Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tip #16: Ideas for Building Successful Relationships

Attend pre-marital classes.

So Matt and I were supposed to go on our Anniversary Date this past Saturday (which entailed a homemade picnic and a boat ride on the bayou), but a couple things happened:
  1. We found a free pre-marital (and, um, post-marital, I suppose) class that we really wanted to go to.
  2. Our friend, Camella, invited us to her birthday next weekend, which--surprise, surprise--entails the same boat ride on the bayou (although it's even better because we're riding our bikes to meet the boat, and she's renting out the entire thing for 20 of her closest friends).
We decided to ditch the date in favor of the class. I invited friends of ours to join us, and Anne said, "But do they welcome same-sex couples?"

It didn't even occur to me to ask! On the one hand, I didn't think to ask because I just assumed that a course sponsored by the state would not discriminate against an entire group of people. On the other hand, I didn't think to ask because I'm heterosexual, and I have the privilege (sadly enough) of not having to think about who's included and who's excluded.

When I called to register, I asked the woman if same-sex couples were welcome. She replied with a very matter-of-fact, "No." My blood boiled and I responded, "Well, I don't feel comfortable attending a class that doesn't welcome my friends and family. Please take us off the list."

She went on to explain that because it's a grant-funded program and the state of Texas doesn't recognize same-sex couples, only heterosexuals could attend the class.

Luckily, Matt and I were able to find another free class (sponsored by the state) that would allow same-sex couples to attend (just not give them a certificate of completion). We decided that we would attend the class but then democratize the information via the internet so that all couples can benefit.

So, in the coming weeks, we'll be sharing what we learned at our class for all couples.

As a side note, I have to add that attending a marriage class with my beloved just reiterated that I am so lucky to have him. The fact that he was willing (and excited) to attend means that he's committed to our relationship and committed to doing the hard work that it takes to forge a life together. Hooray!

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megan said...

good for you for standing up like you did! i'm glad you found another, more forward-minded class.

i'm so glad matt is so excited. my fiance is not against the pre-marital counseling my pastor requires, but he's not exactly revved up about it, either. he IS however, excited about the "1001 questions..." book that another reader suggested.

anna and the ring said...

Can I be a bit confused about the whole idea?

I thought the point is whilst you are different the reason you want to be together is because you have shared dreams and beliefs?

Surely just being together is counselling enough? Talking to each other everyday highlights your differences in goals and aspirations. The joy is knowing that you love each other enough to let your other half be whomever they need to be and knowing they will help you achieve?

Or am I just an uptight Brit!?

Joyce said...

Hi Sara! I'm an avid reader of your blog and this is my first time to comment. Good luck in your counseling. I also want to attend such class with my fiance because I believe that marriage is more important than the wedding itself. :)

Kathleen said...

Where does one find free premarital classes? Was it at a community center or a church? I'd be interested to find some here in Atlanta...

Prettylittlemess said...

@Kathleen - The reason there are free marriage classes in Texas is due to an initiative called "Twogether in Texas". Here's the link:


There is a law in Texas that gave couples about to marry a choice: take a marriage prep class and have a cheaper marriage license cost or don't do the prep and pay a higher fee. The goal of the program, and Sara you have to love this, is to "help build healthy marriage network". This is also just code for "decreasing the divorce rate".

This is why I agree with the representative of the program on why homosexuals aren't the target audience. They aren't divorcing at a rate of 50% a year like heterosexual couples.

Of course I agree that every couple, no matter the pairing, could benefit from counseling. But these classes were developed with a goal. Hopefully more heterosexual couples in Texas will take the time to seek out these programs and build a network of healthy marriages. As soon as divorce becomes an issue for homosexuals, Texas should extend this program to them as well.

Anonymous said...

wow. good for you for standing up for your friends!

Children of the 90s said...

I can't believe that. Well, actually, I live in Texas, so I can believe that. I understand that it's a state-granted program that follows state guidelines for marriage, but it's sort of unsettling how closed-minded and unwelcoming it is. Good for you for taking a stand against discrimination.

I like the idea of a pre-marriage class. A lot of churches, synagogues, etc. require premarital counseling, and I think it's a great idea.There is so much focus on the wedding and sometimes not on the actual idea of marriage itself. Good luck with the class!

k said...

Good for you!

(I've been enjoying your blog for a couple of weeks now.)

Therese T. said...

Good for you and good on Matt :)

Emily said...

I will be excited to learn what you learned.
We investigated similar classes in Michigan but there weren't any secular ones and we didn't really want to go to a class that emphasized our relationship with Christ over our relationship with each other. We are still considering private post-marital counseling, for exactly the reasons you describe, but it's expensive and I feel like a class would be less intimidating.
Thank you for providing us with this vicarious experience.

redfrizzz said...

bravo, you did a very good thing standing up like that. I'm looking forward to reading what you learn in class!

the Lady said...

@Prettylittlemess - perhaps the reasons homosexual couples "aren't divorcing at the same rate as heterosexual couples in Texas" is because they aren't recognized by the state...

the Lady said...

I do have to say that I find the wording of the last paragraph to be a bit quirky. I'm glad for you that you and Matt are both excited about going to a couples class on commitment, but I would like to point out that just because someone would not want to go to such a class or other couples therapy doesn't mean they aren't just as committed to the hard work that a relationship entails. Perhaps that is really obvious and I'm just being sensitive, but the last paragraph does seem to be written in a slightly close-ended manner (like an either/or statement.)

Anonymous said...

FYI - something BIG is happening at Sunshinemeg tomorrow!

Rachael Eisner said...

Hey! Good for you standing up for your friends. Good for you for taking counseling seriously. Good for you for being so cool, forward thinking!

kahlia said...

Thanks for deciding to share what you've learned in your class. I'm looking forward to reading about it and possibly using it in our marriage-planning process (especially since they don't seem to have that sort of thing here (except those offered by the Catholic Church, of which we are not members) in this country (Spain) that equates psychologists with "crazy people"!).
And way to go standing up for your loved ones and your personal beliefs!

ps- my word verification is "canta"! How fun to have a word in Spanish--and a happy one at that, to remind me not to be too negative about the country we live in!
(To add to your Spanish lessons of the day: "canta" is the second-person imperative of the verb "cantar"... so it says: "Sing!" :)

Jenn said...

Hi Sara! I realize this comment is coming way late on this post, but I was wondering if you posted anything else from the marriage class. I see a list of words to describe your relationship and the list of fun activities by time increments, but was there anything else?

My partner and I haven't been able to find a good marriage counseling class because we are same-sex partners, so anything you can provide (especially so long after the fact!) would be immensely helpful!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Jennifer: Check out all the posts in the "Successful Relationship" category. Hope that helps!

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