble. They go to someone who is not shocked, who has been hurt, and who will listen without passing judgment, someone who has found some answers but doesn't have all the answers."

Those words from a Retrouvaille participant remind us of the power of peer ministry, something we have learned well from the Alcoholics Anonymous movement.

As I write this, I just finished presenting a Retrouvaille weekend. I heard the three team couples admit infidelity, alcoholism, workaholism, married singles behavior, and many of the causes of divorce in our society.

The church has traditionally urged folks to cover up their weaknesses. Folks are then reluctant to share their struggles and brokenness.

We live in a winner's society. Whole people belong. Losers don't belong.

In contrast, Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step groups have taught us that misery is often the basis for ministry.

I heard couples on the Retrouvaille weekend exclaim how good it was to hear other's stories to which they could relate. Hearing another's story helps us to look at our own story in a different way, often becoming a conversion experience.


Psychologists remind us that marriages cycle through four stages, namely romance, disillusionment, misery and awakening.

Many couples get trapped in misery, thinking that their marriage is falling apart. They become painfully aware of the brokenness which envelopes their lives. Each spouse is usually in pain, blaming the other for their pain. They turn in on themselves. Spouses then use self-protective behaviors to isolate their partner. Actually the pain most often comes from within themselves and not from the spouse.

Couples easily stay trapped in their misery, turning inward. But there is also the potential to creatively transform misery into ministry.

In the stages of marriage, we move from misery to awakening by making the decision to love, to reach out to each other again. That awakening can be the turning point toward ministry, as couples stop denying their pain, make the decision to love, forgive, and work creatively to rebuild their relationship. They realize that healing will not be a quick-fix.

Part of healing for each spouse often means dealing with aspects of their own negative behavior that they have been overlooking or trying to hide. They recognize that they are not alone, that they are part of the problem, and that they have gifts to rebuild their relationship.

As couples work to improve their marriage, they often feel an urge or a need to share what they have learned with others. This sense of being sent or missioned, of turning out, is a spiritual turning point in their journey.

The twelfth step of codependency groups reminds us of the need to help others if we are to continue our recovery. The twelfth step of Troubled Couples Anonymous says: "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to those in troubled marriage relationships, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. "

We are often more empathetic and compassionate toward others and can often engage in ministry more effectively once we have suffered ourselves.

Our greatest resource is the experience we have had in our own marriages. This is the core message of ministers in Retrouvaille. We are not a marriage counselor but a friend. What works for another couple is up to them. We share what has worked for us.

Retrouvaille calls itself "a lifeline for marriages." Bob wrote: "In Retrouvaille, we heard other couples talk about their marital problems. Hearing the team couples discuss their own relationships - the kind of pain they have experienced and the resolutions that took place through the commitment they made to each other at Retrouvaille - really moved a lot of people on that weekend."

Ministers don't have it all together and sometimes cycle back to misery again. Thus the cycle of ministry is misery, awakening, missioning, and ministry.

We are what Henri Nouwen called "wounded healers."

Information on the Retrouvaille program is available by calling 1-800-470-2230 or on the website at


Retrouvaille MN, US
Father Jerry Foley - Presenting Team Priet, 651 232-3301



marital problems, marriage, family

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