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.


Man in threesome marriage: ‘This should be the future of relationships’

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by Fr. Mark Hodges

AUSTIN, Texas, May 22, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Two bisexual women and one man proclaim threesome marriage “should be the future of relationships” and that their threesome parenting is “setting a good example.”

Adam Lyons, 36, lives openly with two women, 28-year-old Brooke Shedd — with whom he has a two-year-old son, and 27-year-old Jane Shalakhova — who is eight months’ pregnant with his third son. He already has a seven-year-old stepson from yet another relationship.

“Three parents are better than two,” Lyons told the New York Post. “It enables us to manage daily life so much better.”

He says he notices “normal” two-person couples are often exhausted and struggle to keep up with work and children. “With three people, it’s logistically so much easier. … We share out the responsibilities, and it fits our sexual preferences too.”

“This should be the future of relationships, where people are able to enjoy love in any way they feel works,” Lyons advocated. “Three people and three parents makes so much sense to us.”


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Adam Lyons, Brooke Shedd (left), Jane Shalakhova, who is eight months’ pregnant, and 2-year-old son Dante

 

Shalakhova says she never wanted children until she joined the threesome. “I always thought that when you had a baby, you became a slave to your child,” she shared. But “with three parents, we can still have a social life, make time for one another, and share the parenting tasks so you don’t end up like the typical sleep-deprived mom.”

The unmarried polygamous arrangement has been going on for five years, which proves, Lyons says, “we’re a real family with healthy, happy kids.” All three say they are “setting a good example” for Lyons’ stepson, Oliver.

All three also admit they occasionally bring in a fourth sex partner. “We’re still open to fun when it comes along,” Lyons said. “We do sleep with other people outside the three of us” and “if we wanted to add someone, I’m sure we could.”

“We still make time to go to strip clubs together,” Shalakhova happily added. “We just hang out and have fun there.”

Shedd hints at a possible future political front in the culture wars. “I would definitely love to get married to Adam and Jane. It’s something we’ve always wanted, even though it’s not legal.”

Shedd says one thing is certain. “We definitely want a few more kids.”

Pro-marriage and family advocates say the threesome are in delusion.

“This is a form of child abuse, pure and simple,” National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown told LifeSiteNews. “A child has a mother and father … period. To introduce an additional sexual partner into the home is to create confusion and chaos for an innocent child.”

Brown said this proves what opponents of homosexual “marriage” knew all along.

“We predicted that this would be the next step with the court creating the legal fiction of same-sex ‘marriage:’ This is a further step down the path of sacrificing children’s real needs to the sexual desires of parents.”

“I pray for the children who are being robbed of their innocence in such a home,” Brown added.

Dr. Mark Regnerus, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, expressed concern to LifeSiteNews over a lack of stability for the children.

“From a social scientific perspective, this is an inherently unstable arrangement — and we know stability is good for children,” the professor explained.

“Adding children to the ‘mix’ is likely to destabilize the (polyamorous) arrangement, whereas it often functions to unite a marriage between a man and a woman,” Regnerus observed.

Jennifer Johnson, the Ruth Institute’s director of the Children of Divorce Project, has seen the damaging effects of non-traditional family structures on children.

“These adults have created a structural inequality for the children and are celebrating it,” she explained to LifeSiteNews. “This is very typical for adults in our culture, who place their sexual liberty ahead of family structure equality for their children.”

“Family structure equality means that kids are raised with their own married mother and father, and that they don’t have step and half siblings to contend with,” Johnson illustrated. “Mom, dad, kids. That is equality from the child’s point of view.”

Johnson’s book, Marriage and Equality: How Natural Marriage Upholds the Ideal of Equality for Children, notes:

“Children are observant. Any school-aged child can see which of them live with their own married parents and which do not. They can see that some kids know and are connected to both halves of their origins, and others are not. If a particular child thinks or feels something about the inequality in which he finds himself, his thoughts and feelings may not be welcome. This is because they cannot be welcome. To welcome those thoughts and feelings might cast doubt upon the structure of the family itself.”

This inner disconnect is most often only acknowledged years later, once the damage is done to the child.

“For example, the now-adult children of unilateral divorce are finding their voices and beginning to speak out,” Johnson said. “They were silent for many years because of not wanting to hurt their parents, feeling too afraid to reveal their true feelings, and feeling isolated.”

Johnson says the pain, insecurity, and inner conflict that adult children of non-traditional family structures witness to shows that polygamous arrangements like Lyons, Shedd, and Shalakhova’s are deeply harmful.

“They are now telling their stories, and what they have to say isn’t pretty,” Johnson said. “It will undermine the belief that ‘kids are resilient.’”

The current generation is cursing the coming generation with an unbearable psychological and emotional (and sexual) burden.

“I will not be surprised when all the other kids of other kinds of family structure inequality also grow up, find their voices, and tell the ugly truth about what it was like to have their own intact families sacrificed on the altar of sexual liberation,” Johnson added.

Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg pointed out that if Lyons’ “arrangement” is true, it confirms the many warnings of concerned Christians.

“Those of us who opposed the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples were routinely mocked for making ‘slippery slope’ arguments suggesting that such eliminating the male-female requirement for marriage would lead to further redefinitions, such as eliminating the requirement that marriage be limited to two people,” the senior fellow for policy studies told LifeSiteNews. “The slope is proving even more slippery than I might have imagined.”

Sprigg echoed his pro-family colleagues’ concern for the children.

“Living in a household with their mother, father, and another woman they also refer to as ‘Mom’ is likely to create confusion about their place in the world,” he explained. “As they grow older, there may well be rivalries between the half-siblings who have different mothers — as is clearly seen in the polygamous families of the Old Testament.”

Furthermore, polygamous relationships are unstable, Sprigg says.

“This ‘throuple’ is even more likely to eventually break up than a typical married couple, which can cause lasting trauma to a child,” he said. “While they present a rosy picture in this article, it is almost inevitable that jealousies would arise in this situation.”

“That’s not to mention the destructive role model of self-indulgent promiscuity that these three are providing for the children in their home,” the family advocate added.

“I would think that it is not only conservatives who should be concerned about such an arrangement, but feminists as well,” Sprigg noted. “One rarely hears of a woman sharing a household with multiple male sexual partners. If this model were to spread, it would mean more men would have difficulty finding wives, and a surplus of unmarried men in a society is a recipe for instability.”

“The one-man, one-woman model of marriage is one of the most egalitarian social institutions,” Sprigg concluded, “because it maximizes the likelihood that everyone, regardless of social status, will be able to find a suitable mate.”


Press Release: 'Go to Confession' Campaign

 

For immediate release:

“Families don’t just ‘break down.’ Marriages don’t just ‘fall apart.’ Somebody sins! So, go to Confession!” –Ruth Institute President, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Ruth Institute launches ‘Go to Confession’ Campaign

(March 14, 2017, Lake Charles, LA) During this season of Lent, The Ruth Institute has launched an online and billboard campaign encouraging people of all faiths to make things right with God. “Families don’t just ‘break down.’ Marriages don’t just ‘fall apart.’ Somebody sins!” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse stated in announcing the campaign. “That is why have launched a series of billboards and social media messages urging people to go to confession!”


Even in cases where one person has the major responsibility for fracturing the family, all family members can benefit from going to confession. “The injured parties may need help with bitterness, anger, emotional paralysis and many other issues. The grace of confession can help them,” Dr. Morse explained. “And of course, it goes without saying: if you have injured your family through addiction, abuse, adultery or desertion, go to confession. Jesus is waiting for you in the confessional and wants to forgive you. If you can’t tell him, in the person of the priest, that you are sorry, how are you ever going to be able to face your ex-spouse or your children?”

“Our ‘Go to Confession’ campaign reminds people that God is merciful and He will forgive us. What better time than during Lent?” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute said.

The Institute launched a billboard campaign in Lake Charles, LA, with messages: “Jesus is waiting for you,” “Sin makes you stupid,” featuring St. Thomas Aquinas (who loosely said that), and “Party’s over. Go to confession,” with an image of Mardi Gras debris. “Lake Charles is in the heart of Cajun Country, the Catholic buckle on the Bible belt. If we can’t publicly urge people to go to confession here, where can we? And the world desperately needs this encouragement.”

Dr. Morse added. “Guilty consciences make it harder for us to move forward and to resolve the issues caused by our sins, or the bitterness we’ve held onto from the sins of others.” Find the Ruth Institute’s ‘Go to Confession’ images on their website here, here and here.

The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization dedicated to finding Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown. Founded by world renowned author, speaker and academic, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, the Ruth Institute has accumulated decades of research to support individuals and families harmed by divorce, the hook-up culture, and other forms of family breakdown.

Reply to this email if you’d like to interview Dr. Morse further about this unique and beneficial ‘Go to Confession’ campaign.




Study finds skyrocketing rate of abstinence among Millennials

by Ben Johnson

This article was first published August 3, 2016, at LifeSiteNews.

Think Millennials are the most sexually active generation in history? Think again, say the authors of a new study released on Monday.

The number of young adults born in the 1990s who report they are not having sex is more than twice as high as it was for the Baby Boomer generation, a sign they have learned from the fallout of the sexual revolution, experts tell LifeSiteNews.

The study found that 15 percent of Millenials aged 20-24 said they had not had sex since age 18, more than those born in the late 1960s (six percent), 1970s (11 percent) or 1980s (12 percent). That is lower than their fellow Millennials born in the previous decade.

 


The definition of “sex” is left up to the respondent to define. However, the number of women who were sexually abstinent as young adults tripled since the 1960s, while the number of men doubled, according to the study, which appeared in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

"I think a lot of them are watching the adults around them and concluding that sex without limits is not making people happy," particularly "parents with multiple marriages and divorces,” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of The Ruth Institute told LifeSiteNews.

The study concludes that “the new sexual revolution has apparently left behind a larger segment of the generation than first thought.”

"The idea that these kids are 'left behind' by the sexual revolution is quite strange, as if they've somehow been sealed in a bomb shelter and never knew it happened,” Rebecca Oas, Ph.D., the associate director of research for the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), told LifeSiteNews. “More likely, they've seen that experiment running its course and decided they'd rather learn from someone else's mistakes instead of their own.”

The finding dovetails with CDC figures that show a majority of teenagers are choosing not to have sex. Only 41 percent of high school students reported sexual activity, a 13-point drop since 1991. Millennials also have a lower average number of sexual partners (eight) than either Baby Boomers (11) and Generation X (10).

Valerie Huber, the president of Ascend, told LifeSiteNews that her group – formerly the National Abstinence Education Association - “commissioned the Barna Group to survey 18 and 19 year olds and found similar results. The majority did not like the idea of ‘hooking up,’ and most of those who were not sexually experienced were waiting for a committed relationship."

Some do not know what to make of the results. The Washington Post wrote, "Delaying sex is not necessarily bad, experts say."

Numerous studies show having sex at a younger-than-average age leads to negative results, while delaying sexual activity and reducing the number of partners has positive outcomes.

Dana Haynie of Ohio State University found that early sexual activity increased delinquency by 20 percent. Experts have warned that earlier sexual activity can increase anxiety and negative psychological reactions, such as feeling used, especially for girls. A study in Pediatrics last year concluded that troubled children were more likely to begin having sex earlier in life, reinforcing the vicious circle.

Those who had sex later than average had higher incomes, educational achievement, and satisfaction in marriage, according to a 2012 report from Dr. Paige Harden of the University of Texas.

A 2014 report found that having multiple sexual partners and cohabitation before marriage decreased marital happiness after couples eventually tied the knot.

“We know that early sexual behavior tends to set a pattern for later behavior. The fact that more and more emerging adults are avoiding sex suggests they recognize that casual sex can compromise their life goals,” Huber told LifeSiteNews.

One young person told The Washington Post that, having seen so much sex depicted in pornography, "there really isn't anything magical about it” anymore.

Those who attend religious services are more likely to be abstinent, as well. "There was a significant increase in sexual inactivity among those who attend religious services once a week or more compared with those who do not,” Oas noted.

Huber said the most common reasons young people reported to Ascend for delaying sex were personal values and a focus on attaining their goals. She encouraged schools to teach Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) education - as opposed to Sexual Risk Reducation (SRR) or Comprehensive Sex Education, which present teen sexual activity as more normative.

The study notes, “abstinence-only sex education and virginity pledges became more popular (and federally funded) after the 1980s, especially between 1996 and 2009, when abstinence-only programs received large amounts of federal and state funding.” Studies have found that abstinence-based education reduces the overall teen sex rate.

“This new research suggests that our students have caught a positive and healthy vision for their futures,” she said. “It also means that we must, as a society, be more intentional on reinforcing this same healthy behavior for young, single adults."

 



CDC Report: Virgin Teens Much Healthier Than Their Sexually Active Peers

This article was first published at The Christian Post on December 6, 2016.

by Brandon Showalter

A new Centers for Disease Control study examines teenage health behaviors in connection to their self-reported sexual activity and shows those who remain abstinent are much healthier on many fronts than their sexually active peers.

(Photo: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi)Teen girls are seen in a file photo.

 

The report, titled "Sexual Identity, Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12, United States and Selected Sites," showcased the results from a 2015 survey that monitored several categories of health-related behaviors like tobacco usage, drug and alcohol use, sexual habits, unhealthy dietary behaviors, and behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence.

The report concludes "that students who had no sexual contact have a much lower prevalance of most health-risk behaviors compared with students" who had sexual contact.

In a Monday interview with The Christian Post, Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, said, "this study is remarkable because it asks questions and reports the answers, rather than avoiding questions or assuming answers."


As Glenn Stanton noted last week in The Federalist, the results from those questions and answers are remarkable.

With regard to smoking, teenage virgins are 3,300 percent less likely to smoke daily than their peers who are sexually involved with someone of the opposite sex, Stanton computed from the report's data. Teen virgins are 9,500 percent less likely to smoke daily than their peers who are sexually involved with someone of the same sex or in a bisexual relationship, he added. Chaste young people are also extremely less likely to use indoor tanning beds, binge drink, smoke marijuana, ride in cars as passengers with a drunk driver, and get into physical fights than their sexually active peers. Abstinent youth are also more likely to get a solid eight hours of sleep every night and eat breakfast daily.

"Our children should know there's very compelling scientific evidence on so many levels showing how saving the precious gift of their sexuality for the safe harbor of marriage is nothing about old-time moralism or unhealthy sexual repression. Just the opposite is true," Stanton wrote.

And the advantages of refraining from sex during teen years are not just physical, Morse said.

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. is the President of the Ruth Institute.

"I've noticed that the chaste students we have worked with over the years at the Ruth Institute do not have the angst that one so often attributes to young adulthood," she explained. "I think it is because avoiding sexual activity avoids a lot of psycho-social drama that goes along with it. 'Does he still like me?' 'What is she really doing with that other guy, and do I really care?'"

"Also, one has to say: no one has ever died from not having sex," she added. "But people sometimes feel as if they are going to die without sex. If you feel that way, it may mean that you are addicted. After all, that is a primary indicator of addiction: you think you'll die without the endorphin rush that comes from the activity or substance."

The CDC report also included findings from 25 state surveys, and 19 large, urban school district surveys conducted among students in grades 9–12 which took place between December of 2014 and September of 2015.

Rebecca Oas, associate director of research at the Center for Family and Human Rights in New York City, thinks a significant problem driving the sexual dysfunction among teens is the wrongheaded approach and perspective many parents and teachers have regarding sex education.

"One can talk about the risks associated with sexual behavior among adolescents and the question of how to mitigate that," Oas said in a phone interview Monday with CP.

But far too often the operative assumption is "that adolescents will inevitably engage in these behaviors and so what you have to do is pump huge amounts of money into trying to mitigate the costs and the harmful effects of [those behaviors]."

"And yet, we have also seen data that more students are remaining abstinent than before, so the idea that this is somehow an impossible standard is just not true. The problem is that a lot of the people educating the children in the schools and even their own parents have taken on this fatalistic attitude. So they are not encouraging them and demonstrating to them that among their peers they would not be alone," she continued.

"The other question that I don't see anyone asking is: Is there anything beneficial at all to adolescents who engage in these activities?"

"And the answer is clearly no," she added.

"Maybe what we really need to be doing is educating parents how to parent rather than trying to encourage sexual experimentation among adolescents, assuming they are going to do it anyway."

Valerie Huber, founder and President of ASCEND, a Washington D.C.-based abstinence advocacy group, told CP that she has a question of her own: "Why aren't we placing a higher priority on encouraging youth to wait for sex?"

"In light of the fact that 90 percent of all federal sex ed funding goes to programs that normalize teen sex, it's evident that our priorities are all wrong," Huber said. "In addition to revealing that risk begets risk, the CDC report also showed that the majority of teens are waiting for sex. And that those numbers have increased 28 percent in the past 25 years."

"The next Congress and administration have a real opportunity to change course in sex education policy in 2017. Let's hope they take it. Youth deserve the skills to achieve optimal health," she said.


Finding Mr. (or Mrs.) Right

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.

Find out more at Ave Maria Press. You can also read a Fathers for Good interview with Jennifer Roback Morse on her previous book on a happier marriage.


How To Marry an Idiot

by Betsy Kerekes

This article was first posted at Catholic Lane on November 17, 2016.

fool-clown-jesterIt 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:

Continue dating that person whom you’ve already determined you would never want to raise children with or even spend the rest of your life with.


 

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.

Speaking of kids, do not speak about kids

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.

Pay no attention to your mom or your best friend who knows you better than anyone when they tell you this person is not right for you.

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!

Once you’ve successfully made it to the point of engagement, largely because you’ve been together so long everyone just expects it of you, don’t you dare take that marriage preparation seriously.

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!

And finally and most importantly, you absolutely positively must live together before marriage.

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.

 



A Guidebook for Young Adults

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):

  • The Search is On: Being Both Optimistic and Realistic
  • Best Practices
  • Potential Pitfalls
  • Earnest Questions
  • Red Flags
  • Great Expectations
  • Cohabiting: Should You?
  • Cohabiting: Are You?
  • Perfect Timing
  • Marriage Planning: Focus on the Marriage, Not the Wedding

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.


Pocket-Sized Pointers for Picking a Partner (Review: “101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person”)

by Lindsay Wilcox

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

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!

Keep reading.



Top 10 Tips for Marrying the Right Person

by Marcia Segelstein

This article was first published at NCRegister.com on October 20, 2016.

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.”




Book Review: 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person

by Terri Kimmel

This article was first published on October 24, 2016, at CatholicLane.com.

101-tips-for-marrying-the-right-person2 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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