Before we got married, my wife and I had to take a mandatory church marriage class. The church would not marry anyone without it.
The idea was: After eight weeks of rigorous marriage training, couples would receive an official certificate, trimmed in gold, with their names on it. And this certificate would prove to the world, without a doubt, that couples were spiritually prepared to stand at an altar and combine auto insurance policies.
Keep in mind, this certificate wasn’t a marriage license. This was a “Baptist pre-marriage class certificate,” from the back of the “official Baptist marriage workbook,” purchased for $24.99.
Within the Baptist tradition, you see, you can’t do anything without first obtaining a certificate and unanimous committee approval. Even Sunday greeters are required to attend a four-week class that teaches them the correct way to say: “Here’s your bulletin, sir.”
Thus, my future-wife and I arrived at the fellowship hall each week to participate in courses that prepared us for cohabitation.
These courses featured many important games which the workbook termed “marital building exercises.” Many of which were developed by professional marriage book authors—some of whom had been married to the same person for as long as three to four years.
One such exercise was the Egg Test.
In this game, the future-bride (Jamie) balances an egg on a spoon clenched between her teeth. She wears a blindfold and walks across a room.
The future-husband (me) stands on the opposite side of the room (over by the piano). He uses ONLY his words to guide his future-wife through an obstacle course made up entirely of folding chairs which represent the confusing Maze of Life.
On the chairs are Post-It notes, labeled with various day-to-day marriage problems like: “car trouble,” “bills,” “career,” “children,” “chapter 11 bankruptcy,” “sharing the covers.”
In this exercise, the woman stumbles over chairs, spoon held in her mouth. She is thus forced to either trust her mate, or remove her blindfold and dog cuss him before his peers.
I realize that non-Baptists might think this game sounds ridiculous. But this exercise equips young couples with the wisdom needed for facing the increasingly common threat of folding chairs.
Another exercise was the Question Jar.
In this little gem, we were given empty mayonnaise jars and slips of paper. We wrote personal questions on paper and dropped them in the jar.
Couples were encouraged to read questions to their potential mates in front of the class.
For example, one man asked his sweetheart: “Which country do you want to visit that’s NOT in America?”
You had to love this guy.
His fiancé smiled. “The Grand Canyon,” she said. “I always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon.”
They were perfect for each other.
Then another woman read a question: “Honey, how do you prefer your steaks? Rare, medium, or well-done?”
He responded with: “Medium-rare, darling.”
And this couple was then granted permission to marry and have as many kids as they wanted.
When Jamie, however, read a question, she did not ask how I wanted my New York strip, nor where I wanted to visit. She asked:
“Just how many girlfriends came before me?”
Jared White, who sat next to me in class, bowed his head and whispered, “Give him strength, Lord.”
I am getting off track here. As of now, my wife and I have been married for nearly twenty years. We are happy. And we do not balance eggs anymore unless absolutely necessary.
Still, I have to admit, marriage class was valuable to me. Mainly, because we laughed about the whole Egg Test thing until we almost peed ourselves. We’ve laughed a lot over the years. And I’ve always enjoyed making that woman laugh.
It wasn’t long into our new marriage that doctors found something in my wife’s breast. Now that was a bad day. We did what all couples probably do. We tried not to talk about it. We tried to live normal lives. But it doesn’t work like that.
At night we would lie in bed and hold each other. I remained awake, smelling her hair—I know that sounds strange, but her hair smells better than average hair. After the months of waiting, tests, and worrying, the UAB doctor gave us good news. Benign. I cried in the exam room—right in front of the doc. What a day.
Anyway, today I was in the storage shed. There was a dusty box beside my workbench labeled: “books.” I opened it. I found a twenty-year-old workbook.
It made me laugh. It made me sniff. In the back pages was a certificate with two names on it, trimmed in gold. Two names that simply do not sound right unless they are said together.
Michael Reese - September 1, 2021 6:23 am
Sean? Please promise me that you are going to write the next greatest American Novel since “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “The Grapes Of Wrath”!??
H. J. Patterson - September 1, 2021 8:02 pm
Michael, if you live in a state where pot is legal please buy some.
Linda Trauffer - September 1, 2021 6:59 am
Congratulations, Sean! Love your journal!
Hills & valleys, laughter & tears, vows kept, love abounds; 59 years, 5 months; praising the Lord! 👨🏻🦳❤️🧓🏻🙏🏻
Leigh Amiot - September 1, 2021 9:22 am
Lord willing, my husband and I will celebrate our 35th anniversary this month, most likely how we have most, quietly. Romance is a sweet concept, not always practical in everyday life, though. What you and Jamie have just walked through together, that is what makes and strengthens a marriage.
Joe Dorough - September 1, 2021 10:08 am
My wife and I celebrated our sixtieth anniversary in August and the price of eggs hasn’t gone up very much in this time! Love your columns!❤️
Deb Warner - September 1, 2021 10:24 am
My mom balanced a lot of eggs over the years. I introduced her to your blog a few months back and and she looked forward to that daily email I set up for her, especially during the first 10 lonely days she was alone in a hospital fighting Covid. Then things began to spiral and she wasn’t reading anything that last week. Thanks for keeping her company for awhile. She & Dad should’ve celebrated their 65th anniversary yesterday but instead he was with me at a funeral home.
Joey - September 1, 2021 4:04 pm
To Deb Warner:
I am so sorry. God bless you and your dad.
Billie Padgett - September 1, 2021 7:46 pm
Deb, I am so sorry for your loss. My husband of 56 years is in hospital fighting COVID and a rare blood infection that was found after having to return to hospital 3rd time. Has spent 27 days so far.
Sean, I loved reading about the love between you and your mother-in-law, Mother Mary. It is evident the respect and love you generously gave her through the years will also be “heaped” upon your Jayme in your life together. Eight weeks of classes and a notebook do not teach that special kind of love.
Harriet - September 1, 2021 10:30 am
That’s hilarious Sean! What country do you want to visit not in the US – The Grand Canyon! I bet they are the happiest couple ever!
I love reading your stories every morning.
Randy Jones - September 1, 2021 10:42 am
You have such a sweet soul ! I wish I knew you! I’m enjoying your writings
LauraD - September 1, 2021 11:44 am
In my church we had pre-cana requirements but no egg walking tests. My husband’s take away from several hours of counseling was the following advise. ‘If you are having an arguments with your spouse, do not go to work and share the details of “fight”. The next day you and your spouse will have settled your disagreement and you will still be in love but your coworkers will only remember the negative statements you made about your spouse.’
Joey - September 1, 2021 4:01 pm
To Laura D:
Sarah - September 1, 2021 11:50 am
Gretchen Hitchcock - September 1, 2021 11:57 am
I do love you Sean. I think it’s because you love Jamie and others with such fullness of spirit. May the Lord keep and bless you both.
Helen De Prima - September 1, 2021 12:27 pm
54 years for us last week — if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Kathy - September 1, 2021 12:29 pm
I know what you mean; we hit 49 years next week. The most important things you mentioned were “we’ve laughed a lot” and “we…lie in bed and hold each other.”
Sad in Texas - September 1, 2021 12:50 pm
Some can go 46 years and not do either one. 😢
Bill Harris - September 1, 2021 12:39 pm
Thank you Sean for another sweet story.
Ginger - September 1, 2021 12:51 pm
Such a beautiful and poignant story. Loved it❤
Shelton A. - September 1, 2021 1:00 pm
God bless you and Jamie. Congrats on your upcoming 20th anniversary! Wow! We had marriage classes in the Episcopal church too. Thank the Lord I never got a question like yours. Glad you answered correctly…that’s a tough one, Sean.
Johnnie Blackburn - September 1, 2021 1:15 pm
I wish all marriages were made in Heaven, that couples all lived to be 100, and that they both died on the same day holding hands.
Paul McCutchen - September 1, 2021 1:16 pm
Is it just me or did I miss the answer to Jamie’s question? Some questions women ask you have to just “put on a helmet” and answer.
Debbie g - September 1, 2021 1:24 pm
Enjoy your anniversary!!!!! Love y’all !!!!! And congratulations 😀❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
Nancy Crews - September 1, 2021 1:25 pm
Robyn - September 1, 2021 1:34 pm
You’re the best Sean. You and Jamie!
Rachael Counselman - September 1, 2021 1:58 pm
How do you always manage to write something sweeter and better than the time before….
Christina - September 1, 2021 2:00 pm
I love the way you love each other through all the egg tests and folding chairs of life. The certificate proved it 😂
Janet W. - September 1, 2021 2:18 pm
20 years? Something has worked!
DiAn - September 1, 2021 2:20 pm
Beautiful! May there be 20 more years for you both! – Keep on writing, Sean! – Thanks!
Me and Her via Sean Dietrich – Shhhh… - September 1, 2021 2:39 pm
[…] Me and Her […]
Cindy - September 1, 2021 3:12 pm
Lisa Wilcox - September 1, 2021 3:43 pm
Aww!! I LOVED this so much! My husband and I had to take said classes as well but we didn’t get to play said games 🙂
Susie, as well - September 1, 2021 5:36 pm
I have noticed several commenters suggesting that Sean write a novel. Check out Amazon, he has written several novels and books, of which I have read and thoroughly enjoyed many. Anyhoo, always love you, Sean!
Dawnie B - September 1, 2021 5:39 pm
Everyone should be required to take marriage classes before they live together! Then there would be a lot fewer single parents struggling to survive. I don’t mean the kind where spoons & eggs are required 😅
AlaRedClayGirl - September 1, 2021 6:09 pm
We also had to take the pre-Cana classes before marriage. We must’ve gotten something out of the classes since we celebrated 36 years yesterday.
Linda Moon - September 1, 2021 6:18 pm
Nothing…repeat…ZERO, ZIPPO, NADA… prepares couples for what’s ahead in married life. I should know. I’ve been there at the traditional Baptist class and have survived marriage as of today, the date of our Wedding Anniversary. And I’ve survived breast cancer. I love you JAMIEANDSEAN.
Jenny Young - September 1, 2021 6:52 pm
Charlie & I went through a class like that! I guess it worked, we’ve been married 34 yrs.
I’ve heard a modern day marriage test is to pay bills together using dial up internet!
steveleachman - September 1, 2021 8:12 pm
My wife and I attended the shorter, one afternoon Methodist version. Questions were “Do you want children? Do you understand there will be disagreements and fights? Remember that you love this person when you fight.” It must have worked because we’ve been married for 42 years.
Bill - September 1, 2021 8:37 pm
My wife and I went to a Lutheran marriage encounter years ago. It was similar to your Baptist one. But that’s not important. I remember that class and the activities we had to go thru. Some were funny, some were embarrassing and some were just strange, but all was fun and taught us things about each other. On Aug. 20th this year, we celebrated our 50th anniversary after this and three fine sons and their families. WE must have done something right with the help of God.
Karen Snyder - September 1, 2021 9:01 pm
Classes or not, both parties need the same values, expectations, and goals. When you have those, all else falls into place, but without them, no amount of pre-vow eggs and folding chairs will make a difference. Fortunately, I subsequently had sixteen years and twenty-three days with Mr. Right before he was unexpectedly called Home, and there were no classes, only life-experiences and caring to guide us.
Congratulations to you and Jamie on nearly 20 years. May there be many, many more.🧡
Suellen - September 2, 2021 12:38 am
Our pre-marital counseling was done privately and we had to take a long personality test. Our Pastor said that he didn’t have any reservations in marrying us because we answered everything almost exactly the same. We’ve been married 29 years on the 19th.
Chasity Davis Ritter - September 2, 2021 11:21 pm
You should frame that and give it her on your next anniversary… or Valentine’s…. something sweet and romantic anyway. Actually I think the first year is paper maybe but still it would be a fun memory. Buuuuuttt…. I’m sure she reads these just like we do and already knows you found it. She may even read all the comments so she wouldn’t be surprised either. Still I think it’s pretty cool. ❤️
Joe Graham - September 3, 2021 5:44 am
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - September 3, 2021 2:54 pm
Robert Chiles - September 5, 2021 5:24 pm
We barely survived marriage encounter, but marriage itself has been a breeze for 46 years.