Meeting our Mentor Couple – After Getting Lost
We have about three months to go and the wedding preparations are well underway! In fact, just the other day, Juan posted on Facebook that we had reached the “hundred days until the wedding” mark and my mom told me later that when she saw that post she almost went into a panic thinking about everything left to do in that time. Despite the craziness of Juan’s and my current schedule at the university, we have managed to get a few things done since we last posted. Namely, after choosing the readings, we were able to make some decisions about the music. We are going for a more traditional feel to the Mass, with “Be Thou my Vision” as the presentation song (when the gifts of bread and wine are brought forward), and a beautiful Ave Maria prelude. I’m also still contemplating having Latin Mass parts. It might be a nice way of reflecting the universal Church, considering we are going to have two language groups represented.
Besides just the wedding preparations, we’ve entered into a time of more intensive marriage preparation. Last Monday we had our first meeting with Juan and Carmen, the mentor couple who is going to work with us as we go through the Archdiocese of Santiago’s marriage preparation program. We were a little nervous, not knowing what to expect, and a little apprehensive about sharing personal details with complete strangers. After all, the marriage preparation program is designed to cover sensitive topics, to make sure the engaged couple has addressed some of marriage’s most polemic issues.
Our first session started out with a little bit of adventure, and by adventure, I mean getting completely lost. We left for the preparation meeting from the university after working all day (we had been out of our apartments for 12 solid hours), and headed to the couple’s home, which was in a part of town rather far from the university. We weren’t sure of how to get there, having only a general idea of the route and some street names, so we planned on travelling to the end of the subway, catching the bus, and using Google maps to confirm our trajectory. It was a good plan until both of our cell phones died on the subway. When we got off the train at the last station, we couldn’t find the correct bus stop, which was not where it had seemed that it would be on the map. We started to walk down a street that we knew would eventually lead to the couple’s address, hoping to catch a taxi at some point along the way.
No such luck.
In the end we walked/ran about two miles on secluded residential road (I was in heels, mind you) and somehow we managed to arrive only ten minutes late, which, by Chilean standards, is practically early.
We rang the doorbell nervously, again, not knowing what to expect and also feeling self-conscious about our somewhat disheveled appearance after all that running/speed-walking in work clothes. Carmen and Juan answered the door and warmly welcomed us in. We started out with some introductions and Juan and I were pleased to find out that they are involved in the Schoenstatt movement (a Catholic Marian movement of priests, religious, married couples, and single lay men and women), which Juan and I have also become involved with in the last year.
We began the session with a prayer, then Juan and Carmen invited us to discuss the activities from the marriage preparation workbook that we had prepared the week before. Although, as I said, we were quite apprehensive going into the meeting, it was really nice to talk things through with our mentor couple. They were very insightful and shared their own experience regarding some of the issues we have been dealing with the last few weeks. One thing we realized as we had gone through the chapter in the workbook was that we needed to deal with the stress that our busy schedules were causing. Between the classes I’m teaching and my Master’s thesis, and Juan’s difficult semester, we’ve been frequently working until about 11 o’clock at night only to get up early and start again the next day. It’s been so crazy and stressful the last few months that it has been difficult to find enough time to cook dinner and do the laundry, and even more difficult to spend together without any work distracting us and stressing us out.
When we explained our situation to Carmen and Juan, they reminded us that these stressful times will come in cycles throughout our lives, so it’s important that when they do, we find balance in our relationship and our work in a way that we can both agree on, to focus on helping one another, and to not let our stress turn into an argument.
As Juan and I talked it over later, we decided we needed to make it a priority to have a weekly date night outside of either of our apartments, and preferably outside the neighborhood where we live. While we’ve both preferred to spend date nights watching a movie, or cooking dinner together at one of our places, mostly to save money and because we live in the inner city so “outside” is rather noisy and polluted and not all that relaxing, the problem is that we both study in our respective apartments and I do most of my grading and lesson planning at home as well, so our apartments are basically our “offices.” For that reason, we realized it’s really important to get out, even if only to take a long walk in the park.
It felt really good to have made a resolution that I think will have a positive impact on our relationship. After our first session, we’re looking forward to the next few sessions, which will cover topics like money, family planning and sexuality, family of origin, and other big topics.
If you have a similar program in your diocese and you feel nervous or apprehensive about it, don’t worry. You’ll get so much out of the experience and learn so much about the areas of your relationship where God is asking you to improve as a couple.
One word of advice though: Make sure you figure out exactly how to get there ahead of time.