Engaged Encounter presenting couple gains from retreats

By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald, Bridal Registry

She is outgoing and talkative. He is gentle and quiet. Yet Ty and Derrick Salvant have forged an enviable 18-year marriage.

They share their joys and struggles with engaged couples as husband-and-wife presenters at Catholic Engaged Encounter weekends.

“When we give a weekend, we focus on our marriage,” Ty said, indicating the weekend is a quiet time away from the rigors of life and five children. “When you do that, the couples learn through your example.” 

Were friends first

Ty and Derrick met when he was the computer technician setting up her computer as a new employee.

“While I was working in her office, she was talking to me the whole time, and she was really pretty,” Derrick said.

Ty thought Derrick was a cute, nice guy, and they became friends. 

“He was extremely dependable and there when I needed him,” she said, whether it was a work related or after hours.

It was on a personal matter – he helped with a roommate’s flea-infested dog late at night – that prompted an all-night conversation leading to mutual attraction. They were both raised Catholic. Derrick was a St. Maria Goretti parishioner who graduated from St. Augustine High School, and Ty attended St. Agnes School in Jefferson and graduated from St. Mary’s Dominican High School. They rediscovered faith together after college while dating. 

On their own Engaged Encounter weekend, Ty said she and Derrick realized how thoroughly they had previously vetted each other, broaching subjects like money, children, openness to adoption and their parents’ divorces. 

They said the weekend – with two presenting couples and a priest – added food for thought to issues as they approached marriage. 

Ty identified with one presenting couple – Gail and Junior Laviolette – who honestly shared their marriage experience, and she wanted a relationship like theirs.

“The way they looked at each other; the way they interacted with each other. I didn’t know what they had, but I wanted that for my marriage,” Ty said. “I think that’s what we ended up getting. You’re going to go through ups and downs, struggles, heartaches, but that love and support you supply each other is what helps get you through.”

Ministry keeps them focused

Shortly after they were married, Ty sought a couple’s activity for herself and Derrick. She remembered hearing that volunteer couples gave Engaged Encounter weekends, and they have been part of the Engaged Encounter community ever since, giving an average of three weekends a year.

“It’s the best thing we do in our marriage,” Ty said. 

Within the Engaged Encounter community, they take advantage of enrichment opportunities and attend conferences “to build our community and enhance our relationships as individuals.” They share what they learn with engaged couples.

Ty said she never had any doubts about marrying Derrick. The Engaged Encounter Weekend solidified that decision. She accepted him as he is – he is not someone to openly proclaim his love but is the one waking up at midnight to soothe a screaming baby so she can sleep. That has served their relationship well. 

“It’s very easy to get caught up in what we think love is, from what we read, see and hear as opposed to what we experience,” Ty said. “It’s very important to recognize the way your spouse loves you and not the things they are not doing.”
Marriage doesn’t change your spouse, they emphasize. 

“If you think about exactly the way they are today, if you can’t commit to them 100 percent … if you’re not good with that, you should rethink this situation,” she said.

“I guess it helps realizing that men and women have different their personalities, their way of thinking is totally different,” Derrick said. “Once you accept that, it’s easier to handle. … When there are those episodes of lows in the marriage, you have to continue to make the decision to stick it out and love the other person and not try to change them.” 

Learn where other stands

Engaged Encounter weekends get couples to raise and consider their opinions on issues. 

“It’s the little things that you need to be open to discuss (as a couple),” Ty suggests as an important aspect of the weekend.

One exercise, in particular “Decisions in Marriage,” uses a Nearly Wed Game question-and-answer format for couples to reflect on child-rearing, moving out of state, budgeting, dinner with friends, household chores and even eating cereal at dinner.  

“This is an example of the depth and breadth of decisions you make as a married couple,” Ty said. “There is no more ‘I’ or ‘you.’ It’s ‘we,’ and we have decide together. It’s not 50/50. … Both have to give 100 percent, and the days I can only give 75 percent, your 100 percent will carry us through.”

Communication remains the biggest issue couples face.

“We think finances would be tops, but it all falls back on communication,” Ty said. “You have to be able to communicate with each other and come to decisions as a couple,” set a deadline (for decisions) and stick to it.

In-laws and family of origin also impact reactions to situations in marriage. For example, if the male is used to being served (food or having someone pick up after him) while the female’s family has always tended to themselves, it could impact a marriage.

Keep God in the mix

Prayer together is essential to Catholic marriages.

“If you really believe that God ordained marriage and called us to this, it has to be better than what’s portrayed in society,” Ty said. “If you believe that, you can have an incredible marriage.”

The hard part of marriage is that it requires a refinement process of making each spouse the person they were supposed to be.

“God brought us together to continue refining each other,” Ty said. “I doesn’t always feel good, but you have to trust God and your spouse enough that you are becoming the person you were meant to be.”

The next available Engaged Encounter weekend is Sept. 14-16. Call the Marriage and Family Life office at 861-6243 or register online at http://www.nocee.org. Couples who are married at least 6 months who are interested in strengthening their marriages by ministering to others can join Catholic Engaged Encounter as presenters by visiting Catholic Engaged Encounter – New Orleans, LAor emailing salvant@nocee.org for details.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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