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Tony and I graduated from our Preparation for Marriage class! We are certified to get hitched and are (supposedly) armed with all the tools we need for a happy and successful union. Who knew you only need 5 weeks to lock down a lifetime of wedded bliss?!

(Well, hopefully we’re prepared, anyway — we had to skip Week 3, Spirituality, because Tony was performing in a show. The irony was not lost on us that the whole reason we initially signed up was to appease a family member who was appalled that we’re not getting married in a church, and we skipped out on the class covering religion. Whoops.)

But, we learned a lot the last two weeks. Specifically:

WEEK 4: FINANCES

This one was a doozy, as it covered two of the topics least fun about marriage: money and divorce. The class was taught by a financial planner first, followed up by a divorce attorney, and the purpose was basically to prevent you from going bankrupt, murdering your spouse for making you two go bankrupt, and/or getting divorced.

(Gossip sidenote: The girl you may remember from my first blog about marriage class, who sobbed over finally finding her soulmate — let’s call her Bowl Cut — made a symbolic stand with her boyfriend, walking out dramatically when the divorce attorney took the mic. Apparently, they don’t believe in divorce so fervently they not only TOOK A MARRIAGE CLASS BEFORE EVEN GETTING ENGAGED, but didn’t even need to hear this seasoned veteran’s list of What Not To Do If You Want To Stay Married.

Some back story for this side note: There was even more drama after the previous week’s Intimacy class, when someone complained that an unwedded couple living together in sin won a “sex toy” to reward them for being the couple together longest. This “sex toy” was a cute set of romantic dice from CVS, with each side reading something innocent like “Foot massage.” Didn’t know they even sold sex toys at CVS. Anyway, our money is on Bowl Cut as the complainer. Everyone in the room was happy when those two walked out, since we were all sick of her gleefully raising her hand with “questions” like “What do you do if you can’t find anything to disagree on?”)

Back to the financial planner: I was surprised by a lot of things, first that I was the ONLY person in the room to raise my hand when he asked who was uncomfortable talking about money. Um, I’m sorry, who loves to talk about money? Do most girls enjoy being like, “Sorry babe, drank too much wine last night and bought a gazebo on Gilt. Fingers crossed it’s returnable?” No? JUST ME?

I also learned that if a couple tells him they’re keeping separate checking accounts, he sets up their finances to plan for divorce. You read that correctly. Separate checking accounts = divorce. This seems like a bold statement to make, since more and more people are getting married at a later age, when they have more complicated financial situations that are harder to merge. But, I also drunkenly bought a gazebo online at 2am, so what do I know?

Other hot tips: Live within your means. Work hard. Save consistently (15% of your gross income or as I like to call it, my Sushi and Cake Budget.) Avoid debt — using credit cards is like saying to God, “What you’ve given me isn’t enough.” Don’t spend secretly, discuss large purchases with each other beforehand (Tony, I am SO SORRY again about that gazebo. But it’s going to be so fun to have this summer, right?!)

And above all, be generous — it gives you a larger picture of how blessed you are, and helps you lose attachment to money and material things (like gazebos). This was my favorite piece of advice, and an important reminder in a city where people spend so much money on ridiculous things: Waxing hair off, gluing hair extensions on (not just to your hair! Even to your eyelashes!), generally keeping up with the Joneses… Overall, it was a good speech that felt a lot like a lecture from my dad. (Albeit, one I probably needed to hear.)

Next up was the divorce attorney… Because there’s nothing more romantic for newly engaged couples to discuss than divorce! We learned people get divorced for one/a combination of three reasons: Sex/infidelity, money, and communication problems. How to prevent it:

SEX: Have it.

MONEY: Have joint accounts. Act as a team. (Tony, Team Tonannie is going to get so much use out of that gazebo, I promise!!!!)

COMMUNICATION: Don’t catastrophize, be right here, right now; just because your fiance impulsively buys a gazebo doesn’t mean she’s going to lose all your money every day for the rest of your life together. Keep dating! Have fun, laugh together! Be affectionate! Make goals together and plan for where you want to be! And above all, say divorce is off the table — even if you don’t like each other, you’re not allowed to say the D word.

WEEK 5: COMMUNICATION & CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

Ironically, Tony and I fought the entire drive to class (I made us late and he didn’t fill out his take-home worksheet for class, he just inexplicably wrote in the side margins “toilet seat, baby animal videos.”) Anyway, we learned how to cope with it with three simple steps of dialogue: Mirroring, validation, and empathy.

MIRRORING: Use “I” language, to avoid shaming or blaming. Then, the listener repeats what they’ve just heard. EX: A: “I feel hurt and confused that you’re not taking our class seriously and just wrote ‘toilet seat’ on your homework.” T: “Let me see if I’ve got it. You feel hurt and confused by me not taking our class seriously because I wrote ‘toilet seat’ on my homework. Wow! Interesting. Is there more about that?” A: [Talks for 20 minutes.]

VALIDATION: Verbalize that what your partner is saying makes sense, even if you don’t agree with it; I’m going rogue here and summing things up, but I think the core point is for you to make it clear that you don’t think your partner is crazy. Thus, they are less likely to behave in a way that could be construed as “crazy.” Communication, guys!

EMPATHY: Here, the listener imagines and/or affirms what their partner is feeling; feeling words include angry, sad, lonely, afraid, happy, joyful, etc. EX: “I imagine you might be feeling afraid, and perhaps a little sad too. Is that what you are feeling?” Then perhaps the speaker will say “Ah, a little excited too.” ‘CAUSE WE’RE GETTING MARRIED! Voila, fight over.

Finally, we learned about Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, and discussed which one we speak, so our partner can learn how we best receive love:

Words of Affirmation (verbal compliments)
Quality Time (shared experiences)
Receiving Gifts (symbols of love)
Acts of Service (simple chores done as demonstrations of love)
Physical Touch (hugs, touch, physical closeness)

I speak all of those languages. Poor Tony.

I’m so happy we decided to take this class. The engagement phase spirals so easily into full-blown wedding planning mode, it was nice to do something old-fashioned and traditional that focuses on the marriage itself, instead of the party. The class reinforced things we already knew (I am a hail storm and “would benefit to know when to quiet myself,” and Tony is a turtle.) But, it also gave us tools to fight nicer and love more fully, and provided a guaranteed date night to spend time with each other.

Now excuse me while I go spend some time under that gazebo, which Tony not only let me keep, but put together while I was at work! My fiance is the best.