I was thinking I should write about the whole marriage prep process, as it's a huuuuge part of the wedding preparation for both John and me. Yes, it's true that there's a lot of physical stuff to prepare for the marriage during our engagement (e.g. dress, tux, flowers, decorations, reception venue, cake, hotels, etc.), but more important than any of this is the preparation of ourselves spiritually and emotionally. We're both in this for a lifetime, so we have to make sure we're ready for that come the big day more than anything else.
On Saturday, we arrived at the St. Vincent de Paul Parish Center around noon to take the FOCCUS test - a 156-question pre-marriage inventory. After bride and groom take the test (separately), the scantron-like answer sheets are shipped off, analyzed somewhere by some computer system, and sent back to be reviewed by priest and couple. Well, we haven't gotten our results yet, but look forward to seeing them. The test has questions that cover a variety of categories including lifestyle expectations, personality match, communication, religion and values, parenting, sexuality, marriage readiness, key problem indicators, and family origin.
To take the test, you read each statement and either mark agree, disagree, or uncertain, depending on your personal feelings towards each statement. Here are some sample statements from the test (taken directly from U.S. Catholic Bishop's website):
- We are in agreement about the husband and wife roles each of us expects of the other in our marriage relationship.
- There are qualities about my future spouse that I do not respect.
- We have discussed the ways our families solved problems and how this may affect our problem solving.
- We disagree with each other over some teachings of the church.
- My future spouse and I are open to having children.
- I am concerned that in-laws may interfere in our marriage relationship.
- My future spouse and I can talk about our sexual fears, hopes and preferences.
- We are in agreement about how we will make financial decisions between us.
- I sometimes feel that this may not be the right person for me to marry.
- My future spouse and I agree that our marriage commitment means we intend to pledge love under all circumstances.
After answering 156 questions of that nature, you can imagine that you have quite a bit to discuss with your future-spouse. Well, John and I spent most of the rest of the day chatting about how we answered the questions, how we thought each other would have answered certain questions, and began to go over some of the topics we had never discussed before (mainly financial stuff). It was great! And that's the true purpose of the test anyway - it's not to tell you whether or not you should be getting married to this person, it's to get you talking about the big ticket marriage items before you sign up for a lifetime of marriage.
So in a few weeks, we'll be getting our results and sitting down with a priest to discuss them. When the tests are analyzed, it gives you percentages based on how well you matched in each one of the major categories. If we don't match on some of the questions (which we've probably already discussed anyway), those questions get flagged by the test analyzing system and topics of discussion are printed out with the test based on the non-matchy stuff.
Also, after the new year, we're going to be meeting with a sponsor couple. This well-established Catholic couple will be meeting with us 5 times to discuss all the topics that we briefly encountered on the FOCCUS test. They'll even meet with us a few months after the wedding to check in with us. We're looking forward to having this relationship with another Catholic couple in Houston, to see us through some of the most important months of our courtship :)
And I'll leave you with a hilarious story that involves a friend-couple of ours who went through the same marriage prep process as us before they were married. The groom of the couple, nicknamed D, encountered the statement on the FOCCUS test, "I have a problem with the amount of alcohol my future spouse consumes," and thought it would be funny to answer "agree," in that he wished she would drink more. Well, the bride, nicknamed V, did not think that this was funny. And V reeeeally didn't think it was funny when the priest who reviewed the test with them kept questioning her about her drinking problems.
Oh, how fun it is to play little tricks on your future spouse, especially when a priest is involved.