Worldwide Marriage Encounter helps couple’s marriage to thrive

Categories: Around the Diocese,Synod,World Meeting of Families

By Sam Patet
For The Visitor

Tuszynski

Sandy and Dick Tuszynski live in rural Garvin, Minn. Married for 47 years, the two credit Worldwide Marriage Encounter for helping them strengthen their marriage after the initial romance had worn off. Photo by Sam Patet

Ten years into her marriage, Sandy Tuszynski was discouraged. The year was 1978, and the 33-year-old mother of two didn’t know what to do.

Unlike her husband, who had steadily been advancing in his career at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, she had been at home, caring for two children under the age of 5. She’d even given up her job as a children’s librarian for the sake of the kids.

“It wasn’t what I wanted. Dick was gone a lot. And I still hadn’t seen my full value as a mom,” Sandy admitted. “He was being very successful, and I wasn’t sure what that meant for me as a wife and a stay-at-home mom. Who was I apart from my husband and children?”

Similarly, her husband, Dick, was concerned about the distance that had grown between them and wondered if their marriage would survive.

“I know we were both pretty much in the slump,” Dick said. “I would be out in the field working … and praying to God for a solution to our struggling relationship. Later, I found out Sandy was also praying for our marriage.”

Thankfully, God answered Dick and Sandy’s prayers. He sent them to a Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend. Thirty-seven years later, the two are happily retired in rural Garvin, Minn., six miles west of Tracy in south Lyon County. They’re parishioners at St. Mary Parish in Tracy and are the parents of three grown children and six grandchildren.

“Dick is amazing, unconditionally loving me in spite of myself,” Sandy said. “He has been like wind beneath my wings. His love encourages me to seek God’s direction for my life and try new things.”

Like many others who had gone before them, Dick and Sandy realized the romantic love that had started their relationship, as good as it was, wouldn’t be able to sustain it over a lifetime.

That’s where Worldwide Marriage Encounter, or WWME, came in. It’s a three-day retreat experience for married couples that gives them the tools they need to make their marriages flourish.

“It gave us insight as to what we could be,” Sandy said. “A realization of what the sacrament of matrimony was all about,” Dick said, completing her thought.

As the Friday of their WWME Weekend approached, Dick and Sandy began to have second thoughts. The event was 45 minutes away from their home in Cambridge, and both of them had work to do.

Still, they went. And almost instantly, they were hooked.

One of the first things it revealed to them was that they didn’t communicate well. “We didn’t argue or bicker, we just clammed up and stuffed a lot of feelings,” Dick said. “Marriage Encounter … gave us the technique to share our emotions and feelings in a non-threatening way.”

Not only did they learn about themselves and how to communicate with one another, but they also realized that God had to be a part of their relationship.

“Marriage is about more than just us,” Sandy said. “We had to bring God back into our relationship.”

Communication, prayer help

When they returned home, they began putting their new knowledge into practice. They regularly shared both their positive and negative feelings with one another. They began to strengthen their religious practices, taking up things like praying together, reading the Bible, attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist frequently, and making use of the sacrament of reconciliation.

All this helped them acquire virtues that further strengthened their marriage, virtues like humility and mercy.

“I think we forgive more quickly,” Sandy said. “Sometimes if we’re upset, we first try to figure out what the issue really is before we become angry with each other. We are called to be merciful just as God is with us.”

Judi Strege of Henning has seen Dick and Sandy’s marriage flourish thanks to WWME. She and her husband, Jim, have been friends with them for nearly 40 years.

“They worked hard on their relationship; it wasn’t something they took for granted,” Judi said. “If they had a disagreement, if something came up, they worked through it until they felt … that it was resolved.”

No longer were Dick and Sandy in competition with one another. Now they were serving one another, trying to help one another make it to heaven.

“They’ve kept a good balance of their individual journeys with God, but they’ve also done it as a couple,” Judi said.

For more on Worldwide Marriage Encounter, visit http://www.wwme.org.