Sheil hosts discussion for couples considering engagement

Tom Meyer

Sheil Catholic Center’s “Are You Serious?” program, which aims to help couples at Northwestern and in the community determine if they are prepared for engagement, concluded Monday night with a discussion of the main barriers to successful long-term relationships.

The program focuses on the aspects of relationships that are important to consider before two people become engaged and encourages discussion, said Sheil Pastoral Associate Mary Deeley, who runs the program.

Deeley said much of what she brings up during “Are You Serious?” stems from past experiences helping engaged and married couples.

“The more I worked with these couples, the more I realized they needed to work some of these things out before they got engaged,” Deeley said.

Deeley said she runs the program every two years, and this year three couples participated. At Monday’s final meeting, only one of the couples could attend. The couple, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of their discussion, worked with Deeley to apply her system of relationship levels to themselves.

Monday’s meeting focused on broad issues couples can face, including finances, meeting families and finding time for friends.

“It did a lot of confirming that we’re on the same page,” the man in the couple said. “There are still things that we need to talk about in the future, but we figured out a lot of what’s important to us.”

The couple said they agreed they were in “level four,” the final level before engagement.

“It’s where you really start to imagine what your life would be like if you were married and spending the rest of your life together,” the woman in the couple said.

They both are NU chemistry graduate students and have dated for nearly two years. They are also considering moving in together, they said.

Deeley said the program, which is about eight years old, usually attracts graduate students in part because NU undergraduates are often not focused on marriage or engagement.

“Very few NU students are making those life decisions right now,” Deeley said. “At Northwestern we hear students saying, ‘I’m 18, I’m going pre-med,’ and trying to figure out their life plan. It’s hard to say that marriage could be part of that life plan.”

Most who attend the program are Catholic students who hear about it during announcements at Mass, Deeley said.

Deeley said “Are You Serious?” can serve to encourage students to set time aside to consider their relationships and get to know one another.

“The pace here can be very fast. It’s a pace that can make it hard to sit down and talk and discover each other, and not just have it be hooking up,” Deeley said. “You all live fast, but you don’t necessarily live deep.”

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