Before the marriage of my Catholic friends, I remember hearing about their required “Pre~Cana” counseling sessions, which were meant to prepare them for marriage and to identify areas of difference that may become a source of future conflict. I would like to propose an alternative to pre~marital counseling, which I call Marital Bliss Boot Camp. Loosely modeled on the reality show, “Survivor”, my boot camp would place couples in real~world situations that would put considerable stress on any normal marriage. If the couples pass the challenges they are given and survive the weekend without splitting up, they get the green light to go waltzing down the aisle. If not, they get to save thousands on a pricey wedding and an even pricier divorce settlement.
The couple’s First Challenge (testing Role Expectations, Interpersonal Communication, Risk Management, and Accepting the Faults of Your Spouse) would be to drive over the Cerro de la Muerte (The Mountain Of Death) to get to San Jose. The “highway” is a shoulderless, slick, two lane road with dangerous curves and occasional rockslides, that climbs to an altitude of 11,500 feet. The road is a main thoroughfare for slow, smelly trucks transporting goods to and from San Jose. If the couple can agree 1) who should drive, and 2) when to pass the dozens of trucks they will encounter (keep in mind the slippery, curviness of the road…) AND are able to engage in some meaningful conversation during the two hour trek, they pass their first test and get to continue on.
The Second Challenge (exploring Interpersonal Communication, Conflict Resolution, and Accepting the Faults of Your Spouse) would be for the couple to find their hotel. They would be given directions and a map, but that wouldn’t matter, because there are no street signs in San Jose. If, after repeatedly asking for directions (“Do you know the way to San Jose?”) and realizing that nobody knows where anything is anyway, they agree to pay a taxi to lead them to their hotel, then they pass Challenge Two.
Challenge Three (focusing on Finances, Conflict Resolution, Religion and Philosophy, and Accepting the Faults of your Spouse) entails an all~day shopping excursion to find exterior lamp fixtures for a new Balinese style house. The couple must navigate their way to five different lighting shops (see Challenge Number Two), and then agree on a fixture. The challenge is that they have a limited budget, and the only affordable fixtures are ugly and cheaply made. Throughout the day, the couple will have ample opportunity to explore issues of religion (as in, “Oh my God, that is soooo ugly!,” and “ I swear to God, if you don’t put that lamp down, I’m going to scream!”). If couples can choose a fixture without telling each other to go to Hell, their relationship is still alive.
Challenge Four (exploring Interest and Activities, Finances, Sexuality, and Accepting the Faults of your Spouse) requires the couple to decide on an evening activity after their grueling day of shopping. The challenge is that they are NOT allowed to go back to the hotel to crash in front of the TV (they’ve been living in the boondocks for the past three months, and have been severely culturally and culinarily deprived!). If they agree to start by throwing back a couple of martinis at the poshest lounge they can find, followed by an abundant sushi dinner and can relax enough to (at least) give each other a kiss goodnight, then they have survived Marital Bliss Boot Camp, and will live happily ever after… hopefully far, far away from San Jose!