DEAR ABBY: "Distancing in Washington" wrote that after 10 years of marriage and two daughters, she and her spouse are on the verge of divorce. You recommended Marriage Encounter.
Abby, her difficulty appears to be a bit beyond the scope of Marriage Encounter. Marriage Encounter is for marriages in good shape looking to improve.
I suggest she check into Retrouvaille.org. This international program was developed in 1976 by Marriage Encounter couples in Quebec, Canada, for the purpose of addressing serious marriage problems. Let me give you an analogy: Marriage Encounter is a "tune-up" for marriages NOT in crisis. Retrouvaille is an overhaul for marriages in danger of falling apart.
Retrouvaille places strong emphasis on the communications techniques needed to repair hurting marriages, including 12 post-weekend sessions of about two hours each. My wife and I have been involved in both programs. (All the people involved in Marriage Encounter and Retrouvaille are volunteers.) The steps in Marriage Encounter are romance, disillusionment and joy. In Retrouvaille, the steps are romance, disillusionment, misery and hope. -- G.H. FROM ARIZONA
DEAR G.H.: Thank you for straightening me out. I would like to add that although Retrouvaille is a program under the umbrella of the Catholic Church, Catholic theology is NOT part of the program and a couple's religion (or lack of religion) is never a factor -- nor is anyone's financial status.
DEAR ABBY: "Distancing in Washington" said that she is no longer attracted to her husband and that her two beautiful daughters come first before anything. Her problem may be that her priorities are out of order.
Children should be a welcome addition to the family -- not the center of it. She and her spouse need to make a date once a week to focus on each other and remember the reasons they married. Children eventually leave -- if you do your job right. -- READER IN CORAOPOLIS, PA.
DEAR READER: I agree.
DEAR ABBY: My blood froze when I read the letter from "Distancing in Washington." She should run with her husband to their doctor and ask for a complete physical exam with blood work. If he won't go, she should talk with his doctor.
My kind and gentle husband of 10 years sat me down a week ago and told me he's addicted to pain pills and has been for three years. (His doctor had prescribed them to control chronic back pain.) Her letter scared me because that is how it all started in my marriage -- with fights, loss of affection and physical contact. My friendly, well-educated, hardworking husband slowly turned into a withdrawn, exhausted stranger who snapped at the kids, ignored me and couldn't keep a job.
I thought he was depressed, tired, getting old and no longer in love with me. Now I find that he has a terrible addiction. Please urge "Distancing" to seek help now -- before she is in my position. I am hanging on by my fingernails hoping my wonderful husband will reappear out of the wreckage. -- KNOWS BETTER NOW IN MAINE
DEAR KNOWS BETTER: Thank you for the reminder that changes in personality can indicate that something is medically wrong and should be brought to the attention of one's physician. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for your husband's recovery.