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Published: Sunday, 7/13/2003

Program helps couples rediscover feelings


Once on the brink of divorce, Bob and Laurie Pacer have worked out an approach to conflict resolution that balances Mrs. Pacer's need to talk about problems with Mr. Pacer's inclination to avoid them.

“If I want to talk about something, an issue or a conflict, if he can't handle it right then he'll say, `I can't deal with this right now. How about after supper we can take a walk?' ... I trust him that he is going to face me or face the issue,” Mrs. Pacer says.

“People do change,” she continues. “I didn't use to think they did.”

It usually takes some sort of crisis, Mrs. Pacer observes, “but you change your own behavior as a gift of love to your spouse.”

The Delta couple, who will celebrate their 32nd wedding anniversary this week, discovered solutions to their problems through a program for troubled marriages called Retrouvaille, which means “rediscovery.”

Retrouvaille, which began in Canada in 1977, involves a weekend retreat run by three couples and a priest and six weeks of follow-up sessions. The Pacers are among the couples who volunteer their time to help others by making presentations on such topics as trust, forgiveness, conflict resolution, and intimacy.

“We try to get couples to discuss feelings. That's the starting point - building up empathy for each other,” Mr. Pacer says.

Lori Lucas, 46, of southwest Toledo, advises couples to stay focused on the topic at hand. “Don't bring up the past,” adds Mrs. Lucas, who went through the program with her husband, Mick. The pair, who will observe their 25th wedding anniversary in August, also serve as presenters for Retrouvaille of Northwest Ohio.

Sometimes it can be helpful to write a letter to your spouse expressing your feelings, she says.

Mr. Lucas, 50, believes that sharing feelings about an issue helps resolve the conflict, because, “When you know how somebody feels, you're more apt to compromise.”

Some things you'll never agree on, but it's important to keep talking.

“You grow apart when you don't talk about anything,” Mr. Lucas says.

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