For those of you that follow me on Twitter, or even better, know me in person, you know that Kyle and I went to our very first pre-cana counseling session through the church the other day. It’s part of the church’s requirements for marriage. I had mixed emotions. I was scared, I was nervous, I was excited, but also curious.
Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t the counseling I was anxious about. I’ve been in and out of it my entire life and I think the world would be a much, much better place if everyone went to counseling a few times in their life. It forces you to face yourself, something us humans have such a hard time doing.
What was so nerve racking was that I had never gone to a faith based counselor before. What would a Catholic psychologist have to say? Would she judge me for not wanting kids right away? Would she judge us for being 23? What about my previous relationships? Would she convict me and find me guilty of not being “Catholic enough”?
Well. You know those times where something is so unexpectedly awesome? Yea. That happened.
She was the most efficient, well read, no-bullshit counselor I’ve ever seen. There was no pussyfooting around. Imagine Patty from Millionaire Matchmaker but Catholic.
How it works is the couple fills out a survey (separately) of about 200 questions that she then analyzes and works out with the couple during sessions. They were pressing questions, things that I imagine I might not have addressed until post-marriage. Things like, “Where will you spend holidays?” “Who will handle paying which bills and who will do the budget?” “How do you fight?” and “What rules are there regarding technology in the bedroom?”
When we first got there, she showed us the way to her office, poured some water, handed us some paperwork, sat down and said, “Alright here’s the deal, my name is Donna drink some water let’s get started.”
We don’t live in a pro marriage society. We just don’t. I can cite numerous, wildly biased studies on why that is but it doesn’t really matter to me why it is, it just is. This has made it hard for me to go through the engagement process – everyone has this little thought in the back of their head, they want to know if we’ll “make it”. We’re too young. We’re too poor. We’re too tall. (The last one thrown in for comedic relief.)
But she sat us down and told us like it is. She said, “Statistically speaking you are a little young, but you’re right on the border. You don’t want to date for too long and you don’t want to date for too little. If it feels right for you, it’s right. Stop looking at other people. Stop reading about how to get the perfect marriage. Screw the books. Screw the blog posts. Stop looking at Suzie and John trying to figure out how to be them. Because the only way you’ll figure it out is if you figure out what works for you.”
She puts her glasses back on to look at the surveys. “Moving on!” she exclaims. “Oh, but one more thing. You know the saying ‘Don’t go to bed mad?” Kyle and I both nod our heads compliantly, “That’s total bullshit. Don’t go to bed fuming angry. Go to bed knowing you still love each other, but 9 times out of 10 you’re tired and you’ll wake up lovey-dovey realizing the petty reason you fought in the first place was caused by tiredness. Resolve it in the morning. Get your sleep. Sleep works wonders in a relationship.”
Then, of course, there was the birth control question. (Nailed it.) She got to the “sex” part of the survey which she instantly claimed as her “favorite part”. I giggle and say “Me too.” She looks at us with a solid stare and bluntly asks, “Ok kids, what are you going to do for birth control?”
I proudly answered that I’ve been charting sympto-thermal for 2 years but just switched to Billings. She raised an eyebrow, “Two years? What on earth prompted you to do that?” I tell the story of how Kyle had mentioned something he’d heard once in Catholic boarding school and I completely snubbed it away. Then I did a little a research. Then I became mildly obsessed. Her response was, “You mean you’ve been charting for fun? Do you realize how weird that is?” I shrugged and laughed, “Oh – I know.” She briskly added “No it’s great. It’s highly effective. It works. And depending on how creative you are, it can really get you thinking outside of the box. If you use NFP right, you’re sex life will be amazing. And believe me, an amazing sex life is important.”
Overall, I left feeling a thousand times more confident than I did walking in. Kyle and I celebrated with post-counseling margaritas. And most importantly, I think I’m actually going to be ok.