Catholic Church Focuses on Making Marriages Last
Posted April 18, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH — "To have and to hold from this day forward." These wedding vows seem to be having an effect on more and more couples in the Tar Heel state.
Statistics show the number of people getting married in North Carolina is almost as high as it was back in the 60s. And many of those couples are making it work.
The number of marriages in our state has increased from just over 51,000 in 1990 to more than 64,000 last year -- a 24 percent increase. Divorced rates have dropped.
One reason for the increase in bliss may be that churches are getting involved before the wedding.
When Colleen and Calvin Jones walked down the aisle, like most couples, they thought it would be forever. But just to make sure, the couple attended six months of premarital counseling, required by their church.
"I was actually pretty scared because you don't know what to expect," says Colleen Jones.
After the counseling, the couple expected a lot more out of their marriage.
"It kind of reminds you what marriage is all about, and it's about commitment you know, spending the rest of your life with your partner," says Jones. "It's not about, you know, all the details."
Details are what destroys marriages. That is why theCatholic Diocese of Raleighrequires couples to fill out an extensive questionnaire as a part their premarital counseling course.
Answers that do not match could signal possible red flags in a relationship.
"This is a way simply to get people to understand each other," say Frank Morock, of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh. "When you fall in love, you fall in love and sometimes people have a way to look over things that they might perceive as problems. 'Oh we'll get by. I can live with that.' Well, it's those little things that five or 10 years down the road start gnawing away at you."
If the couple's answers don't match up after talking, the pastor could stop the wedding.
"If the pastor sees there is a major problem here, then the pastor may, he may say 'I can't do this.' But that is a rare situation," says Morock.
Experts say the church's increased involvement may be one reason North Carolina couples are staying together.
Jim Baudreau and his fiance are going through church counseling now. He says the organized environment teaches couples to really communicate.
"You can sit down in your living room together and sit down at the table together, whatever, and talk about things," says Baudreau. "But do you really cover all the issues? Do you really make sure you get everything out in the open?
Colleen Jones says the openness helped make her wedding day the best day of her life.
"It was a great experience," she says. "It really was."
The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh also offers a marriage enrichment course after the wedding.
For couples who have experienced infidelity or some type of major obstacle, there is another program to help them that begins in late April.