CONNECTICUT—It should come as no surprise to any married or engaged couples reading this, but we’ll say it anyway: Preparing for marriage is hard work.
It’s exhilarating to imagine a new life with your best friend, but the milestones en route, such as planning a wedding, figuring out finances and negotiating the holidays, can be stressful and all-consuming.
Though it is important to be physically and emotionally prepared for all of these changes, the most important preparation for marriage is the spiritual—looking toward the sacrament itself.
When we prayed together over how best to prepare for the sacrament of matrimony, we asked a dear friend who is currently a transitional deacon to facilitate that preparation. His was a master class, but what was most critical was the point from which he began: He asked us to identify what our goal is in marriage.
Before he started with the various components of the day, our friend asked us to talk about what our “goal” was. As two very Type A personalities, we were sold. As two devout Catholics, there was no question what the goal was: to accompany each other in becoming who God made us to be—our most joyful, faithful, holy selves.
When we argue or struggle in our marriage—and we will—our life preserver is to stop and remind each other of the goal. Is whatever this moment is moving us toward the goal or further away? If where we are doesn’t move us toward the goal, we need to re-evaluate what we are doing and how we are behaving.
Bringing out the best in each other isn’t always easy. It sometimes involves some growing pains.
It involves taking constructive criticism from each other about every aspect of ourselves, be it our work or how we relate to people. It involves pushing each other outside of our comfort zones.
It involves having a significant other that will listen to you vent, maybe even cry about a certain obstacle, and immediately ask, “Have you talked to God about that yet?”
Sometimes it even involves telling your significant other that he or she is being a jerk and is need of a course correction. (Something both of us have had to do!)
Recently, the two of us were at a wedding where the homilist exhorted the couple to “bring out the worst in each other.” Just as Jesus drew out demons in his ministry to free people from what had possessed them, a life-giving relationship draws out all of your nastiest qualities to free you to be the best, holiest, most authentic version of yourself.
Hit me with your best shot: Give me the worst of what you are so I can help you be the best you can be. The lesson of our marriage preparation was reaffirmed (proof it is of the divine!).
That’s not to say we are always telling each other where we come up short; that would be exhausting and not particularly productive. On the contrary, we are deliberate in our praise, affirmation and consolation of one another, and the bulk of our communications falls into those categories.
But sometimes, one of us needs a push. How can we help each other become the version of ourselves that God created us to be if all we do is tell each other how great we are?
“Remembering the goal” involves telling everyone you meet about how wonderful your significant other is, even when he or she doesn’t deserve it. It involves being a partner that yours can rely on to be there whenever needed.
It involves challenging your significant other when he or she needs to be challenged. It involves tears, smiles, anger, laughs and prayer. And sometimes, it involves telling your significant other he or she is being a jerk—bringing out the best, and the worst, in each other.
John Grosso is director of digital media for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and a communications consultant. Nicole M. Perone is archdiocesan director of adult faith formation for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut. They are engaged to be married in April 2019. They are guest columnists for Catholic News Service.