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Preparing for a lifelong commitment


Clare Bowyer and Adriana Loro have a combined 52 years’ experience in preparing couples for marriage.

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In their roles as relationship educators at Centacare Catholic Community Services, Clare and Adriana have seen changes to both the content of marriage preparation courses and to relationship issues since they began working in this area.

With fewer couples opting for a church wedding these days, Clare said marriage preparation was not as common as when she joined Centacare 30 years ago but that didn’t mean it wasn’t just as important.

“At the end of the day, people are still wanting a lifelong partnership that’s happy and lasts the distance; they want to know that this person is going to be there for them and they are going to be there for each other, that desire is still there,” she said.

“The big change in content has been a more research-based approach – the programs were written inhouse back then whereas now we use the work of people like world-renowned psychologist John Gottman.”

Priests continue to be a main source of referral to the service, and whereas some may have prepared couples themselves in the past, there is a growing awareness of the expertise of educators like Clare and Adriana.

From a client perspective, Adriana said the age range had widened significantly from couples in their early 20s to those aged over 40, some of whom were marrying for the second time.

“One of the big changes is that more couples are living together prior to getting married,” she added.

“And they might already have a child; we are seeing that more than we did 20 years ago.”

Acknowledging that a growing number of couples are meeting online, Adriana said she didn’t see it as any different to “meeting in a pub”.

“You still have to trust the person you’re talking to and get to know them, it’s just a more modern way of dating. And people are more sophisticated in using the sites, they are more aware of safety.”

Clare said another trend was couples living with one set of parents to save money and she had seen a growing level of concern about cost-of-living pressures in general.

“There’s often a lot of wedding stress,” she said.

“We talk about strategies of how to deal with that, how to communicate with each other as well. Sometimes they have very high expectations of what they want in a material way but it’s about looking at the cost of that?”

Clare said finance had always been an important topic to cover.

“We talk to couples about how they are going to manage their finances, separately or jointly…sometimes they haven’t worked that out,” she said.

“Are their incomes similar or is one partner earning a lot more? Are they putting the same amount into a joint account…is that fair?

“If the woman is going to stay home and look after the child, what’s going to happen if she isn’t putting money in; it’s about getting used to that sense of ‘our money’. What does having to ask for money do psychologically to a woman?”

Adriana said awareness of domestic violence was more of a focus for educators today.

“We now do a one-on-one with the couple in the first session where we look at safety concerns, whether it’s psychological, physical, emotional or financial, do you get told what to wear, how safe do you feel? Even though they’re generally pretty safe together, it opens up an awareness of how important we see this and we invite them to think about how, in their life together, to keep the safety they’ve got now.”

While it might be a little confronting for some couples, Clare said there was more acceptance across society of the need for such conversations.

Similarly, couples were also asked if there had been any trauma in their lives because this could affect the relationship and might require referral to a support service.

Adriana said couples were introduced to the idea that any relationship is dynamic.

“It’s not just about now but reflecting on what they will be like with money or children, do they want to have children, what are they like as parents and now that they’ve got a child, do they want another one? They are constantly making decisions with each other,” she said.

“A lot of what we do is about respect, how do you bring it into all of the conversations with each other so you can look at every phase of the relationship?

“It doesn’t finish when you’ve got a ring on your finger…it keeps going.”

While some couples might not think they need counselling, Clare said most come to see it as an opportunity to speak about their relationship, not just the wedding planning, and it was “affirming” for those who might have already talked through the issues.

There are two types of marriage education programs offered – ‘Time for Us’ involves three private one-hour sessions between the couple and an educator while group sessions called ‘Is Love Enough?’ run on several Saturdays throughout the year.

The option to join via Zoom is available to country couples or those who are too busy to travel into the Centacare office.

Participants are invited to a post-wedding follow up.

For further information phone 8215 6700 or email


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