Talk it Out: Being Open to Continued Communication
By Anna Capizzi
Before Walter and I got engaged, we read the book “101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged” by H. Norman Wright. I had heard about the book a few years earlier from two different friends—one that ended up breaking up with her boyfriend, and another who ended up marrying hers. So I figured it was a 50-50 chance!
In all seriousness, it was a nerve-wracking experience at first. I had questions about the questions. What if I said the wrong answer? What if I upset him? What if we couldn’t agree on an issue? What if we weren’t meant to be?
It was unsettling for another reason, too. Our relationship was moving forward into new, unknown territory. At this point we had been dating for two years, and we were starting to talk more earnestly about the idea of marriage. It was scary, exciting, and wonderful all at the same time.
We went on walks, asking this question or that, barely paying attention to the direction we were headed. It was fun. Some of the answers we already knew, others we didn’t know. We skipped around in the book and made fun of some of the cheesier questions. Questions ranged from, “What has God taught you in the following situations in your life: failure, pain, waiting, not having enough money, facing disappointment, and facing criticism?” to “Who are the couples that you know who have growing, healthy marriages?” to “Do you like animals?”
To be honest, we never finished the book! But it was a step in the discernment process. As the idea of marriage became a greater possibility, the book served as a good exercise in communication—an area that we have tried to grow in during our engagement.
In August 2018, we went on Engaged Encounter, a weekend retreat/workshop where two married couples and a chaplain gave talks and led about a dozen engaged couples through exercises meant to open conversation about prayer, finances, family planning, and more, all with the aim of strengthening our future marriages.
It was the first time Walter and I spent hours in a single weekend discussing our relationship goals, fears, and dreams so intensely. During Engaged Encounter, each person is given a workbook with prompts. After the mentor couples gave their talks, the group would split up to quietly reflect on the topic and the prompt, then write their answers. I felt like my hand was going to fall off—we wrote pages and pages! We would then exchange our books so that our future spouse could read what we had written, and then we would talk about it. It took a lot of vulnerability and openness, but we both found the experience enriching.
The mentor couples also joined in and filled out each question in their own books. I wondered how many times they must have filled out that booklet as volunteers. They were modeling for us how married couples must continue to grow and communicate throughout the years.
Toward the end of the weekend there was a prayer session where the mentor couples prayed over each engaged couple. Walter and I had the chance to write a prayer together, which we prayed with the mentors. The two of us still pray this prayer together from time to time, and it holds a special place in our hearts.
In February, as a Valentine’s Day gift to ourselves, we took on the online assessment called the “Couple Checkup” by Prepare/Enrich, which identifies the strengths and areas for growth in couples’ relationships.
I will admit that I do enjoy the occasional online personality quiz, but this was way beyond “What is your spirit animal?” or “What house are you in Hogwarts?” type of assessment. The inventory questioned us individually in eight major areas: communication, conflict resolution, finances, affection, spiritual beliefs, marriage expectations, relationship roles, and personalities. Overall the results stated we had a “harmonious relationship.” Score!
For communication, according to the results, we both “felt positive” about “feeling understood; the ability to share negative feelings; whether or not you refuse to discuss problems; and satisfaction for how you talk to each other.” The assessment encouraged us to continue to discuss communication areas like “feeling listened to; the ability to ask for what you want; and your willingness to share feelings.”
We shared the results with the priest who is conducting our marriage preparation and continue to talk about the results. Our communication isn’t perfect, but we are building on a lifetime of giving and receiving words, gifts, actions and ourselves—with the help of God’s grace.