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Honestly, I only remember five words from my marriage preparation experience:
“When you fight, fight naked.”
That’s the advice I got as I sat around the small table in the parish office with my pastor and bride-to-be. Of course it’s not the only advice I got, it’s just the only advice I remember. Obviously I didn’t get a whole lot out of my marriage preparation experience.
You want a great marriage, I want you to have a great marriage, the Church wants you to have a great marriage, and God wants you to have a great marriage.
Getting advice on how to prepare for marriage is easy. Anyone who is married (and even some who aren’t) will share their thoughts. There are literally thousands of books written on the subject. But there is a huge difference between marriage advice and good marriage advice.
Ultimately we all want a great marriage, don’t we? I mean, that’s not the most controversial statement. That’s why we are on the hunt for marriage advice in the first place! I don’t think many engaged couples walk around hoping their marriage will be unhealthy. Although the divorce rate in America is often cited as above 50 percent, I think it’s safe to say that the percentage of engaged couples who hope they will get divorced is a little bit closer to zero.
You want a great marriage, I want you to have a great marriage, the Church wants you to have a great marriage, and God wants you to have a great marriage. That greatness starts with how you prepare.
Over the next four weeks, I want to share four easy steps you can take now to help you prepare for your marriage. The steps are applicable no matter where you come from or what you’ve experienced, but they are also infinitely personal to you as a couple. Each step will have its own actions you can take with your groom- or bride-to-be. Don’t skip those! Take the time to useactivate these steps in your lives so that you are prepared for the marriage you’ve always dreamed of.
Let’s dive right in to step one.
What are your dreams?
This question is a part of the daily conversation at Dynamic Catholic, but many people have never before considered the question.
For the most part, if you ask people this question, the answers they tend to give are vague and general, not at all thought out. Some people will even believe they do not have any dreams.
If you don’t know what you want from life, everything will appear either as an obstacle or as a burden. But one of the great lessons of history is that the whole world gets out of the way for people who know what they want or where they are going. Be assured, if you don’t know where you are going, you are lost.
You can separate dreams into twelve categories to help you get clarity about where you want to go, what you want to do, and who you want to be. The categories are:
For years Dynamic Catholic has been encouraging people to create what we call “dream lists.” Your dream list serves as the foundation for the bigger vision you have for your life.
Making dreams a regular part of your conversation as a married couple is a fantastic habit for your marriage. Two people pursuing a dream together and helping one another achieve their dreams creates a deep intimacy. Dreaming will breed a new level of communication, trust, excitement, and affection that many couples lack.
So let me ask you: Do you know what your future wife’s dreams are? Does your future wife know your dreams?
God has given you dreams as an individual. You know this. But he has given your future spouse dreams as an individual, too. And at some point, both you and your future spouse are going to be called to sacrifice your individual dreams for the betterment of the marriage. This isn’t a maybe. It’s going to happen.
Sacrifice is a funny thing. We will sacrifice just about anything for ourselves and our own dreams. We will suffer the loss of sleep, the loss of time, the loss of money, and so much more for ourselves and the pursuit of our dreams. It’s not so hard when you do it for yourself.
Two people helping one another achieve their dreams creates incredible intimacy.
Why? Because we love ourselves. Plain and simple. But what about when your love for your spouse means you have to put yourself second? What happens when you have to put your own dreams on hold?
My wife has a brilliant mind and had always dreamed of getting her Ph.D. She knew what she wanted to do and the steps she was going to take to get there. So, a few years ago, I did something I never expected to do. I declined my acceptance to law school at the university I dreamed of attending and took a job working nights and weekends so that I could be a stay-at-home dad to our young son. It was during this time that a verse from the readings at our wedding rang very true in my ears: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and laid down his life for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
Love is our greatest desire—to love and be loved. We know how to love because we know how we wish to be loved. And love demands sacrifice. We sacrifice for what we love.
The question is, what do you love?
You can choose not to love the right things, but you cannot choose not to love. It’s what we were created for. You tell me what you love and I will tell you who you are. What you fall in love with determines everything.
Because you so deeply love your spouse, you can bet there will be times in your marriage when you must sacrifice what you want for your spouse. It comes with the territory. And that’s OK In fact, it’s a good thing.
Come together and share your dreams with one another.
Two people helping one another achieve their dreams creates incredible intimacy. Dreaming and sacrifice live at the center of that. That’s one of the reasons you’re getting married, right? Because you believe the future can be bigger than the past.
Get a simple journal and spend some time creating a dream list. Have your future spouse do the same. Using the categories listed above, individually take at least fifteen minutes to write down everything you want out of life. Then come together and share your dreams with one another.
Next, pick a dream to work toward together. It doesn’t matter if it’s as simple as going on a hike together at the local state park or as big as buying your first home together. It will draw you closer as a couple, teach you how to plan and relate to one another, help you learn how to overcome setbacks, and prepare you for life together in a way nothing else can.
This is Part 1. Don't forget to check out Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.