‘Out-of-control’ family saved self with Retrouvaille retreat
The low point in Carol Moran’s life came 15 years ago, when she left her husband, Tom, and their nine children, and for two weeks lived out of a Ford Ranger.
“I just drove around the neighborhood and slept in the truck at night,” said Mrs. Moran, now 64.
The Morans had been married for 25 years. But Mr. Moran had relapsed into alcohol abuse, and their teenage children were getting into serious trouble. The couple fought constantly.
“I didn’t know what the problem was,” Mrs. Moran said. “All I knew was we were out of control.” But the Morans are still married. “We have all these problems, but we have so many blessings,” said Mr. Moran, 67, a retired hydromechanics engineer who worked for the U.S. Navy for 40 years. “We’ve accomplished so much.”
Many of the Morans’ accomplishments have come inside the “community” where they first salvaged their marriage.
Shortly after Mrs. Moran left the couple’s Rockville, Md. home, a friend told her about Retrouvaille, a program started in 1977 for struggling marriages.
“We knew we were in deep trouble, so we jumped into Retrouvaille,” Mr. Moran said.
In September 1991, the Morans went to a weekend retreat run by couples who also had gone through Retrouvaille. The week- end focused on teaching couples practical communication tools.
“Yelling and screaming were our tools that we used — and slamming doors,” said Mrs. Moran, who was a kindergarten teacher before becomingastay-at-homemother.“We learned that doesn’t work.”
Mr. Moran said: “Once we learned to communicate, we saw that we had the same ideas and feelings about a lot of things. We just didn’t have the tools. A lot of issues can be settled by just listening to each other. If the wife wants to talk about something, the husband needs to take time and just listen.”
The Morans also learned about forgiving each other and taking responsibility for their own actions. The teachings were based on Catholic principles and often included a priest but were independent of a parish or church.
After six post-weekend instructional sessions, the Morans became Retrouvaille presenters in March 1992 and now coordinate retreat weekends in Maryland.
Their continuing involvement in the program, they say, has forced them to continue working on their marriage. Mr. Moran has been sober for years now, and the Morans think of themselves as “wounded healers.”
“We’re not counselors,” Mr. Moran said. “We’re just sharing our story with others.”
Mrs. Moran said they have seen many other couples repair their marriages through the Retrouvaille program.
“We hope that we can give hope to other people,” she said.
About 70,000 people have gone through the Retrouvaille program.
In August 2005, the Morans flew to Germany to be with one of their daughters, whose husband is in the U.S. Air Force, for the birth of her child.
Their granddaughter was born Aug. 17, the Morans’ 38th anniversary.
“It was like a sign that all of our struggles had been worth it,” Mrs. Moran said.
Tom and Carol Moran use their own struggles and triumphs to help other troubled couples as presenters at Retrouvaille retreats, the program is based on Catholic principles.