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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.
Posted on: Monday, January 30, 2017
Five tips to get you started on the path to a happy marriage.
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.
Posted on: Friday, January 13, 2017
by Erika Marie at onesimplemama.com.
101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each Other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do by Betsy Kerekes and Jennifer Roback Morse.
After reading and reviewing 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage: Simple Ways for Couples to Grow Closer to God and to Each Other , Betsy emailed me last Fall and asked if I’d like to read their newest book, 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person. I really enjoyed the layout from their first book with a very short one-page reflection for each tip, it was very easy to read and the tips were simple and easily applicable. After reading through this new one, providing 101 tips for those who aren’t married yet, I enjoyed it just as well for the same reasons as their first.
Obviously I’m married already and don’t have to worry about dating anymore (thank goodness!), I still found the tips very interesting and helpful. I lent it to a single friend who said that while she’s not really ready for a book like this quite yet as she’s not seriously dating anyone right now, she still enjoyed the ease of reading the tips and could tell it could be useful to someone in a more serious relationship.
I’d recommend this book as a gift for a single friend or family member – as long as they are open to it!
Posted on: Tuesday, December 13, 2016
This article was first published at Fathers for Good on November 23, 2016.
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.
Posted on: Monday, November 21, 2016
by Betsy Kerekes
This article was first posted at Catholic Lane on November 17, 2016.
It seems many people have marrying an idiot as their goal. The amount of couples getting divorced proves to me that many have already become experts. Sadly, there are still those hold-outs who insist on taking their vow of “till death do us part” seriously even when they get bored with one another or a more interesting/exciting/attractive person comes along.
To those old-fashioned people who care that divorce harms children in drastic, life-altering ways, or who still think difficulties in marriage are worth overcoming rather than throwing in the towel, this article is not for you. You need to get with the times. To the rest of you who wish to join the cultural norm of marrying an idiot and eventually getting divorced only to marry yet another idiot, please keep reading. I will help you find fulfillment.
Here are five steps to get you started:
Who cares about Mr. Right? Just go with Mr. Right Now. Your biological clock is ticking! Sure, you could break up with this person, stop wasting time, and go find your perfect match, but why take the risk? Do you want to be an old maid for the rest of your life? Ignore that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that’s telling you you’re making a huge mistake. You can rationalize away all his or her flaws. Besides, you can change this person. People always change, especially people with addictions of any kind. They’ll get better once you’re married. Just wait and see.
As in do you both want them and/or how many? Talking about how you’ll raise them and educate them is a total mood killer. So what if you find out later that one of you wants to homeschool them while the other insists they’d be better off in public school? Or if one of you wants to protect their innocence, while the other says you ought to throw them to the wolves because it will make them stronger! Sheltering is bad for children. Let them make their own choices, form their own opinions. At least agree that you will not form the consciences of your children. That is not your job as parents. But in order to marry an idiot, be sure you don’t agree on these issues. Or better yet, don’t discuss them beforehand at all.
Yes, they have an objective outside opinion, but you’re right in there! The warm fuzzies and exciting newness is all you need. It will last FOR EVER. It’s all about your emotion. If you feel good being around this person, that’s all you need. People on the outside looking in just don’t get it. They don’t know you!
Doodling while the experts speak or checking your Facebook page is a definite must. That lady going on and on about the importance of finances and how you ought to have a plan for who is doing what and how you’ll handle money—she knows nothing.
And that little test they give but insist isn’t really a test but just a measure of your compatibility—it’s totally a test. What right have these people to question your fitness to marry one another? Their little test will tell you nothing. In fact, just copy each other’s answers. That’ll show those priests and marriage counselors to try to find any areas that you two need to discuss before the wedding. Can’t they see how in love you are? What more do you need? You’re totally ready!
How else will you find out if you’re compatible? Clearly, playing house is a good warm up for the real thing. It doesn’t in any way mean that you don’t fully trust one another to take the plunge. Sure, there are countless studies saying that cohabitation is bad for your marriage, and that you’re chances of divorce increase drastically. Yes, the National Marriage Project stated “no positive contribution of cohabitation to marriage has ever been found,” but what do they know? You can beat those odds. So what that that’s what everyone thinks and is clearly wrong? They’re not you. You’re special. You’re different from everyone else. Do what feels right and nothing else matters.
Congratulations, faithful readers. If you have followed these five easy steps, you too can marry an idiot.
Betsy Kerekes is co-author of 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage (Ave Maria Press 2013) and 101 Tips for the Marrying the Right Person (Ave Maria Press 2016). She also blogs at Parentingisfunny.wordpress.com.
Posted on: Tuesday, November 15, 2016
By Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This article was first posted
Two marriage-and-family writers have teamed up to put together a book of tips for Catholic singles seeking marriage. Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes compiled 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person. Subtitled “Helping Singles Find Each Other, Contemplate Marriage and Say I Do,” the book is divided into several sections (depending on what point in a relationship you’re in at the moment):
Faithfully Catholic from start to finish, this book is designed to help young adult Catholics at all stages of relationships. Some tips are designed for solo reflection; others will provide good and necessary conversation-starters for couples. In the introduction, the authors note that our culture places many significant hurdles in the way of singles discerning marriage. They go on to state that they included two chapters on cohabitation because this is “one of the most significant marriage-preparation challenges faced by churches today;” the authors present solid advice without casting blame, and encourage couples to seek–and follow–pastoral advice.
These 101 tips are short, none longer than a page, but they are candidly challenging and surprisingly substantive.
Posted on: Monday, November 14, 2016
This article was first published at atxcatholic.com.
Today’s review is of a short book, so this will be a short review. Following on the heels of their successful book 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage , Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes have released a guide for getting to marriage in the first place. This new title basically begged me to read it: 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each Other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do. Yes, please! In this tiny tome, I found much to support my previous thoughts about important premarital decisions and a few new points to ponder.
As the authors note, it’s much easier to have a happy marriage when you’ve married the right person in the first place. Thus, most of the book is given over to how to improve yourself as a single, how to date wisely, and what to look for when the possibility of marriage pops over the horizon. They’re definitely on the right track there. I have never been married, but I used to do marriage prep (for other couples, not for myself), and I have a personal interest in improving the way marriages begin. Starting off on the right foot sounds like a good way to set yourself up for marital bliss.
Photo by Billy Quach
Some standout tips are:
16. When the relationship begins to get serious, seek the opinion of an objective third party, with emphasis on “objective.”
They suggest parents or siblings. When you marry someone, you marry their family, too, and family will still be with you even if the romance ends.
25. Do not date someone you wouldn’t consider marrying.
This wanders into an unclear zone. Similar advice has caused many people to not date at all, insisting that they have to know someone well enough to know they’d marry them before they will go on a date. How, then, do you get to know someone? Most people are worth one date, but I agree that you shouldn’t stay in a relationship unless you see it going somewhere.
45. Does the other person care enough to help cheer me up when I’m down or commiserate with me when I’m upset—whichever I prefer?
This is crucial. I am a commiserator. Pollyannas drive me crazy. I know they mean well, but it’s quite difficult to already be feeling down about whatever my stressor is and then also be upset about my partner’s failed attempt at stress relief!
Posted on: Monday, October 24, 2016
by Marcia Segelstein
One of the first sermons I heard at the Catholic parish where I would eventually be received into the Church was on the subject of marriage. The priest spoke about the relationship between a husband and wife as being indissoluble. Like siblings or parents and children, he told us, spouses formed a different, but equally permanent, bond with each other. It was as though a light bulb went on for me. “Of course,” I thought. “That makes perfect sense!” It was, simply put, the Catholic definition of marriage.
So while I firmly believe that commitment is the most critical ingredient for a marriage as it’s meant to be, choosing the right partner is pretty important, too.
Jennifer Roback Morse and her colleague at the Ruth Institute, Betsy Kerekes, have just released a new book called 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do. It’s an easy read chock full of great advice.
I’ve narrowed their tips down to my top ten favorites, in some cases combining a few.
1) Pray. Pray for encouragement, guidance, and consolation. Pray that you find your future spouse. Pray for him or her. And, as Morse and Kerekes put it, “If you have no prayer life, get one. Right away. For real. You think life is tough now, searching for the right person? Wait until you have to put up with each other – and kids.”
2) Be friends first. My husband started out as my best friend, so I can attest to the wisdom of this advice. It is, as the book says, “an excellent, no-pressure way of getting to know each other without stress or expectations.” It’s also a great way to avoid the pitfalls of the hook-up culture, where physical intimacy comes first, and emotional intimacy not so much.
3) Keep your expectations real. Fight the inclination to expect fairy-tale romance or love at first sight. Or, as Morse and Kerekes write, “This is real life. Your Prince (or Princess) Charming will not magically appear as you sing to the wildlife in the forest.” Nor will your perfect soul mate magically bump into you at Starbucks. You might find your future spouse there. But there’s no such thing as a perfect soul mate.
4) Don’t waste your time. It’s OK to want commitment. If the person you’ve been dating for months doesn’t exclusively want to be with you, ask yourself if he or she is worth it.
5) Try to imagine the future. Specifically, try to imagine the person you’re dating as the parent of your children. Ask yourself if you can picture him or her as a role model for them. “If not,” say Morse and Kerekes, “move on.”
6) Picture introducing your potential future spouse to friends and family. Would you be proud? Or would you find yourself embarrassed or ashamed of some aspect of his or her character? If so, some reevaluating is in order.
7) Take parents into consideration. Or, as the book suggests, “Evaluate your significant other’s relationship with his or her parents as well as your relationship with your own parents.” Most people have some unresolved issues with their parents. Try to determine if you’re ready to live with the consequences of your loved one’s, and take a hard look at your own.
8) Stay chaste. Sexual activity releases hormones that cause feelings of bonding, especially in women. Your ability to think clearly and rationally about what may be the most important decision of your life will be clouded by a hormonal fog otherwise.
9) Don’t live together. Study after study has shown that cohabitating before marriage is not a good idea. The authors put it bluntly: “Ignore the hype from popular culture: couples who live together prior to marriage are more likely to divorce than those who don’t.”
10) When the time comes, focus on the marriage, not the wedding. Keep Bridezilla in check and take this advice from Morse and Kerekes: “Take a deep breath, relax and go with the flow. This one day, though extremely important, is not as important as the rest of your lives.”
Posted on: Monday, October 24, 2016
by Terri Kimmel
This article was first published on October 24, 2016, at CatholicLane.com.
In today’s electronic world of tweets and status updates, communicating with brevity is everything. 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do by the Ruth Institute’s Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes speaks to the internet generation in a language and format that keeps up with the frenetic pace.
Being in my mid-40’s I don’t consider myself technically (pun intended) part of the internet generation. Still, even my middle-aged brain has become accustomed to absorbing information in short spurts. 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person conveys timeless wisdom to a time-crunched world. I loved this about the book. It is ultra-concentrated, but penetrates and enriches in a way that is fresh, relevant, and relatively effortless for the reader. It also has a wonderful list of additional resources at the back for those who would like to delve deeper into a subject.
The objective of the book is (from the book’s cover) “Helping Singles Find Each Other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do.” Written as a kind of prequel to an earlier book by the same authors, 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person impresses me most by the way it fearlessly goes into the dark places that our culture takes single people and meets them there with light, truth, and tenderness.
I am a child of divorced parents. I remember how my past created anxiety for me when I was preparing to get married. Jennifer and Betsy, the authors, tackle this issue head on. “The long-term effects of divorce crescendo in young adulthood. . . . Don’t be discouraged if either of you is a child of divorce. Instead, give this risk factor the seriousness it deserves. Get some help for whatever issues you may have.” Such candor and clarity would have been a comfort to me as I was preparing to get married.
Boldly addressing topics that our politically-correct culture often overlooks or ignores, the authors meet the reader where he/she is on the issue, explain the pitfall, and give friendly and easy-to-understand advice. There is no hesitation to “go there” on the tough questions. They even acknowledge that men and women are different! Scandalous, right? Who does that anymore? Tip #82 in the book says, “Be aware that a long-term cohabiting situation often puts women at a disadvantage compared to men.”
It’s a fascinating read even for someone like me who has been married almost a quarter century. Having read the book I feel better equipped to mentor the people who frequently ask me questions about marriage and/or parenting. (Having nine kids makes me a default resource in the minds of a lot of people.)
One of the sections is a list of “Do Not’s” followed by a brief explanation. Here’s a sampling of topics: “Ladies, Do Not: Dress like a floozy”; “Do Not: Date Someone Just to Annoy Your Parents”; “Do Not: Agree to marry someone because it’s expected.” It’s the kind of book that I could pick up, browse through for just a few minutes, learn something valuable, and then put down until later. I think this format will appeal to those in marriage preparation ministry, both priests and lay people. It’s the most user friendly marriage prep book I’ve ever seen.
The book is divided into several sections, starting with tips on finding the right person. It moves through discerning while dating/courting, into considerations about cohabitating, followed by a section on what to do if you’re already cohabitating. It ends with questions to ask yourself right up to the wedding. “Ask yourself one last time: Do I feel at peace with my decision to marry this person?” Every step provides insight based on the combined wisdom and experience of forty-five years of marriage of the authors who represent two generations and two very different sets of life experiences.
Jennifer Roback Morse, the founder of the Ruth Institute, has a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester and taught economics at the university level. She tells us in the book that she cohabitated with her husband before marriage saying, “Not all my expertise in this area is book learning. I can attest that the research I report in this book is true.”
Betsy Kerekes is a homeschooling mom of three young children, a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the editor and director for online publications at the Ruth Institute. The two very diverse points of view, joined by fidelity to truth and the common objective of mentoring those seeking a strong marriage, combine to create a depth of strength and wisdom that is valuable to anyone seeking a long-lasting, holy, happy marriage.
I truly loved everything about this book. I plan to recommend it to my pastor and the director of family life in our diocese. It’s also now on my list of books to give engaged couples, along with books by Christopher West, Gregory Popcak, and Natural Family Planning information. If you know of a couple wherein one or both do not like to read self-help books, this book is exceptionally easy to read and stuffed with good information. I think it’s an appropriate alternative resource to longer, more involved reads.
My favorite thing about 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person is that it is thorough without being tedious. My daughter married two years ago. I remember her telling me that she was disappointed with marriage preparation. She wanted topics to talk about. She also told me that she felt the priest who was leading her preparation was at a loss because my daughter and her fiancé were chaste and not already living together. The priest told her she and her fiancé were anomalies. The beauty of 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person is that it covers all the bases. My daughter would have found it useful.
I highly and enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone interested in helping marriages succeed.
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