I found my best friend again 12 years ago during a Worldwide Marriage Encounter experience. I married him on June 2, 1990, but somewhere during those first 19 years of marriage, raising children, changing careers and caring for an elderly parent, I woke up one day to realize my best friend was gone.
He was still the extraordinarily nice guy I married, and we were still very compatible. We enjoyed the same things and had the same values, but the long, intimate talks in which we shared our hopes and our dreams with one another were gone, replaced with daily exchanges of mundane conversation. We were both disillusioned, skirting around important issues going on in our relationship, and neither one of us would talk about it nor how we really felt.
For my 50th birthday, my husband asked our youngest daughter what I might like for a present. She told him, “She’s always wanted to go on a Marriage Encounter weekend.” As he tells the story, he never recalled hearing me say that, but decided to Google it. He found a weekend scheduled for the next month, and as there were no UCONN Husky basketball games that weekend, he registered us.
At first, I thought the weekend would just be a nice time away from home for the two of us and that we would be the same couple Monday morning as we were that Friday night. I was wrong.
A wonderful thing began to happen in our relationship. We were opening up and sharing deep feelings with one another, something we hadn’t done in a long time. I remember Sunday morning listening as my husband shared his feelings with me about the death of his first wife – a long, unspoken subject between us. As tears streamed down my face while listening to the crack in his voice as he spoke, I silently prayed, “Thank you, God.” The openness and intimacy I had longed for was slowly returning to our marriage. In time, he was becoming my best friend again.
That Worldwide Marriage Encounter experience was a game changer for us. Listening to presentations by three married couples and a Catholic priest, we realized that most couples experience periods of loneliness and distance in their marriages. The communication technique we learned gave us the tools to work through our disillusionment and find the joy and intimacy that God yearns for all of us to experience in our marriages. We discovered the importance of risking to trust the other in sharing vulnerable feelings, to listen to one another with our hearts and to make daily decisions to love, and ask for and grant forgiveness of one another.
A WWME experience is not a retreat nor is it a marriage clinic or counseling program. It is real couples sharing real-life experiences helping others to rekindle their relationships and come to a deeper understanding of God’s plan for their marriage.
To support married couples during social distancing, WWME is sponsoring a virtual 3 ½ week marriage experience called Restore – Rekindle – Renew that couples can experience in the comfort of their home using a computer. The next one in this area will meet virtually for seven sessions from 7 to 9:30 p.m. on Monday and Thursday nights, July 8-29. There is a $100 non-refundable application fee. For more information or to register, call or e-mail Frank and Margie Pearson at (860) 337-2447 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If the above dates are not good for you, visit the national website at www.wwme.org for additional dates or contact me at the Catholic Family Services Office at (860) 848-2237, Ext 312.
Finding my best friend again wasn’t something I expected to happen when we went on our Marriage Encounter experience. But God had other plans for our marriage. Perhaps God has other plans for yours, too.
Mary-Jo McLaughlin, coordinator for the Diocesan Catholic Family Services Office, found her best friend again after she and her husband Pat attended a Worldwide Marriage Encounter experience.
By Mary-Jo McLaughlin