On our wedding day, I must've been asked over 100 times if I was nervous to get married. This question initially surprised me because I literally had no reservations about giving Leroy my heart and taking his last name in return. Lol! However, the countless questions about my composure whilst getting prepared for what will ultimately be one of the biggest and happiest days of my life, had me a bit worried. Was something wrong with me? On top of that, when I walked down the aisle with my father towards Leroy, I did not shed any tears. Other than the little jitters I felt when I actually saw my husband at the altar, I was surprisingly calm and collected, plus the entire time I kept repeating in my head "Don't you dare cry Brin! You know you're an ugly crier". I was NOT trying to Kim Kardashian myself into becoming a meme for eternity. Lol! I must say though, one of the reasons for my extremely calm composure during my wedding day was the fact that I was prepared for this moment. I was sure about the man I was about to marry and I knew what I was getting myself into so there was really no reason to be nervous about that moment. The reason for my preparation was in fact pre-marital counseling.
Being Roman Catholic, pre-marital counseling was mandatory for us to get married in the church, and although in the back of my mind I knew Leroy and I HAD to do it, I'm not gonna lie, I was a bit offended when my mother kept pushing the topic because at that point I'm like Leroy and I are good; We don't need that - leave that for people with actual reservations about their relationship. On top of that, I was completely turned off at the idea of spending a weekend away from home at what I perceived to be yet another church camp. Nevertheless, it had to be done so I sucked it up, put on my big girl panties and attended Catholics Engaged Encounter (the pre-marital counseling retreat) with Leroy.
Despite the fact that I was so opposed to it at first, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would recommend every couple who is about to be married to participate in it... and no you don't need to be Catholic to attend Catholics Engaged Encounter (even though it's right in the name). Leroy and I actually met a couple who was to be married under Hindu rites there, much to our astonishment. Even married persons are encouraged to participate in the retreat as you can reconnect as a couple during the weekend (our weekend didn't have any of those). I know what you're thinking... and yes, sleeping quarters were separate for the brides and grooms (no love-ups that weekend ok? lol!).
But let's talk about the actual retreat. What did we do this weekend?
I don't want to sell out too much from the retreat because I would want you guys to experience it yourselves but just know, that weekend was one of the best experiences Leroy and I had as a couple. Although Leroy and I had already unknowingly discussed a lot of the topics prior to the retreat, it was still interesting to go through everything again. It helped us understand each other and connect on a much deeper level and ensured that we were on the same page going into our marriage.
For each session, we would meet as a group with all the other couples and then break off into couples to discuss the topic at hand and work on our workbook (yes we had a cute little workbook) Some of the topics that we discussed included our values, finances, sex/intimacy and family planning and communication and conflict, among many other topics. For me, the topic of values was one of the most important sessions we participated in. It forced us to reflect on our current family life, identify both the good and the bad values displayed in it and discuss together what we would like for our own marriage and family when we started one. It was the first time that either of us actually discussed our family life honestly and in excruciating detail - it's usually something we tend to shy away from or hide because you don't want your partner to see the ugly side of your life. I can honestly say that I learned so much not only about Leroy during but I learned a lot about myself as well.
I can definitely state that although we communicated well with each other before the retreat, that weekend Leroy and my communication skills were strengthened. Not only that but it improved how we dealt with conflict. During the course of our marriage thus far, Leroy and I have rarely argued. We prefer to discuss our differences in opinions without any raising of voices or cursing or use of any negative behaviour, even more so now that we have a baby girl looking up at us.
Hannah Eaton, a renowned marriage and family therapist once called pre-marital counseling "preventative relational healthcare" as it encourages you to elevate your relationship beforehand, rather than waiting for something to happen before you deal with the issue. In my opinion, pre-marital counseling is a means of proactively strengthening your relationship at an ideal time (while preparing for marriage). Plus, it ensures that your marriage is built on a solid foundation and who doesn't want that right?