Friday, September 21, 2012

Better Marriage Preparation

Is Marriage the first step towards divorce?  For some people it definitely is, and those people can be identified before they get married.  And perhaps something can be done to give their marriage a better chance of success. 
As I sat in the coffee shop this morning, a couple of guys came in from the mass I had just attended.  We sat and chatted for a while, and the conversation turned to our local priest and the difficult life he leads.  Much of his time is spent dealing with marriages in trouble, one said.  It’s a very frustrating thing to act as a counselor when two, or at least one, of the people really don’t want to be there.  They’re there seeking help for the sake of their kids, or their parents, or friends insisted they get help, and so they did.  But they don’t really want to be there.  Either they think they can work it out themselves, or there is no hope of working it out.  Either way, our good pastor is wasting his time --- but he still tries.  He has our sympathy and prayers.
One of the guys pointed out that over half of the children of divorced parents themselves get divorced.  Not having a good role model in their parents, they too fail at their marriages, and so it is an increasing spiral downward of more and more failed marriages.  The other, perhaps from some experience, said that often things are hopeless because one of the parties is in that boat and won’t even consider counseling or other help to try and save the marriage, or the marriage limps along only for the kids.  One good person can’t save a marriage, he opined.  And I thought about these things, and some of the things I’ve been thinking about, about our selfish, me first, society.
In addition to focusing on saving bad marriages, I suggested, what if there was more focus on making good marriages?  If children of divorced parents are more than 50% likely to divorce, why wait until the divorce is in the works, why not assume that their very marriage is the first step to their divorce --- unless they change where they are heading. 
Today we know that certain diseases are genetically identifiable, and often tests can be done early to identify those likely to succumb to disease later in life, and then drugs or exercises or lifestyle changes can be implemented, throughout their entire life, to beat those odds that they will succumb to disease.  People whose parents died young of heart attacks know they are more likely to have heart disease, and many make lifestyle changes and significantly outlive their parents.  If we know something bad will likely happen, we can change the future.  If we take actions ….
If children of divorced parents are planning to marry, marriage preparation classes should identify them (and perhaps other likely candidates for divorce) and inform them that they WILL likely get a divorce, and sooner rather than later.  That should be done not to discourage marriage, but to enable those children to make lifestyle changes.  They can’t plan on being married as their parents were married.  They can’t plan on “just always loving each other.”  They’re just lying to themselves if they believe that, and they need to be convinced of that fact:  their marriage is the first step toward their divorce, unless they do something, NOW! 
Earlier this year I reviewed the book Three To Get Married, by Bishop Fulton Sheen (see my February 29th post).  I opined that if I had read and followed that book before I got married, perhaps I wouldn’t be divorced now.  The book notes that God needs to be an equal partner in marriages, and so if a person were inclined to tell his spouse I don’t love you anymore, he would also have to tell God that also before he could end his marriage.  “God, I don’t love You anymore.”  When I was married I wasn’t nearly the person of faith I am now, but I think I could have been prodded to better learn and live my faith, and make God a partner in my marriage.  If I had known.  If I had thought.  If I had believed that I couldn’t succeed on my own, just because I wanted to --- like so many people in our country now believe.
It was a hard lesson to learn that marriage wasn’t designed to be the way I wanted (or perhaps expected) it to be.   But lessons can be taught so that accidents, and disasters, can be avoided.  And people can practice safety, not safe sex, but safe marriages. 
I think Marriage Preparation classes can be better than they are now; perhaps some already are, but I think not many.  Many people think preparing for marriage means arranging the church and sending out the invites.  They don’t realize that the preparation never ends, for the marriage never reaches perfection.  I told my friends that I would buy Bishop Sheens book for anyone in marriage prep classes, if the parish would take me up on the offer. 
In this Year of Faith, there are many things about our faith we can be teaching to Catholics, and others, whether they attend church or not, whether they believe what the Church teaches or not.  It’s called love of neighbor, and we can use this Year of Faith to teach our faith, to live it out, or at least learn it better.  Our married lives, our eternal lives, may depend upon it.
And perhaps this indeed, is something to be anxious about.
One of the guys, this morning suggested I blog this.  Here it is.

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