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More than a matter of saying ‘I do’


Relationship education is an important part of preparation for marriage and perhaps even more so for people who meet on dating apps. Two couples who have benefited from attending sessions with Centacare Catholic Family Services shared their stories.

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Sam Lennon was travelling around Australia in 2019 when car trouble forced him to have a longer than expected stop in Darwin.

While there, the diesel mechanic from Two Wells, SA, downloaded a dating app and connected with his wife-to-be, Caitlin Shervill, a solicitor who grew up in the Northern Territory.

After two weeks of ‘talking’ online, Sam and Caitlin went on a date at the local pub. That same weekend they “hung out” with Caitlin’s family and friends and on Monday Caitlin submitted her resignation and joined Sam on his travels around Western Australia for three months.

Caitlin said her parents were “pushing her out the door as they loved Sam a little too much”.

“Yes there was a chance I’d die at the hands of a psycho killer in the desert but I decided it was worth the risk,” she joked.

“By all means it was!”

Sam’s parents were sure he would find someone while travelling so weren’t surprised when he brought Caitlin home to Adelaide.

The couple moved to Murray Bridge after Caitlin gained employment at Tindall Gask Bentley Lawyers.

Newlyweds Sam and Caitlin Lennon.

Happy couple Sam and Caitlin Lennon.

Caitlin knew Sam was “the one” about two weeks into travelling when he cooked her a Thai green chicken curry in the Outback.

Sam was optimistic about the relationship from the first date.

“When we were sitting at dinner, the fan hit your hair just right and it was blowing in the wind and it was like a movie moment – I knew,” he later told Caitlin.

The couple was married on October 21 2023 by Fr Philip Marshall at St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral which was the first church Sam and Caitlin went to (for midnight Mass) when she moved to Adelaide.

The decision to do relationship education was something they had always planned to do but it was also recommended by Fr Marshall.

“We knew it would benefit our relationship,” Caitlin said.

The ‘Time for Us’ course involved three one-hour in-person sessions with a counsellor.

“All the sessions were great,” Caitlin said.

“They led to a lot of discussions with us even after we thought we had covered most of it while travelling.”

Caitlin said she didn’t want to move states, and commit to a relationship, if she and Sam had different values.

“So a lot of the discussion in the first appointment was what we had already agreed on, but it helped us to go deeper,” she said.

The ‘take away’ message for her was “talking – just always talk with one another”.

“We realised that when we had someone to talk to about our relationship we mentioned things we didn’t realise were issues that we had,” she said.

“Now we talk openly so nothing is kept in.”

Caitlin and Sam even decided to do follow up sessions.

“We felt there were still some parts of us we were not talking about and would feel more comfortable essentially having a mediator there in case things get heated and can bring us back to what’s important,” she said.

Asked if they would recommend the program to other couples, Caitlin said “100 per cent”.

“We didn’t think we needed it and thought we would get an A+ in counselling…it turns out every perfect relationship can still benefit from counselling discussions. Our relationship is a lot better for it.”

Luke West and Ashleigh Forbes.

Luke West and Ashleigh Forbes.

Ashleigh Forbes and Luke West also met through a dating app. The Seaford couple met for the first time over dinner and a walk around the city.

Ashleigh knew Luke was the one for her when they were sitting on the couch “joking around like we always do and I thought to myself, I want to spend the rest of my life with him”.

The couple will marry on June 1 at St Aloysius Church, Sevenhill. The Centacare relationship education sessions were suggested to them by parish priest Fr Kieran Gill SJ and Sue Rivett from the Adelaide Archdiocese.

Like Caitlin and Sam, they did three private sessions.

“It was really full on to start with and made us think about things we hadn’t previously thought about,” Ashleigh said.

“There were some very helpful communication strategies for us.”

The counsellor helped them by introducing conflict resolution techniques and by “allowing ourselves to be open and honest in our sessions and get to the root of our issues”.

Ashleigh and Luke said they would recommend the sessions to other couples because “it made us have conversations that strengthened us as a couple.”

Chantelle Reed, senior manager – Counselling & Mediation Services at Centacare, said the way partners meet had changed over time.

“Many of us have found our soul mates through our friends and or family members which can provide an instant strength in the new connection or being able to build trust,” she said.

“When you meet online, it may take a little more time and effort to deepen the relationship. But relationship education is beneficial to any couple, regardless of how they meet, because it fosters closeness, friendship and trust.

“It’s a chance to talk about fears, parenting expectations, lifestyle, finance, affection and extended family (yes, the in-laws).”

In addition to ‘Time for Us’, Centacare runs a program called ‘Is Love Enough?’ which involves couples attending in a group like setting on Saturdays from 9am to 2pm. Couples work with a facilitator to complete the program. Four groups are run per year, however additional days can be arranged to meet demand.

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