Emily Mae Mentock
Freelance Writer
February 9, 2017 // Perspective

Preparing for Marriage Taught Us What Is Most Beautiful About the Sacrament of Matrimony

Emily Mae Mentock
Freelance Writer

The day after my fiancé and I got engaged, I set out to plan our wedding and began a long list of phone calls. One of the most important calls I made that day was to St. Monica Church in Mishawaka to set a wedding date.

About one month later, I was overwhelmed by wedding planning and how it felt like it had taken over all my free time. How could I find time for relaxing when there was “research” on Pinterest to be done?

After speaking with my fiancé, Drew, we decided that we needed to redirect our wedding planning into marriage prep so that we wouldn’t arrive at a perfectly planned wedding day unprepared for the actual marriage. So we called Father Jacob Meyer, the priest who will marry us this summer, and set up a time to meet — but we weren’t really sure to expect.

Drew had heard several stories from his parents about how their marriage prep consisted of only one brief meeting with their priest. That when the priest found out that they were both Catholic, he didn’t think he had much else to prepare them for, and sent them on their way.

“I am so glad that it’s not like that today,” Drew told me.

In our initial meeting, Father Meyer went over the basics of marriage in the church, which was a helpful refresher on the sacrament. We have been Catholic our whole lives but hadn’t explored the specifics of the sacrament of matrimony since high school sacraments class.

Because St. Monica is piloting a new marriage preparation program, next was a three-week series of group classes with other pre-marriage couples organized by Father Meyer.

The first class went over the theology that shapes what the church understands marriage to be. It covered everything from Adam and Eve to what the marriage relationship will look like in heaven. That was such a joy to learn about because it put our marriage in a whole new light! We came to a more full realization of the plan God has for us as husband and wife. Father Meyer sent us home with discussion questions that helped us go over really important topics like keeping God at the center of our relationship, being open to children and leading a strong spiritual life together for our children to see.

The second class was a presentation on the basics of Natural Family Planning, specifically the Creighton Model. Even though Drew and I were both generally familiar with fertility-awareness-based methods of family planning, we learned so much. I think we both walked out of that class in awe of what the female body is capable of and with a new appreciation for my cycle. We were so intrigued by this empowering, natural way to plan our family that we signed up for a more intensive class at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. The more we learn the more amazed we are, and it has truly brought us closer in our relationship.

The third session went over something that I think our parents’ marriage prep was lacking: The practical side of preparing for a successful marriage. Father Meyer went over content from top marriage experts Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Gary Chapman. In this session, we learned about two of the most important things that we are using to prepare for a happy, lasting marriage.

The first, from the Gottman Institute, was how to recognize and overcome “family of origin” differences. Most disagreements in our relationship actually come from differences in how Drew and I were raised. Some of these differences are small, such as the proper way to load a dishwasher; and some are larger, such as our financial philosophies, and all of them can become points of tension in our relationship for the rest of our lives. Father Meyer explained that recognizing these differences as coming from our families of origin helps to solve these issue. He was so right. Our discussions about things like this have been completely transformed: We listen better and solve things together and feel incredibly more confident in our ability to solve problems that will inevitably come up during married life.

The second was understanding each other’s love languages and was based on Chapman’s book, “The 5 Love Languages.” We learned that like most couples, Drew and I receive and give love in different ways. Without knowing this about the other, our chances of a happy marriage would be slim. Speaking different love languages makes marriage as hard as being married to someone who speaks Russian when you only know French! It leads to feeling neglected, even when your spouse is trying their hardest to make you happy.

Father Meyer encouraged us to discover our love languages and start practicing ways to speak the other’s language. Mine is quality time and Drew’s is physical touch. I can hardly begin to express how transformational this whole process has been for our relationship. Father Meyer explained that the church doesn’t just want us to stay married — it wants us to be happily married. Learning the five love languages was an essential part of preparing for a successful marriage.

“From marriage prep, there are so many valuable things that I have learned that will help me — particularly during the most difficult times in marriage. Every marriage has its rough patches, but being prepared in advance to deal with those will be a major benefit to our marriage,” Drew shared with me.

The next major step in our Catholic marriage preparation was taking the FOCCUS Pre-Marriage Inventory. Individually, Drew and I filled out a 200-question inventory evaluating our core values and how we felt about our marriage. Then, separately, we went over the inventory with Father Meyer. This was hugely helpful because in the few places where we did have differing answers, we were able to resolve them calmly with practical and spiritual guidance from Father Meyer. He didn’t just draw our attention to certain things; he encouraged us to work through them in a healthy and supportive way.

Now, with four and a half months to go, Drew and I grow more excited daily for our wedding: not only because we are blessed to be celebrating the sacrament in a beautiful church with our friends and family, but because we are ready to begin a life together in God. Preparing with Father Meyer and learning about what is beautiful, good and true about marriage in the Catholic Church has been the most exciting part of planning a wedding — more wonderful than finding a dress, cake tasting or any other part of wedding planning. My heart is filled with joy thinking about what a gift from God my fiancé is — and what a blessing the process of preparing for marriage has been for our relationship.

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