- June 6, 2020
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Engaged couples often tell me that the 6-12 months before their wedding seem like a whirlwind of activity – and with good reason. Often you are both working full-time (or more) and are trying to find time on weekends and evenings to take care of so many preparations. This whirlwind can be fun, but can also be stressful. And with so much to do, I have also heard from couples that you miss just having time to relax and do simple things that you enjoy doing together. In the midst of all this running around getting ready for the wedding, what is sometimes neglected is the very thing that brought you together – your relationship and love for each other.
If you are having your wedding ceremony at a church, temple or other religious institution, chances are that you will be required to participate in a formal marriage preparation program. These programs take a variety of forms. They will usually have some focus on the faith of that particular religion as well as coaching couples on how to navigate the challenges that are likely to come up during the course of your marriage. The clergy person or sometimes a married couple offers advice to engaged couples on a whole variety of topics including: CHILDREN, IN-LAWS, MONEY, CAREERS, WHERE YOU’LL LIVE, SEXUAL AFFECTION, CONFLICT RESOLUTION, SETTING GOALS, COMMUNICATION STYLES, SPIRITUALITY, NURTURING
YOUR RELATIONSHIP AND MORE.
In a marriage preparation session, engaged couples are encouraged to talk about troubles you have encountered (everybody has them) so that you can benefit from hearing about how someone else has successfully dealt with similar issues. Years ago marriage preparation programs were sometimes long and awkward and couples would often say that they were boring. They have gotten much better. Many of them, like the one I use now, include online assessments that are similar to the ones that some dating sites use. These assessments are helpful in identifying how you are alike and how you are different from your partner. Most couples are already fairly well aware of how they are alike and how they are different, but it makes more sense when you see it in writing and on a graph, and in a nice, calm setting with a caring coach who gives you feedback and suggestions.
For couples who are not getting married at a religious institution, not being required to participate in a marriage preparation program is often a relief – one less thing to have to worry about with so many demands on your time. This feeling is understandable. And couples who have been together for a long time sometimes don’t need this type of preparation because they
have learned well how to work through issues as they arise. Besides, no program can prepare you for every possible challenge that will come up. However, my experience has taught me that most couples can benefit greatly from such a program because all of the better marriage preparation programs address one area that is very important to face before the wedding day and not after, and that is: EXPECTATIONS. The Courtship and
Engagement time is a time of great excitement, hope and anticipation – and this is the way it should be. But it is easy to get carried away too during this time and to develop unrealistic expectations. It is not unusual to hear statements such as:
“When things calm down after the wedding, everything will be better”.
“He will change”
“She will change”
“It will get better”
Things may indeed get better, but not usually by themselves. “Things getting better” is usually the result of some effort and attention, and there is no reason to wait till after the wedding to address an issue that needs addressing.
This is where opting to do a marriage preparation program can be especially helpful. It reminds you that it is OK that everything is not going to be perfect and it can prompt you, as a couple, to deal with an issue, even a minor one, sooner rather than later, and enter into your marriage feeling that you have begun to learn some skills and tools that will help you to deal with more challenges that will inevitably come. I have used a variety of marriage preparation programs over the years and the best ones are really positive and uplifting. By doing a little work and drawing on some real honesty, the couple is energized. Surprisingly, at a time when you are
tired and stressed from running around with so many wedding preparations, this experience gives you a boost and a reminder of how much you have to celebrate as you approach the big day.
-Father Michael Callahan