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.


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.

 


Be a happier parent - or laugh trying

It's one way to have happy kids, a new book points out.

by Mary Cooney and Betsy Kerekes

This article was first published May 7, 2019, at Mercatornet.com.

There is no doubt that parents today face tremendous challenges. Sometimes these challenges are overwhelming and stressful. Parents of young children and teens will appreciate Betsy Kerekes’ wisdom and comic relief in her newly released book, Be a Happier Parent or Laugh Trying. In this interview, she shares with Mary Cooney some advice on how to be a happier parent.

* * * * *

Early in your book you write, “Parenting is hard, but it doesn’t have to be a burden.” What is your advice for dealing with the burdens of parenting? How can we be happier despite the stresses and challenges of parenting?

I find myself taking deep breaths. A lot. It does help, like when all your children are talking to you at once or when, instead of napping, you find your toddler stripped to the skin, diaper on floor, and suspicious looking wet spots on the carpet.


That’s when I shake my head and sigh while looking forward to telling my husband about it when he gets home. Stuff like that happens all the time. Parents need to expect it so it’s not so devastating when it occurs. We learn quickly that the rules of civilized society go out the window once you introduce an infant into your home. I’ve found that the most important thing to learn is letting go. Relax your expectations for a clean home, perfect nutrition for your children at every meal, and all bodily fluids remaining on the inside or at least, going where they are meant to go.

It’s also about perspective. The crazy stories will be remembered fondly, and the child in question will love hearing them when he or she is older. (Mine do, anyway.) There are both difficulties and delights at every age. Focusing on the delights and finding humor in the difficulties is how to make it through virtually unscathed.

Furthermore, look for the silver lining. When your kids splash water all over the floor while bathing, wipe it up with a towel, and voila! You’ve just cleaned your bathroom floor. The day I cleaned the bathroom mirror, it was splattered with water marks from top to bottom two hours later. The girls had cleaned their little brother’s hands and feet in the sink and merriment naturally ensued. My first thought was the clean mirror was nice while it lasted, but then I realized the watermarks were a reminder that my children washed their brother themselves and while doing so, he had a blast. I left the spots and the bathroom with a smile. The water marks served as a reminder that my daughters are helpful and love their brother. That makes me happy.

What about discipline? How do you get your kids to do what they’re supposed to do and how do you avoid bad behavior?

This would be an article all itself. I devote a chapter each to discipline and dealing with temper tantrums. I’ll share with you a couple of bonus tricks that aren’t in the book because they happened too recently. The first is to become a magician, whose success lies in misdirection. Here’s what happened: My darling nearly-two-year old Joe wanted to eat peanut butter while sitting in my chair. This meant peanut butter smears on my chair, the table, and the wall were a distinct possibility. Joe didn’t want to get in his high chair. I put him in anyway, despite his loud protests. Here’s where the misdirection comes in: I gave him the back-up bib when his favorite bib is in the wash. Suddenly his attention and tears were focused on this odious flap of fabric intent on strangling him if he didn’t immediately yank it off. I removed the offensive shirt-protector and replaced it with his beloved bib. Suddenly, he was no longer crying. Having forgotten the indignity of being forced into his high chair, he was happy to have “won” the Great Bib Debacle of 2019. All was right in his world, and his high chair tray was much easier to clean.

Another trick is what I call “Ending a hissy fit with a kissy fit.” My youngest daughter was moping about having to do her math worksheet. I sat beside her to lend a hand. Knowing intrinsically, it seems, of my less than stellar math skills, this gesture didn’t bolster her confidence. Mid-whine, I smothered her with kisses. At first, she tried to block me, but was soon laughing so hard I had to give her breathing breaks. Then, when she thought the onslaught was over, I started the tirade of affection all over again. Finally, we began: “Okay, question one says…” and I was all over her again, just for good measure. Her mood was improved, and my limited abilities somehow sustained us through third grade mathematics.

When all else fails, be a ridiculous goof ball. Another one of my daughters was sighing heavily over her schoolwork. I called from the other room, “I hear a child in distress! Supermom to the rescue!” and “flew” to her, arms out like Superman. Then I repeated my entrance holding my hair back like it was flapping in the wind, and again with the back of my shirt flapping. She said, “Moooo-oom,” in mock-disapproval, wearing a broad smile. I didn’t even need to help her after that. She got to work without further complaint.

You also write, “To be a good parent, we must set the right example by our attitude and demeanor.” What is the attitude we should take? And how do we keep a calm demeanor when our kids are acting up?

Again, deep breaths. And when necessary, send the child out of hearing range for your sanity and everyone else’s. My friend turns on loud music to drown out a whining child, and to steal his thunder. It’s not much fun to throw a fit and be ignored, so do your best to ignore him/her. Don’t torture yourself by getting brought down by a crabby kid.

One reason we need to set the right example and remain calm as much as possible is that we may inadvertently teach our children to lie when we lose our temper. Here’s an example from the book:

Imagine you’re potty training your child. (Did you just shudder? My apologies.) Now imagine you take your child to the potty, but she doesn’t want to go. You try again later and still nothing. You ask her if she needs to go. She insists she doesn’t. Next thing you know, her pants are wet. You, frustrated by the whole experience, kind of lose it. “Look what you did! Now I have to wash you up and find clean clothes and…” Unbeknownst to you, this reaction is teaching your child to lie in order to avoid seeing you angry or be yelled at. You can express disappointment, sure, but remain calm and patient. You want your child to feel safe coming to you with the truth when she ran a purple marker across the back of the white couch or when he threw a ball indoors and knocked over a lamp.

Why are fun and humor so important in raising children?

Recently my sister said to me, “How do parents without a sense of humor survive?” I didn’t know how to answer her. It would be so difficult not knowing how to crack up at calamities. Facebook is helpful for parents in that we can share with one another the chaos that occurs in our homes. The thumbs up or “haha” face, plus the commiseration, are like virtual therapy.

I’ve frequently thought, after witnessing something insane, “There’s something for the blog, at least.” This is why I started parentingisfunny.wordpress.com—not only for my own outlet, but for other parents to read each other’s hilarious stories or unfortunate incidents and get a good laugh. They say if you fake smile enough, you’ll end up smiling for real.

There was a study done that found happy parents have happy kids. That seems logical. Miserable, unhappy parents are likely to make their kids miserable and unhappy. My kids being unhappy would make me even more unhappy; thus, the cycle would continue. This is why there’s an entire chapter on having fun with kids, even your own!

What advice would you give to parents of teenagers?

Hang in there. It’s almost over. I’ve been having success with my teen by leaving her alone more. For instance, she does not appreciate when I ask her if she needs to take a last-minute trip to the bathroom before we leave the house like I do with her little sisters. It’s tough to find that transition from treating your teenagers like kids to something closer to adults.

The chapter on teens somehow wound up being longer than all the rest. I pulled heavily from my memory of my own teen years. This included phrases my parents would often use on me, like, “It wasn’t meant to be,” in the case of disappointments, or “Who’s going to remember this in a week, two weeks, a month, a year?” for instances of embarrassment. There was also, “No matter how bad you think you have it, there’s always some one who has it worse,” for those days when I thought my life was so miserably horrible, no one could have things as bad as me—probably because I wore the same shirt as some other girl, or something.

But, for all the bad rap teens get, since they’re nearing full maturity, they can be quite helpful around the house. Plus, you can play more grown-up games like Hearts and Clue rather than endless rounds of Candyland and Chutes and Ladders.

What was the inspiration for the book?

The writing of this book stems from having co-authored (with Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute) 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person and 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage. A book on parenting seemed like the logical next step. I had a lot of ideas and “tricks” I had learned from reading, observing, remembering, and against all odds, figuring out on my own that I thought worthy of sharing. There’s good advice in the book, but also laughter because we can all use more laughter in our lives.

With the plethora of parenting books available on the market, what sets your book apart from others?

Many parenting books focus on babies and all say the same thing: Sleep when the baby sleeps. Fold laundry when the baby folds laundry. My book focuses on a range of ages, as do others, but they generally don’t include tips on helping your children keep their faith or on how to wrangle a toddler in church. There are other humorous parenting books, but a quick view of “funny parenting books” on Amazon comes up with a slew of titles containing cuss words. No swearing was involved in the writing of my book.

Why is this book important today?

Making parenting easier and more fun for parents, who will then be happier, ought to help strengthen their relationship with one another, too. Happy parents stay together, which is pretty much the number one crucial factor for raising happy, healthy kids. Stay married, folks. (See also 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage.)

Betsy Kerekes is the author of Be a Happier Parent or Laugh Trying and coauthor with Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person and 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage. She serves as editor and director of publications at the Ruth Institute, where she also writes weekly newsletters and manages the blog. She homeschools her children and writes about her experiences in motherhood at parentingisfunny.wordpress.com. She can also be found on twitter @BetsyK1.



Secular Arguments for Marriage Are Not Enough

by Jennifer Roback Morse

This article was first published July 11, 2018, at Crisis.

Scott Hahn is a prolific Biblical scholar with a huge fan-base among orthodox Catholics. He doesn’t need my help promoting his new book, The First Society: The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Restoration of Social Order. But I need some help from him. I need his help convincing my pro-marriage policy-wonk friends that our defense of marriage needs spiritual and theological arguments, along with natural law arguments, because what we are doing isn’t working.

Losing the Public Policy Argument

No serious person can deny it: marriage, the institution of one-man-one-woman-for-life, is getting clobbered in public policy debates. I’ve been involved in pro-family debates for a long time and I’ve used plenty of social science data and logical reasoning. I’m convinced the secular world needs more than secular arguments.

 


 

We have lost the male-female requirement for marriage. We have lost the presumptions of permanence and sexual exclusivity. And day by day, the natural common-sense constituency for lifelong married love is eroding. People who cheerfully voted in favor of man-woman marriage ten years ago, now refuse to admit it. Have their opinions really changed that much? Are they afraid to say what they really think? For whatever reason, we no longer have the constituency we had even a few short years ago.

We could blame rogue Supreme Court justices for the Obergefell decision, but we can’t blame no-fault divorce on the courts. Legislatures enacted no-fault with nearly no resistance in state after state. Vast bureaucracies have emerged to enforce custody plans and financial settlements. No major religious body has offered any serious challenge.

 

What are we saying in defense of marriage? I was in the trenches of the Proposition 8 campaign in California. We were not supposed to bring up the Bible. We were not supposed to talk about homosexuality at all, and we certainly were not supposed to bring up gay sex. The campaign organizers encouraged us to say, “kids need a mom and a dad.” But one would look in vain for any official statement from the Prop 8 campaign that “kids need their own mom and their own dad.”

This rhetorical strategy was good enough to win Proposition 8 in California in 2008. By 2012, the proponents of de-gendered marriage had adapted to our arguments. We never adapted to theirs. We started losing and have yet to recover.

 

We’ve got plenty of people defending religious liberty, but we do not have nearly the institutional support for explaining why our churches believe what they believe. Seldom do we hear even the churches themselves explaining why homosexual practice is wrong, or why man-woman marriage is the only real marriage. Heck, today, we can hardly defend the obvious proposition that men and women are different, and that male and female are genuine categories.

I have come to believe that a big part of our problem has been fear: we are afraid to get into the additional issues that a full-throated defense of the ancient Christian teachings would involve. If we say, “kids need their own mom and dad,” we will have to confront the millions of kids who lose contact with a parent due to divorce or unmarried parenthood. If we say, “third party reproduction is intrinsically immoral,” we will have to confront the non-gay uses of sperm and egg donation and surrogacy. If we say, “men and women are different,” we might have to confront the entire Feminist Establishment. And if we dare to say, “gay sex is wrong,” we might just have to say that there are moral limits on sexual activity, even adult, consensual sexual activity. And once we say that, oh boy, we really have opened the door to a complete confrontation with the entire modern sexual revolutionary structure.

Dr. Hahn is not afraid of any of these issues. He doesn’t talk about all of them in this book, of course; that is not the point of the book. But one can easily surmise that he won’t flinch in the face of tough questions. His theological position, based on Scripture, tradition, and, yes, reason and evidence, is coherent. Many of our non-religious positions are not internally consistent. So, how “practical” does that make us when this is what we put forward?

 

Losing the Hearts of Married Couples

Even more importantly, Hahn’s analysis shows that the natural law arguments for marriage are not enough to sustain the love of married couples. We can explain the value and benefits of marriage all day long to our non-religious neighbors. And of course, we should. But we should not delude ourselves into thinking that rational explanations are enough. Reason alone will not keep our marriages together when the going gets tough.

As Dr. Hahn puts it:

If we only aim for a society built just around natural marriage, denuded of divinity and sacramentality, we might achieve it, but not for long. Even if we all had a perfect (secular) understanding of permanence and exclusivity and openness to life—and even if divorce and artificial contraception were banned by law—we would find the expectations of marriage impossible and intolerable.

Without the healing power of God’s grace, our brokenness would immediately reassert itself, each person’s in its own unique way. The resulting new feedback loop would gut the renascent culture of marriage: the living out of marriage would degrade as people cut corners and ignored strictures, which would in turn degrade the norms we fought so hard to establish (pp. 127-128).

Social science supports his point. Regular religious practice is a “protective factor” against divorce. This is our nerdy way of saying that couples who go to church regularly are less likely to divorce. Regular religious attendance during adolescence is correlated with lower chances of divorce in adulthood. As Dr. Hahn puts it: “Marriage without God is possible in theory, but not in practice.” We do our young people no favor by dodging this point.

Besides, no one wants to hang on to a sinking ship. Young men especially, thrive on living up to a worthy challenge. Dr. Hahn gives them one:

Let’s avoid surrendering essential first principles and compromising the faith for short-term reprieves. We’re probably not going to witness any spectacular mass conversion to sanctity in our lifetimes, so let’s be heroic in accepting short-term humiliation—only an apparent defeat—without compromise (178).

In The First Society, Hahn delivers the theological insight we’ve come to expect from him. In the process, he delivers a practical program for defending the family in our hostile secular world. No more confining ourselves to “scientific” or “natural law” reasons for our beliefs. While there is nothing wrong with those reasons, they are not enough. We have been leaving our best player, Jesus, on the bench for far too long. Dr Hahn says, “Now is the time to speak Catholic truth with clarity and boldness.”

I completely agree.

 

 

 

 


Cardinal Farrell's message about priests' involvement in marriage prep is absolutely wrong

by Friend of Ruth, Joe DeVet

The following response was given to a volunteer for Engaged Encounter, who asked for an opinion on Cardinal Farrell's remark that priests don't have credibility in marriage preparation.

Cardinal Farrell's message about priests' involvement is absolutely wrong--when he says they have no credibility, leading to the conclusion that their role in marriage prep should be minimal or none at all.

Certainly priests have a different perspective on marriage than married people do, by virtue of both their knowledge and pastoral experience. Their broader perspective is absolutely essential to the process. I also believe that we lay people have an important role to play. Between the witness of Holy Orders and Matrimony, a balanced and appropriate vision of the sacrament can be presented to those preparing for marriage. Which is one reason why Engaged Encounter works.
 
To be perfectly blunt about it, what is my own expertise? I'm an expert in one man's experience of marriage. And to a large degree, it means that I'm an expert in particular ways of screwing things up! It has been good priests (as well as good lay people) who have helped me, insofar as I have had success in my marriage.

A spectacular case in point: Pope St. John Paul II. The man who said of himself "I fell in love with human love," a sentiment which moved him to shepherd thousands of married and engaged couples directly, and millions through his ministries as Cardinal and Pope, and who was the foremost authority on human sexuality in the 20th Century, was a priceless resource on marriage and family life. The local priest for our Engaged Encounter weekends offers great guidance through the Church's authority, his personal credibility, and years of pastoral experience.

I know that certain lay people tell priests they have no credibility about marriage. What I would say to those priests is, don't be intimidated by such ignorance. Treat it like any other stupid idea--stay the course, preach the truth, build the Kingdom.

And if I were King of the World, I would immediately redeploy Cardinal Farrell to a place where he could do less damage--say Vatican Ambassador to Greenland.

 



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.


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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