If you want to get married in the Catholic Church, there are several hoops that you have to jump through, beyond, you know, being Catholic. One of these is a premarital compatibility
test questionnaire. There are a couple different tests that are acceptable; one of the most common is known as the FOCCUS, “Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding and Study.”
This is meant to be a compatibility assessment tool that helps couples uncover potential topics or issues that they may not have encountered. The 150+ questions address topics covering Family Decisions, Finances, In-Laws, Sexuality, and of course, Religion. There are additional sections for co-habiting couples and interfaith couples. The idea is to make sure that, as a couple, you have thought through and discussed many of these topics before jumping into marriage; if not, now is the time.
Although it’s not a test, it feels an awful lot like a test. You are given a No. 2 pencil, a scantron and test booklet, and separated from your partner to prevent potential “cheating.” The questions are all in statement form, and your options are “Agree,” “Disagree,” and “Uncertain” for each. There are no “correct/incorrect” answers, but rest assured that some of your answers will be flagged for later discussion – those for which you and your partner selected different answers (makes sense, it is a compatibility assessment), and also any questions that you answer differently than the church might hope for.
So we took the
test questionnaire and then went back a couple of weeks after it was graded later to go over any questions that were “flagged.” It was actually kind of neat to see our results page, which was broken down and scored by category. We did pretty well across the board…I believe that we only had 7-10 questions on the entire test that we ended up discussing because they were flagged (and actually on 3 of them, I had misread the question because there were double negatives…tricky!). I wasn’t too surprised at our “high scores” since we have dated and lived together for a long time; we talk about a lot of these different topics (i.e. kids, finances, etc.); and we come from similar places and upbringing.
After it was all said and done, the couple that we had been assigned to asked us what we thought of the test: What did we think coming into it? Did we think it was a valuable experience? Would we recommend it for others? I thought these were good questions, maybe even better than the questions themselves were.
Going into the test…
Going into the test questionnaire, I know that Em was a little nervous. Again, “it’s not a test,” even though it is. She was definitely a little more anxious going into the whole experience than I was. But I get it — it feels like a test, it comes from the church (and a couple from the church who were complete strangers facilitated it and went through our “flagged” answers), and your future with your eventual spouse is potentially called into question. That’s kind of a lot of pressure. You also only know what you hear: “you have to take [implied: and pass] the Catholic test and discuss it before you can get married.”
Was it valuable…
I don’t know that the test added anything big for us specifically. As I mentioned, we talk a lot about many of these topics, so I wasn’t surprised that we answered closely on most of the questionnaire (but it didn’t hurt to have a little added affirmation for our own peace of mind via a compatibility assessment). That said, I don’t think that the
test assessment itself is not a potentially valuable tool for many couples. It covers a lot of really important topics, and is quite specific. These are the kinds of questions and discussions that you really should be having with your potential mate before before getting married – kids, finances, in-laws, traditions, home expectations. These are things that should be on the table. Even for the non-religious types, the test would be relevant; I’d estimate that about 85% of the questions were not about religion.
What we’d tell others…
We both agreed that it was a pretty good experience. We also agreed that, as I just said, the majority of the assessment covers important topics that apply to nearly everyone; it would probably be a good guide for topics and discussions, regardless of religion. We also figured that a lot of the experience probably depends on who the couple is that facilitates the assessment; our couple was nice and we never felt that they forced anything on us or overstepped boundaries.
So basically we aced the test and will thus live together in perfect marital bliss forever and always. At least I’m pretty sure that’s how it works…
***Some sample questions (from memory) “Agree” “Disagree” “Uncertain”:
My future spouse and I have talked about our plans for when we want kids.
My future spouse and I have discussed our financial plans.
I worry that my future spouse’s family might get in the way of our relationship.
The only way I can be happy is to be married.
My future spouse sometimes does things that annoy me.
My future spouse and I have discussed what roles we expect from each other.
My future spouse and I have discussed different traditions that we like.
My future spouse’s family approves of our relationship.
A few silly questions:
I am nervous for my future spouse to see me without my clothes on.
I worry about my future spouse’s amount of drinking.
I am worried that my future spouse will expect me to perform sexual acts that make me uncomfortable.