Tag Archives: our story

Last Retrouvaille Post Session – Writing to Heal

6 Sep

The writing is on the wall!
© Copyright Alan Bowring and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.

I know that I have been absolutely horrible with describing our Retrouvaille experience.  So far I have only told you about our first night.  Bad me!  The main reason is that there is just so much involved with the program.  I have literally filled an entire notebook with notes, writing, and letters.  I will try to go back and give more details.

However, today I want to share a bit about the last post-session.  It was a long session that took place on August 25th beginning at 9:00 am.  Since we have a long drive to the post-session location, Mr. Mess and I had quite an early morning.  We decided that it was a good investment in our marriage, though, and worth a little lost sleep on a Saturday morning.

The entire first half of this post-session was called “Writing to Heal.”  I have pulled information from the Retrouvaille of Northern Virginia blog about what this day entails:

Purpose and Goals of the Writing to Heal Day
• Promote personal and couple healing through deeper exploration of our stories and a deeper understanding of the Retrouvaille concepts.
• Provide an environment for spiritual growth
• Experience the healing power of our unique story

The session will focus on helping couples write their Personal Introduction, but couples who are working on other presentations–including Weekend and Post Weekend Presentations–will have individual help and time to write as well.

The “spiritual growth” bullet point makes me want to throw up a little in my mouth, but the actual day was great.  There wasn’t anything religious about it at all.  In fact, it was all about coming up with your personal story as a couple.

We were asked to create an outline with one another, decide who would write what parts of our story, and work together to create a snapshot of our life together so far.  They provided us with a general idea of the various sections we should include as well as guidelines for how to write the personal introduction.  The outline they provided us with was:

Couple’s Personal Introduction

I.        The Beginning

A.    Start by telling your names, where you are from, how you met.  (Husband or Wife)
Include the number of years married, children, when you made your weekend, etc.
B.    Talk about how you felt in the beginning of your relations.  (Husband and Wife)
This could include the romantic stage

II.        Trouble that led you to Retrouvaille
Remember to be brief and to the point, but give sufficient information so that the couples can connect with you and realize you have something to share.  This is a very important part where you need to be sure to share deeply and honestly enough for the couples to get a believable connection with you.

A.    Briefly talk about how your marriage deteriorated and how you were led to Retrouvaille.  (Husband or Wife)
Remember here – the one who did it, says it!
B.    Other spouse shared how they felt about their relationship before going to Retrouvaille.
Share your feelings here and describe them fully: abandonment, devastation, crushed, etc.

III.        Life Now
Share about your weekend and post sessions.
  (Husband and Wife)
Share your vision and inspire the couples to continue working at their marriages.  Tell what you learned during the weekend and post sessions and what happened in your relationship.  Share your struggles.  What kept you going?  Share your feelings and desires. State that you will share your journey since the weekend during the rest of these post sessions.  Explain that you continue working on your relationship and remind the couples that it is a continuous journey, and the journey is made much easier with support and dialog!

The great thing about the Writing to Heal day is that we were allowed to bring laptops.  Score!  I can type waaayy faster than I can hand write.  Typing our story also meant that it would be much, much easier to blog about.  Instead of having to type and format pages of hand-written notes, I could just copy and paste.  If laptops has been allowed during the weekend and other post-sessions you would already have those details.

So, Mr. Mess and I went about the task of trying to summarize our relationship so far.  We talked about what to put in each section, and I have to admit that we had some disagreements.  He thought everything before we were married should be in “the beginning.”  I felt that since our troubles started before we were married, they should be included in Section II.  He didn’t understand me.  I couldn’t picture how we could make his idea fit into the outline they gave us.  Finally, he went and asked the instructor.  He confirmed what I thought – the point of the first section was to stick to the gushy, romantic, happy memories.  If the trouble started before the marriage, then it should be discussed in Section II, but Section I should be all about the butterflies.  Unfortunately, there weren’t a whole lot of those.

We also had a few formatting hitches when it came to who was going to write which section.  Since the person who “did it” was also supposed to “say it,” that meant we had to work the back and forth so that he introduced the topic of his affair and addiction.  He wanted to do the very beginning of our story, so we were able to make that work pretty well by picking a half-way point in “the beginning” and having him write about everything before that and me write about everything after that up to our “trouble.”  From there the back and forth story-telling really worked itself out.

Just to make sure that this is clear, the personal story we were writing was intended to be read out loud by both of us.  It can be used if you want to be a couple who leads a Retrouvaille weekend or post-session.  It can also just be done for the two of you and kept private.  Whatever the final purpose, the initial goal is to interact with one another, collaborate, remember the positive memories and great things that brought you together, open up about what went wrong, and see how far you have come as a couple through better communication.

During our writing to heal day, I typed my section, and Mr. Mess gave me his as he finished them.  I then added them into my sections to complete the outline with indications of who wrote and was to read each part.  By the end of the post-session, we were done.  We had added all of the sections, figured out a way to make them flow, and edited it together.  All of the couples were given the opportunity to share their personal story at the end, but no one volunteered.  I was ready, but Mr. Mess felt a little more reserved, so we held back as well.

What we did do, however, was approach the lead couple at the end of the day.  They were one of our weekend presenting couples, had led a few post-sessions, and helped to coordinate the entire thing.  We had been emailing with them from the beginning.  We asked if we could email them a copy of our outline and get their feedback.  They said they would certainly be willing to do that.  In fact, they did that with most of the presenting couples before they came to the weekend, so they already had a process down for recommending edits, areas that should be elaborated on more, etc.  Mr. Mess was very willing to do that, so when we got home we sent them our personal story.

So far I haven’t heard back from them.  I’m sure they’ve been busy with the holiday and preparing for the upcoming Retrouvaille weekend.  I was going to wait for them to give their feedback before I posted it here on my blog, but I’m starting to get antsy.  You guys have seen some works-in-progress before, and I haven’t been beat up too much.  This post has already become much too long to also include our detailed personal story, but I will be publishing it very, very soon for you all to read.  I look forward to your honest opinions.

Our Story

9 Apr

Today I have been thinking about “our story.”  You know what I mean – every couple has one – the fairy tale story of how you met, fell in love and ended up together.  Without even meaning to we often sugar coat things, add in extra layers of romance, and make the meeting seem like this super important, time-and-heart-stopping event.  Maybe it is that way for some people – maybe they don’t have to exaggerate or leave out the ugly parts because it was that special and wonderful and not a single thing went wrong that night or ever since.  It wasn’t “perfect” at all for me and my husband, but somehow I concocted a cutesy, lovey-dovey version of that night for myself and my friends and family.

Here it is (as it appeared in our engagement book – and yes we had one of those) with a few minor changes:

“On November 2nd, 2007 I headed out to spend an evening on the town playing darts with my friend.  We met up at The Bar, our favorite place to relax and unwind after a hard week at the office.  I hadn’t been out in a while, and I was looking forward to having some fun and releasing a little stress by throwing pointy things at the wall (a.k.a. darts).

After staking out the best table in the corner, we headed up to the bar to grab a drink.  Almost immediately my friend spotted someone who she hadn’t seen in a while, my future husband.  She introduced us, and I noticed right off the bat how great and genuine his smile was.  He was updating his new cell phone and put my friend’s name and number in next to a smiley face icon.  I joked that he must not know her very well if that’s the symbol he was using.  He laughed and made a joke right back.

The rest of the night she and I played darts, mingled around, and talked to different people.  I always found myself gravitating back to [my future husband] because something about him was so engaging and fun.  I found out that he hadn’t been out in months, either, and he just happened to be out celebrating a new job that evening.  Once we talked a little more I connected the dots that this was the man who my friend had been talking about for years at work.  She used to visit his apartment all the time because he was dating her best friend.  She told me stories about how well he cooked, and how she always wanted to help but he took care of everything.

At some point in the night we got into a darts match where he and I were on opposite teams.  I was not very good at darts because I was just starting out, but somehow my team was kicking their butts.  Of course I made sure he knew it.  I have heard that I can sometimes be intimidating (though I don’t know how that could be), but I was impressed by his ability to take it and dish it right back.  His witty banter was very charming and I could tell he was intelligent and quick on his feet.

Needless to say, I was enjoying myself and having a great time.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, my friend told him that he didn’t have a chance with me, so he shouldn’t even try.  He is not one to just throw in the towel, and he didn’t take that as the final word.  During a brief game break he asked me if I would give him my real phone number if he asked for it.  When I said yes, he asked if I would actually pick up if he called.  That got me laughing, and got him my number.

He walked me to my car that night and was a perfect gentleman, which I have to admit I made a little difficult.  He told me that he wanted to take me out on a date soon and get to know me.  About 30 minutes later he called me to make sure I got home safely, and I knew he could be a keeper.  The rest is, as they say, history.”

My perfect, plastic story fit my perfectly make-believe version of life – Kinda like this Barbie that’s all hearts and pink and perfectly manufactured.

Here’s the shorter, more “real” version:

I went out to a bar with my friend.  We proceeded to get drunk and throw darts.  I met a friend of hers.  She challenged him that he could never “get me.”  He pursued me just to prove her wrong (having not really been all that interested in me to begin with).  We flirted, drank some more, and I insulted him a few times because I’m mean like that when I’ve been drinking.  I was impressed when he didn’t cry, and flattered when he asked for my number.  Once the bar closed he walked me to my car, we made out and dry humped a bit on the street.  He refused to come home with me.  He called me later that night to sooth my drunken ego, and make sure I didn’t kill myself (or someone else) on the way home.  He asked to take me out on a date some time.  I agreed.

Yeah, that’s really it.  Not too flattering to either of us.  And I’m not proud of the drinking, the “whore-ish” behavior on my part or the drunk driving (really not cool – REALLY).  I was coming off a bad 7-year relationship with my high school sweet-heart (a completely different story).  He had just started working again after his own bad breakup and meltdown (really a different story that I will have to get into at some point).  There was bad behavior, lies, and poor judgement involved.  I will not justify myself because a lot of that was incredibly wrong and in hindsight I am lucky (on so many levels) that I am not dead.

I will say that I now realize there is nothing remotely romantic, stable, or marriage-building in our first meeting – or really a lot of our early dating.  I can’t believe how stupid and reckless I was.  It doesn’t matter that this was only the 4th or so time I had ever been out to a bar, that I was 22, that I have never had a one-night stand, that I do not agree with driving drunk, that I am normally a safe and intelligent woman, or that I was trying to numb some serious internal pain.  What matters is that night ranks as one of the worst moments for me personally, yet somehow I tried to make it sound like the beginning of some “Happily Ever After” scenario.  And I believed myself for a while!  How ridiculous!

Do you delude yourself about your relationship – either the one you’re in or one in the past?  This was just the beginning for me, as you will find out in future posts.

%d bloggers like this: