Practical Advice for Engaged Couples – Part I:
People often ask me for advice on dating. Others ask if I have advice for engaged couples to help them to prepare for marriage. Yes! As a matter of fact, I do. Below are some important things every couple should be aware of and cultivate. I hope you find these tips helpful. God bless you on your journey.
Advice #1 – Pray!
Pray a lot. Pray for yourself and for your spouse. Pray that you may both become the best possible spouses, parents, and lovers; in short, the people that God wants you to be. After all, your goal in marriage is to get each other to heaven. It is to walk hand in hand down that heavenly road with a vibrant love that overflows to those around you. Your Catholic engagement starts with prayer, continues with prayer, and ends with prayer. Bring God along on every part of the journey and you can’t go wrong.
As a side note, it is important to for good habits of prayer now because your life only gets more crazy and hectic as the engagement and marriage progresses. So form that bedrock foundation, even if it’s a sacrifice!
Advice #2 – Plan your wedding together!
Talk about everything and decide things together, hand in hand. This is important. My wife and I heard too often the false and selfish notion that the wedding is “The Woman’s Day,” and so she makes all the decisions. Really?
Is she getting married alone? “No, but she has been dreaming about this for her whole life and has been thinking about it all for longer than he has.” So? Does your spouse not have any desires? Are they superfluous? It’s time to put all selfishness away and realize that you are embarking on a life-long journey together. After all, I know women who have controlled every last aspect of their big day and ended up divorced within a year because they didn’t know what the day or the marriage was about.
Many men are happy to take a back seat and let the women do all or most of the work. Many women are happy to take that challenge. But, this is shooting your marriage in the foot right at the beginning. Why? Because what you do before marriage will set the tone for what you do in marriage. It’s no wonder that many women suffer in their marriages, having to do everything while the husband “does nothing.” It might be fun on the big day, but eventually, ladies begin to resent a man who always has to be called upon to help and take part in the marriage. Men need to learn to serve and help out, to put their spouse first, and the ladies need to learn to give up control and allow help. Both need to get out of their comfort zones and work together.
Here is why this is important for your Catholic Engagement…
Doing the planning together allows you to really get to know each other in a necessary way. You will learn the way each other thinks and makes decisions, how they agree and disagree, handle conflict, work out problems, what annoys them, and so much more. There will be many surprising things that will emerge during this time, and that is good.
For example, my wife and I had big disagreements during this planning time when we never had really disagreed before. Also, our emotional baggage and fear was rearing its ugly head and had to be dealt with. So, we had to learn and practice healthy conflict resolution, self-sacrifice, and compromise based on selfless love. We learned to love each other the way they needed to be loved, not the way we felt like loving them. These are all lessons that are indispensable for marriage, and we will need them for the rest of our lives. These virtues that form our character don’t start in marriage, they are formed, fostered, and developed before marriage – during the engagement time. The more we practice self sacrifice before marriage, the more we will have built up that good habit as a strong foundation.
In fact, my wife and I had our biggest disagreements and emotional tantrums during our engagement and we learned to work through them. Learning to work through our problems was a huge lesson that we had formed and that we could then use for the rest of our life. We learned how to communicate with each other, what to do, what not to do, what set each other off, and we grew a lot closer and more a lot more intimate with each other in the process of coming to agreement and choosing to love each other unconditionally.
And, if things explode and you can’t work it out, well, is that not a good thing to know before you springboard into marriage and find out too late?
Advice #3 – Get Serious: Read and Prepare:
As you probably know, marriage isn’t just a walk in the park with flowers, a beautiful blue sky, and white puffy clouds. Good marriages are difficult and great marriages take a lot of hard work. Buy books on marriage and Catholic engagement and read them. Read together. Learn together. Grow together.
Priests study for their vocation for 8 years! Catholic couples get a weekend encounter. Big whoop! The point is, we need to study and learn on our own what marriage is all about and what makes it work. It’s important to learn advice on finances, communication (#1 cause of divorce), likes and dislikes, spirituality, and much, much more. I can’t emphasize how important it is to purchase and read through these good books together. The more we put in the work for our Catholic Engagement, the more we will reap the benefits. If we take short cuts, we will be the ones to pay for it. This will be one of the best things you can do together. Here are some recommended titles:
1. A Marriage Preparation Program book: A Decision to Love – By, John M. V. Midgley.
2. A Catholic Handbook for Engaged and Newly Married Couples – By, Fredrick W. Marks
3. #1 Recommended book for Marriage: For Better…Forever! A Catholic guide to life long Marriage – By Gregory Popcak
Also See: The Good News about Sex and Marriage – By, Chris West and Holy Sex – By, Gregory Popcak. I’m sure there are some other people who can recommend some good titles.
If you have found this helpful, please share it with others engaged and dating couples. And, don’t forget to check out more advice on: Catholic Engagement, Advice for Engaged Couples – Part II.