‘We married for love and our married life had normal ups and downs. When we got to know the spirituality of unity, it seemed that our rapport reached its maximum. Instead, four years ago we hit a crisis that we never imagined,’ said Silvia, who has been married to Stefano for thirty years. She is a primary school teacher, he runs a business. They have two children.
She went on to explain, ‘We thought we’d built a solid relationship, and yet bit by bit we came to the point of not understanding one another anymore. There was no dialogue between us and the days passed by in utter bleakness, what with work and other chores to do, crushed by our family problems. We became indifferent to each another, perhaps because we had taken our love for granted.
‘For my part,’ Stefano said, ‘I had let myself become absorbed by a pile of worries at work and they were always on my mind. Silvia tried to make me understand her difficulties, but I was caught up in the whirl of business and I saw only the surface of things. Between Silvia and me the wall was so high that even our children noticed it. It was at that point that I realized how much I was hurting us and people round about us. During a New Families meeting we felt we should talk about our problem. We were accepted without reserve just as we were and appreciated for our sincerity.
‘Later we heard about the Course to Strengthen the Unity of Couples held in Loppiano, an international little town of the Focolare, in Italy. It deals specifically with moments of crisis. We went to one with a desire to start again.
‘Sharing with other couples who had the same problems we did really helped: we were not alone in facing these things that at the beginning we were too ashamed to tell anyone.
‘That week for us was like relighting the flame. We realized that we had to give space to one another and harmony returned between us. Our children were the first to benefit from our newfound peace.’
The Course to Strengthen the Unity of Couples looks at issues to do with self-knowledge, diversity, conflict, acceptance and there are moments of facing the problems head on, others of dialogue, practical exercises, and everything is interspersed with moments of relaxing together and trips out.
The good relations among the people taking part helps the gradual coming together of the couple.
Often the couple find their own feet and manage to go ahead on their own, sometimes a specific wound is spotted requiring particular attention, even, if need be, with psychological support.
If the time together proves especially challenging, there is the possibility for couples to come back for special courses in the winter and the spring. In these weekends, often families from previous years wish to give a hand because they have benefitted from those who have helped before them.