Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In which we go to pre-marital counseling

January 2008 The real rules of divorce are to make sure you marry the right person in the first place. That way, you never need to follow Rule #1 of Divorce, which is to hire a lawyer. So maybe the real Rule #1 of Divorce should be Go to Premarital Counseling and that will help you Marry The Right Person.

Well. Premarital counseling won't help you marry the right person, but it sure will help you weed out the wrong one.

Oh how I wish this were a gossip site because y'all, the stories I could tell you about marriages I knew would fail.

The couples didn't go to pre-marital counseling.

I was all, "I CANNOT BELIEVE the pastor is marrying them. This one WILL NOT LAST."

And boy was I right. Didn't last two years.

But they are not my stories to tell.



After his starter marriage to Berthawhomhenevershouldhavemarriedinthefirstplace, Primo is a bit skittish. As well he should be. Because he blew it with her, both in the marriage and the divorce. Sorry, honey, but you know it's true. You're man enough to admit it and that's one of the things I love about you.

We decide to go to pre-marital counseling.

"Decide" is perhaps not the best verb to use. It is decided for us, as we (="I") want a Catholic marriage and the Catholic Church requires pre-marital counseling. Say what you will about the Church and organized religion, but there are worse things than a church trying to ensure that a marriage is undertaken on solid ground. Primo's Lutheran pastor also requires it, but she doesn't make us undergo extra counseling with her.

Our friends Norah and Henry saw Father Joe for their pre-marital counseling and recommend him. "He doesn't make you go to the whole six-weekend thing," they say.

Not that I have anything against the diocese's full-blown counseling, but it is geared toward 20somethings. They put together budgets, talk about who will take out the trash, who will do the cooking, whether they will have children, who will stay home with the kids: all issues Primo and I have already discussed ad nauseum because I am a worst-case scenario person and have to have a plan. I would not have agreed to marry Primo, sell my house, move to another city, and spend the rest of my life with him unless we shared the same values and goals and I understood where we were financially.

But I absolutely support this kind of discussion for anyone who is getting married because money AND IN-LAWS are the things that married couples fight about the most. In my experience, anyhow.

We make an appointment with Fr Joe (I've been going to his church for a few years), one of the sweetest priests in the world. He was a prisoner in a Vietnamese concentration camp, then escaped somehow. He is a rabid anti-communist and gives a great Fourth of July sermon about how the United States is basically the land of milk and honey. It is a little difficult to understand his accent, but with some concentration, it's possible.

He gives us a guide of things to discuss - questions about how we were raised, how things were in our families growing up, what our parents' relationships were like - that Primo and I have taken on long car trips. It is an interesting book that has led to some good talks between the two of us.

But we don't talk about the book with Fr Joe. He gives us three key pieces of advice. Be nice. Don't interrupt. Don't get complacent and fall into a rut.

It's working so far.

1. Husband and wife supposed to try to make each other happy. If wife say, “I have head-aitch,” husband say, “Why you tell me?! Go get Tylenol on shelf.”

Is it not better when husband say, “Oh! You have head-aitch. Here two tablets and glass of water.” That how husband and wife supposed to be.

2. The wife should not interrupt the husband during the basketball game.

3. Father Joe: We live in community. Six priests. Five nationalities: Vietnam, Korea, African-American, Philippines, Poland. We cook. Different food every day.

Me: Wow! That sounds great!

Father Joe: Ahhhh! Korea food very spicy! Very spicy! And how can someone eat kim chee every day?

4. Man and woman alone – no good! Remember, nobody perfect! Everyone need help. If you perfect, then you God and don’t need help.

5. This Vietnamese woman tell me, “I don’t like cheese! I don’t like sandwich!” Then she marry American man. She study many cookbook so she can prepare him the food he like. After two years, she say, “Now I like cheese. There many different kinds of cheese. I did not know!”


  1. Aw, Father Joe sounds very nice. Yeah, counseling is definitely a good idea. Before hand. We did it to try and avoid ending our marriage, and it was a bunch of crap.

  2. Primo and Bertha went to a lot of post-marriage counseling. Didn't work for them, either. Lucky for me, though! Otherwise I would never have met him.

  3. Beloved's ex is Catholic (when it suits her). They had the whole pre-marital counseling thing with the priest. It must have worked to some extent - those two RADICALLY different people remained married for 17 years.

    Of course, it could have also been Beloved's inflated sense of responsibility (he and Primo have a LOT in common in the regard).

  4. Oh, the pre-cana classes we took at our (Catholic) college church were fantastic! So many of the couples hadn't thought about budgets ... or relatives ... or other life stressors.

    Now you're making me wonder if we should do a marriage encounter.