A conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Melly, international coordinators of Retrouvaille
Four teenagers are waiting for their parents at the door and, as soon as they see them they ask: "What happens now?". The parents tell them they have decided to "give a chance" to their marriage and their children reply: "You can count on us". This scene has really happened in the life of South Africans Mike and Carly Melly, interview by SIR at the 7th World Meeting of the Families in Milan; the two are the international coordinators of "Retrouvaille – a Christian experience". It is an association founded in 1977 in Quebec, Canada, in the aim of helping people who are living a crisis in their marriage: separated or divorced (but not remarried) with any religious or political affiliation, or belonging to any social class. Currently it is made of 156 communities spread over 28 countries worldwide, and about 6,000 couples have attended the program offered by Retrouvaille. The rate of success, i.e. the people who have decided to start over to save their own family, is about 80% (www.retrouvaille.org).
An encouraging example. "We entered the program – Mr. and Ms. Melly told us - after four and a half months of separation. Our aim was just finding a way to get to a "friendly" divorce and instead, after that first weekend we decided to continue in the program and attend also the following weekends". They recall that their children were very traumatized by the experience of separation and of course they were very happy when the spouses have come back on their decision: "The program has helped the whole family". The method consists in the fact that each couple introduces their experience, because "the fact of hearing the experience of those who have succeeded in re-starting afresh gives a lot of courage - the Melly's stress - especially in a cultural context like ours where everything pushes you toward divorce". The couples who lead the meetings, all of which passed through a marital crisis (it is an "au-pair ministry"), teach people to communicate and provide appropriate tools to learn listening and recognizing each other anew. It is an individual work but also a work on the couple, and at times they also show examples of how to overcome certain problems.
Today, people search for "the easy way out". For the Melly's, today couples break up very frequently because "the media have a very strong influence and the models they propose are opposite to our family model. In addition, relations between man and woman in general are profoundly changed and marriage is more fragile because it is based on a relationship. Today people seek the easy way out and quickly lose hope, but in the midst of a crisis we must not run away, we must face problems and seek the means to remedy the situation". Meeting groups such as the Retrouvaille Association are very important, "because you understand you are not alone, and positive experiences will encourage you. Politics and the media should convey messages aimed at strengthening marriage and rediscovering the value of continuity, because a united family is good for society".
In Italy. The two South Africans believe that many people come to separation and divorce "because many are not prepared for marriage: the relationship breaks down when a person comes off his/her partner, when they lack hope, when they have no faith in God: but meeting again is really possible". The Association is also widespread in Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Trinidad, Samoa, Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ireland and, since 2002, also in Italy. In our country they accept couples who got married in church but also couples who got married in the municipality and couples with children who live under the same roof.
(02 June 2012)