No FOCCUS test?

posted 3 years ago in Catholic
Post # 4
Member
3677 posts
Sugar bee

Your priest doesn’t seem to have an accurate understanding of what the FOCCUS inventory is really about. I’m not surprised that he “didn’t feel that it was an accurate assessment of the compatibility of two people,” because that’s not what it’s designed to be. So, on the one hand, it’s kind of unfortunate that your parish doesn’t use it – but maybe it’s for the best if the priest has such a basic misunderstanding of its purpose. At least he’s not misusing it with engaged couples.

The FOCCUS is an inventory, not a “test.” Both use questions or statements (on FOCCUS it’s statements) to measure something, but tests generally are pegged to a scoring scale with cutoff points where you have “passing” and “failing” scores, and the FOCCUS doesn’t work like that. There’s no magic number you need to earn to prove you’re compatible, or anything like that.

Inventories have questions/statements related to different categories/areas. They touch on various topics (spirituality, ethics, communication, family relationships, sex, finances, children, to name a few that come up on the FOCCUS) to try to get a picture of each partner’s attitudes about those topics, and to identify areas where they are closely aligned and areas where they have differences. (Every couple has areas of closer alignment and greater divergence). The second part of the FOCCUS process is to go through the statements with a facilitator (at our parish it was a married couple, which I think was better in many ways than going through it with a priest. They had examples and anecdotes from their own experience that helped shed light on what some of the statements were aiming at.) The larger purpose is to simply make sure that, ahead of getting married, you and FI have a chance to really talk through some of these very important topics that can be awkward to discuss (and therefore sometimes people tend to avoid talking about them at all, or they make a lot of assumptions about their partner’s attitude, both of which are not smart strategies for marriage preparation.)

Some examples of things you might see on the FOCCUS are, “It is important to me that our children be baptized in the Catholic Church.” or “My partner and I have discussed finances and how much debt we will have when we marry.” or “Sometimes my partner gets so angry that I fear for my safety.” or “I often worry about my partner’s drug or alcohol use.” The options would be “Agree,” “Disagree,” and “Not Sure.” (Obviously there is a “preferred” answer for many of the questions – not a “right” answer, per se, but an answer the Church would like to see couples agree on). In a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, for example, the non-Catholic might well answer “Disagree” or “Not Sure” to the baptism statement. Well, then you would spend some time in your session discussing your feelings about it. You may or may not come to any conclusions, you may or may not agree to have your children baptized – and that’s fine. At least you will have discussed it, and not gone into marriage without at least beginning to address it.

So, that’s what FOCCUS is supposed to do. It’s a tool for knowing yourselves better as a couple and opening up communication on challenging issues, not a “compatibility assessment” as your priest seems to think.

Post # 6
Member
1340 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

FWIW, my FI and I didn’t feel that the FOCCUS test was particularly helpful. All of the issues on the test were ones we had already discussed at length. Interestingly, we did not do particularly well on it! We both thought that was very odd considering that we’re on the same page about most everything. So I agree with your priest! 

Post # 7
Member
476 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: January 2013

I don’t know of any Catholic couples who haven’t taken it. Some of my Protestant friends have taken it. I think it’s rather odd that he doesn’t use it. My husband and I thought that the FOCCUS was a very good lead-in to the marriage preparation work. It helps to identify areas/topics which need to be discussed and agreed upon. It’s not meant to be pass/fail or identify couples who won’t last– it makes you think about your future with your fiance’ and can open dialogues to issues which you may not have explored.

Post # 8
Member
333 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2010

@beekiss: We didn’t find FOCCUS helpful. We’d talked about all the important stuff before we got engaged.  I mean, we had both read a number of books on Christian courtship.  We went out of our way to find questions to ask before we even got engaged.  We were actually hoping the FOCCUS test would enlighten us further, but it didn’t.

The FOCCUS test just put us in a situation where we had to explain our “red flag” answers. “Yes, he’d be uncomfortable if he made more money than I did. So would I. He wants to enable me to be able to be a homemaker. He’d feel like a failure, and I’d be saddened that practicality got in the way of pursuing my dreams of staying home.” There were other “right” answers that we simply disagreed with and found odd that it was being touted as Catholic.

I think a great problem is that the Church looks at marriage prep as divorce prevention rather than marriage enrichment. My husband and I are both firmly against divorce unless there is a real serious danger in staying together. Thus, the question is how to learn to love each other with greater sincerity and virtue and thus to have as smooth of a marriage as possible. I don’t think that can be done in a premarital inventory multiple choice answer thing. I don’t think that can even be covered in a weekend. Its something that takes constant work.

I think it mainly just is paperwork.

We didn’t even have a couple who facilitated the test. The wedding coordinator/Director of Religious Education ran the entire thing for each couple. I think she listed her husband as one of the facilitators, but we never met him. And when we talked to her, she sounded like she lived an estranged life with her husband. Apparently for awhile they mostly lived in seperate States even though they were married. They also never had any children. When she got into specifics about her husband, she didn’t sound like she liked him very much.  At the end of the test, she asked my husband if he was denying his true vocation to the priesthood.  I laughed and was about to say that we’d both discerned out of religious life, but had considered that route.  She interupted me and said “No, I’m serious.”  My husband’s answer didn’t satisfy her till he affirmed that I had become a large part of his prayer life.  He just said “I’m just being realistic.  In getting married, family life will impede on the quiet devotional prayer I like.  We’ll have kids we have to chase around and probably a noisey house.”  I mean, having a realistic expectation and understanding and embracing the sacrifices involved in marriage isn’t a “red flag.”

Both our parents have long and healthy marriages. We’ve learned more from them than any paperwork test administered by people who don’t know how to make their own marriages function well.

Post # 9
Member
298 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

@beekiss: We didn’t take the FOCUS either. It was never brought up during our meeting with the priest or in any of email exchanges with the church secretary. FI and  I did the PREP class about a month and a half ago. It was really interesting. Ours was a one day class from 9:30am-3:30pm with five other couples. It was alot about how to have a lasting, positive relationship with eachother. We learned different techniques on how to listen to eachother and communicate and have a disagreement without it getting nasty and hurtful. The presenter would talk a little bit, show a short video as a real life example of what he was talking about and then we would have practice time where each couple go somwhere private and use this technique with a real issue in your relationship. Looking back it’s not something that I would have chosen to go to on my own, but I am glad we went. We really did learn alot.

  

Post # 11
Member
448 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2013

We didn’t take FOCCUS or anything like it, however we did meet with the priest 3 times before the wedding and took Pre Cana.

Post # 12
Member
813 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2010

We did the FOCCUS… there were exactly two questions that we didn’t get a “perfect score” on… one of them was something we had already discussed at length, and were in agreement on, and the other was “Agree or Disagree – I can only be happy if I’m married.” I put Disagree (I wasn’t married at the time, and I was happy), and DH put Agree (because he wouldn’t be happy to just date me for another ten years and never get married).

We had to discuss those two items for AN HOUR with a counselor. We got through the first one quickly because we had already discussed it a lot, and then we spent 50 minutes arguing about the wording of the “only happy if I’m married question.” A bit ridiculous.

But, I can see how the test would be helpful, especially if you haven’t known each other as long (DH and I had been friends for 8 years and dating for 3 at that point). That being said, I don’t think you’re missing anything by not taking it.

Do try to go into the retreat with an optimistic attitude though! Ours was totally unlike any other retreat we’d ever been on (in a good way). It was a lot of one-on-one time for us to discuss all sorts of things and pray for our marriage, and we really enjoyed it. I think you’ll enjoy it if you go into it with an open mind/heart. It was nice just to spend some quality time together during the busy season of wedding planning! But if you go into it just waiting for it to be over, you’ll be miserable. 

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