So, many of you have heard of this thing called Pre-Cana. Well, what is it exactly? When you wish to get married in the Catholic church, they make you take a course called Pre-Cana. I have been engaged to my wonderful fiance since July 4th of last year. We are actively in the process of planning our wedding. Since we were both raised Catholic, we decided to get married in the church. It was a big part of our lives when we were younger, but not so much now as we have gotten older. Still, it would definitely make our parents happy if we were married in the church. Undoubtedly, we had to take this course called Pre-Cana, a marriage preparation class offered by the Catholic Church. I was dreading this. I didn't want to be blasted for two weekends in a row with Catholic rhetoric. No sex before marriage - whoops. No kids before marriage - whoops. Don't live together before you're married - whoops. I felt like I would be berated by the priests in the seminar for the life choices that I made. Boy, was I wrong.

Not only did this course turn out to be wonderful, I was pleasantly surprised with who they chose to lead it. There is only one location for Pre-Cana courses on Staten Island, so all the couples who wished to get married in the near future were in attendance. There were many younger couples, as well as several older ones. I was expecting to see a priest at the front of the room, but lo and behold, we were introduced to a lovely Italian Catholic married couple.They had been married for over fifty years, and had three sons together, two of whom were divorced, all married in the church. Even they admitted that it doesn't always work out. They said it's a shame when there are kids involved.

Not only were they married over fifty years, they were each 79 years old. They didn't look a day over 50. They attributed a lot of their good fortune to their Catholic faith, but I attributed it to good genes. Yet, they understood modern times quite extensively. They knew some of us had kids. They knew some of us, well, probably most of us, had sex before marriage. They knew some of us were living together. They didn't stress us out about it, they encouraged us to make good choices. You see, that's exactly what Pre-Cana is about: making good choices in order to make your marriage last. They had been through their share of diversity. The wife had battled cancer three times throughout their marriage. But they stuck by each other in the good times and the bad. They said that this was one of the keys to a successful marriage. When the going gets tough, you don't run away, you work through it and support one another.

We were each given a little booklet with information on how to make good choices. We were supposed to fill the books out separately, and then switch them with our partners to reveal answers. The first section was about self evaluation. You need to know yourself first before you can give yourself to someone else. Really sound advice, no? Upon reading my partner's answers, I was pleasantly surprised. He and I knew each other pretty well. They asked us what our strongest and weakest qualities were, as well as our major personality flaws. What hurts you? How do you avoid conflict? What bothers you about your partner? They asked us if we agreed or disagreed with certain statements: Can you live within your income? Can you budget money? Do you enjoy socializing? Are you committed? Is your career a priority? These are all important questions for the individual as well as in a marriage. You have to mesh well together as people in order to make your marriage work. It is important to note that they told us you are really only "in love" with one person. You love your kids unconditionally, but you aren't "in love" with them. You really only get one shot at this, so you better make sure you're making the right decision. This is a daunting question, but probably the most important one you'll ever make in your life.

The next session was on good communication. Totally an important part of marriage. If you can't communicate effectively, your marriage is never going to work. In this section, we had to compare ourselves to our future spouse with true or false questions. Do you pay attention to what your partner says? Do you talk too much instead of listening? Do you pay attention to body language? Do you listen only for your own purpose? Are you too busy doing other things to pay attention? Surprisingly, my partner and I agreed on most of the questions posed. I guess we have the upper hand here and we are going in the right direction.

Next came a hot button issue: finances. We spent hours talking about this. The husband, Mike, in the front of the room, talked about how much times have changed since they were married. They were making 70 dollars a month and were still able to afford rent and bills and raise a family, even after the wife stopped working to raise their children. Imagine that? This is where my future husband and I disagreed the most. He seems to think I'm bad with money, yet all I ever do is pay bills and maybe get the occasional mani-pedi or two. We were asked about our family of origin's spending habits and what we learned from them. He learned to always save, save, save. I learned that money doesn't matter as long as everyone is happy. Our financial goals differed as well: I want to buy a house and a car, he wants to invest in whatever will gain him the most returns. We realized we hadn't discussed how we were going to handle our finances once we were married. The answer for us was simple: what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine. Totally equal in the partnership. Mike agreed, he says it's truly the only way that this could work. It's doesn't matter who has debt and who doesn't. Even if you're the breadwinner, your main goal is to ensure the happiness of your partner. You can't do that if you're always holding money over your partner's head.

After a delicious lunch, we were dismissed for the day. We were supposed to stay until 4:30, but the couple teaching the course actually had a wedding to go to, so we left at 2. Not bad! We were only there for about five hours, and learned valuable things about ourselves and about each other. I'm more and more confident that I picked the right person to marry, and I'm sure that we will be successful as partners in life and love. Heck, I've been with him almost 10 years already. If that doesn't say anything, nothing will.