Look, based on everything I’d heard from other people who went through Catholic marriage prep, I expected the whole thing to be kind of dumb and boring.
I didn’t doubt its usefulness to a degree–while I knew it covered things that most couples discuss before getting married, I also knew that not everyone does that and that for some couples, this absolutely would be the first time they faced questions about finances or having kids. But Paul and I kind of pride ourselves on being this smart, rational couple who’s just about covered all of that, especially since by the time we’re actually married, we’ll have been together for seven years. When you go from college to the early days of careers where you’re not making much money and the job maybe doesn’t even last and ultimately move in together, you get a pretty good idea of your opinions on these things and how compatible you are. Seven years can throw a lot of shit at you, and you learn a lot about each other in the process.
I’d also heard about a lot of religious aspects to it that I wasn’t really interested in.
But the whole thing kind of surprised me in the end. I don’t doubt at all some of the sillier stories I’ve heard, like couples being told to “keep Jesus in the bedroom,” but I came to the conclusion that the church I went to, where we joined and will be getting married, has a pretty good program going.
It kicked off on a Friday night with a talk on family planning, which usually isn’t the opener but due to scheduling, that’s how it worked out. Having gone to Catholic school, I’d actually learned that already, and to be honest, I’m totally okay with the entire concept of natural family planning. I get why the church promotes it. Where they lose me, though, is their stance on birth control, and when I later read through some of the handouts we’d been given on it, I was rolling my eyes a lot.
Saturday was the big one, with a day full of talks from various married couples in the church on everything from finances to communication. And for the most part, I was right–we were going in pretty well-prepared, although I appreciated the fact that so much of the information was practical and not religious. I told Terra that later, and she said hers hadn’t been like that at all, which I think is kind of unfortunate. Even if I wasn’t sure it was for me, I do have to give the Catholics credit for doing it, and to be honest, I think divorce rates might be lower if everyone did some sort of marriage prep like this. Like I said, we may have discussed almost all of these issues ahead of time, but we’re not indicative of everyone. Some of the handouts we got were useful, too, like one where we answered questions about how we handle money. It’s a good thing to know going in.
And funnily enough, my shrink and his wife ended up giving two talks, which were my favorites. Sure, I could be biased, but his personality and probably his job as a therapist make him well-suited for it. One of our biggest, most useful takeaways actually came from one of his talks, and it’s a nightly exercise where you each list something you appreciate about the other, new information you may have, any questions you may have, any complaints or requests for change from your partner, and your hopes for the future. Things like that sounds kind of hokey, which again, I think that contributes to break-ups and divorces. Everyone talks about relationships being work, but not necessarily about actively doing exercises designed to address issues. Still, though, I thought it could be something useful for us, and Paul expressed interest in doing it, too. It’s turned out to be pretty good–it forces you to tell your partner something you appreciate every day, which makes them feel loved and valued, and it gives you an opportunity to bring up any issues, which has been more useful for Paul than it has for me. I’m far more likely to bring something up as soon as I’m bothered, but he’s far more likely to keep things to himself. Doing this every night, or at least most nights, actually encourages him to bring things up, and it’s probably stopping arguments before they even start.
The whole thing went faster than I expected to, especially for being something like six hours long. We got a nice little catered lunch, which included wedding soup because duh, and then when we were free to go, Paul and I decided to head out to the mall.
So at least in the church’s eyes, save for one more compatibility quiz we’ll have to do, we’re prepared for marriage.