Worldwide Marriage Encounter helps couple’s marriage to thrive

| Sam Patet for The Catholic Spirit | May 28, 2015 | 0 Comments
Sandy and Dick Tuszynski smile for a photo at their home 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. Sam Patet/The Prairie Catholic

Sandy and Dick Tuszynski smile for a photo at their home 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. Sam Patet/The Prairie Catholic

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, the former librarian was at home, caring for two children under the age of 5.

“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, six miles west of Tracy in south Lyon County. They’re parishioners at the Church of St. Mary 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.”

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Saving grace

Like many others that had gone before them, Dick and Sandy realized that 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 provides the tools they need to help 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,” said Dick, 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 strengthening their religious practices, including 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, such as humility and mercy, that further strengthened their marriage.

“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,” Strege said.

Sam Patet is the reporter for The Prairie Catholic, the publication for the Diocese of New Ulm.

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Two become one

In partnership with the publications of all Minnesota dioceses, The Catholic Spirit is launching an 11-part series on families based on the meeting’s 10 themes.



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