J1 (who opts out of a formal choice of religion) has generously agreed to my request for us to be married in a Catholic Church.
While I’m not a practicing supporter of the church itself, I do believe in God and I am a bit of a fan of spirituality more generally and what it can bring to your life. Like most “non-practicing-but-ok-with-God” people who have had an upbringing in a Catholic school, a few god-fearing grandparents to keep you on the straight and narrow, as well as perhaps a couple of failed attempts to ‘find something else’, here I am, still believing but slightly jaded by those at the top who run it. It’s like wanting to drink 7 cocktails without the hangover. You often can’t get one without the other, but you can sure as hell try your hardest to enjoy the best bits.
(Side note: Bring on Women Priests & Married Priests)
In deciding to proceed with the sacrament of marriage and wanting that to be carried out in a church, it became quickly evident that there were certain rules J1 & I would need to adhere to.
And I’m not talking about “NO RICE, CONFETTI, BUBBLES OR ROSE PETALS ALLOWED ON CHURCH GROUNDS” rules (kill-joys). I’m talking about attending 16 hours on wifery-perfecting for me (not to be confused with mid-wifery) and husbandry-perfecting for J1 (certainly not to be confused with animal-husbandry).
That’s right, Marriage School.
I think it’s formal title is “Partnerships – Marriage Education Program” but I like Marriage School better. I was good at school so this title worked well in giving me a false psychological advantage that I was going to do well.
I was going to get an A+ for excellent-wifely- potential.
With the endless taunts from friends and monotonous jokes along the lines of ‘what does a priest know about being married?’, I quickly found many friends who had already completed the course – back when it was actually voluntarily – and loved it. And when I say loved it – I really do mean love it. Soaked it up. They absolutely believe it had a lasting positive impact on their relationship.
So we therefore went in with a pretty positive frame of mind (even though Day 1 was a gorgeous Sunday at a perfect 25 degrees, and we could have thought of 1 million places we would rather be. My top 1 being a roof top bar in San Sebastian).
But I digress.
Contrary to what some of our more suspicious friends believed, the course is run by relationship counselors… and there is no praying. Not even a mention of a guy named “Jesus”. We got more bang for our buck with our 2 facilitators also being trained in psychology, they worked full time in relationship counseling, and specialised in mental health. (I should fit right in then given how fruity I have become these past few years…).
So the course is explicitly about the couple only – with support and advice from people experienced to provide that advice. Not the church.
We were in a group-setting with 8 other couples who, like us, wanted to marry in a church and were also dreaming of San Sebastian that Sunday. But we got into the day with as much positivity as we could muster – and by the end, the non-believers believed i.e., The blokes in the room that were dragged along by their female companion (whose parents had strongly suggested that any financial contribution towards a wedding would need to be for a wedding held within the four walls of a church) acknowledged that they did find value in the sessions and were now looking forward to Day 2 with a new found perspective.
While there was a small amount of group activity, most time was spent discussing things as a couple. Sometimes even on your own and then coming back to share your responses to certain questions with your partner.
Never before had J1 and I sat down together and thoroughly examined all parts of our past and current life, and how that has or might impact our relationship.
Among many things, we looked at how our parents showed love to each other and what we have learned from that.
How our family life as a child has effected how we respond to and over come adversity.
What we both value and feel we need in a life-partner.
What our life together might look like – everything from meal time, to bill paying, to family celebrations and retirement.
How we can improve the way we communicate with each other, and ultimately, how we show love and respond to love.
Apart from learning a lot about myself, I also learnt so much about J1. This seemed to be a common theme across the group – most people had never taken the time to get to know all the detailed things about their partner – which, as we found out, can be a big part of understanding what makes them tick and therefore how you can successfully communicate with them.
It was fantastic to walk out of there after the second day (having passed with flying colours, as per the certificate in my hand), feeling excited about our future together – feeling like we would be a great team and well on our way to getting an A+ for Marriage.
They say the 7-year-itch is now actually a 5-year-itch, so I will just have to get back to you in 5 years with how that A+ is looking.
If you are interested in attending the same course yourself, you don’t have to be religious and you don’t have to be getting married in a church. You can also be already married! Contact the equivalent of Catholic Care in your capital city.
Did you complete a pre-marriage course or are you contemplating one? Love to hear your thoughts below!