The following is an article that appeared in the July 22-Sept. 27, 2002 edition of
“Together in Christ” magazine, which was published by The Word Among Us. The author is a member of the
Lisle/Naperville/Woodridge Community of the Joliet Area.
Rekindling the Sparks in Marriage
How One Short Weekend Revitalized a Relationship
By Susan Diane Ekins
During our early years of marriage, my husband Ken and I were typical newlyweds. We talked
about our dreams and plans for the future, and we rarely argued. Sometimes we ate dinner by
candlelight at home; other times we dined at nice restaurants. My car even sported a bumper sticker
that proclaimed, “I love Ken!” We were a carefree “double-income, no-kids” couple.
Over time, however, our relationship changed. The birth of our first child, Katie, was one of the
happiest days of our lives, but our focus shifted rather quickly from us to her. One evening when she
was still a newborn, we tried dining at home by candlelight. We took turns eating crab legs and
pacing back and forth with her while she screamed. A couple of years later, our son, Jimmy was
born, and then we were blessed with another daughter, Melissa.
While we cherished our children, Ken and I gradually became so wrapped up in their lives that
we stopped paying much attention to each other. I was often preoccupied with their needs. For
example, I worried whether our children were eating well or whether I should take them to the
pediatrician when they caught colds. We spent a great amount of time with our children, playing and
interacting with them. In fact, we were probably more loving to the kids than we were to each other.
Ken and I were usually so exhausted after the kids had been tucked in bed that we usually preferred
to spend time by ourselves, not together. We didn‟t have much of a desire for physical closeness
after being with the kids all day.
Ken and I had previously worked at the same company, but I stopped working to remain home
with Katie after she was born. Besides losing my income, Ken and I also lost a common focus. Now
we rarely went out on a date, and when we did, we talked mostly about the kids. I was committed to
our marriage, but the prospect of spending a lifetime with the same person and having the same
conversations seemed rather dull. Where was the romance we used to experience? Without
realizing it, our marriage had slid into the doldrums.
One day a friend from our parish suggested that we sign up for a Marriage Encounter
weekend. Cathy told us that Worldwide Marriage Encounter had improved her relationship with her
husband and helped her to overcome depression. Ken and I were both interested and thought it
would be worthwhile to spend one weekend away working on our relationship. However, I wanted to
go immediately, while Ken preferred to wait a while.
In the meantime, Cathy invited us to a dinner for married couples sponsored by Worldwide
Marriage Encounter at our parish. The atmosphere was perfect for an intimate dinner. The room was
lit by candles, and the tables were covered with elegant white cloths and fine china. Soft music
played in the background. Ken and I enjoyed a romantic evening together and talked about our
wedding, our newlywed days, and our relationship. We wistfully recalled the candlelight dinners we
had once enjoyed.
After dinner, a couple described their college romance and how their relationship had changed
over time. They told us that their Marriage Encounter weekend had helped them to experience more
unity as a couple. When the evening ended, Ken was open to attending the next available Marriage
Encounter weekend, so we signed up.
On the Friday we were scheduled to leave, Ken woke up with a fever – the first he‟d had in
years. All day he tossed and turned in bed. I was reluctant to cancel our reservation for the weekend
because I feared that if we did, we would postpone it indefinitely. By mid-afternoon I had telephoned
two friends who had attended a Marriage Encounter. Both promised to pray for us, and of course, I
prayed as well. At the “drop dead” point when I had to decide whether or not we could attend the
weekend, Ken‟s fever broke, and we were able to go.
A team of three Catholic couples and a priest led the weekend in the conference room of a
local hotel. Each couple talked about their relationship. One couple, for example, related how they
had become like “married singles” before their weekend. The priest discussed his relationship with
God and the Church.
We were allotted enough time after each presentation to reflect individually and to write a letter
to our spouse. Then every couple retired to their own hotel room to read the letters they had written
to each other and to privately discuss their feelings about the topic and their relationship.
We interacted and socialized with the other couples on the weekend only at mealtimes and
briefly before the presentations. The weekend concluded with Mass, during which each couple
renewed their marriage vows. I felt as happy as I had been on my wedding day.
During and after that Marriage Encounter weekend, I felt a deep passion for Ken and realized
within the depths of my being how much he loved me. I remembered the many reasons why I was in
love with him, among them his easygoing nature and the way he calls me “Dear” all the time. Ken
was on “cloud nine” – emotionally drained but on a high that lasted for days afterward.
How did one brief weekend accomplish so much for us? During their presentations, the team
couples taught us by their examples to communicate on a deeper level by discussing our feelings and
by looking directly at each other. They challenged us to answer personal questions. Some were
about issues we had never before discussed, such as how we would feel if one of us died.
Ken and I attempted to express our feelings clearly to each other and state how strongly we
felt about the issue. We also tried to listen with our heart by being fully attentive, by looking at the
other‟s body language, and by accepting whatever was said. Our improved communication made us
feel more intimate.
The priest on the team helped us to have a vision for our marriage by reminding us that God
wants us to be united and that he has a plan for us as a couple. He emphasized the sacramental
nature of marriage that makes God a part of the relationship. We as a couple are in turn part of the
Church. This was the first time I realized that Ken and I are called to be apostles of God. The priest
set aside some time for us to meet with him privately if we wished, and I was able to receive the
Sacrament of Reconciliation.
On Sunday morning I said to Ken, “I feel as if someone is praying for us.” He agreed. Later I
discovered that our friend Cathy and her husband had prayed for us during the entire weekend. In
fact, someone had prayed for every couple on the weekend. I believe that was another reason why
this one brief weekend experience helped us – and other couples - so much.
While the Marriage Encounter weekend was wonderful, it was just the beginning of our journey
to strengthen our marriage. We brought home tools to help us communicate. We decided to make
our marriage a high priority and to dedicate time each day to talk to each other about topics that
matter to us. We even started praying together after our weekend, and sometimes we pray for other
couples attending ME weekends.
Even so, after awhile, it would have been easy to slip into our old habits, making our weekend
nothing more than a pleasant memory. However, we joined a local Worldwide Marriage Encounter
community group that provides additional support to couples who have attended a weekend. At our
monthly meetings, a couple presents a topic relevant to marriage, like stress or family commitments.
Then each couple talks privately about the topic. The meetings help to bolster our relationship
because we focus on our own marriage.
At these meetings, we find role models in other couples who place their marriage first. They
share their stories, and we feel comforted knowing that they deal with situations similar to the ones
we face. We also pray as a group for special intentions. We spend a lot of time at the meetings
socializing too, and Ken and I feel very close to our Marriage Encounter friends.
Our kids attend grammar school now, and I work part time. Ken and I juggle our jobs,
children‟s functions, and extended family commitments. Without Marriage Encounter, all these
activities could easily make us “too busy” for each other again. However, Marriage Encounter has
taught us to place each other first, so we try to take time to talk to each other every day.
Sometimes after the kids are in bed, we build a fire, watch a movie, sip wine, and enjoy some
appetizers. Occasionally, we bring the kids to their aunt‟s house while we go away overnight.
Ken and I had a fairly good marriage before the weekend; it was just a little stagnant.
Worldwide Marriage Encounter gave us an opportunity to fine-tune our marriage and take the time to
focus solely on each other. We were able to renew our spirits and deepen our love for one another. I
will never forget the words of our priest, who said: “Jesus commanded us to „Love one another, as I
have loved you‟. Think of Jesus on the cross. Clearly God wants you to have a passionate, rather
than a lukewarm, marriage.”