When I was engaged, I had plenty of questions, hopes, and doubts about my upcoming marriage.
Was I marrying the right person? How could I be sure? How would my future husband and I overcome the unforeseen difficulties that we were told would arise later? What could we look forward to in the years to come?
Experiential wisdom gives much better answers to these questions than the idealized romances in books and on-screen. I interviewed three of our instructor couples, who make it their job to prepare engaged couples for marriage, to learn how their own marriages have shaped them over time. Below, you will find true stories—and real answers—to some real questions about marriage.
How did you meet?
Carmen and Rudy: Let’s go back to the late 80s. It was time to organize our first school reunion. Rudy happened to be the representative member of his class and so was I. We soon found each other delightful and enjoyable to be with. We became very close friends even before thinking that God had brought us together for a specific mission: help people build strong Christ-centered marriages. Of course, we didn’t know that back then!
Karen and Deano: We met in college at Northern Arizona University. Deano was in the singing group at the Catholic Church and Karen loved to sing and joined the group. She thought another guy in the group was cute but both Deano and Karen realized they had so much in common. We spent all our time together, biking, camping, singing, hiking etc. It led to us dating!
Teresa and Paul: It was a warm summer night when we both happened to be outside playing coed softball on a recreational league. Typically we would go out afterward to have pizza and beer. We both went with our teams, not knowing each other existed, and ended up at the same pizza place. My (Teresa’s) team was celebrating a good season but not a win. Paul’s team was celebrating the big win. I am a social person, so of course I thought it necessary to go and congratulate the winning team and look at that trophy. Paul and I crossed paths at this time and the rest is history.
When did you decide to get married?
Karen and Deano: We dated for 2.5 years and then got engaged. We decided to finish school before marrying so we got married two years after our engagement.
Teresa and Paul: Paul and I met on August 18, 1982. We spoke that night at the pizza place and have spoken to each other every day since. We had an immediate connection with each other and felt very comfortable with each other from the very beginning. Communicating was huge in our first few months of dating. We talked about anything and everything, and soon realized we had many of the same likes, dislikes, morals, dreams and desires. We got engaged six months after we met.
Carmen and Rudy: It was New Year’s Eve 1988. In Peru, New Year’s Eve is a huge celebration. Most families and friends gather before midnight, have a scrumptious dinner, firecrackers, nice decorations like yellow flowers for good luck, whistles, hats, and of course loud music! Well, it was almost 5:00 a.m. when Rudy told about his feelings for me. He is so respectful and earnest that after I said I love him too, he organized a dinner with his mom and stepdad to let them know about our brand-new dating relationship.
How did you know that your spouse was “the one”?
Karen and Deano: Over the journey of dating, we came to know each other on a deeper level. We had many campfires, late night talks, went to daily Mass, sang at Mass, went to the Spiritual Life Institute (then in Sedona, AZ), and visited each other’s families. Deano felt Karen was the only person he felt “at home” with and Karen loved Deano’s humility and great love of the Lord.
Teresa and Paul: We were drawn to one another and accepted each other for who we were. We were not trying to change each other, but saw the beauty in who we were and knew that God had brought us together for a reason. We’re also very different people with strong opinions and ideas. But we respected each other and grew as a couple. I knew Paul was very genuine and he knew I was as well.
Best and worst parts of your wedding?
Carmen and Rudy: We got married on December 17, 1993. We had not moved in together, and felt no need to live together before marrying to prove our love was sincere and forever. At church, my dad walked me down the aisle, and what a surprise! My 4th grade students were perfectly aligned to the sides of the aisle holding flower bouquets and smiling at me.
Teresa and Paul: The best part of our wedding was by far the celebration of mass for Paul and me as Catholics. To give the Sacrament to one another. Adding to this would be all of our family and friends who attended the wedding and were there to celebrate with us.
We would have to say the worst part was not having enough money to have the wedding of our dreams, even though we would soon realize that that was also the best part. Society promotes and dictates that a wedding should cost several thousand dollars. We did not have the means to make this happen. After looking at several options for a reception, we settled on the backyard of Teresa’s parents’ house. Teresa found a wedding dress she loved that just happened to be on the clearance rack, a cousin did all of the flowers, and both families prepared and helped to make food for the reception. Our brother knew the youth choir at the university of San Diego and they played and sang at the wedding for free. Mom made all the dresses. Everyone took photos.
This, too, might have indicated to many a cheap and meaningless wedding and reception, but for us it was the ultimate gift. To have our friends and family, their many sacrifices, and the help that went into making this possible was a blessing. It was the most beautiful day of our lives and was spent with the people we love most.
Karen and Deano: Our wedding was beautiful! It started off in the morning when Deano’s parents came to Karen’s room and sang the Mananitas to her. Then Deano gave Karen a pearl necklace and matching earrings. The diamonds signify Deano, Karen, and God in the center. The exchange of the rings and consent were powerful. We had our wedding rings engraved with the word “Emmanuel” in Hebrew, which means “God with us”. This has been the theme of our marriage and family.
Meaningful story from married life?
Karen and Deano: Our best story started out as our worst story. It is actually our ultimate story. Karen had an affair 14 years into our marriage. It brought both of us to our knees and almost destroyed our marriage, but God was ALWAYS with us. God led us through the desert and raging waters and through the fires and brought us out of the ashes unscathed and transformed. We gained freedom and learned to love one another as God intended. He restored our marriage, our family, and has blessed us abundantly as we continue our journey.
Teresa and Paul: In a nutshell, our children are the best story of our married life. To look at them today and see the beautiful, loving, compassionate adults they have become is a gift. The parents that they are and the families they have become is a joy to watch. They have blessed us over the years with more joy than we could ever have imagined and have given us four precious grandbabies. We just found out we are going to be grandparents again. Yay!!!
Carmen and Rudy: A crucial part of our journey has been our struggle with my infertility, and a miscarriage. I delivered a stillborn baby boy when we lived in North Carolina. A nice priest baptized him. We named him Jesus and we know he is an angel watching over us. He is our biggest motivation to work hard to reach holiness, so we can one day be together, the three of us, in heaven, like a family, the family that could not be together on earth.
What has kept you together over the years?
Teresa and Paul: As young adults preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage, we think it is almost impossible to know what the future holds. You will experience so many emotions and trials. For Paul and me, our faith and trust in God has been instrumental. Being friends, supporting one another at times of uncertainty, in struggles and throughout our daily lives, and of course, keeping true to our conjugal promises. We are blessed and humbled to say we have been married for close to 40 years and thank God for each day.
Karen and Deano: God being with us! Our covenant of love. The graces of the sacrament of matrimony, our common mission in building the kingdom and being living witnesses to God’s compassion, grace, and mercy to all who cross our path.
Carmen and Rudy: We have shared our lives entirely thanking God for bringing us together. After almost 30 years, we still enjoy spending time together, dancing, watching movies, traveling, and looking at each other’s eyes while saying every day, “Te amo, mi amor” (I love you, honey). We pray to continue living a happy marriage and aging together until the very last day of our lives.
Is marriage worth it?
Read what our instructor couples have to say about this question here.
At-Home Marriage Retreat: A great exercise for married couples, whether you’re newlyweds or veterans.