Can one weekend transform a marriage?
Couples who have attended Worldwide Marriage Encounter say the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
The faith-based program is designed to help couples improve and strengthen their marriage through better communication and understanding.
Each weekend is led by a priest and three couples who give presentations on different topics.
After each presentation, participating couples spend time discussing the issues and how they can build love, trust and support for each other.
The next one in the Diocese of Charleston is scheduled for Oct. 21-23 in Myrtle Beach. To learn more, visit http://sc.wwme.org.
Deacon Stephen Burdick and his wife Nydia, members of Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia, have attended three marriage encounters over the course of their 33-year union.
He said the first one had such an impact he still remembers the dates in November 1981. Each weekend helped the couple with issues they were dealing with at that stage of their life together.
“After we made our first weekend, the two of us really committed to make our marriage the best thing we could for each other,” he said. “She supports me, and I support her.”
“We learned to get the most out of our relationship and all of God’s grace that goes with it,” Deacon Burdick explained. “Our marriage is the most important thing, and when that relationship is right, our relationship with our kids is right.”
The Burdicks said Marriage Encounter teaches couples communication skills and how to build a “responsible relationship” of mutual respect where each person listens to the other and both husband and wife work together to resolve conflicts.
Ted and Mary Harden attended their first weekend in New Jersey in 1995 and liked the program so much they volunteered to lead sessions there and in South Carolina after they relocated to Fort Mill in 2003.
“It taught us how to live our everyday marriage like we were dating again, to keep focused on each other throughout our day even though we might be apart for hours because of work,” Mrs. Harden said.
She said calling a spouse or even just sending a loving text message or email during a busy day could boost their spirits.
Marriage Encounter teaches couples their relationship needs to be a priority, she said, especially because too many people these days focus all their efforts on their children and don’t do anything to nourish their marriage.
“If a whole relationship has been based on the kids and their activities, when the kids move out and go to college a lot of people will look at their spouse and say ‘Who are you? I don’t know you anymore.’” she explained. “We’re teaching our three children how to have a good marriage.”
The learning doesn’t stop at the end of the weekend, either. Couples attend a reunion about two weeks later to see how they are progressing, and then can sign up for encounter circles which continue to meet once a month.
Mrs. Burdick said couples considering a marriage encounter should answer:
“Do you remember how you felt about each other the day you got married?” she said. “Marriage Encounter can help you feel that way again.”