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Church Marriage Lessons Aren’t As Bad As I Thought They’d Be

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In order to get married in a Catholic Church, Emily Phillips has to attend couples' marriage sessions. And turns out, they're not all about household chores and praying...

Yes, apparently you can be taught how to have a good marriage.

We’re getting married at a Catholic Church, and one of the precursors for tying the knot under the eyes of God is that you take part in a couple of sessions with other couples also about to get wed, led by a married couple. They don’t teach you how to set up a rota for the household chores, or make you pray (as I anticipated), but instead we were actually led by two communications experts who taught us a few things about resolving conflict in a calm way (or just picking an argument in church, which is what was happening in some cases).

Here’s what we learned:

1. Get a Pen of Truth We did a communications exercise created for marriage counselling, called the Speaker-Listening technique where the speaker holds an object (like a pen, which we shall now refer to as a Pen of Truth) and gets to say what they mean in a ‘safe’ environment, while the other can’t interject until it’s their turn to take the floor. Turns out I’m a really bad listener, and mostly like to blurt out random song titles when my fiancé is making a heartfelt statement. I’m going to try harder (to think of funnier interjections).

2. Play the ‘Values’ game The most fun part of the first session was filling in a questionnaire about what we want from life (whether we’d move if our partner got a job somewhere far away, whether you want to buy a car before you have a baby, whether you’d break up with your husband/ wife if they cheated – all the biggies), and what we predict our promised one is going to say. Ours didn’t all match up (nearly though), but the ones I guessed wrong, obviously Charlie was being skimpy with the truth on, so we still win.

3. They’ve removed the word ‘obey’ from the marriage vow Which is good for all the non-Geishas out there.

4. Marriage sessions come off a bit sexist There will be chat about gender-specific roles. You may be split into boys vs. girls groups. I found it quite hard to hold my tongue. Again, must try harder. I’m worried this Tourette’s may continue as I’m giving my vows, which may render the marriage null and void. Which I don’t want, of course.

5. It’s a bit of sneak preview You should get a run through of your vows, and then a walk round the church (which on a dark and chilly eve is actually pretty romantic). You will probably get swept away and a bit emotional. It all feels proper suddenly.

6. Try to behave Over the sessions you’ll be making personal revelations in front of a group of strangers, while drinking holy wine and in the face of some out-moded views. My loudly-proclaimed ardent feminism raised eyebrows, but it’s OK because the big man upstairs is really forgiving, right?

PREACH!*

*This is ironic.

@emilylphillips

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