Marriage Prep: Myth or Fact?
Online marriage prep is still a fairly novel idea. It’s natural to have questions about it, and easy to fall prey to certain assumptions. As a person who went through CatholicMarriagePrep.com just last fall, I’ll use my recent experience to differentiate between some of the most common “myths” and “facts” about our program.
1. Online marriage prep is only for long-distance couples.
This is a Myth. While CatholicMarriagePrep.com is a great resource for couples who don’t have the ability to meet in person, anyone can use it, regardless of how far apart they live. Some of the best results have come from couples who discuss the questions together one-on-one.
2. Marriage prep assignments take a long time to complete.
This is a Fact. And this is a good thing. Our course encourages you to meditate upon multiple facets of the commitment you are about to make, from the sacramental to the practical. Ponder your answers to the questions, discuss them in depth together, pray about them. They aren’t meant to be answered glibly or in an off handed manner. You are preparing to spend your lifetimes together, so think of this course as one of your first shared projects.
3. CatholicMarriagePrep.com is only available to practicing Catholics.
This is a Myth. A marriage prep course is required for all practicing Catholics, but that doesn’t mean that it’s off-limits for non-Catholics or for people converting to Catholicism. Two good friends of mine took this marriage prep course while preparing for RCIA this year!
4. CatholicMarriagePrep.com teaches you how to use Natural Family Planning.
This is a Myth. The course explains the theology behind NFP, and why the Church rejects contraception in favor of NFP, stating its benefits for marriage, but it does not include an actual NFP training. Natural Family Planning is a separate training that many parishes require in addition to our marriage prep course. We give you the links towards the different methods and a comparison chart of those. You can also contact the marriage prep coordinator at your parish for more information on the NFP instruction available to you.
5. A couple who has studied the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality has no need of marriage prep.
This is a Myth. It’s awesome if you are already familiar with Theology of the Body and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Our course focuses that general knowledge into the specific channel of a couple’s marriage preparation. There’s a difference between understanding a concept and applying it to a specific situation, and our course focuses on the latter skill. It applies the broader teachings of the Church to the specific situation of you and your future spouse. The course isn’t just about “knowledge”, but mostly about the two of you starting to build the foundations of your marriage and your life-project together. We believe that every couple will grow from this experience.
6. To be prepared for marriage, I do not need theological training, but practical skills.
This is a Myth. Both are valuable for a marriage, and that is why “life-skills” are intertwined throughout each assignment. We have a holistic approach of marriage and do not separate the practical from the spiritual. The last assignment, the Relationship Tools, focuses even more on these “life skills.” A couple must agree on how to spend money, educate their children, and express appreciation for one another, and all these skills are made possible by being able to communicate effectively.
How can you do so when you speak two different languages? As Catholics, we also know that marriage is first of all a spiritual adventure, as God invented it! The Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality are foundational to a relationship. So studying the theology of marriage—its origin, implications, and significance as a sacrament—will give you and your spouse a direction. This will help you address the practical aspects of your marriage constructively.
7. The course can feel repetitive.
This is a Fact—it is. Two of our assignments are actually more “academic” than the rest of the course. So we do ask similar questions in later assignments to encourage deeper discussion between the two of you and help you “own” your knowledge. As a teacher, one of the safest ways to ensure my students have processed the material is by having them rearticulate it to me. We try to do the same thing with our course.
8. You must complete assignments in one sitting.
This is a Myth. We understand that some of the assignments take a while because of the discussions they provoke between you, so you have the option to save your work and return at any time.
9. An in-person marriage prep course encourages a more honest dialogue between instructors and couples.
This is a Myth. Being vulnerable in front of others is daunting. In a group class setting, couples may hesitate to share their specific challenges because nobody wants to be the one couple with issues. It’s tempting to just keep quiet and passive! Online marriage prep does not give you that option. You are encouraged to confront each other honestly and to respond fully to every question, with the confidence that only your instructors will read your answers. In most cases, this format results in a more candid dialogue between couples, and between couples and instructors, than could occur in-person.