FOUR years ago their marriage was in shambles, but through Retrouvaille, an international programme for marriages in distress, a Nelson Mandela Bay couple have been able to rekindle their love.
Graham and Monique Ward have not only managed to salvage their relationship, but have been sharing their past experiences with other couples through the programme, which they now co-ordinate here in Port Elizabeth. The next programme runs from March 16-18.
Although it is only in its second year here, the programme already has yielded positive results in that it has brought a divorced couple back together.
Graham said the programme came from Canada, and that “Retrouvaille” was a French word meaning rediscovery.
“The programme is cleverly run. It’s for marriages in trouble and for couples which are in need of improving their communication skills and have long lasting relationships,” said Graham.
The first programme held in Port Elizabeth was in July last year and had 16 couples taking part in it.
“It runs for a weekend with a couple of post sessions, which are follow ups a couple attends after the weekend for a period of three months. A couple is given a manual to enhance what happened on the weekend,” Monique said.
“The first one we had was last year, we had 16 couples in the programme, of which one was divorced for four years, but they remarried after this and renewed their vows,” Graham said.
Monique added that it was “quite amazing”, due to the time and effort that goes into the weekend. “It is really rewarding that one couple finds a way back,” she said.
Although presented in Port Elizabeth the programme is not only for couples living in the Bay.
“We represent the Eastern Cape. We have couples coming from Jeffreys Bay and East London,” Monique said.
Even though it has a religious feel to it, the programme is not based on any specific faith. The couple says the weekend long programme is a private affair.
“You are among other people, but sharing of information and communications are private. Individuals are kept private too. In other words, you can have celebrities on this thing, but personal information remains confidential, said Graham.
Details of what exactly happens on the weekend are kept secret.
“We are not allowed to actually say what the programme entails. You just have to come in faith and know that you will be with your spouse or partner because any preconceived ideas can actually spoil the event. It’s just about improving communication,” said Monique.
She said communication was key in any relationship, be it between a parent and their children or between spouses or colleagues.
“If that starts to fall away somewhere along the line there will be problems. What happens with up to 90% of relationships these days is that we are so busy, we don’t communicate and that just leads to problems.”
They too experienced a breakdown in communication four years ago in their now 13-year-old marriage.
“We had communication problems. Father Jerry Browne recommended that we see a counsellor and fortunately through that process, we got through that problem.
“When he saw the change in us, he asked us to head the Retrouvaille programme here.”
Browne, a parish priest at Mater Dei Catholic Church in Cape Road, is the driver of the programme.
Through Retrouvaille, Graham and Monique say couples come out renewed.
“It reminds you why got involved with that person in the first place amongst all the pressures you face.
“It’s not just for married couples. It can be for couples, who are in a relationship and have not got married, but facing just the same problems.
“A lot of couples who enter this are on their last legs, at a point where divorce is an option,” Graham said.
The registration process can be done online at: www.retrouvaille.org.
The fee of the course is R950. Couples are required to pay half of that when they register online.
This year’s programme runs from March 16 to 18.
ýFurther information from Monique on 082-332-4601.