Ruth Speaks Out

This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.


Cohabiting: Should you?

by Betsy Kerekes at Chastity Project

The Catholic Church is so behind the times. What does it know? Things have changed. Everyone is living together now. It’s no big deal.

But, as it happens, completely secular studies back up what the Church has been telling us all along: cohabiting is bad for your relationship.


The National Marriage Project (not affiliated with the Church) did a thorough study of cohabitation and concluded: “No positive contribution of cohabitation to marriage has ever been found.”

If you think it’s smart to take your potential future marriage for a test drive, counter-intuitive as it may seem, you’re actually sabotaging your marriage before it begins.

Couples who cohabit are more likely to get divorced. Weird, right? Here’s what seems to be happening: Cohabiting couples often stay on their best behavior, knowing they still need to “win the other over.” Once they’re married, they tend to let things slide, making the other person wonder what happened. (I’ve seen it happen.) At least one member of the couple expects their relationship to become stronger with marriage, but in reality, the opposite happens. The end result: “You’re not the person I thought you were. I want a divorce.”

The other issue is that cohabiting couples, whether they realize it or not, are rehearsing distrust. Half a commitment is no commitment. Each member of a cohabiting couple is keeping one foot out the door. This attitude, conscious or not, can carry into married life, making it harder to keep the marriage bond permanent.

Cohabiters often want steady companionship, cheaper rent, and sexual availability, making cohabitation a utilitarian act. This amounts to a relationship that says, “I’m willing to let you use me, as long as you’re willing to let me keep using you.” Does that sound like real love?

Shacking up or even just sleeping together clouds a person’s judgment. Sex makes you physiologically attach to your partner, whether he/she is good for you or not. Attachment neurochemicals, such oxytocin and vasopressin produce feelings of bliss when with the other person, whether he or she is right for you or not. That little happy kick makes it a whole lot easier to make excuses for and rationalize the normally questionable behavior of the other person, while ignoring the little voice inside telling you to end the relationship now.

For the ladies reading this, I hate to say it, but you are especially giving yourself a raw deal when you play house. The sad state of affairs is that a woman’s marriageability decreases with age. Older men can easily marry younger women in our society, so a relationship break-up, even late in the game, isn’t as big of a deal for men as it is for women.

Consider the consequence of being in a cohabiting relationship that doesn’t work out. You’ve spent years with this guy, hoping you’ll get married and telling yourself that once you do, your future is secure. But what if it’s not? Now you’ve wasted the best years of your young adult life; meanwhile, your pool of eligible young bachelors has diminished.

Men, on the other hand, have a wide age-range to work with, and given the choice, will often opt for a younger, smoother-skinned companion than one with a more well-worn look. Again, it’s a crappy system, but for men accustomed to a culture of try-until-you-buy, and when that doesn’t work, upgrade to a newer model, women are too often left in the cold.

The moral of this story is: avoid the temptation to do what everyone else is doing. Cohabiting only wastes your best years. Keep sex out of the relationship in order to know if the feelings are real. You’ll save so much time, and a great deal of heartache, in the long run.

_______________________________

Betsy Kerekes is co-author, with Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, of 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person and 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage. Her newest book is Be a Happier Parent or Laugh Trying. She can be found at her blog, parentingisfunny.wordpress.com or on twitter @BetsyK1.


Do You Want To Be a Happier Parent?

, at Integrated Catholic Life

Raising children isn’t as easy as it looks in those soft-focus magazine and television ads. I think it might be some kind of ruse designed to bamboozle us into peopling the earth (and buying all the products for it). Actual children are messy, unreasonable, and they’re around for such a long time! It turns out it takes more than absorbent paper towel and animal shaped multi-vitamins to raise good kids! It takes happy, loving parents.

It’s the rare parents, however, who don’t admit they’re in over their heads upon the arrival of their first bundle of joy. To get through this extreme sport known as parenting, it is essential to seek out the commiseration and encouragement of fellow parents-in-the-trenches to compare scars, swap tactics, and share a whole mess of humorous anecdotes. And also to remind us what our goal is in this crazy endeavor: eternal happiness for the whole family.



I have the just the thing for you! I recently read Betsy Kerekes’ new book, Be a Happier Parent or Laugh Trying. You may know Betsy from her humorous blog, Parenting is Funny, or from the two books she co-wrote with Jennifer Roback Morse, 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage and 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person. Betsy is flying solo this time – and she was tipsy when she wrote this book too! (It contains more tips than the apron of the prettiest bar maid at Oktoberfest.)


It’s clear that she’s a happy, fun person (Betsy, not the bar maid), who followed the advice from her previous books. It’s not that she comes across as the perfect wife and mom, nor is she preachy and didactic. In fact, many of the pro tips that pack this slim volume were gleaned from her myriad mom friends. She shares her struggles and successes with a healthy dose of humility and humor. Well, maybe it’s more a gluttonous dose of humor – because, it’s huge.

I guarantee, by a few chapters in, you will feel like you’re sitting in her kitchen, enjoying coffee with the author, sharing parenting stories, while your children play (or bicker) with hers nearby. The writing is conversational and encouraging.

We can all use a little more encouragement these days when it’s so easy to feel like a failure if you can’t keep up with the “perfect” example of those moms we see on television, blogs, and magazines. You know, the examples they save to show the public for our emulation – even though hey probably don’t live up to it either. Betsy is refreshingly real. While she does give examples from her own successful experiences, she shares her failures as well. She never comes across as superciliously saying, “Just do it like I do; it’s so easy!” This is not an instruction manual.

Each of the ten chapters is headed with an inspiring quotation from a saint. It’s just one of the things that make apparent Betsy’s goal of not merely curating a fun-filled family environment, but of helping us to build a happy family in the truest sense. Aristotle names happiness as our ultimate goal and virtue as the means to get there. Kerekes leads us through various ways to grow in virtue as a parent and help our kids do so as well, and always with the purpose of reaching our true end of eternal happiness – as well as daily happiness gleaned from a loving, peaceful household.



There are chapters that focus on having fun, dealing with tears (yours as well as your kids’), discipline, the frustration of trying to keep an orderly house, teenagers, matters of faith, and gaining help from the saints. She shares a couple of additional essays on the heartbreak of infertility and the loss of children. As a mother raising four kids, she has experienced her share of all of these topics. Her irrepressibly positive attitude has carried her through difficulties and is uplifting to read.

There is a good deal of wisdom behind her cheery words. In the pages of this little book, you will learn the housekeeping secret of “The Magic Chair” and of allowing angry kids slam doors. Betsy comes across as sort of a phlegmatic version of Mary Poppins steeped in Saint John Paul II’s teaching of respect for the dignity of the human person.

With the recent Mother’s Day and the approach of Father’s Day, this is a book to consider getting for yourself, your spouse, and anyone who has or is contemplating having kids any time in the future. You can even give it to your parish priest, because he can see from the pulpit the parents who might benefit from such a book.

It may take more than animal shaped multi-vitamins and absorbent paper towel to raise real life kids. This little book will give you a spiritual multi-vitamin pick-me-up to face your family with a renewed sense of happiness and humor.

 


101 Tips for a Happier Marriage: Simple Ways for Couples to Grow Closer to God and to Each Other

By Mary Ann Paulukonis at For Your Marriage

Where some books have a dedication, this book has a page with three centered lines.

“God is God.
You are not.
Your spouse is not.”

Those ten words sum up the philosophy of 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage. It is a slender, easy-to-read volume of 101 pages (plus an introduction and a few chapter heading pages), each with only two paragraphs: one spelling out the marriage tip and one saying a little more about it. How long could it take to read 202 paragraphs? But this book is not for speed-reading. Each tip needs to be thought about and practiced for at least a day, more likely for weeks and months. Therefore I would suggest reading no more than one page—two paragraphs—per day. Add another day, really just a few minutes, to read the Introduction.

Before getting to the tips, 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage starts off reviewing the bold commitments we make in a Catholic marriage: to love my spouse for the rest of my life, to love even if my spouse becomes difficult, to continue behaving lovingly even if my spouse becomes nearly impossible to live with, and to embrace marriage as my path to holiness. An engaged person might want to read 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage to get a good idea of how those commitments play out in everyday married life. A newly married person might want to read it shortly after the honeymoon, especially “after the honeymoon is over” emotionally. Anyone who wants a better marriage or who feels perturbed in marriage could make good use of the book.


“Simple Ways for Couples to Grow Closer to God and to Each Other” is an appropriate subtitle. All 101 tips are easy to understand and none require special understanding, training, or supplies. The reader needs only an open heart and a desire to grow. I wonder why the authors put God before “each other” in the subtitle. The book’s emphasis is on what the person who reads it can do to make a difference for the marital relationship. Growing closer to God will inevitably follow. If we tend to the ways in which God calls us, we will grow closer to the vocation’s author. Once we’ve said our marriage vows and entered the sacrament of marriage, we can be pretty sure that God is telling us to work on our commitments.

It is within marriage that we learn the true nature of spousal love. No longer “going together” or merely “living together,” we have pledged ourselves to one another and to mutually growing through true love’s joys and difficulties. Marriage and the love of husband and wife are good for the couple, for their children, their extended family, and for society. So this book has not only personal benefits for the reader and tip practitioner, but benefits rippling out into the family and the wider community from the loving marriage.

Many tips remind me of lessons I have learned in marriage or lessons I must still work on. In my mid-30s I practiced tip number 2, “Help your spouse grow by being the first to step outside the comfort zone.” I was having a spiritual “growth spurt” and feared that my husband might not understand, might even resent my increased desire for prayer and the sacraments. It was a leap of courage to talk with him about my experiences and concerns. The discussion rewarded me as I was able to gain his support and to come to understand how his spirituality differed from mine. Now in my forty-fifth year of marriage I am putting new effort into tip number 46, “Use the Generosity Gauge, rather than the Fairness Filter.” Somewhere along the line I started filtering my perspective but I want to renew a generous attitude.

Do not buy this book to change your spouse. Do not give it to your spouse to work on. The tips are effective only when applied to oneself. If you change, your marriage will change. This book is also not for anyone dealing with domestic violence or addictions of any kind. It cannot replace specialized professional assistance.


Make Your Marriage an Even Happier One

Keeping your marriage healthy is paramount for your mental, physical, even financial health.

By Betsy Kerekes

This article was first published January 15, 2018, at Christian Post.

 

This time of year, people tend to look at their waistline, their exercise goals, or that unfinished project in the garage. How about a New Year's resolution that's more lasting and more important? Keeping your marriage healthy is paramount for your mental, physical, even financial health. It has a powerful impact on your children and influences your friends and other family members as well. That's a big responsibility! Here are 10 tips for making your marriage stronger and happier than ever.

1. Remember that love is a decision, not a feeling.

It's impossible to keep warm fuzzy feelings for your spouse constantly, especially when you have children taking up much of your time and energy. In the year ahead, there are sure to be challenging times, but remember to love your spouse, even when you don't feel like it. Your children are important, but your relationship with your spouse comes first. Period. Keep making the decision to love him or her even, and especially, when it's hard.

2. Put your spouse first.

Even though we all learned to share in kindergarten, we are still selfish beings. We want what we want when we want it. Technology and society as a whole aren't great at helping and encouraging us to break this habit, but the happily functioning marriage should be anything but selfish. Always ask yourself, what would your spouse like? Whether it's what to eat for dinner, what movie to watch, or what dessert you share at a restaurant, let your spouse choose. Having a happy spouse makes you a happy spouse. Let his or her happiness bring you happiness.


3. Keep dating each other.

Just because you're married, and especially if you have kids, doesn't mean your dating life is over. You still need to spend quality time together, or out with friends, but especially alone together. Getting out of the house for a date isn't always possible with sitters or finances, but you can have dates in, too. Rather than spend your evenings in separate rooms on separate phones, unplug - everything except your TV. Snuggle on the couch with popcorn or a glass of wine and a good movie. Better still, pull out a deck of cards or a board game. Every couple should have one indoor and one outdoor activity that they enjoy doing together. Schedule it on the calendar if necessary.

4. Have couch time.

This should happen daily. If it's difficult to talk about your day at the dinner table because you're too busy haranguing Penelope to eat her peas, or keeping Bobby from dunking his face in his soup, get your quality time on the couch when the children aren't around. Sit next to each other. Snuggle. Have at least some part of you touching. Physical touch soothes you. And as an added bonus, if you're touching even in some small way when you're upset with each other, the physical contact will ease tension and help you work out your troubles in a calmer, quicker manner.

5. When it's time to speak your mind, do so in a gentle way.

Don't keep a laundry list and dump all your grievances at once. No one likes being attacked. This is all the more reason to speak up when something is getting you down. And whenever possible, do so in a self-effacing way to lessen the blow. For instance: "We should probably both work on keeping the kitchen a little tidier." Even if you know full well it's the other person who's a slob, this phrase comes off much nicer than: "You need to clean up your mess! I'm tired of picking up after you!" That approach only leads to more yelling, childish name calling, and pointless comparisons of who does what and how often. It never ends well. Instead, be nice.

6. Don't let Robin rule the roost.

If your devotion to your children has gotten to the point where it feels more like they're in charge, tension is bound to occur in your home. It might be with a spouse who disagrees with your discipline methods, or within yourself because you're whipped by your own two-year-old. When it comes to discipline, it's imperative that both parents are on the same page. When there are cracks in the foundation of the castle, Little Prince or Princess will find them and take full advantage, turning you into court jesters. Your marriage will be happier if an agreed upon discipline is firmly in place.

7. Always be open with communication.

Whether it's discussing synchronizing your parenting styles or realizing when you last had an intimate moment alone together, you need to be open and honest. "Communication is key" is a cliché, but they're also words to live by. If you have something to say to your spouse, out with it. If it's unfortunately negative but needs to be said, don't keep it bottled up where it will only fester and grow to the point of explosion. If it's something positive, all the more reason to share it! It takes ten positive statements to push aside the sting of a negative statement. Don't be stingy on the praise. Only be negative when absolutely necessary.

8. Go to sleep at the same time.

This provides you with another opportunity for communication: verbal or physical. You decide. Be open. Enjoy each other's company. If you're normally too tired to do more than collapse into bed and fall directly to sleep, get yourselves in bed sooner. This is more needed couple time.

9. Maintain an attitude of gratitude.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are not Wonder Woman or Superman. You cannot do it all on your own. Sometimes you'll need help from your spouse. Allow your spouse to help you. Ask for help, but don't demand it. Ask kindly without whining or complaining. And accept graciously. When help comes unsolicited, be grateful and don't shy away from showing your gratitude. The words "thank you" and "I love you" go a long way. Kisses can go even longer.

10. Focus on the positive things in your life.

Maybe you're not as thin as you'd like to be and the garage or laundry room are still a mess, but how adorable was it when the baby blew raspberries at you? You may have been in your pajamas all day, but your spouse brought home dinner! Can't remember the last time you showered? Try instead to remember your wedding day in every blissful detail. Don't get down on the negative. Nobody ever promised life was easy. You do the best you can. If you're Debbie Downer, you won't be fun for your spouse to be around. Everything else will get taken care of in due time. Take that to heart by enjoying all the good and filtering out the bad.

Betsy Kerekes, editor at the Ruth Institute, is co-author with Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage (Ave Maria Press 2013) and 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person (Ave Maria Press 2016). She blogs at Parentingisfunny.wordpress.com.


101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person

A chat with one of the authors.

by Tamara El-Rahi

This article was first posted at Mercatornet on December 5. 2016.

Betsy Kerekes is Director of Online Publications at the Ruth Institute and co-author with Dr Jennifer Roback Morse of a new book: 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each Other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do (find a few of those tips here). With so much out there on marriage and relationships, I asked her a few questions about the book and how it is different to other material.

What made you and Jennifer think there was a need for this book? Are there any other books like this out there and if so, what makes this one different from the rest?


Too many people get divorced. That's clear enough. We hope that with this book we can help people take the preventative measure of giving this decision the seriousness and discernment it requires. We've seen far too often the heartache of family breakdown and the devastating effect divorce has on kids. If we can do something to help end that vicious cycle, we'll do it. Our first book, 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage, has that goal as well. This book is like the prequel to that book.

Undoubtedly there are books out there along the same lines as ours. What makes ours different is how compact it is. We don't mince words. We tell it like it is as quickly and concisely as possible. We've been told this is a great strategy for male readers, which wasn't our aim, but is a happy side-effect.

Also, our book is undoubtedly Catholic. Without being preachy, we convey the tenets of the faith, not because we think this book will only help Catholics, but because the long-standing teachings of our faith have proven correct. People are happier when they do things the right way, in the right order. A lot of heartache can be prevented by people following the guidelines of the Catholic faith. Along those lines, we delve extensively into the harms of cohabitation - a misstep that affects otherwise faithful Catholics because it's become so commonplace. Commonplace does not equal a good idea. In this case, quite the opposite actually, and we give evidence from secular studies to back up what the Church already says in this regard.

101 tips sounds an awful lot - is marriage that complicated these days?

Maybe not that complicated, but that important. We start at the level of a single person, with tips on where to look and how to get yourself into a marriage-ready position. Then we discuss questions to ask if you're dating someone and are thinking he or she might be The One. When things get more serious, we lay out the major areas where agreement and compatibility are crucial. We have tips running the full gamut of readers: single, dating, formerly married, older seeker, etc. We made sure there's something in here for everyone.

How do singles keep a balance between being too picky and not being picky enough when it comes to dating?

The simplest answer is, there are tips for that. A large portion of the book helps individuals answer these questions. In some cases, you should be picky. In other areas, you need to relax your aim. There's no real easy answer for this, but our tips help readers know how to walk that fine line.

Do you believe there is one right person for everyone?

I believe that God has a plan. If he wants you to get married, there's a person he has picked out for you. Finding that person requires prayer and careful discernment. It is possible to fall in love with the wrong person and miss the right person in the meantime. That's why prayerful openness and patience for following God's will are crucial.

If your spouse dies and God intends for you to remarry, lo and behold, you will discover another right person for you. He doesn't intend for you to do something and then make it impossible to carry it out. It's not about soulmates, it's about God's plan for getting you to Heaven. Marrying the right person ensures your vocation is on the right track. And your vocation, regardless of what it may be, is designed to get you to Heaven. If your vocation is marriage, this person will help you on your path to Heaven, and vice versa. Since God is infinitely wiser than we, not asking for his guidance is folly.

How did you compile your tips? From your own experience or perhaps that of friends and family?

Both. I remembered a lot of stories from others that helped contribute to my portions of the book, as well as a few from my own experience. My co-author, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, is more into the research aspect of things, so the "heavier" tips near the end of the book are mostly from her vast scientific knowledge of all-things marriage.

If a reader could come away from this book with one tip in mind, which would you want it to be?

Pray. Life is hard. Trying to go it alone adds undue stress. Maybe prayer doesn't magically make your life easier, after all, no one gets to Heaven without some measure of suffering, but it gives clarity and consolation. Know that God wants you to be happy, and if being married is his plan for your happiness, it will happen. Just be open and pay attention to him. My mantra for years and in all matters has been: patience and trust. I invite frustrated singles to use it as well.


Change Your Marriage For The Better Today

This review was first posted at Tampa Mediations on December 16, 2016.

You can start to change your own marriage today, simply by making a decision to be more generous: by being the first to forgive; by making allowances; by admitting you were wrong. These are an antidote to self-righteousness, the belief that “it’s not my fault”. There are other strategies, such as never using phrases such as “You always” or “You never” in disputes; being prepared to give way on unimportant issues; persevering in keeping the peace whenever possible.

Go out and get this book, “101 Tips for a Happier Marriage”. It is full of sage advice that would have been obvious to previous generations but, like the art of home cooking, seems to have fallen by the wayside in modern society.

Notice that the authors put God before “each other” in the subtitle. The book’s emphasis is on what the person who reads it can do to make a difference for the marital relationship. Growing closer to God will inevitably follow. If we tend to the ways in which God calls us, we will grow closer to Him. Once we’ve said our marriage vows and entered the sacrament of marriage, we can be pretty sure that God is telling us to work on our commitments.

Do not buy this book to change your spouse. Do not give it to your spouse to work on. The tips are effective only when applied to oneself. If you change, your marriage will change. This book is also not for anyone dealing with domestic violence or addictions of any kind. It cannot replace specialized professional assistance.


Finding Mr. (or Mrs.) Right

Found at Fathers for Good

New book outlines Catholic plan for marriage

If the “101 Tips” of this handy little book could be summed up in a few words, they would be: Know thyself. The wisdom of Socrates holds true today, though the modern dating scene may cause him to add: Know the other person, too.

Authors Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes, of the Ruth Institute, have culled a wealth of social science, psychology, common sense and personal insights in 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person (Ave Maria Press). The book serves as a sort of prequel to their 2013 release, 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage. But it would be simplistic to assume that if you read their latest book on dating you won’t need the earlier one on marriage. We all need help in getting our relationships right.

 


 

The authors are clear from the start: “Basically, the young adult Catholic dating scene is horrific.” A brief chat with young Catholics will confirm this statement. There are no rules, even the chaste and faithful are afraid to commit, and parents, parishes and priests – three strong forces for matchmaking in the past – have pretty much left young people to find their own way. Thus, this book is not only for the young Catholic searching for love, it is also for older folks who want to have some ready answers and advice for the young ones in their lives. It would also make a nice Christmas gift for those of dating age.

You can read these 122 pages in one night, skipping around the different topics. Tip No. 8 caught my eye: “Pray for your future spouse.” This is exactly what my future wife’s grade school teacher in the Philippines (a nun) told her class of girls one day. My wife followed the advice and sensed that she was not called to marry a man from her country, and thus was not at all afraid when the opportunity came for her to get a master’s degree in the United States. You never know where God will lead if you give him your heart in prayer.

Under the chapter “Best Practices,” there are these little gems: “Be friends first” and “Ladies: Let him be a man. Gentlemen: Be a man!” Under “Potential Pitfalls,” you will find warnings not to “think you can change him or her into the perfect image of your future spouse,” or “waste your time on someone who won’t commit to you.”

Here are more tips, randomly flipping the pages: “Keep your head. Guard your heart.” “Don’t expect a fairy-tale romance.” “Don’t expect love at first sight.”

There is a helpful section on the common practice of cohabiting that includes research and common sense on why couples should avoid it, and a practical guide on wedding planning if the relationship gets to that point.

This is an excellent, extremely readable book that a dating couple could easily read together, having a few laughs as well as some serious discussions. Fathers could also use this little volume to start a conversation with their son or daughter on some topics they probably should discuss before the kids leave home.

You can also read a Fathers for Good interview with Jennifer Roback Morse on her previous book on a happier marriage.

 

 



Change Your Marriage For The Better Today

A book review from TampaMeditations.com on 12/21/2016

you can start to change your own marriage today, simply by making a decision to be more generous: by being the first to forgive; by making allowances; by admitting you were wrong. These are an antidote to self-righteousness, the belief that “it’s not my fault”. There are other strategies, such as never using phrases such as “You always” or “You never” in disputes; being prepared to give way on unimportant issues; persevering in keeping the peace whenever possible.


Read this review by Mary Ann Paulukonis at For Your Marriage.

Go out and get this book, “101 Tips for a Happier Marriage”, written by Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes. It is full of sage advice that would have been obvious to previous generations but, like the art of home cooking, seems to have fallen by the wayside in modern society.

Notice that the authors put God before “each other” in the subtitle. The book’s emphasis is on what the person who reads it can do to make a difference for the marital relationship. Growing closer to God will inevitably follow. If we tend to the ways in which God calls us, we will grow closer to Him. Once we’ve said our marriage vows and entered the sacrament of marriage, we can be pretty sure that God is telling us to work on our commitments.

Do not buy this book to change your spouse. Do not give it to your spouse to work on. The tips are effective only when applied to oneself. If you change, your marriage will change. This book is also not for anyone dealing with domestic violence or addictions of any kind. It cannot replace specialized professional assistance.


Marriage Advice: Always Keep a Sense of Humor

In celebration of National Marriage Week, Ave Maria Press is featuring a short series of stories with important pieces of marriage advice. For more information about this celebration of National Marriage Week visit, www.avemariapress.com/marriageweek.

While they probably won’t admit it, every married person holds on to some little things that annoy them about their spouse. It may be the way the other person brushes their teeth, or makes the bed, or chews their food. Or maybe it is the annoying habit that they just can’t shake. It is always something minor, yet irritating, that can turn into something very annoying.

Betsy Kerekes, author of 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage, learned a valuable lesson when it came to these little annoyances.

“Keep a sense of humor,” she says, “and let minor things go.”

Betsy’s husband loves their kids. He wants them to be safe and make good choices. Like any parent, he tries to stop the kids when they are doing something wrong.

When he would see them doing something wrong, though, he would say “Stop! Stop! Stop!” three times. Always three times. He did this repeatedly.


This started to bug Betsy. It really started getting on her nerves to the point that she confronted him saying, “When the kids are doing something wrong, you can just say ‘stop’ one time! You don’t really have to repeat it over and over.”

Now, this confrontation might have led to a fight for a lot of couples. He could have gotten defensive, even angry.

Instead, he responded, “Okay . . . okay, okay, okay.”

They both laughed.

“I love his ability to keep things light-hearted,” Betsy said.

It didn’t take long for Betsy to realize that her husband was really having a hard time breaking his triple (or even quadruple) stop admonition. Instead of getting annoyed, she realized she should just let it go. He clearly couldn’t help it and what was the big deal, anyway?

Now, whenever that triple “stop” comes out again, she is reminded of their little joke. She smiles rather than getting annoyed because she’s able to keep a sense of humor about the situation. There’s no reason to turn it into a conflict because now they have a little inside joke to make each other smile.

“Little things are not worth getting upset over,” Betsy said, “and a sense of humor goes a long way to marital harmony.”


How to marry the right person

Five tips to get you started on the path to a happy marriage.

 
This article was first posted November 25, 2016, at Mercatornet.com.
 

If you are a take-your-vows-seriously type of person and believe in “till death do us part,” your life will be much simpler if you marry the right person to begin with. For some this seems a difficult task. Here are five tips to get you started.

1. If you’re dating someone to the point where things have crossed over that indefinable line into a “serious relationship,” stop and ask yourself if this is someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. Can you see this person as the mother or father of your children? If not, why are you wasting your time? Don’t put off the inevitable. It will only be harder later on for both of you. Meanwhile, the person who is right for you is out there still, waiting to meet that wonderfulness that is you. Or perhaps you already know him or her, but you’ve just been unavailable. Don’t stay with someone who isn’t right for you out of fear of being alone. Instead, get yourself one step closer to lifelong happiness—with the right person.

2. Ask the opinion of your mom or best friend


when it comes to your relationship with this person. They know you better than anyone and have an outsider’s view of your relationship. Does that person think you two are a good match? Do they like your significant other? If not, why? The tricky part here is to be open to the other person’s objective opinion. You may be filled with warm fuzzies just at the thought of this person, but those feelings will not last and will not sustain a marriage. There needs to be something backing the emotion. A person on the outside can see if your relationship has substance. Listen to that person.

3. Discuss children, finances, and in-law involvement. These are all issues that can cause conflict later on. If you truly love this person, learn to compromise. If you’re truly right for each other, you will agree on important areas such as these. If one of you wants seven kids and the other wants zero—you’ve most likely got a deal breaker. If one of you is a penny pincher and the other a spend-thrift, you may have conflict in your future life together. If one of you wants your mom essentially to live with you, while the other thinks a week-long visit every five years is sufficient, you’d best work that out now. Men, especially, have trouble saying no to their mother, but once the ring is on your finger, gentlemen, your wife becomes the most important woman in your life. She takes precedence. Your mom will need to understand that.

4. Once you’re engaged, take the marriage preparation seriously. Listen to the experts whose mission is to help you be sure you’re making the right decision and to have the best marriage possible. Engaged couples break up. It happens all the time, but better now than years, and children, down the road. Are there any nagging issues that you’ve been repeatedly pushing to the background or rationalizing away? Do you think he or she will eventually change, or that the grace from the sacrament of matrimony will fix everything? If that’s what you’re hoping for, you should know that it doesn’t work that way. Use this as a test: when you haven’t seen the other person for an extended amount of time, how do you feel when you do see him or her again? Does your heart sing or does it flop? Does it feel nothing at all? Take a hard, honest look at how you truly feel about this person. And do it now before it’s too late.

And finally and most importantly, if you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s when it comes to all the tips above, don’t blow it now by moving in together before the wedding. Cohabitation greatly increases your chances of divorce. What you don’t realize, and what society doesn’t tell you, is that living together means you don’t fully trust each other. “Playing house” is a mere rehearsal for those who don’t love or trust each other enough to do things right the first time. Instead, it’s using one another.

Real love cares about doing things right, in the right order. If you really love one another, and want to be together for the rest of your lives, don’t sabotage your future now. What’s waiting a few more months when you have a lifetime ahead of you? If you don’t believe me, keep this in mind: research by the National Marriage Project showed that “no positive contribution of cohabitation to marriage has ever been found,” and if you take the time to look, you’ll find lots of research stating the pitfalls of cohabitation—the stuff no one dares to talk about even though the evidence is overwhelming. Think you can beat the odds? So does everyone else. What makes you any different from them?

Remember that love is doing the right thing for the sake of the other person’s happiness and well-being, even, and especially, when it’s inconvenient to you. That may mean making the hard decision to break things off, or to wait to live together even though society may mock and misunderstand you. The greatest reward, a lifetime of married happiness, belongs to those who do the difficult, but honest and selfless acts. Best of luck to you!

Betsy Kerekes is Director of Online Publications at the Ruth Institute and co-author with Dr Jennifer Roback Morse of a new book: 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each Other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do.

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