The Alliance of Catholic Marriage Organisations-Stages in a Relationship


Reality – the differences start to appear

For the past seven years, I’ve had the privilege of co-facilitating Preparing Together, Marriage Care’s marriage preparation course for engaged couples. At a time when so many in the room will be thinking about guest lists and table centrepieces, we offer a chance to step back and consider the day after the wedding and the weeks, months and years to come.

For many, being engaged is amongst the best times in their life. You’ve found ‘the one’ and you’re looking forward with hope and anticipation to celebrating your love and declaring your commitment to each other in front of those who mean the most to you. So coming to a course looking at how you behave when you’re angry or how everyday irritations can build up into something more destructive could potentially feel like someone is bursting your bubble of happiness. And in a sense, we are.

Because what we are interested in is getting couples to think about how different life events may affect them and their relationship. Nowadays couples come to the course with a wide variety of backgrounds. Some may be living together. Some may already have children. Some might have been together for many years and weathered a few storms already whilst some may have met only a few months ago. What unites them all is that they have chosen to get married in the Catholic church. And this means that they are undertaking the sacrament of marriage. As with all sacraments, it is deeply spiritual in its foundations. But actually at its best, it’s profoundly everyday. It’s about the day-to-day love and respect that the couple show for each other by using honest communication (or ‘straight talk’ as we call it on the course) and active listening, trusting each other, showing (and accepting) forgiveness and maintaining a loving intimate sexual relationship. All of which can be easy to do when things are going well. But as the tides of life throw various challenges such as children, work pressures, ill-health and bereavement, these acts can become more difficult and even become points of contention in themselves. The Preparing Together course supports couples to look at themselves both as individuals and as a couple, and consider how they will meet life’s ups and downs together. We often have to stop the flow of discussion to cover all the course material but as we say on the course, these are conversations that will continue for the rest of their lives.

For many attendees, with time at a premium, there are other things they’d much rather be doing on a Saturday. However every time, there will always be at least one person who comes up to us facilitators at the end to say how useful the day has been and how we’ve really made them think. There’s a popular quote ‘Happiness is a choice – choose it every day’. I like to think us Preparing Together facilitators help couples to do this.

Written by Suma Ward, a Preparing Together Trainer within Marriage Care.