This weekend we traveled six hours to attend a World Wide Marriage Encounter. This program is put on by a segment of the Catholic Church and its aim to to strengthen and preserve marriages. Since we are not Catholic, I was a little worried but I decided from the get-go that I would take away what I needed and leave any discussion behind regarding ideas/values that I may disagree with. That was a good decision but in truth there was very little church doctrine thrown our way.
All I can say about the weekend is that it was very therapeutic and restorative. Programs were given in which the Marriage Encounter leaders shared powerful stories from their own lives and gave examples of how following the program renewed their relationships and made communication/intimacy easier. Listening to the hardships and disappointments of these couples really helped B to understand we were not alone. Seeing their relationships and the intimacy they shared made us want the same for our marriage too.
We spent the weekend writing and learning to dialogue with one another. For someone like B, who finds sharing and even discussing FEELINGS difficult, seeing other men who were in the same boat as he, but have learned how to share and behave differently was a huge break through. The most important things we learned were:
- Feelings are neither good nor bad. It is the actions that follow the feelings that can be good or bad.
- The difference between thoughts and feelings. Thoughts include judgements, beliefs, ideas, perceptions and opinions while feelings are spontaneous inner reactions.
- If you can replace “I feel” with “I think” then you have expressed a thought not a feeling.
- If you can replace “I feel” with “I think” and it doesn’t make sense or if you can replace “I feel” with “I am” then you are most likely expressing a feeling. For instance “I feel irritated about this” it doesn’t make sense if you say “I think irritated about this” so it is a feeling. You can also identify a feeling by saying “I feel irritated about this” and then replacing the “I feel” with “I am” “I am irritated about this” so it is also a feeling.
There was also a priest there who participated and shared about his journey and disappointments with his vocation. He was so honest and forthright about his life. It was refreshing. I think for some of the men hearing the struggles of a priest allowed them to really look at their own lives and to open up.
It was an INTENSE but amazing weekend full of hope and promise. The feelings and intimacy we shared was much needed and appreciated. We both felt like we came away with the tools to improve our marriage and make it be the type of relationship we both need and desire. And we both had felt a renewed commitment to our marriage and each other.
Yet, I think the thing that touched us the most was when we found out we had had two couples who had gone through Marriage Encounter praying for us and the healing of our relationship throughout the weekend. I have to admit that prayer is a iffy thing in my book and I have always felt uncomfortable with others praying or asking for things on others behalf. It has just never sat well with me. Yet, to know that people we didn’t know were wishing us well, encouraging us through prayer and rooting us on just amazed me and somehow it felt like a blessing rather than an intrusion. But what was even more amazing was that after the weekend was over and we were exiting the building there were those same couples who had prayed for us standing there welcoming us with their insight, love, the candles they burned for us and flowers…well, it caught us both off guard. We felt encouraged, joyful, honored and amazed that strangers would do all this for us with the hope that our marriage would come to a place of peace and harmony.
There are not many times in life where you truly get to feel uplifted and amazed while experiencing positive changes working within your own life. This weekend was one of those times and it leaves me hopeful and gives me the ability to dream again about our future together. It doesn’t mean that we will be free of troubles but we have some more tools in our tool belts and how they work make sense to both of us and we are both willing to take them out and use them to improve things between us. I hope you will root us on too in whatever way you choose for one thing we learned this weekend is that we can use all the help we can get to take our relationship in the direction that we want it to go.