On a recent Friday night, my fiancé, George, and I found ourselves sitting in an auditorium at our shared alma mater with a thick spiral bound workbook in front of us with “Living God’s Love: The Sacrament of Marriage” emblazoned on the cover. Just five months earlier, I shrieked with joy as George got down on one knee under the arches at the entryway of campus, and now reality was rapidly sinking in as we began our weekend marriage retreat.
As we sat among 70 engaged couples all at the cusp of making the biggest decision of our lives, I quickly realized that everything we were learning—from managing money to sacramental love—is just as relevant to singles and dating couples as it is to engaged and married couples.
CatholicMatch Institute blogger Bryan Mercier recently posted about preparing for marriage before you get engaged, referencing that priests receive eight years of spiritual education and engaged couple just have to sit through a weekend retreat, if that!
Well, that was us, and I couldn’t agree more. The issues we discussed during our marriage retreat went far beyond the 12 hours we had as a group, and I know that all successful couples should spend countless hours diving head first into each aspect of a successfully marriage before they say “I do.”
Whether you are single or in a dating relationship, you can still intentionally prepare for marriage. You are making choices right now that will either positively or negatively affect your relationship with your future spouse. Looking back, I can see God’s hand on my single years, patiently guiding me through the lessons I needed to learn and the qualities I needed to develop before He brought my fiancé into my life.
We learned so many valuable lessons during our marriage retreat that I know will serve as the springboard for future education, and I encourage you to reflect on these topics, as well, as you prepare to date your future husband or wife:
Psychologist John Buri, PHD, encourages couples to consider the “we” instead of “me.” Marriage calls each spouse to abandon any selfish tendencies and make choices that benefit the couple as a unit over his or her individual desires. That could mean giving up a sporting event to finish a task at home or sacrificing a materialistic purchase for an investment that benefits both of you.
Set time aside weekly
It’s difficult to discuss deeper issues within the busyness of everyday life, so many couples designate a specific time each week to hold a couples meeting. Different than a date night, this allows each spouse to bring forward topics that need a deeper dive.
Share in the sacraments
We ended our retreat in the most perfect way—with confession and Mass. Strong Catholic couples worship together and share in each of the sacraments as often as possible!
As expected, communication can make or break a marriage. Married couples that communicate effectively say at least five positive comments for every negative comment and work together to draw out each other in loving, effective discussion.
Never stop dating.
You likely have a married couple in your life whose love and lasting spark brings a smile to everyone’s face. Happy couples never stop dating and take the time to appreciate and love each other every day.
One of the most poignant moments from our marriage retreat came from a speaker that said: “You have been marrying your future spouse all along.”
I glanced at George and thought back to the many decisions we have made to foster a faith-filled courtship. We weren’t just dating. We were preparing for our lives as husband and wife in both the day-to-day events and the larger milestones. Even before we met on CatholicMatch on a seemingly ordinary September day, we were nurturing our future marriage and becoming better Catholics for each other and God.
I pray that you, too, will approach this waiting period with an open heart and mind, ready to learn, grow and fully prepare for the person God has in store for you.