News And Views
My Catholic Marriage
How to “Test Run” Your Marriage
A lot of people today try to make the argument that a couple should live together before they get married, as a sort of compatibility “trial run.” They claim that this would reduce the risk of heartache and general unhappiness in marriage, and ultimately lower the possibility of divorce. I don’t buy into any of this myself—in fact, studies show that cohabitation before marriage can actually increase the likelihood of marriage ending in divorce later on. This is not to mention Church teaching on the subject.
What I think should really be done to “test run” a marriage is quite different and perfectly acceptable, morally speaking. Before a couple gets married, what they should really do is work on (and complete) some kind of a project together.
Daniel and I have had plenty of opportunities to do this over the past six months since we bought our house. We have been remodeling, updating, and upgrading nearly everything (and believe me, our bank accounts have felt it quite keenly). With projects, I have found that all kinds of things can pop up: issues of control, differences in opinion and taste and how those differences are handled, how mistakes are responded to and taken care of, emotional reactivity when frustrated, etc. Personality flaws such as obsessive perfectionism or sloppy carelessness can also be brought to light. Even further, projects provide opportunities for a couple to practice teamwork and problem-solving together, which are skills that definitely will come into play throughout the couple’s life together.
The first weekend after Daniel and I bought our house, we tore out the cigarette smoke-filled, dog pee-stained purple carpets that had been everywhere but the kitchen (yes, including the bathrooms. Gross, right?). We bought new laminate flooring to install, and started putting it in right away.
My parents must have heard Daniel and I arguing about something while we worked together with one particularly difficult piece of the floor. The two of them laughed and said, “This is why you shouldn’t work on projects together until after you’re married.” This was a joke (just in case you needed that bit of reassurance), but very telling about what projects bring out in people.
Having bought this house well before our wedding day, I can say that I am glad we did it the way we did. Daniel and I are learning a lot about working together and discussing any differences in opinion we have. We are also learning how to balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses when we are working, which is very helpful. I know that we still have a lot to learn—good thing we have the rest of our lives together!