Our basic programme for married couples involves the experience of dialogue within one’s couple, on both everyday life matters and a wider range of issues that arise in the relationship. The programme is realized with the use of a workshop method. Properly prepared married couples and priests introduce participants to their own work using testimonies, often ones related to coming out of serious crises. The participants work only in their couples. No issues connecting or dividing the participating spouses are disclosed in the group. A strictly defined programme is followed in a warm atmosphere created by the Presenting Team. The participants can feel safe in the group, despite the difficulties they sometimes have in their marital relationship.
The strength of the different forms of work offered by the Encounters of Married Couples lies in the fact that the couple can experience freshness of mutual feelings, and renew or rediscover their unity. Married couples leaving the weekend are generally capable of overcoming conflicts. The programme is based on the modern knowledge of psychology of communication and theology. It is arranged in such a way as to allow each couple to look at their life in the spirit of love.
Our programme has some characteristics of sensitivity training, but what most accurately reflects what we propose is simply the word “meeting”, or ENCOUNTER. It is an unusual meeting, during which we offer participants a form of dialogue that on the one hand helps to get to know each other better, and on the other hand – if there are misunderstandings – helps to solve conflicts between spouses or couples preparing for marriage. This is not a traditional retreat or psychotherapy, although it does have therapeutic effects. The retreats we offer have turned out to be particularly fruitful for married couples in crisis, as well as for second unions after divorce. They were the proverbial last resort for many couples. For all, they can be an important step in renewing and strengthening their love.
The programme of the Retreat for Married Couples is the same in all Encounters of Married Couples centres. Participation involves staying at a retreat centre or other location suitable for this type of activity. Each couple have their own room. The organizers provide accommodation and meals. It is necessary for both spouses, without children or pets, to participate in the entire programme.
A special programme is offered for civilly married couples in second unions after divorce.
We also offer participation in our weekend retreats to priests, seminarians, and religious sisters and brothers (see Testimonies). They participate in the Retreats for Married Couples according to a special, separate programme which allows them to renew their priestly or religious vocation.
The Encounters of Married Couples conducts series of Evenings for Couples in Love and Retreats for Engaged Couples as a preparation for marriage. Couples participating in them have an opportunity to confirm or reject their ability to build a lasting relationship. They receive a certificate of completion of such a course.
The Presenting Teams at all Encounters of Married Couples programmes – whether married couples or priests and religious sisters – are selected from among participants in the Basic Retreats for Married Couples according to a procedure adopted by the Association. They are properly prepared to carry out the programmes. They undergo formation as so-called animators, according to Encounters of Married Couples’ programme.