Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pre Cana

I have just returned from our day at Pre Cana. Somehow, we survived. I was more concerned about James surviving at first (he doesn't do well with fluff), but after the second presentation, I was afraid I'd go ballistic on someone.

First session: This guy talked to us about Myers Briggs. This was basically the most enjoyable part of the day. It turns out (if his descriptions are accurate) that I am an ENFJ, and James is an ISTP... so basically we are COMPLETE opposites. I basically knew that we were rather different, but what's funny, is that in some ways I display some minor introvert tendencies... which are the tendencies in which James is not introverted. I mean, people, we are exactly opposites personality-wise. We were circling which letter best corresponded to our personalities and when it came up to thinking/feeling (T/F), he had barely gotten past what the letters stand for when we both had ours circled. Best believe that there was a lot of nudging him when the guy  said things that I've been saying to James for months. 

Second session: I have never come so close to screaming at a man in a public setting before in my life. He starts off the day with "I've been married ___ years and we have seven kids. I know that most of you are thinking, 'he's either really Catholic, or really horny...I'm not really Catholic-just kidding!" I made up my mind not to pay attention to the talk any longer. I started texting my friend Tahlia about how awful this guy was just to keep myself from making a scene (though I wonder if I should have to make a point that this shouldn't have been tolerated). If there is one thing I cannot tolerate, it's sex jokes. He made a few comments throughout the talk that were sexual in nature, one of which being that his wife said she didn't want to come to the talk because she didn't like social events. He responded, "Good, then I can talk dirty about us..." Ugh, such an ass (at some point I will explain my belief in appropriate uses of profanity)

I'm going to say this once. Sex is a wonderful and beautiful thing between spouses. I will never talk about my sex life to anyone other than my husband or a doctor (or a priest in very specific and rare settings). I don't even like the idea about hinting at it. I think it is downright horrible and nothing other than blatant sacrilege will get more of a rise out of me. My parents have a neighbor who is a complete ass about this topic, making sexual jokes frequently, ect. I don't feel it's my place to say anything. He was asking me some questions once about basically whether or not James and I have engaged in certain activities (in front of my parents, mind you). Obviously, this is a question you can't ignore or say, "it's none of your business" without people suspecting the worst, so I answered it honestly, and he makes fun of me. This was Christmas dinner. I explain that this is not an appropriate topic of conversation and he says that James thinks otherwise. This, of course made me start to yell "No, James thinks this is just as abhorrent as I do!" He yelled (as I stormed away) "Wait till you're married! Then see how much he doesn't like this!" I realized then that he had misunderstood me to say that I thought sex was abhorrent. No. I believe sex to be such a beautiful thing that it is to be kept exclusively within marriage... including (basically) talking about it. I'm not talking about  abstractly referring to the concept (as I am in this post). But talking about the specifics of marital relations (aside from certain medical situations), including joking about it includes other people into that sphere that is supposed to only involve the couple, and is downright awkward to us. So not talking about it DOES NOT EQUAL thinking it's taboo or intrinsically sinful or whatever... I just think that private things should be kept private. I strongly dislike crude speech and I believe that it especially has no place in a public setting...LET ALONE A CATHOLIC ONE. Best believe I wrote a nasty evaluation saying specifically he should be fired on the evaluation. 

Back to the day. 

The next talk was about Catholic Spirituality. This man had very good things to say but did not present it very well. I appreciated his emphasis that he had to work hard in his marriage to make it happy again. Unfortunately, he basically ended up having his talk be a narrative about his life with a little bit of theology thrown in instead of the other way around. 

The next talk was about sexuality and intimacy in marriage. 

First, I can't stand "couple talks." Usually, one person just stands there and interjects annoying personal details about leaving the toilet seat up while the other one gives the content (this was actually acknowledged by the wife in their talk.). They had a weird slide show presentation with random quotes from movies as the main content (okay, there was one from Blessed JPII, which would be hard to be a bad thing). They were basically your typical NFP/Theology of the Body couple that overemphasizes the (please change your mental voice to high pitched and overly optimistic) absolutely wonderful aspects of marriage and love and babies and love and... and MUCUS! I much prefer these people to the second presenter, however, they did start to annoy me toward the end. They clearly didn't agree with living with each other before marriage or contraception, but instead of explaining that it damages your relationship because it's a sin and sin will kill anything living with its stench, they explain the practical benefits of not. Get. Real. I'm sorry, but if we're going to go with the practical benefits alone, most people would agree that it's practically more rewarding to have sex before marriage. Now this couple obviously knows this because they admitted that they lived together before marriage and implied regretting it later. I personally don't really believe that was the best way to go about it. If you want to inspire people, prove to them that this is possible, believe in them, and don't say "it was too hard for me... but you guys can do it easily!" 

Then we had lunch. We shared a table with this fun couple that was originally from Atlanta. We all talked about the differences of our childhood locations to Cincinnati, but then I decided to be adventurous... I mean, hey I'm never going to see these people again. "So what do you think of everything today?" I asked. They gave some polite comments at first, with a few descriptions of things they would have preferred differently. I agreed and said, "But that second guy I just couldn't stand. His sense of humor was awful." I don't normally do things like that... I usually like to avoid making my strong opinions known to complete strangers, but perhaps James is rubbing off on me a bit. Luckily the girl  said that she didn't appreciate that humor either, and she had even mentioned that to her fiance at the time. I also liked them because their wedding was sooner than ours. The fact that they had Pre Cana so close implied to me that they had a short engagement, which I believe to be a good sign. With the exception of elopement, I've found that people with shorter engagements tend to better understand what commitment is truly required with marriage. I tend to have more respect for people who don't want needless delays (actually is Church teaching that it's better to get married faster) (for obvious reasons). 

We then went to what may have been the more thought provoking talk of the day: conflict resolution. There, she had us fill out a worksheet that had two boxes: one with things that help us communicate better, and another with barriers to communication. The bottom box was too small.  We realized more about how different we are in regard to communication, and it made us laugh... and have a mini fight about it right then and there. I looked down and the next question was: How long ago was your last disagreement? Ugh... 30 seconds... There was a bit of pop psychology in it, but it did give us some "conversation fodder" (quoted by friends who went to the same talk months ago). 

Finally... finances. This is a source of disagreement among James and me, though we basically agree in theory, just not always in application. I generally enjoy thinking about money and planning and such. He literally despises it. But I want to involve him in money matters so that I'm not going behind his back about things. Well he prefers I don't bother him about it but I feel like that would be dishonest for me to make money decisions without consulting him.  Well, the guy who led the talk was kind of annoying when he implied that things would be easier if we were living together now. But then, he goes, "Who is living together now, raise your hand." I wanted to throw up. I buried my head in James' arm because I couldn't look at these people and not judge them. Luckily, I only caught glimpse of one couple before I closed me eyes. 

My overall evaluation of the day:
James and I basically realized that this was not going to be something we enjoyed. We were really bothered by the lack of blatant stating of the rules. James puts it: "You should do A, and not do B. If you do B, you better enjoy burning... a lot." Admittedly I think his approach could use a bit of pastoral work, but I greatly prefer his to this "It's better for your marriage not to sleep together first, but I'm not going to point out that it's actually WRONG to do it in the first place," "you shouldn't do this because you might end in divorce (how about pointing out that divorce is NOT ALLOWED)," and "I'm so okay with the normality of people living together before marriage, I'm going to have you publicly declare it and not shame you!" 

If they catered this more toward the people who take their faith seriously, I think they'd end up with more people who take their faith seriously. James pointed out that the reason that the divorce rate is so high is because it is a generally accepted fact of society. If it was culturally unacceptable, then it wouldn't happen nearly as often. The only thing we can do to lower the divorce rate, is stress that it's not an option in the first place. 

I'm planning on writing a letter to the diocese in 17  years when I have some time...


  1. *headdesk*

    Wow, now I feel like a terrible person for saying the program wasn't that bad. I do think you had different presenters for some of the talks, though.

    I am a bit of a pop psychology junkie; therefore I LOVE the Myers-Briggs. I'm INTJ and Scott is INTP. Predictably, ALL of our fights so far (yes, fights in the plural, and we've been married less than 2 months) have been about scheduling.

    (Footnote: I'm okay with talking about my marital fights in a public forum because I feel like I have to dispel the notion that Scott and I are this super perfect couple who just beam at each other all the time. There are people who think that.)

    Sex jokes: Not okay.

    NFP is rainbows: I think we've talked about how this annoys me. I could rant about it for a long time, but I won't.

    Scott is typing numbers into our budget spreadsheet as I write this. I love making budgets but hate sticking to them.

    Practical suggestion: Would it help to make general spending goals but not consult James about each purchase? For example, we gave ourselves $25 of "allowance" apiece for buying whatever we want. So technically I could go buy a computer game without asking Scott about it. I still do, because it does feel a bit like keeping secrets not to, but I don't HAVE to. The same idea can apply to other categories. (Like, if you're in charge of grocery shopping, you can buy whatever you want as long as you buy enough for two and don't go over budget.)

    I admire you for covering your eyes; I would have sat there and hardcore judged the cohabiting couples. SINNERS.

  2. 1) Personality theory is not actually pop psychology. Personality theory has actually been in the writings of the Saints (Teresa of Avila for example), particularly with the humors (phlegmatic, choleric, ect). What I mean by pop psychology is that whole weird ways of compromising thing. For example, they said something about having a "safe word" or something once. It's a word you can use without being judged by the other (yea... right...). Or having specific touches in an argument (like holding hands or something... no offense, but if you touch my hand when we're arguing, you're going to have one less hand...)

    James and I realized during the talk that we're not competitive at all, which is nice, but we are rather combative. It's not really about me being right or wrong but rather about coming to the correct answer. If I'm wrong I would like to be told so (to a certain degree) and same for him. So we do have that advantage.

    I like making budgets. I really like looking at bank acccount numbers (that is, after I have some money in there and it's more than last month's)

    My basic attitude with James' money is that as long as he helps pay for our living expenses to a certain degree (eg, he pays off his own credit card, 1/2 rent, ect), then he can do whatever he wants with his left over money and I can do the same with mine. Which means... I'm going to be the one paying for all of the emergency bills because I'm rather inclined to save my money.

    We have just transitioned into James being the main proprietor for food... we'll see how that works out. We tried having me the one that buys the food but it wasn't working out since I rarely cook due to my hours and such and he is entirely incapable of looking around to see what food is available int the apt (I'm the same way). We'll see how often he comes to me asking for food money.