Pre-Cana gives future spouses an opportunity to “test” their compatibility before they commit for life.
A few years ago, author Sarah Swafford gave a talk at my university’s Catholic Center.
She spoke, of course, about a lot of amazing things. But one idea that really stood out was this question she posed: “Is it easier to break up with a boyfriend/girlfriend or a fiancé?”
The audience silently agreed that the answer was boyfriend/girlfriend. As we discussed this question after the talk, my friends and I agreed that we couldn’t imagine breaking off engagements. To start planning a wedding with someone, making financial decisions, buying a beautiful dress, and looking for a home, only to end things before your wedding, sounded nearly impossible.
If you Google percentage of engagements called off, the answer you’ll find is 20%.
If, however, you Google percentage of marriages ending in divorce, the result will show 50%.
I think it’s interesting but not surprising that more people are willing to end marriages than they are to end engagements. Engagement is generally the shortest individual phase of a couple’s relationship, as opposed to the time dating and the time married. People are statistically more likely to report that they experience maximum happiness with their partner during engagement. As someone who was engaged for nine months, I can attest that engagement can be quite a “high” as you accept a proposal and plan the day of your dreams!
But I will say that after going through Pre-Cana, I also can imagine calling off a wedding.
Marriage is a big deal! You must make all your decisions with another person: how you’ll spend or save your money, how and if you’ll have and raise children, where you’ll live, and what career you’ll pursue. The people who refuse to make these decisions together are usually the ones who get divorced.
When Joshua and I went through Pre-Cana, we learned that some people who had taken the course did call off their engagements. After being forced to talk through their expectations and desires for their lives, they decided they wouldn’t actually be happy together.
For our part, there was some conflict between us when we went through Pre-Cana and the Pre-Marital Inventory. Some things about each other we weren’t completely in love with, certain traits we knew would cause issues, and some problems we weren’t sure how to resolve. We didn’t fix every problem in our relationship before we got to the altar, but instead we did something much more valuable.
I truly believe that this is the real test of marriage. Can you stay willing to work together, long after the newness has worn off? Can you keep trusting in each other when you clash? Will you remain willing to die to yourself and lay down your life for your spouse?
Pre-Cana brought Joshua and me so much peace in our relationship. Every module we completed, every discussion we had, all of it showed us that we would be happy together. We wanted to keep arguing, to keep growing, to keep apologizing, and to keep loving.
If you’re going through Pre-Cana right now, don’t be afraid to have the arguments you need to have. More marriages end than do engagements because people get worn out and tired of fighting after years of it. Let Pre-Cana guide you in how to pursue each other, the right way. It might mean identifying current or future problems you’ll encounter in your marriage. And for some relationships, it could mean changing plans for the better.