GREEN BAY — Most newlyweds probably wouldn’t consider partaking in a Marriage Encounter retreat. But Tammi and Matt Korb, married in May 2016, found that doing just that has strengthened their new union.
The Howard couple, who met online a few years ago, attended a Green Bay Marriage Encounter weekend last November, learning a bit more about each other and setting their marriage on the right path.
“It’s definitely something that’s wonderful,” says Tammi, 44, adding, “I’d been married before, and I wanted it to work out better this time. Marriage Encounter was great for teaching us ways to communicate.”
Next up for the Korbs will be Green Bay Marriage Encounter’s “Community Image” evenings, an opportunity for couples who have participated in Marriage Encounter to share their communication skills with others. Those will include a presentation, sharing, reflection time and socializing.
Community Image evenings start Nov. 3 and run through April.
While attending a Marriage Encounter weekend was Tammi’s idea, Matt, 46, was not as convinced.
“I didn’t want to get involved at first,” he admits. “I don’t know if she talked me into it, (but) I started to get cold feet.”
Matt thought it was going to be a church-based event, so he was hesitant. But while the encounters are based on Judeo-Christian beliefs, the groups invite and encourage married couples of all faiths and those of no religious affiliation to participate. The purpose is to strengthen marriages through ongoing mutual trust and dialogue, using prayerful, personal reflection and mutual sharing. Green Bay Marriage Encounter — affiliated with National Marriage Encounter — has presented more than 300 weekends in the area since it was formed in 1976.
Tammi, an accountant with Wisconsin Public Service, learned about the Marriage Encounter online and looked into them, noting, “That first year of marriage can be kind of hard. We started thinking about what we are doing.”
That was especially helpful, she adds, because the couple had not done any pre-marriage counseling through a church; the couple, who are both Catholic, are not members of any parish, but they are currently attending a nine-week marriage enrichment program at Nativity of Our Lord Church in Ashwaubenon called “The Choice Wine: 7 Steps to a Superabundant Marriage.”
Tammi stresses that one of the biggest things they learned through their encounter was the importance of strong communication. “You always know communication is a big thing, but you (learn) how to do it,” she says. “Don’t assume your spouse knows (what you’re feeling). You don’t know if they’re reading you wrong. That’s one of the biggest things.”
Matt, an engineer at Jacobs engineering, agrees. “The thing I found helpful was to always use the word ‘feel,’” to let your spouse know your true feelings.
Tammi adds, “It’s really personal with your spouse. Feelings aren’t right or wrong; they just are.”
Tammi stresses that couples, no matter the length of their marriage, could benefit from the encounters. “No matter how long or short you’ve been together, all couples have communication issues,” she adds.
“I just wouldn’t want people to think your marriage has to be on the rocks or failing to get something out of a Marriage Encounter program. It’s wonderful and strengthening. Even for a good marriage, it can make it even better,” she says. “We’ve definitely learned a lot through the people we’ve met — and all the experiences we share.”
Tammi believes their marriage has been strengthened by the tools they learned at their Marriage Encounter and through continued marriage maintenance.
“Through this whole thing, I guess I learned how much he loved me,” she says. “He went and continues to go because he wants it to work.”
Even Matt, who was initially hesitant, has come around. “I just think that ultimately you’ll learn things you never knew that could only help you in your marriage,” he says.