When S and I started planning our wedding, I quickly knew that we would be having a Catholic wedding. While I wasn’t raised with structured religion, S comes from a Catholic background and it was important to him to have our marriage confirmed between ourselves, but also God. I 100% was on board since this was so important to him. Between the planning the ceremony logistics, relationship proctored quizzes, marriage prep courses and attending church regularly, we have definitely grown closer together though this experience.
Right when we got engaged, we met with our priest to better understand the requirements and what we needed to do. We quickly learned three things 1. we had a lot of legal paperwork to be filed since I’m not affiliated with the Catholic Church 2. we had a lot of paperwork to chase down since S has lived all over the country through his life and attended a lot of different churches (thankfully my MIL took this one on) 3. we needed to take the FOCCUS exam and review the results with our priest and 4. we needed to sign up for a marriage preparation course known as PRECANNA.
I’ll jump over the first three items to spare you from yawning (although the FOCCUS test was really insightful and beneficial. I highly suggest it.). So let’s jump to the fun part – our marriage preparation course also known as PRECANNA. Before your eyes glaze over if you aren’t Catholic, the course isn’t all that heavily religious. The course is made to be an open discussion on many topics that are the foundation of your marriage (children, careers, communication, roles, expectations, finances, families, etc) and the two aspects that I pulled out for today’s post are universal for any marriage.
For some background, we signed up for a four day course that took place four consecutive Sunday’s in March 2017 for four+ hours each. We really enjoyed this course because it covered a lot of great topics like communication, conflict resolution, balancing careers, financial planning, financial habits, children expectations, stewardship/our roles in the household and specifics of our family background. Even though we’ve been together for nine years at that point, we learned SO MUCH about one another, really built a solid foundation for our marriage and discussed topics that seemed so far in the future, we otherwise wouldn’t have discussed it in this proactive way. We really looked forward to our weekly four hour date night every Saturday haha.
I had been asked questions about our marriage prep course last year since I had mentioned it on my Instagram, but I wanted to wait to see what aspects stuck with us. Now being married six months, there are two aspects of the marriage preparation course that we think of and use daily that are super helpful. If you are Catholic, I cannot suggest the Transformed in Love class enough.
If you aren’t Catholic, I’d research marriage preparation classes that are local to you or even virtual. I just really suggest taking something together to prep for your marriage! Even reading through Gary Chapnan’s Love Language book and reviewing it together is so beneficial (A post on this to come because it is so beneficial!). I feel that people get so caught up in wedding planning, but engagement is about prepping for your marriage.
So with that, here are the two things we learned from our marriage preparation course that was very valuable for our marriage:
ONE // TLC
Talk. Listen. Confirm.
This communication skill is an everyday term in our home! While we thought we had good communication before our marriage preparation course, we really strengthened our skills even more through the experience and techniques we learned. Whether something small or a large life decision, TLC allows both people to feel heard and at the end, allows you to be aligned as one and on the same page.
So TLC goes like this:
One person does the talking, while the other actively listens. Once the talker is done, the listener confirms what they think they heard and what they think the person is feeling. Ex: “So if I understand correctly, you feel overwhelmed with your job because of XYZ and you’d like to do XYZ about it?”. Then the talker can either say “No. That’s not what I meant” and the process starts over. Or the talker can say “Yes -exactly” and then the roles reverse AKA the talker switches to a listener role and the listener switches to the talker role.
Okay, you just read that are you’re like “Yup – we already FOR SURE do that. Easy as pie. I’m always listening to my partner… and not actually thinking about what I’m going to say to counter my them in .5 seconds”. That’s what we both thought too!
But then for our class homework, we were actively watching ourselves talking through situations that weren’t even necessarily conflict, but just everyday discussions. We realized that we weren’t always actively listening to the other person and we certainly did not verbally confirm what we thought we heard to ensure we were on the same page.
The TLC approach has been so helpful, not only in staying aligned on a daily basis, but also for topics that may be a bit more heavy and require structure for it to stay on track and constructive.
While you may feel like you do this while reading this blog post, I’d say look at your conversations during the week or your next emotion-heavy conversation and see how it flows. Look up on TLC and try to implement it. It feels odd and robotic at first, but it will seriously come naturally after a few times. If we get off track, we look at each other and say “TLC!!”. Yes, we’re dorks, but communication is so important and this really works for us. Maybe it’ll be helpful for you too!
TWO // EXPECTATIONS
I loved this topic because I had never thought about it before. Much of how we view the roles for our partners or responsibilities in our relationship are molded by what we saw our parents do or how we were raised. We dug into heavy expectation topics like what our careers would be like when we have children and what actions we’d take if our parents needed hands-on living assistance to simple things like who owns the task of maintaining the cars or which family we visit for Christmas. While you could say, we’ll just work that stuff out as it comes, it was very helpful and way less heated to talk through each example proactively to be aligned now and remove the emotions. Through this, we’re on the same page for our current life, future life chapters and for certain types of emergencies.
We also dove into relationship/partner expectations. Due to how we were raised and things we’ve experienced, we all have subconscious expectations for our partner. I found this si interesting! I had never thought about this! If you’re ever in a situation where you’re like “Uh – why wouldn’t he know to bring me flowers on my birthday. My dad always did this!” or “Of course I want to stay at home once I have children. My mom did!” [both made up examples lol]. Everyone has subconscious expectations, that we for some reason assume our partner would just know, rooted in us from our up bringing.
You may automatically think your fiance or husband should know that your car needs an oil change because your dad maintained all the vehicles in your household. Or you may get snippy if he doesn’t know how important a Christmas Eve tradition is to your family. How is your spouse supposed to know these things if you’ve never talked about them and just assume?!
Having a structured list to talk through allowed us to discuss things that may not have come up for awhile and instead of expressing ourselves in the heat of the moment when feelings may be high, we talked about them in this class. If we live based of assumptions or thinking our partner should “just know”, tensions can build and arguments can ensue. I’ve heard that roles and expectations are topics frequently covered in marriage prep courses, so if you’re signed up I bet you’ll cover this too!
While we took many, many other things from this course, these two really stuck out to us both after reflecting a year later. If you’re thinking about signing up for a course, I hope this little snippet encouraged you to sign up. I cannot suggest it enough. The topics on communication, finances, expectations and children all really are the foundation of your marriage so there isn’t ever any harm in talking through each!
To keep proactively strengthening our marriage, we are both reading through the 5 Love Languages. Like I mentioned earlier, this within itself would be a great option to work through with your fiance or husband too! We took the online quiz years ago and it really opened my eyes to communication not only to S, but my other relationships in life too.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post! From my analytics, I can tell you guys like more personal posts. I have a lot of content under my ‘advice’ area of my blog to peek around there if you’re interested. I’d love to know other marriage or life topics you’re interested in hearing in the comments below. Xo Mindy