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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
by Terri Kimmel
This article was first published on October 24, 2016, at CatholicLane.com.
In today’s electronic world of tweets and status updates, communicating with brevity is everything. 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do by the Ruth Institute’s Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes speaks to the internet generation in a language and format that keeps up with the frenetic pace.
Being in my mid-40’s I don’t consider myself technically (pun intended) part of the internet generation. Still, even my middle-aged brain has become accustomed to absorbing information in short spurts. 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person conveys timeless wisdom to a time-crunched world. I loved this about the book. It is ultra-concentrated, but penetrates and enriches in a way that is fresh, relevant, and relatively effortless for the reader. It also has a wonderful list of additional resources at the back for those who would like to delve deeper into a subject.
The objective of the book is (from the book’s cover) “Helping Singles Find Each Other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do.” Written as a kind of prequel to an earlier book by the same authors, 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person impresses me most by the way it fearlessly goes into the dark places that our culture takes single people and meets them there with light, truth, and tenderness.
I am a child of divorced parents. I remember how my past created anxiety for me when I was preparing to get married. Jennifer and Betsy, the authors, tackle this issue head on. “The long-term effects of divorce crescendo in young adulthood. . . . Don’t be discouraged if either of you is a child of divorce. Instead, give this risk factor the seriousness it deserves. Get some help for whatever issues you may have.” Such candor and clarity would have been a comfort to me as I was preparing to get married.
Boldly addressing topics that our politically-correct culture often overlooks or ignores, the authors meet the reader where he/she is on the issue, explain the pitfall, and give friendly and easy-to-understand advice. There is no hesitation to “go there” on the tough questions. They even acknowledge that men and women are different! Scandalous, right? Who does that anymore? Tip #82 in the book says, “Be aware that a long-term cohabiting situation often puts women at a disadvantage compared to men.”
It’s a fascinating read even for someone like me who has been married almost a quarter century. Having read the book I feel better equipped to mentor the people who frequently ask me questions about marriage and/or parenting. (Having nine kids makes me a default resource in the minds of a lot of people.)
One of the sections is a list of “Do Not’s” followed by a brief explanation. Here’s a sampling of topics: “Ladies, Do Not: Dress like a floozy”; “Do Not: Date Someone Just to Annoy Your Parents”; “Do Not: Agree to marry someone because it’s expected.” It’s the kind of book that I could pick up, browse through for just a few minutes, learn something valuable, and then put down until later. I think this format will appeal to those in marriage preparation ministry, both priests and lay people. It’s the most user friendly marriage prep book I’ve ever seen.
The book is divided into several sections, starting with tips on finding the right person. It moves through discerning while dating/courting, into considerations about cohabitating, followed by a section on what to do if you’re already cohabitating. It ends with questions to ask yourself right up to the wedding. “Ask yourself one last time: Do I feel at peace with my decision to marry this person?” Every step provides insight based on the combined wisdom and experience of forty-five years of marriage of the authors who represent two generations and two very different sets of life experiences.
Jennifer Roback Morse, the founder of the Ruth Institute, has a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester and taught economics at the university level. She tells us in the book that she cohabitated with her husband before marriage saying, “Not all my expertise in this area is book learning. I can attest that the research I report in this book is true.”
Betsy Kerekes is a homeschooling mom of three young children, a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the editor and director for online publications at the Ruth Institute. The two very diverse points of view, joined by fidelity to truth and the common objective of mentoring those seeking a strong marriage, combine to create a depth of strength and wisdom that is valuable to anyone seeking a long-lasting, holy, happy marriage.
I truly loved everything about this book. I plan to recommend it to my pastor and the director of family life in our diocese. It’s also now on my list of books to give engaged couples, along with books by Christopher West, Gregory Popcak, and Natural Family Planning information. If you know of a couple wherein one or both do not like to read self-help books, this book is exceptionally easy to read and stuffed with good information. I think it’s an appropriate alternative resource to longer, more involved reads.
My favorite thing about 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person is that it is thorough without being tedious. My daughter married two years ago. I remember her telling me that she was disappointed with marriage preparation. She wanted topics to talk about. She also told me that she felt the priest who was leading her preparation was at a loss because my daughter and her fiancé were chaste and not already living together. The priest told her she and her fiancé were anomalies. The beauty of 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person is that it covers all the bases. My daughter would have found it useful.
I highly and enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone interested in helping marriages succeed.