Marriage prep about the vision

  • June 17, 2010
Marriage preparationTORONTO - Couples planning to marry shouldn’t look at marriage preparation courses as a place to “grease their wheels” but rather a time to discern if they’re actually ready, experts say.

Clint Tyler, director of the marriage preparation and family life office at the archdiocese of Toronto, said its multi-week course is much more than a “happy weekend where couples can feel good,” but a real chance to discuss important issues that many couples don’t address on their own.

“It’s about having them explore if they are ready to commit to a Catholic vision of marriage,” Tyler said. “It’s our job to present that vision of Catholic marriage.”

About 20 per cent of couples who take the archdiocesan marriage prep course decide not to go ahead with a wedding, Tyler said, adding it’s better that they realize ahead of time if they have the same vision for their marriage and understand that it’s not just a commitment but a covenant.

“You’re not just going to hang out until things get tough,” he said. “As the catechism says, it’s a partnership of the whole of life.”

Until couples take a marriage preparation course, he said, often many of them have never discussed children, finances or career goals and considered how their choices or aims will affect their relationship or their future sons and daughters.

Tyler said the Catholic view of marriage is a counter-cultural one and one that people often struggle to understand.

“It depends on the marriage you saw in your own family,” Tyler said. “We also live in a culture where we’re taught that ‘I’ come first — but it’s not all about you. It’s a negotiation.”

This culture, he added, is one where we expect to get something out of everything. So instead of thinking about what they can bring into their marriage, people often think about how the other person will meet their needs. If that person fails in some way, instead of forgiving them and working through the difficulty, they give up and look for something different.

Marriage preparation courses help the couples explore effective communication and get them talking about the way they were raised, their life goals, intimacy and sexuality, finances, spending habits, family and child care, the role of spirituality in their marriage and much more. The courses are usually two-hour sessions spread out across a five- or six-week period.

Larry and Eileen Richard of Toronto have been co-ordinating a special marriage prep course at the University of Toronto’s Newman Centre for 15 years. Theirs is unique because couples taking the five-week course are assigned their own personal sponsor couple. Each engaged pair meets with their sponsoring couple at the sponsors’ home.

“We have found it very effective and the younger couples certainly love it,” said Eileen.

She said if the younger couple doesn’t move away after they get married, generally they’ve kept in contact with their sponsors and formed strong friendships. She said it can be beneficial because the couples will often be more open with their sponsors than with their own parents because they feel less pressured.

Larry said their course also explores the touchy topics of marriage but emphasizes that life as a couple is about growth and “growing into Christ.”

“If you’re not growing, love that doesn’t grow is going backwards,” he said.

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