Marriage Encounter-UAE participants at St Mary’s Church. More than 1.9 million couples in over 100 countries have experienced it, including over 1,000 in the UAE in 20 years. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Divorce isn’t always the answer to marital issues. At times, the couple just needs to talk — as in really sit down and talk.

The same principle applies in making ‘good marriages’ great, said organisers of Marriage Encounter — UAE, part of Worldwide Marriage Encounter movement, the largest pro-marriage organisation in the world.

Marriage Encounter-UAE (ME) is an event dedicated to married couples so they can experience the power and beauty of marriage through an engaging weekend programme. Currently, more than 1.9 million couples in over 100 countries have experienced it, including more than 1,000 couples in the UAE over the last 20 years.

Father Arul Edward Joseph, OFM Cap, Marriage Encounter — UAE addresses a current need of couples which they often are not aware of.

We firmly believe in a foundation of trust; if a couple trusts in the love of one another, they can sort out any issues between themselves.

- Fr Arul Edward Joseph, Marriage Encounter-UAE

“In a world of increasing broken marriages and technology at our fingertips, sadly, intimate spousal communication is on the decline. Every couple does not just need, but deserves a Marriage Encounter Weekend where husbands and wives continually grow closer together to live more joyful and purposeful lives,” said the priest, who is serving at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Oud Mehta.

Father Arul added that the weekend programme is not therapy for broken marriages, but a chance to elevate regular couples by teaching them better communication.

“Normal therapy looks at solving issues between husband and wife. However in Marriage Encounter, our main focus is the intimate communication between husband and wife. Once this intimate communication line is established a high degree of trust in so formed,” said Father Arul.

“We firmly believe that with a foundation stone of trust, if a couple trusts in the love of one another they can sort out any issues between themselves. Hence Marriage Encounter is a powerful way of bringing down divorce and separation rates. It helps couples ‘fall in love again’ … as a result of which marriages are never the same.”

By doing so, the couples will have a chance to give back to society and thrive as happy families.

Couples at a marriage encounter event Image Credit: Supplied

So what exactly happens at Marriage Encounters? National Leadership Team and couple Savio and Jenita Fernandes said the 48-hour weekend programme is designed to give married couples the opportunity to examine their lives together.

“It is a time to share their feelings, hopes, disappointments, joys and frustrations. It’s not a retreat, nor a marriage clinic, nor group sensitivity. It’s a unique approach aimed at revitalising marriages. Most importantly, it is not for problem solving, as some couples mistakenly think. As our flyer says, ‘Come make your Good marriage Great.’,” Savio said.

Jenita said all couples married for more than three years are invited to the weekend encounter that is couple-centred and rooted in the Catholic faith, although it is also open to all.

“Couples at different stages of their marriage and from different faiths have enjoyed the benefit of this enriching experience,” said Jenita.

“Each presentation allows couples a rare opportunity to look within themselves as individuals, then to look at our marriage and our relationship to one another, and finally to look at our relationship with God, the Church and the world.”

How the couples got on

When we first experienced The ME Weekend, we understood we were not alone in our struggles as all couples like us were in the same boat. We were able to see our personal flaws and take personal responsibility for our behaviour and attitude and ask forgiveness from each other. Now we had the power to heal each other on an everyday basis. We were able to experience a very deep level of intimacy on a mind, body and spirit level. We now had tools to communicate to understand each other better without blaming or offending the other. We experienced a new joy, our romance and passion came back alive again like we were newly-weds although we were 12 years married. This has even grown more intense with time as we are now 32 years married.

Nelson and Lucia

Nelson and Lucia Image Credit: Supplied

We attended our ME Weekend in September 2017 and we enrolled mainly out of curiosity to know why it’s called “encounter”. Our perspective on a successful relationship was turned upside down and we understood that a marriage is the union of two souls, husband and wife, with God at the centre of it. We’ve often heard that to make a perfect 100 in a marriage relationship, it’s always 50+50 between husbands and wives in everything. After our weekend we realised a perfect 100 means zeroing out ourselves of our egos, humbling ourselves, respecting each other’s feelings, loving each other for who we are. Now we will happily and proudly say that “ME makes Good Marriages Great” indeed.

Jeevendran and Shanthala

Jeevendran and Shanthala Image Credit: Supplied

We started our young family with Vikki being at home and a good mother to our four growing up. There was my ageing mother living with us, too. I thought the nice income I was bringing home to Vikki was all that was needed to keep the family strong, and yes, continue to be ‘happy.’ It did not last long as we started to take each other for granted. Our communication was limited; the spark of our early years of marriage was diminishing. We heard of the M.E. weekend through the church announcement and immediately signed up to attend. The weekend was a real discovery for us — to get back in sync with one another, not just pretend to be happy. We have been married for 30 years now, with five grown-up children. Our relationship has never been the same after the M.E. weekend. We keep growing together in love.

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