Did you get anything from your marriage preparation course?

Several times recently I’ve had friends bring up the marriage preparation program, course or seminar they went through prior to their wedding, and in each case they mentioned how much they learned and what a great benefit it was to them as a young couple. In response, I told them that I really didn’t even remember mine, other than the two brief meetings we had with the priest, and that I got almost nothing from it. Each time the people I was talking with argued with me and said that couldn’t be the case because theirs had been so in-depth and helpful.

These were all Catholics I was talking with, so each one told me about how they covered NFP, the role faith would play in their marriage and various other topics. I told them that I knew we never covered NFP, that the closest we came to it was the brief, not quite correct sex talk the priest gave us (ABC’s okay, anything goes within the bounds of marriage, etc.), and that they really didn’t go over other things I thought they should like how active we’d be in our faith, how we’d raise our kids, how many we thought we’d have, and other basics like finances, etc. Each time I brought this up they told me I was nuts and that I just didn’t remember it.

It’s true that I don’t remember the actual seminar, but I was certain that we didn’t really go over any of these things. As luck would have it, I’ve been doing a bit of spring cleaning the past couple days and I stumbled across our book & folder from our marriage preparation class. On one hand, I’m glad that it reinforces what I’ve been telling everyone recently. On the other hand, I’m pretty disappointed that it reinforces what I’ve been telling everyone recently.

Looking it over, I saw that I took notes on the syllabus/schedule as we went. It was scheduled for 7 hours with 2 hours of breaks, but a couple of the topics were canceled due to the speakers not showing up (including the NFP one), so it was cut down by two hours (although still had 2 hours of breaks). The opening prayer service & introduction (What is Marriage?) was 45 minutes, while the individual topics were no more than 20-30 minutes. According to the sheet I have, there were five other couples so I’m sure that 20 minutes each for raising a family, Christian finances and sex & marriage (as listed on the sheet) didn’t leave a lot of time for questions & answers. There were two 30 minute blocks devoted to domestic abuse and how to get out of a violent marriage (not to mention 5 pamphlets on the topic), so I guess they thought the twelve of us were a pretty rough bunch. Looking through our workbook, most of the worksheets were left blank while several others were crossed out. They still took our check and gave us a completion certificate at the end, though, and the priest didn’t complain about how little we’d actually learned, so I guess they all thought it was okay.

Looking back on it, I think it would have been something really neat to look back on if we’d actually gotten anything out of it. I also think it would have been helpful to have had some of those conversations alluded to in the workbook before we were married instead of years later, as it ended up happening. It almost makes me want to call the church and ask if I can get my $45 back all these years later. I’ve talked to our current priest about it, and I know he spends a good deal of time with couples before he’ll marry them. I’m just wondering if what we went through was unique, or if anyone else has had a similar experience.

The newer Marriage preparation is much better, ususally takes about 6 months, and is intended to slow divorce, make certain the couple knows what they are getting into, etc. Check on your Diocese web site to see if there is any info about these classes.

It past years there were only two classes and not much was discussed of any significance. For example we were never told that the main purpose of marriage was to help each other get to Heaven.

I now realize that our pre-cana was extremely lacking. :frowning:

We were going to have my hometown priest (in the parish I grew up in, which is where we were married) AND a priest from the college we attended (a Jesuit one) co-celebrate the nuptial mass. My DH is not Catholic, but he had a great relationship with the Jesuit from our college, so having him involved helped DH feel more comfortable. Our wedding was a full mass in the Church.

Since we live(d) near where we went to college, and my hometown is 2.5 hours away, we did our pre-cana with the Jesuit. NFP was never mentioned. (I really wish it had been!) I remember a brief discussion about how many kids we wanted to have (we still disagree on this), but I don’t remember anything more on the subject.

I have our books too, and I’ve skimmed through them. We met with the priest a few times (didn’t do a seminar-type like you did) but it sounds like we came away with an experience similar to yours, which is unfortunate.

We weren’t told this either.

We had a fantastic “marriage encounter” seminar. It lasted the weekend.

Friends of mine who are celebrating their 50th wedding annaversary still meet monthly with folks from their marriage seminar.

Sorry you had such a bad go of it.

My husband and I were married back in 1999 and we had an experience somewhat similar to yours- at least with the whole weekend seminar- type thing. We were lucky in the sense that my parish and the priest were VERY conservative. The bad news was…neither my husband nor I were really open to it. :blush:

The marriage seminar was a blur of subjects like the ones you pointed out- no where did I hear the sex topics that priests and other marriage leaders should talk about in regards to our faith. NFP was spoken of, but only for a brief time period, and I wish they would have gotten more into the ‘meat’ of it- like how you can still practice NFP even if the woman’s cycles are irregular, if she has endometriosis, etc. Addressing the ‘Loving your wife like Christ loves the Church’ scripture passage would have been very enlightening.

My husband and I had to meet with a Catholic married couple and do a couple sessions with them, which was the most helpful part of the whole thing. We had a harder time listening to the priest because we thought he was out of sync with the ‘real’ world.:o

I realize now that poor priest was a saint for putting up with all of us marriage prep couples and that he held firm, traditional Catholic teachings and values at a time when a lot of churches in our area were taking out the kneelers in churches, shoving tabernacles in church closets and rarely holding confessions. Maybe it was his prayers that led me back to the faith- who knows? But I have seen a gradual shift in the whole Church back to a more traditional approach from the time I was married until now. I think the couples getting married today in the Church are luckier in one sense that they are more exposed to the Truth, and unlucky in the sense that our culture has deviated so terribly much from that truth that it is almost a culture shock for them to hear it (if they have wandered from childhood faith.) That’s my two cents anyway.

It’s actually kind of comforting knowing that we weren’t the only ones to go through something like this. I think some of the problems we faced the first few years we were married might have been avoided, or at least wouldn’t have been as serious if our preparation process had been a little more thorough. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m trying to absolve my wife & I of any responsibility, but neither of us had lived on our own prior to being married and we had no clue when it came to some of the topics that were x’ed out in the workbook (the crossed out portions of the finances and budgeting section, looking back, would have been particularly helpful).

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that until a couple years ago, I didn’t know the Church’s actual stance on birth control. While NFP was alluded to and we were given a pamphlet on how to get more resources, it was never covered or explained, and the priest told us that ABC was just fine. My in-laws had put my wife on the pill before we ever met, but after we started seeing each other she quit using it. My mother-in-law took her to the doctor to get her back on it shortly before our wedding so, as she put it, we could quit using condoms (we weren’t sexually active, but nobody believed us). All that led to years of us contracepting, which I now think created or exacerbated other problems that plagued us for years, some as recently as just two years ago.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple years finding out on my own the things that a good marriage preparation program would have told me back then. I don’t know how much impact it would have had at the time on some of the choices we made, but getting on the right track now has certainly helped us immensely. The fact that we’ve grown so much closer over the last couple years makes it a lot easier to look back on our experience and get a bit of a laugh out of it.

We were encouraged to do an Engaged Encounter, which we did - and it was wonderful. There was some presentation but mostly it was guided, private dialogue between couples. The dialogue made you think hard about things important to marriage such as finances and the role of family. I found it extremely valuable.

Ours was horrid too. Barely a mention of NFP at the end and no mention of cohabitation being wrong which would have been germane considering we were just about the only ones who weren’t living at the same address. In fact when one couple mentioned how backwoods their parish priest was who said they were “fornicating”, (everyone sniggered) the priest in charge said “I don’t know what century he’s living in!” It was horrid and after that I stopped wondering why Catholics contracept and divorce at the same rate as the rest of the depraved.

I hated our marriage prep course. They asked for a £50 donation! To a one-day course, where there were 30 couples, saying the donations only covered heating and lighting - HA! HAHAHAH!

We gave £25 and considered that over the odds for the quality of the course. The people holding the course were as wooden as my kitchen table and the role plays they did were laughable. The topics covered weren’t in-depth enough and God was barely mentioned! (Yes this was a Catholic marriage prep centre.) Sex wasn’t either. And the man who took a group of six to fill in stupid questionnaires with just assumed we all lived together anyway (DH and I didn’t.).

It was all just vile and we felt on reflection we’d wasted the entire day. Would’ve been better spent talking to our parents (both mine and his who’ve been married 25 years respectively). Or our parish priest. Just not the people at this centre.

For the record, we were married in 2008.

I cannot say that the marriage prep was the problem in any way shape or form. I benefitted greatly - and therein lies the problem. We didn’t benefit greatly - I did. My faith went skipping by leaps and bounds and well he got what he wanted access to my bank account - he just had to answer all the questions right. Sometimes no matter what you do there is no right formula - sometimes it is that the formula is lacking. Sometimes it is the poeple.

My wife and I went through a marriage prep class with my childhood preacher before we converted. We didn’t get a ton out of it, except for a feeling that marriage is kind of a gamble and that if you even think of divorce, you let the Devil have a strong foothold.

That being said, I don’t know how much you can really prepare for marriage in these courses. Most of the prep is carried out while you are living with your parents. Pick someone just like or someone who is heading in your direction, and most of the prep work is done!

I got married in 1975. No marriage prep for me. DH had some because he is not Catholic and was in the military on a Base 3 provinces away. He met with the chaplain several times but I never asked what they discussed. We set a date for our wedding 2 years after getting engaged and got married within 3 months. We were apart for most of those two years communicating with letters and infrequent phone calls.

I’ve seen what passes for marriage preparation in our parish. The couple is handed a workbook to do and they come back for a 20-40 minute meeting after each section, or 1 meeting after they’ve completely finished the book. NFP is not mentioned and any time I’ve brought that up you could see the eyes rolling.

The parish down the road has marriage preparation once a year in the late winter. If you get engaged after that (so anytime after March) and want to get married in the fall or around Christmas you have to find another parish for marriage prep and that means travelling at least 350 miles to come to visit our priest who’ll do the above.

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My wife and I got married three months ago. We had four marriage prep courses, for various reasons.

The first was a series of evenings at a parish in a Neo-Cat parish in central London. It had been recommended to us by married friends. The two married couples leading it were pretty good; lots of thought-provoking examples of forgiveness and sacrificial love. They dealt with sexuality well too, I thought; supportive of the Church’s beliefs. One couple had six children, the other was infertile but had adopted three. Criticisms would be that the course was too short (six evenings, an hour and a half each, didn’t add up to a lot of content when you cut out all the faffing around) and that the priest who occasionally attended spent most of his time apologising to the non-Catholics for them having to be there.

The second was a series of one-on-two meetings with a traditional priest in London, whom we had met at a catechism class and liked. His meetings were really lectures in sacramental theology. It was excellent in itself, but we’d have been missing out without the other, more practical courses.

The third was an Engaged Encounter weekend in Ohio; EE had been recommended to us by other friends. It was given by two married couples, one for five years, and one for thirty five. The format goes something like this: one of the couples gives a talk, based mainly on personal experience, on a theme (e.g. forgiveness, upbringings, priorities) for twenty minutes. Then you all separate for twenty minutes and madly write your responses for twenty minutes in workbooks. Then you meet up in couples for twenty minutes and talk over your responses. The whole think lasted from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. It was intense. It had been a struggle to fit it into our schedule, and a long drive to get there, but it was worth it. There were also a few little ‘techniques’ for forgiveness and trust that were useful to learn. The leading couples were so honest about sharing their experiences. The younger couple, before becoming committed to their Faith, had cohabited and used ABC, which had made the wife much less fertile and they were struggling to conceive. This fact alone made many of the engaged women sit up and think, and there was quite a good discussion on the medical aspects of the Creighton Method. The other couple were past fertile age, but again supported the Church’s beliefs now even though they hadn’t practiced them in the past. The NFP talk was the only one that was given by both couples, not just one couple, and I think this is evidence of how seriously they took the issue and wanted to impress us with it. We were blessed with two wonderful couples leading it, and I think the quality of the course depends largely on that.

The fourth was a series of meetings with the priest in Ohio who would celebrate our wedding Mass. There was an online test to do in advance (Prepare and Enrich – I think it’s quite common) which he used to point out some of our differences, encourage us to talk about them. He asked us questions on our beliefs about marriage, and filled in a yellow booklet with our responses. I think this yellow booklet is meant to be an ‘annulment stopper’ – if you come back in five years time and try to claim that you didn’t understand the essential obligations of marriage, there is a record of you having said the exact opposite in the months before the wedding. There was no mention of NFP/contraception at all; it was systematically excluded by the online questionnaire. The pastor of that parish is Father Feelgood, and their marriage prep bundle contained a tatty old photocopied leaflet about the Billings method, but no mention at all of how ABC is wrong.

We went to the Engaged Encounter and ours was just as Vincent described. We both liked it and felt that it was good preparation.

My sister and her husband went to one as well, and said that 2 couples left “unengaged”.

Around here most people balk at the idea of going to a weekend of marriage prep, and then complain bitterly about the one day marriage prep. They complain it is ineffective and there is not enough time. I am not sure what they are looking for.

We had the same thing happen. We had a pre-cana course with a couple from the Parish, in their home. There were four engaged couples that began the course together – only two couples wound up getting married.

We were shocked at how many things those 2 “drop out” couples had never discussed. My now-husband and I figured we were doing pretty well – there weren’t any subjects brought up that we hadn’t already discussed.

I wish there had been more on NFP, though. It was sort of glossed over and I didn’t learn anything about how effective it is or that there are a lot of resources out there to help with it. Our early marriage may have been different in that regard.

We got married in 1997.

Ours was actually pretty good (REALLY good it sounds like actually). We had the FOCCUS “test”, standard Pre-Cana, and a separate class devoted to Theology of the Body. NFP classes were optional but we took those as well. We could have done the Engaged Encounter instead of the TOB class but my husband wasn’t comfortable with a weekend retreat.

Out of everything, probably P-C was the least helpful but it got cut short on account of snow so I can’t have a true opinion on it.

But the FOCCUS thing really helped bring out topics that we had never even thought to discuss. They weren’t things that we were afraid to talk about. It had just never come up. If we had the chance to take it again we would probably “score better”.

It’s kinda funny watching my newly engaged sister (God bless her) go through the same process. She was totally freaked out over how many answers they “got wrong” but that’s not the purpose of FOCCUS, It’s the expose where your relationship needs more work and discussion.

The TOB class was probably the most beneficial to us. My husband is a lapsed Episcopalian but spent a while in Catholic schools. So he knew a lot of the “what’s” regarding sex…how it’s for married people, no ABC, he’s pro-life though not particularly activist about it. But that class really opened his eyes to the “Why” of it all and he’s been on the au naturale boat ever since.

The short course we went through was the only option the parish offered at the time. I was talking to my wife about it yesterday and the main thing she remembers is us asking each other what the point had been at the time. She didn’t recall any of the content, but did recall the priest telling us that ABC was okay.

Our current church doesn’t offer too much in the way of marriage encounter programs, and the ones they do have don’t fit into our schedule. I think it would be interesting and helpful to attend something along those lines, but we’ve yet to find something we could attend. The more I read up on the Church’s teachings, the more I share with my wife, but I think it would be beneficial to have her hearing it from someone else as well. One thing that always worries me is that we’d get a priest like the one we had when we got married who would give advice contrary to the Church’s actual teachings.

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