They were known as the “Golden Couple.” But last month, the gold turned to dust when Angelina Jolie, the queen of the Golden Couple, filed for divorce against the king, Brad Pitt. They lived together for 10 years before they got married in 2014. They are the parents of three adopted children and three biological children, ranging in ages from eight to fifteen.
Their two youngest children — Vivienne Marcheline and Knox Leon — are twins. After their birth in 2008, People magazine paid Brad and Angelina $14 million for the exclusive rights to publish the first photographs of their twin babies. The money reportedly went to a foundation created by the couple to help children around the world.
Brad and Angelina were like a royal couple who could do no wrong. Their public life was closely scripted and managed in such a way that there was never any negative publicity about them. Whenever they were seen in public, they smiled and appeared as though they were deeply in love with each other.
They were also very wealthy. Their combined wealth has been estimated to be more than $400 million. They own homes in Hollywood, Santa Barbara, and New Orleans. They also own a 1,200-acre country estate and vineyard in the South of France. When the divorce was filed, they were renting an eight-bedroom mansion in London that included a cinema, spa, game room, and indoor and outdoor pools. The rent for the mansion was $21,000 a month.
So what happened to the couple who appeared to have everything anyone would ever want?
They got stuck in the misery stage of their marriage and were unable to escape or otherwise evolve to the final stage of marriage: the awakening stage.
According to the Catholic organization Retrouvaille, there are four stages of marriage: (1) romance, (2) disillusionment, (3) misery, and (4) awakening. Most married couples never make it to the fourth stage.
The word “retrouvaille” is a French word that means rediscovery. The Retrouvaille organization offers a program that helps married couples heal and renew their marriages.
I had never heard of Retrouvaille (pronounced re-tro-vi with a long i) until a couple of months ago when a devout Catholic woman told me about the organization. She and her husband benefited greatly from going through the program. She told me that every married couple would benefit from the program.
According to the Retrouvaille website (retrouvaille.org), numerous marriage counselors throughout the country send their clients to Retrouvaille as a prerequisite to marriage counseling. In Illinois, the Retrouvaille program is offered in Chicago, Juliet, and Rockford. The woman I talked to traveled with her husband from Peoria to Rockford to participate in the program. She indicated that she would like to someday establish the Retrouvaille program in Peoria.
The Retrouvaille website describes the four stages of marriage as follows:
Romance – Most are familiar with the romance stage of marriage. Life was so wonderful that we couldn’t stand to live without the other. Our thoughts often turned to the other when we were not with them. We had fallen in love and knew that this was the person we wanted to spend the rest of our life with. Little differences between us were cute and endearing.
Disillusionment – At some point, those little differences started to annoy us. We felt bothered by some of those same things that may have been cute a short time earlier. The self-talk in the back of our mind started wondering why our spouse couldn’t be more like us. We had entered the second stage of marriage: the disillusionment stage. During the disillusionment stage, we start to realize that our spouse is not the perfect person we had envisioned him or her to be. Sometimes, especially if our romance stage had been particularly intense, we are hurt deeply by this disillusionment. We realize that the expectations we had of the perfect marriage were not going to happen. For some, this realization is too heart wrenching and they give up on the marriage and divorce during this second stage of disillusionment.
Misery – Many people stick with and try to work through their problems during disillusionment. They seek the counsel of family, friends, clergy, and marriage and family counselors. Some of these people find the key they are looking for from these resources. Many others continue to struggle, and their troubles worsen. Often the marriage deteriorates more deeply due to drug, alcohol, or other addictions. Sometimes this situation may result in a third-party relationship in the form of extramarital affairs. As the two people find themselves in this third stage of marriage, they know they have entered the misery stage.
The misery stage is where many couples find themselves considering a marriage separation or divorce. The pain is so intense during the misery stage that it is common to only want it to STOP. Much like the pain of a toothache that consumes your whole being, you cannot seem to think of anything else besides stopping the pain. One spouse may be pushing hard for the divorce, while the other wants to stop the divorce.
If the couple ends the marriage at this point and they remarry other partners, they are more likely to experience the effects of divorce with their second or third spouse.
Awakening – Most people whose marriages end in divorce are not bad people. Rather, they are often people who never learned the proper tools for a happy marriage. This is where Retrouvaille can help. Teams of couples who have experienced all four stages of marriage present the Retrouvaille program. Instead of giving up, they found solutions. In Retrouvaille, they learned the tools they needed to live a happy marriage.
If you’re in a marriage that is in the disillusionment or misery stage, the least you can do for yourself, your spouse, and your family is to check into the Retrouvaille program. It is open to both Catholic and non-Catholic married couples.
Even the richest and most beautiful people in the world, including the Golden Couple, Brad and Angelina, sometimes need help with their marriages. If you need help, don’t put it off. The Retrouvaille program could be what you need to save your marriage.