Recently on Morning Air, John Morales welcomed Fr. Bob Pagliari onto the show to discuss questions that many couples these days are choosing to ignore: Are you discussing your wedding day, or are you discussing your marriage? If you’re too focused on wedding bliss, you could be headed for wedded blisters.
Fr. Bob recalled a time when he was having a marriage prep conversation with a couple and he asked them, “After you’re married, will you have a joint bank account or will you maintain your separate bank account?” In one voice, at the same time, the man said, “Separate,” and the woman said, “Joint.” They looked at each other, and then at Fr. Bob. “It seems to me you haven’t discussed this,” he said.
The point is not that the Church has some hard and fast rule about whether a couple has a joint bank account or separate ones. The point is that the couple, who had already agreed to get married, had not even broached the subject of finances together. They hadn’t talked about a large portion of their living situation, the way they would support each other and their future family.
There are many things, not all spiritual, that a couple should discuss before agreeing that marriage is on the table for them. Marriage is a sacrament and a lifelong, exclusive commitment that must be open to children. Are both parties ready and willing to enter into that contract? To fully answer that, a lot of topics must be covered.
Fr. Bob recalled another story of a couple, James and Emma, who had been engaged for three months and were going through their marriage prep sessions. During James’s individual interview, he revealed that on the weekends, he liked to drink and watch sports with his friends. And after work on the weekdays, he would go to his friend’s house instead of coming right home. In Emma’s individual session, she was asked if she was aware of his drinking habits and how she felt about them, and James’s tendency to go out with friends.
“Emma paused, drew a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling and in a huff announced rather dogmatically that she would change those things in him after they were married.”
Did James know he was going to be changed? Was Emma going to transform him without him knowing? How exactly did she expect this to work? What other things had they failed to discuss? Were they going to remain open to life? What kind of schools would these kids go to? What sort of parenting dynamic will result from their marriage dynamic? These are all things that, while uncomfortable, need to be tabled before marriage enters the discussion.
Cohabitating is one of the most common mistakes couples make. Instead of discussing the topics of their future openly and honestly, some couples will say “I want a test marriage.” As Fr. Bob says, you’re not buying a car. It’s not something that you can get a refund for after spoiling through fornication. Marriage is a sacrament far more sacred and valuable than a car. If you can’t find the trust and honesty with someone to discuss children, schooling, or financial future, then you aren’t ready to discuss marriage, move in together, or experience marital intimacy with one another.
Love and marriage aren’t supposed to be easy. They’re intended to be difficult stages of our lives because they can be one of the most important and fulfilling aspects of our lives when attuned to God’s will and plan. Shortcuts in marriage lead to marriages being cut short. Discern, pray, and speak honestly with your significant other.
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