By John Grosso and Nicole M. Perone
It’s hard to believe that on Jan. 27 we will celebrate one year of being engaged. Both of us can remember every detail of that day: John recalls an atypically warm day preceded by a sleepless night of anticipation and excitement. Nicole mostly lived in ignorance and recalls nearly foiling the plot — first by slicing her left hand while cutting meat and then by going into work on a Saturday.
Everything had (surprisingly) gone according to plan. We were supposed to “meet” a friend for breakfast next to St. Thomas More, the Catholic chapel and center at Yale University. Once the two of us had arrived at the center, our friend would text us that she was “running late,” and while we waited for her, we would go into the chapel to say a prayer. This was a normal occurrence for us, as we often found ourselves ducking into churches during our travels to offer up a quick prayer.
As soon as we entered the chapel, John got down on one knee. After quickly realizing that he was not joking, Nicole practically tackled John before he could say his carefully rehearsed speech. After popping champagne with that same co-conspirator friend, we were off to lunch. The next surprise? Our parents awaited us. The icing on the cake? John’s siblings joined us for celebratory ice cream. The entire day was bliss.
A few weeks later, wedding planning began in earnest. Each thing we did — from selecting our venue to designing save the date announcements — only increased our excitement. The best part about being engaged, though, has been dreaming together about what our shared life will look like.
However, we would be lying if we said it has all been easy.
We have found ourselves fighting with more frequency than either of us are comfortable with as the stress of planning an enormous event intensifies. The expectations of society, the emotions of friends and family (and our own), and the desire to make this experience memorable are all difficult to navigate!
Compound that with the challenges of working in ministry, as well as experiencing massive life changes all at once, and it’s an easy recipe for stress.
The stress certainly hasn’t dampened our giddy enthusiasm toward our future marriage, but it is a reality of any healthy relationship that disagreements occur.
As we walk the premarital path, we are reminded of the journey of discipleship: It is not always easy or quite as fun as hashtag-laden posts on faith-based inspirational social media accounts might have us believe. Discipleship is HARD.
Christ asks us to enter into difficult places, go where we may not want to go and carry crosses along the way. While we need to be honest that the Christian life is not always easy, that should not stop us from consistently manifesting the joy that is a hallmark of our faith. While challenges and suffering certainly will arise, we know too of the blessed assurance that is God’s unconditional love and Christ’s sacrifice.
If we’re being honest, we were both reticent to share this part of our engagement experience. Perhaps we were caught between the two realities of the social media generation:
On the one hand, you have carefully crafted public personas, who ensure that every photo is artfully filtered and every caption is thoughtfully written to present an overall image of unattainable perfection. On the other hand, a simple scroll through Facebook’s newsfeed will reveal many couples airing their “dirty laundry.”
So, where is the middle ground? As Catholics, we are a “both-and” people. There is no reason that we can’t be honest about some of the challenges of this chapter in our relationship without it totally coloring the experience.
We can be focused on the joyful, fun aspects of this time while acknowledging that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. We both thought it was important to share all aspects of what we’ve experienced throughout our engagement.
We have come to learn the lesson that many wise married couples have already learned (and shared with us): Marriage isn’t always “easy,” but if it is rooted in our Catholic faith, it can weather any storm; and while our storms may be quite minor these days, it is comforting to know that we have built our relationship and future marriage on such a rock-solid foundation.
John Grosso is director of digital media for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and a communications consultant. Nicole M. Perone is archdiocesan director of adult faith formation for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut. They are engaged to be married in April 2019. They are guest columnists for Catholic News Service.