Embracing fragility in a couple

The seventh-year crisis used to be the most delicate period for couples. This was often due to a series of causes of a physiological nature typical of this early developmental phase such as the birth of children, the need to reconcile family and work, to redefine boundaries in relations with the families of origin.

The jolts to the equilibrium of modern-day couples, come from more complex factors related to individualism, isolation, and the loss of social ties, they go hand in hand with the changes in modern society. An individual, who feels trapped by anxiety and stress, needy but unable to find himself/herself and make sense of his/her own personal and couple life, often goes into crisis at the age of fifty/sixty years or even later, despite good intentions and seemingly ideal conditions.


Pathways of Light

Pathways of Light is a methodology which began in 2009 within the New Families Movement when some couples, who had experienced and shared the suffering of the lacerations in their relationships, decided to set up a project at the service of all couples in difficulty. There are three pillars: the anthropological and spiritual foundations that draw on the spirituality of the unity of the Focolare Movement from which the project stems, the philosophical and psychological foundations, and the autobiographical narrative made up of the direct testimonies of those who have faced a crisis. The strength of the project is precisely this: the network of “helper-couples“, i.e., those couples who not only rolled up their sleeves to overcome the darkness but have then made themselves available to accompany other families in difficulty. It is a patient, voluntary, motivated service that we intend to develop and strengthen, to acquire the skills and tools for the accompaniment of couples. Pathways of Light therefore also provides courses for operational teams, such as the one just concluded at Castel Gandolfo (24 – 26 March 2023).

“We were going through a terrible time; we were full of anguish and resentment. We could not find our way out- said one of the couples at the course– It was like a tunnel, and we were on the verge of separation. Thanks to the project, we slowly saw a little light. Today we are here to continue to nourish it and bring this light to other couples.”

The impact of the programme in recent years is positive: about 65 % of the couples who have participated have found it possible to heal their wounds, but of course there is no magic wand; all couples can strive to revive and revitalise their relationship if they question themselves and work on themselves properly, rather than reinforcing the habit of justifying oneself, looking for fault in the other person, and triggering destructive dynamics with no way out.

Embracing the other`s fragility, giving and sharing your own, is the way to a stronger union which is possible if one is playing without masks and without defences,’ says Dr Rino Ventriglio psychotherapist and co-founder of the programme with his wife Rita, together with other couples within the International Secretariat of New Families -. In an adult relationship and from the encounter between ‘inner children’ (that delicate and wounded part that we carry inside from our childhood), people move from doing things together to feeling together. This is the basis of empathy: we find the other within ourselves. By being in touch with our despair, our fears, and our limitations, we can meet and take inside those of the other person and pain is enriched with tenderness. Relationships based on authenticity have a generative power. They allow us to experience the freedom to reveal ourselves to another person and to ourselves, bringing out the uniqueness of each person”.

Pathways of Light is an icon of hope for a society where it is possible to express oneself,” – his wife, Dr Rita Della Valle continues -. We are here because we felt the urge to put ourselves at the service of this project, which is a form of accompaniment born in New Families and the continuation of a road opened up by Chiara Lubich on which there are challenges, world scenarios that she had foreseen and that today we are fully committed to face. Pathways of Light is the way forward of New Families for some peripheries of the family: for couples torn apart in their relationships. Our strength to face this challenge is to have experienced their darkness and to have reached the light through sharing with other couples who held our hands and supported us in moments of failure. It is a new declination of the charism of unity to respond to the wounds of humanity today”.

In its 14 years of activity, the method for the care and accompaniment of couples in difficulty has been refined and spread to various countries around the world, enculturating itself in different socio-cultural contexts, as is also testified by the different specific name it has taken on according to the places where it started: “Cuenta Conmigo” in the Southern Cone; “Porque dijimos Sí, quiero” in Spain; “The programme for couples in crisis’ in Slovakia. The root and principle on which it is founded is however unique and can be summed up in the concept of ‘Homo Reciprocus’ developed by Prof. Puccini of the University of Florence and taken up by the ‘Psychology and Communion‘. of the Focolare Movement: i.e., man no longer driven by individualism, but who lives in the community and for the community, whose strength does not come from effectiveness and omnipotence, but from fragility, seen not as a limitation, but as an opportunity, since the need for the other is not aimed at promoting dependence, but interdependence.

The Course held in Castel Gandolfo was attended by over seventy people from different countries at the conclusion of a training course that began in 2022 and consisted of 9 appointments aimed at the empowerment of helper couples: the in-depth topics, the exercises and dynamics, the exchange of experiences and useful practices, the sharing between teams have also aimed at mutual enrichment and strengthening the climate of unity that is an indispensable element for giving hope and relief to wounded couples.

The climate that is especially created during the residential week, generally scheduled in the different countries around the world in the summertime (more information on this website and this email address, tel.: +39 06 97608 300);is an opportunity for those experiencing moments of crisis or who wish to strengthen the unity of the couple; to concentrate on themselves and their partner, to face up to the situation they are living, to learn and experiment tools that will help them to regain a greater wellbeing and personal and couple realisation.

(Grateful to Giovanna Pieroni)