life encounter a foundation

Marriage Encounter and how it all came about

Marriage Encounter -

Myths and


Marriage Encounter is one of the most positive programs supporting marriage. It is also one of the most misunderstood.

The greatest misconception about Marriage Encounter (M.E.) is that a couple signs up because their marriage is in trouble. Just the opposite is true. M.E. is for couples who care deeply about their marriage. It is for those who want to build a dynamic, loving, long lasting relationship. M.E. is for couples married in civil ceremonies or in church. How long you have been married or previous marriages are not factors. Couples with big families, little families and blended families all can benefit greatly from this program. Those experiencing severely troubled relationships, filing for divorce or already separated should consider counseling instead of the Encounter.

A second misconception that keeps couples from experiencing this constructive, helpful program is that good marriages don’t have problems. All marriages have problems; it is how you handle the problems that make a marriage good or bad. Since marriage is made from two humans with all their faults and flaws, no marriage is perfect. All relationships have stresses or areas of disagreement.

A good marriage is one in which each spouse knows how to cooperate and help each other. This ‘knowing’ does not come naturally, it is learned. Experience sometimes teaches us how to avoid hurting each other, but most often we just learn how to avoid each other. Marriage is a growing, living relationship. M.E. helps couples communicate on a more intimate level, building trust, closeness, and cooperation instead of avoidance. The program helps couples identify and focus on behaviors that strengthen their love. M.E. rejuvenates marriages that have fallen into the rut of being disconnected.

Trained team couples lead the Encounter, which lasts a weekend. They share from their own life experiences and challenges, focusing on how to use realities of every day life to deepen marital commitment. The Encounter Weekend is a series of steps examining all aspects of the relationship. There is an assignment at the end of each step, plus private time to discuss the assignment with your spouse.

Marriage Encounter was started by Father Gabriel Calvo, a Spanish priest, and real life married couples from Barcelona, Spain in the 1960’s. It was originally entitled ‘Encuentro Conjugal’ which is intended to mean ‘to discover again’. The term was translated into English as ‘Marriage Encounter’.

English connotations of the word ‘encounter’ cause fear that one will have to talk in a group about their marital problems. Not so! Marriage Encounter is a very private weekend. All communication is confidential between the husband and wife. Their discussions usually take place in their hotel room. Support couples work hard to provide a quiet, calm retreat environment away from the hassles of everyday life.

Fear is the biggest factor keeping couples away. They are afraid their marriage is beyond help or afraid other people will see their marriage is in trouble or even that their spouse does not love them anymore.

However, at the end of the program, most couples walk away with a joyful sense of renewal’, says Dr.Satien, one of the founding members. The most common comment we hear from couples is that ’the Encounter was the best weekend since our honeymoon’.

Another myth is that the weekend is a religious conversion or commitment to a specific church. This is also simply not true. The Encounter deals with some faith issues; however it builds on the faith couples already have. Marriage Encounter is an interfaith program. There is no pressure for a religious conversion. Using a gentle approach, the team leads couples to discover the meaning of faith in their own marriage.

M.E.has been around all over the world since the 1960-ies. M.E. has developed into various expressions, of which one expression called ALMA (Spanish for 'soul') has traveled over to South America, then to North America & Canada. Canadians from Saskatoon have trained us so we could implement M.E. in Thailand and Asia. Hundreds of Asian volunteer couples have participated in orgnizing another M.E.Weekend for their friends and/or relatives.

ALMA Marriage Encounter has been in Thailand since the year 2000. We began the program in 2001 with a Thai church (the Mahapawn Sukhumvit Church, now called Mahapawn Bangkok Church) who have recently decided to run the program entirely by themselves, assisted by many Thai volunteer couples.

Another Marriage Encounter plant exists in Udon, in the North East of Thailand (about 600 km North East of Bangkok), where people from the Isarn Area and from Laos attend the weekends. Another program was planted in Bandung in 2005, on the island of Java, Indonesia. They are now independent and indigenous also. 

The longevity of the Marriage Encounter (more than half a century) is indeed a testament to its effectiveness.

Other M.E. organizations usually require a fee for basic costs and accommodations.    

The cost for the ALMA Marriage Encounter Weekend is nil. The cost are covered by other couples who have lived a Weekend before and feel the need to pass this blessing on to others. 

A follow up is offered to each couple by organizing Marriage Builder Groups (M.B.G.'s) that are very effective for establishing accountability, feedback and sharing about marital issues that each couple seems to go through.

The goal of Marriage Encounter is to help families grow closer by helping couples build a stronger marriage.