Psychological exam before marriage


#1

Before one is admitted to the priesthood and many different religious orders, there is a psychological or psychiatric screening process to go through. If one doesnt pass, he/she isnt allowed to go any farther in the vocation process. Many who have wanted to be priests and nuns were turned down because of a vad psychological evaluation.

Why not do this for marriage as well? In theory, if you had this process you could save many people from divorce and anullment. You could also save people from marriages where one spouse has a problem with addictions of varying types and degrees and it can also identify potentially abusive and unfaithful spouses before marriage takes place. In the current process, you simply answer generic questions but rarely does the church say no to marrying two people unless there is something obviously and seriously wrong. Even then, they often can find a priest that would marry them.

The one benefit from a psychological evaluation before marriage is that the church can serve as the reason behind emotional relationships. The pastor of a church needs to protect his flock. How is a pastor being protective if he allows anyone to marry that goes through the marriage prep? Marriage is one of the most important decisions in life and it seems it would be only logical to make sure one of your flock doesnt get married to someone that is a major psychological risk. They wouldnt allow a person to become a priest or nun who failed a psych eval but why would they let married people do the same?

Sure, people will be mad that they were denied a marriage. However, isnt it better to not allow some to marry than to risk having a marriage that fails, needs to be anulled or is abusive? Those three lead many youth in those marriages to fall away from God. I think you would have stronger marriages and people would be more careful in who they dated and wed if there was a psychological evaluation. People with sexual and alcoholic addictions and would think twice about getting help and cleaning up their act before marriage.


#2

Marriage is created and designed by God, not man, and there are only a few reasons why two people can't enter into a valid marriage. Therefore, the Church can counsel people and encourage them to choose a spouse wisely, but it can't bar them from marriage and I don't think it should.

You run into the same sort of problems as when you start suggesting that the state put limits on who can and can't have children.

Barring someone who has, say, biplar disorder from getting married is not going to strengthen the institution of marriage. What will is reminding people that marriage is for life and sometimes requires sacrifice and hard work. You can't be selfish, and you can't give up when "it isn't fun anymore." The skills and attitudes people need to make a marriage work are not going to be found on a psychological screening for various disorders.


#3

Life is not a fixed point. Stuff develops all throughout life, you could have 2 perfectly mentally sound people and then they have a baby and the wife gets post partum depression. Or the husband develops a work addiction, or looks at porn. Just because someone seems to be stable at one time in his or her life, does not mean they are immune to problems later on. What about life transitions such as if a child dies, a parent dies, a spouse suddenly dies? What about when the kids grow up and leave for school? What about chronic illness?

And psych exams are not perfect as a screening tool. Whatever instrument you use, you are going to miss some people who are unstable, and mistake some stable people for kooks.

Bad idea. Your heart is in the right place - thinking of all the misery caused by bad marriages, divorce, etc. but it would never work. What would work better is a societal change back to a valuation of marriage and the family, and the end of legalized abortion and birth control.


#4

I can see what the OP is driving at. While I don’t think psychological exams may be the best tool, it begs the question of why other psychological tools are not in use. After all, people find out lots about them selves and their partners just by taking ENRICH and PREPARE-- so why not include the Myers-Briggs in there too?

I am a big believer that FOO issues (Family of Origin) need to be out in the open and discussed at length, and somewhat resolved before marriage. There are psychological assessments to delve into those issues, but the ENRICH (I think) only has 10 questions about that. Ten questions is simply not enough to get into the heart of these things!

I don’t believe that psychological assessments of any kind should be used as a way of placing limits on people-- but they should be used as tools to alert couples of issues that they will need to resolve. I know that Catholic Charities often offers group couples communication classes, and I wouldn’t mind seeing that get incorporated into pre-marriage preparation. I can even remember going to a marriage enrichment class at my church a long time ago, and even though there were a handful of couples there, we got into some very good discussions with the deacon and his wife.


#5

*The Psychological & Theological Dimensions of Marriage *

This DVD series addresses a lot of issues including FOO. Much of this information is missing from pre Cana marriage prep programs. Watching this is kind of like a self psychological evaluation and may indicate what issues should be dealt with prior to marriage.


#6

I understand that, and I think you are 100% right. Family of origin issues are huge. I love my sons and I love my husband, but if I had known how much pain and division his father was going to cause, NO WAY would I have taken that on. I guess God will get us through it, though, I still feel God put us together even though we didn’t marry in the Church and of course had no benefit of pre-Cana or anything. In fact we had to take the tests when we had our marriage blessed, and we are about 180 degrees different in most areas. :rolleyes: This was after 10 years of what I thought was a great marriage.

I don’t think a husband and wife need to be clones of each other, though. In fact differences can be exciting and renewing. It’s the kinds of differences and how each partner handles those differences that is key. Does one partner believe that the other one is WRONG if they don’t agree? Or that agreement is a key feature of being married? Then there is going to be trouble.

I would say that the family of origin issues are absolutely critical. If both partners are honest, and there is a background of divorce, pain, etc. then there had better be some counseling before anything else happens. My dear husband could have turned out much worse than he did, and for that I am grateful to God. He has been very much graced but hasn’t yet seen it. I am praying that he does, and he will be on his knees in gratitude when he does. I know I sure was!


#7

I can’t remember the questionnaire we filled out before we got married. I may actually stil have it filed somewhere. It sure would be interesting to see it now that we’ve been married a few years.

I think that those questionnaires are a good start at finding potential issues, but I’m not sure anything is done about it after the fact?

Anyone remember? Maybe we scored well, so nothing was done?


#8

Well nothing was done in our case, but then we were already married, so all that could have been done was recommend some counseling. Maybe they did that and I have forgotten, it’s been 11 years since then.

:slight_smile:


#9

My diocese requires a a compatiblility test as part of marriage prep. It took about an hour and covered the issues talked about here, and although it didn't help up much (we met through eHarmony so we had already taken a much longer compatibility test and found our personalities fit like puzzle pieces) I'm sure it helped many, many other couples. It covered everything from whether your parents were divorced and how it impacted your perceptions of marriage, to whether you have ever experienced same-sex attraction. The next step is to go over the results with a counselor so the couple can be aware of the potential problems caused by whatever the tests brought up. However, I don't think the test should be used to bar anyone from marriage.


#10

I don't think it's so much compatibility the OP was pointing at but real pre-existing psychological conditions. I don't think marriage should be forbidden to those who suffer but there should be extra counseling and additional time required so that both parties are fully aware and can make a sound decision.


#11

This is what happens in A LOT of marriages. It’s one thing to be different; it’s another to not know how to mitigate those differences. My husband is of the camp that if I don’t agree with him most of the time, I am being obstinate and wrong. He comes from a family where if a parent disagreed, the other parent badgered and talked down to them like a child until there was “agreement.” He and I are starting to recognize this now, and what I have to personally do is let him know where the boundaries are. Most people, psychologically, have no idea of what boundaries are within the Christian context. There are books specifically written about this topic from a Christian perspective.

Most people psychologically, don’t know how to resolve conflicts healthily, or have rarely experienced conflicts so when an argument occurs, the entire world feels like its ending. I think a huge thing that lacked from the Church’s premarriage prep was actually learning skills on how to be psychologically ready to resolve conflicts, and deal with differences on a mature level.

IMO, you have to do more than just discuss if your parents were divorced, or if there was abuse in the family, or if everyone avoided conflict like the plague and pretended to not have emotions. A person has to deal with what happened, look at how it’s affected their own development and life, and then move forward from there. I know a couple who married years ago, and the wife comes from a family where everyone put things on the open, but didn’t always agree and it was okay, they went on family vacations in the summer, etc. Her husband comes from a larger family where you obeyed flat-out, they were barely allowed to leave the house, etc. The wife once told me that when she tried to get her husband to do certain things she was used to, he almost lost it. She was coming from her perspective, and he was coming from his. Does premarital education and preparation really teach the skills on how to meet with two different perspectives, but as a married couple create a new one? Not in my experience.

I personally believe that psychological methods can be used as part of the healing process if done correctly and within a Christian belief system. As far as major psychological risks that the OP alludes to, I think dealing with things like parental drug addictions, abuse in the family, witnessing adultery, domestic violence, etc. are important with psychological evals. Just because someone “says” that they’re all okay doesn’t mean they really are.


#12

Interesting posts. I would not object if the church required the tests if they were only provided to the marriage candidates so they could use the data along with their own discernment to decide whether to jump into the crazy world of marriage and relationships. But, I would distinguish the tests administered to prospective religious because the test results and analysis are used by the church. Unfit religious candidates can do damage to the church and people (especially children) they interact with. I do realize that lay people entering to marriage can also damage the people they interact with, but they are not agents of the church.


#13

The other posters have all given valid reasons why this is probably NOT the best way to decide where or not 2 people are fit for marriage.

Since both my children are of marrying age, this question is on my mind alot.
After prayer, I have come to the opinion that the very best way for a person to discern marriage is to build a genuine friendship with the person they are considering marrying and for most couples the thing that gets in the way of building this genuine friendship is lack of chastity in the relationship.
They end up bonding romantically to a person they hardly know and maybe don't like or trust.
If a person is very serious about finding a good spouse then he must be careful that he doesn't fall in love with romance or worse with lust, but instead they develope a genuine friendship with this person that they intend to marry.


#14

Even when couples have a good friendship, they can still hide things. Let's be very, very, VERY honest here-- much of courtship/dating has to do with impressing the other person. We go out of our way to do what the other person likes, engage in their interests, suppress certain characteristics of ourselves, etc. That doesn't mean we were dishonest-- it just means that when we fell in love with someone, we wanted to be a lot like them, and therefore don't always talk about or reveal things that are less than desirable. The saying that you get what you see when you were in a relationship before marriage simply doesn't cut it.

I have talked to couples where a person didn't know that there was a history of mental illness in the family before marriage, there are couples who don't know that their spouse experienced substantial abuse in their childhood, and there are couples who keep the family skeletons pushed far, far back into the closet until something comes up within the family long after marriage.

Personally, I would like to see more psychological tools used for couples who are discerning marriage, and these tools should spark discussion and resolution rather than saying "nope, one of you is a little quacked, you can't get married." I don't think that method helps anyone, but let's face it, very few people actually discuss and bring up family issues, mental health issues, etc. Those are almost considered "sordid" topics of discussion and people pretend that they don't exist until they rear their ugly heads, and that usually happens after marriage.

Since I've also worked with people who have mental illnesses and developmental disorders, I think people have the right to know what they are getting into when they are discerning someone who has these things. For instance, there are many couples who struggle when someone has Asperger's. I won't go into it, but there are certain dynamics that make Asperger's disorder unique and making a marriage successful takes a lot more than just friendship. I had a friend in high school where one of her parents had Bipolar Disorder, and as she put it, it "sucked a lot." I also think that people who have adult manifestations of attachment disorders-- such as people with Borderline Personality Disorder-- should tread into marriage very carefully, and so should the people they are with.

Marriage is worth putting in the extra things into it that are uncomfortable and somewhat controversial.


#15

Can. 1058 All persons who are not prohibited by law can contract marriage.

Can. 1066 Before a marriage is celebrated, it must be evident that nothing stands in the way of its valid and licit celebration.

Can. 1069 All the faithful are obliged to reveal any impediments they know about to the pastor or local ordinary before the celebration of the marriage.

*Can. 1072 *Pastors of souls are to take care to dissuade youth from the celebration of marriage before the age at which a person usually enters marriage according to the accepted practices of the region.

In other words, it is not just a matter of making people mad. For the Catholic faithful who are free to marry (without impediment), there is a right to marry. In contrast, there is no right to ordination.

It is a pastoral responsibility to make a reasonable effort to ascertain that no impediments to a marriage exist before the marriage is performed. It is also the obligation of any among the faithful who are aware of an impediment to make it known to the pastor. That doesn't mean that the faithful have to submit to some particular test. It does mean that the priest does have a duty to do some sort of an evaluation to uncover possible impediments. It is not good enough to suspect a problem, though. It has to be known to exist.

Bishops can require that couples go through a reasonable amount of preparation before marriage, though.


#16

Personally - I know this - we did the compatibility test. We also went to counseling as we had problems with his family. However, the psychologist was barred from telling me his results. Had I ever known that my then fiance had been diagnosed with NPD/BPD from the age of 5 and had a long running psych history including two hospitalizations (involuntary) for homicidal ideation - one thirty days in length - we would not have been married. No one told me - they were all barred by different confidentialities. It was not until a year and a half later when I got to sit there and read the novel that were his psych records that he left in the house. If I had known there would have been no marriage. Now the best I can hope for is a decree of nullity and that the tribunal will place an impediment so that this does not happen to anyone else because I almost didn’t make it out alive.


#17

I don't understand the point of taking a compatibility test and related psychometric testing only to have it barred when it comes to discerning marriage????????

What's the point!?


#18

[quote="joandarc2008, post:16, topic:225293"]
Personally - I know this - we did the compatibility test. We also went to counseling as we had problems with his family. However, the psychologist was barred from telling me his results. Had I ever known that my then fiance had been diagnosed with NPD/BPD from the age of 5 and had a long running psych history including two hospitalizations (involuntary) for homicidal ideation - one thirty days in length - we would not have been married. No one told me - they were all barred by different confidentialities. It was not until a year and a half later when I got to sit there and read the novel that were his psych records that he left in the house. If I had known there would have been no marriage. Now the best I can hope for is a decree of nullity and that the tribunal will place an impediment so that this does not happen to anyone else because I almost didn't make it out alive.

[/quote]

This is too late to help you, but perhaps not too late to help someone else.

It was not explained to you that you would have been within your rights to refuse to marry your fiance until he gave permission for you to see those results. By law, the professionals who administered the test could not allow you see the records or even imply what they thought the tests implied about your fiance. If they took that upon themselves, that would violate his privacy. It may even have been that giving this explanation to you is not ethical, as it positively encourages people to demand to see the test results of their prospective spouses.

The requirement for confidentiality, however, only bars* them* from giving you the results, but no rule bars the patient from sharing his own records with anyone he wants to share them with. You could have refused marriage until he gives that consent, though. You can require any kind of information from your future spouse that you want to require. He can refuse marriage because you insist, but you can insist.

I would welcome correction by a canon lawyer, but as far as I know, requiring full disclosure of that kind of record before marrying someone would not constitute an impediment to marriage. I think it would be sensible to agree wtih one's spouse to share all results of psychological evaluations before marriage, just as you would expect the spouse to disclose all debts and so on.

If you required that information and your spouse said he gave it all but didn't, that would constitute deceit that would invalidate the marriage. If the test is required, though, then he could not conceal that the test existed. You would have taken it, would know he had, and would know to require that you share results.


#19

[quote="EasterJoy, post:18, topic:225293"]
This is too late to help you, but perhaps not too late to help someone else.

It was not explained to you that you would have been within your rights to refuse to marry your fiance until he gave permission for you to see those results. By law, the professionals who administered the test could not allow you see the records or even imply what they thought the tests implied about your fiance. If they took that upon themselves, that would violate his privacy. It may even have been that giving this explanation to you is not ethical, as it positively encourages people to demand to see the test results of their prospective spouses.

The requirement for confidentiality, however, only bars* them* from giving you the results, but no rule bars the patient from sharing his own records with anyone he wants to share them with. You could have refused marriage until he gives that consent, though. You can require any kind of information from your future spouse that you want to require. He can refuse marriage because you insist, but you can insist.

I would welcome correction by a canon lawyer, but as far as I know, requiring full disclosure of that kind of record before marrying someone would not constitute an impediment to marriage. I think it would be sensible to agree wtih one's spouse to share all results of psychological evaluations before marriage, just as you would expect the spouse to disclose all debts and so on.

If you required that information and your spouse said he gave it all but didn't, that would constitute deceit that would invalidate the marriage. If the test is required, though, then he could not conceal that the test existed. You would have taken it, would know he had, and would know to require that you share results.

[/quote]

I don't mean to be funny but after what I have been through I want:

a) psychological testing
b) criminal check
c) references
d) credit check
e) talk to any ex-wives


#20

Jondarc2008: First, I hope you get the annulment. Second, I think that you have a raised a good point concerning the confidentiality of the records. Insisting on a release of disclosure before accepting a proposal is 20/20 hindsight now but helpful to others.
Trust is so important, yet it is a leap of faith and sometimes it is a pretty big leap. How can one love and have a satisfying marriage or any other relationship without it?

So, I ask all the right questions of a prospective spouse during the courting phase. I meet the family. The fiancé tells me its true love. How far do I go to discern before I really feel I can trust. Do I do research and investigate? Do I insist on a pre nuptial agreement? Are these indications of caution or deep seated mistrust?

I agree with the most recent posts.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.