Whom Not To Marry: Time-Tested Advice From A Higher Authority By Pat Connor
Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:02 AM by Ben Nadel
A couple of weeks ago, in my post about the The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, the very beautiful Nadine Fawell suggested that I might like the book, "Whom Not To Marry," by Father Pat Connor. I have to admit that at first I was a bit hesitant - a book written by a man of the cloth seems a bit odd to me. But, if I've learned anything from the great author, Robert Fulghum (a Unitarian minister), it's that we can all relate to the "human" experience, regardless of our background or life situation.
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Whom Not To Marry is clearly targeted at women; not only does Connor frame the entire book in terms of finding the right "man" or "husband," he explicitly introduces the book as guide for women. But, this did not deter me; I figure it's his job to write the book and it's my job to find a way to extract value from his teachings. Besides, going into any relationship with the preconceived notion that men and women have different needs based solely on their gender is already a failure of mindset.
Father Pat Connor writes with a gentle, familiar tone that makes the book an easy read. As far as content goes, however, there is not too much here that hasn't been covered many times over. But, as typically happens, hearing a fresh perspective on any topic gets you to think about a subject matter in a new light.
For example, one activity that I found very challenging was trying to define "Marriage" in 25 words or less. Marriage is most definitely a bond that I would like to enter into one day; however, feeling strongly about something does not in any way presuppose one's ability to articulate the reasons behind such a feeling. Getting my definition of marriage down to 25 words took me a few good number of attempts, but here is what I came up with:
Marriage is ... the promise of love between two people and the explicit commitment to work to maintain that love no matter what obstacles life may bring.
Even this definition leaves me wanting more - 2 to 3 pages more in fact. But that's what was so interesting about the challenge; verbosity, to some degree, masks one's inability to articulate their own thoughts, which is, again to some degree, a sign that one has no idea how they really feel. For me, any activity that requires a deeper exploration of my own thoughts and desires is something worth doing.
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Along the lines of commitment, another topic that I thought Connor discussed in a thought-provoking way was that of "soul mates." Connor insists that not only does everyone have a soul mate, we all have many soul mates. In fact, he suggested that while you are married to one soul mate, chances are likely that you'll meet several of your other soul mates in passing. Which soul mate you end up marrying is a choice left up to you. And, once married, it necessarily become your responsibility to remember that the soul mate you are with is more important than the one you meet in your postnuptial life.
This line of thinking reminded me of my college days. As a Freshman in school, I distinctly remember seeing a movie in which a happy couple broke up such that one of them (probably the guy) could enter into another relationship with his newly-found "true love." At the time, I was very conflicted about the movie and how I felt about the plot line. On the one hand, I thought it was horrible that the happy couple had to break up; but, on the other hand, I thought it would be crazy for someone to pass up their "true love" purely for the sake of one's feelings. After all, why would one person's pain be held as more important than one person's opportunity for life-long happiness?
I think the mental turmoil that I experienced, with regard to that situation, came from a narrow-minded belief that there is only one person who can completely compliment us in this life. When you have that outlook, passing up a love will always feel like the ultimate sacrifice. But, if you take Connor's point of view as fact, which I am more than happy to do, passing up love is not a sacrifice; rather, it is an investment in the love you already have and the promise of the love that you will continue to experience.
While the book is about marriage (and whom not to marry), many of the concepts can be used in the platonic world as well. Once such piece of advice that I found to be simply awesome was the acronym, THINK. As in, "think" before you speak. THINK stands for:
T - Is it truthful?
H - Is it helpful?
I - Is it inspiring?
N - Is it necessary?
K - Is it kind?
There is something about this that is just so profound in its clarity. To me, this five-letter acronym isn't just a reminder of how to communicate; it is a standard of interaction for which we should all strive. And, the fact that it spells out, "think," is just all the more serendipitous as it reminds us that our actions should always be a conscious, deliberate effort to put our best foot forward.
There are a number of other discussions in the book that I really enjoyed; for example, Father Connor recommends an engagement period of no less than one year. He aslo recommends that you should never marry a man (or woman) who is not willing to make the same sacrifices that he demands of you. This is a particularly provocative statement especially when you get into some of the more archaic and fundamentalist points of view in which women are explicitly subjugated by their mates. A lot of the topics that Connor covers are familiar; but, I truly enjoyed the new way in which he was able to get me to think.
Whom not to marry: a relative.
Finding the perfect person is something difficult and probably it should go both from the heart and the brain. So it's both intuition and logic if you want it to last for life. I consider myself lucky in this matter as i am married for over 14 years now and have a 11 years daughter and there wasn't one single day when in the morning i wouldn't want to see my wife near me.
Been married for 25 years, 2 kids, both in college. Has it been great all 25 years, no. But marriage is a dance, sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow. You have to be willing to give no matter what and hope it is returned. Both people have to want to build a life together and compromise is a major component of it. Raising kids is another issue, I am more logical than my wife who still argues with her 21 year old daughter over what clothes she wears.
As with any relationship, you have to listen to the other person, offer help when asked and try to laugh as much as you can.
As always, a thoughtful and thought-provoking write-up. I think the book's confines are a bit narrow for me (besides, I am TOTALLY digging The Alchemist right now), but it's always nice to piggyback on what *you* take away from a book.
Oh,and you couldn't have found that THINK thing a month ago?! ;-)
That's really beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
In one of the books that I read recently (I can't recall which one exactly), there was a very nice quote: Marriage means falling in love over and over again, always with the same person. While at face value, I think this conjures up images of deep love, I think below the surface it shows us that marriage is not always perfect; that our feelings are not always constant and wonderful. It is, as you say, a dance. The trick is to always return to that happy place with the same love.
What do you mean the books confines are a bit narrow? I am not sure I follow.
The THINK thing is nice, right? It's more or less what I think Don Miguel Ruiz touches upon with his Impeccability of the Word; however, as with all things that are difficult, I find the continual practice helps to hammer it home.
I mean that since I am not looking to ever get married again, I fear that the lessons contained within the book are too focused specifically on that. Maybe they translate to less-specific relationships and I've misjudged?
I heard Ruiz in there, too, in the idea of always trying your best, even if you don't succeed. Simiarly, practice makes...well, if not perfect then (one has to hope) *better*. :)
Getting advise on marriage from a celibate priest is sort of like getting advice on bull-riding from the bartender at the bar bull-riders go to.
They hear lot's of stories, but have absolutely no idea what it is really like.
PS I've been married now for 14 years (all to the same woman).
I don't think marriage is really a substantially different kind of relationship. But then again, I've never been married, so I cannot speak from experience on this one. But, that said, if you are not looking to get married again, perhaps a good experiment for you would be to try to define your ideal relationship in 25 words or less. I did this for marriage and I found it a fun and challenging exercise.
At its most profound level, marriage is about commitment and love and promise; at its most mundane level, it's a legal agreement with almost no assumptions about emotions. If you think about the many nuances of what marriage can mean, what aspects of marriage are you looking to NOT have in your next relationship?
As I mentioned in my opener, I definitely had some hesitation about taking advice from a priest, or man of the cloth as I put it. My reservations were very much the same as yours. However, I think there is value in listening to someone who has counseled hundreds of people on the matter. There *must* be some sort of transference of wisdom.
The ability to teach and the ability to "do" are often times divergent in this life (unfortunately). Just look at how many therapists have messed up home lives... or how many doctors smoke. As with anything, I think the trick is to take the parts that are valuable and to let the rest pass by.
... also, congrats on being married for 14 years; that is awesome!
Hmmm.... so you would advise an aspiring bull rider to talk to the bartender.
The therapist/doctor scenario doesn't hold up very well. While a therapist may have personal problems, that does not mean he/she does not have common experiences with the issues his/her patients are trying to cope with. That being said, I would never consider going to a marriage counselor who has never been married.
A doctor who smokes is a red herring. His smoking may send a bad message to his patients, but has no bearing on his medical knowledge or understanding of his patients illness.
Someone who has never been in a romantic relationship, or marriage has no concept of the day to day intricacies of those relationships.
I would look to people with lasting marriages, or even failed marriages for advice on marriage before listening to someone who has absolutely no experience on the subject.
But that's just me.
I've been to your site a few times but always related to coldfusion topics. Interesting that you also have philosophical posts here.
Not that any of you know me or even care, but here is my $.02. There are some great comments about marriage here.
I am approaching my 5th anniversary and we dated for 2.5 years before that. Dating and being married are much different. I didn't expect it but the relationship becomes much more real. In the fact that the stakes are raised. Likely because of the legal contract part but also because there are greater societal expectations. Are you going to buy a house? Are you going to have kids? You start thinking about growing old and for once in your life it isn't a horrible concept. You are expected to be more grown up. When you're dating no one really expects much except, are you going to get married?
I grew up catholic and have to agree that getting marriage counseling from a priest is kind of a funny concept. While there is knowledge in the many observations he has made. I think you have to take it with a grain of salt.
For example, I talk to hundreds of businesses every year. Within the first 20 minutes of a conversation I can tell whether they are successful and whether they will be successful. Part of that knowledge is that I talk to lots of people. The other part is that I own a business and know the challenges involved. Having the second part is crucial to closing that loop.
Anyhow, sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for the great site.
Defining my ideal relationship isn't that much of a challenge for me since it's almost verbatim what I wish for every time I lose an eyelash or the clock hits 11:11:
(Assuming I don't need the first part of this to count in my 25 words)I want a relationship wherein both of us love, respect, and appreciate each other equally. The levels may fluctuate between us, but there is an overall balance over time (24 words. W00T! :)
What I don't want in marriage (or why I am not eager to get married again)... it's that pesky "obligation" thing again. I have no issue with commitment, but I don't feel any overwhelming urge to have an external body sanction our union. I don't think I want to have any more kids, and I don't feel like I need a legal document/ceremony to jointly own my dream condo/house on the beach. When/if I feel that level of commitment and desire to spend the rest of my life with someone, that will be enough for me and - I hope - enough for my significant other.
All of that said, and having in my last serious relationship gone from vehemently not wanting to get married again to looking forward to a very public affirmation of our love & commitment, I think that what I want can be very much influenced by how I feel about my partner. Since there isn't anyone on whom to focus these feelings or apply my concept of an ideal relationship OR marriage, I am trying to keep an open mind...and heart.
I can't say I really disagree with you at any core level; at some point, wisdom does come from direct, personal experience. So, I guess the take-away is not that someone's advice might be spot on accurate; but, their point of view might be able to get you to examine your own thoughts and feelings more deeply and that is always a Win.
Thanks for coming for the ColdFusion and staying for the philosophy :) Also thanks for your point of view. It's interesting to hear about the palpable shift in the feeling of a relationship before and after marriage. As someone who has not been married yet, that is a concept that I cannot truly relate to exactly.
On a side note, what kind of business do you run? Some sort of strategy / consulting firm?
You know I won't understand your "obligation" issues as we've had that discussion before. As I said to @Brad, clearly I cannot relate to the shift in feeling of a relationship after one is married; but, assuming you find someone that you want to spend the rest of your life with, I have trouble relating to a difference in obligation that one might feel inside / outside of a legal relationship. I will have to defer to those that are married on this aspect of it.
That said, it sounds like your concerns about marriage are mostly legal. If I told you that the book did not concern itself with any legal matters, would still think its confines are a bit too narrow?
I ask this not because I am trying to get you to read the book; rather I ask this in case it helps you clarify exactly what in your mind seemed off-putting about the book.
I recognize my obligation issues *as* issues, meaning they're something I'm working on. And your point about the difference in obligation in a fully committed relationship vs. marriage is valid, but it *does* feel different in part because you have the weight of society's expectations on you (not to mention your family's). Now that's not necessarily a bad thing; in spite of my own unsuccessful marriage, I am certainly not opposed to it for other people at all (heck, I am among the foremost criers at weddings...even at wedding scenes in movies :)! And like I said, I recognize that my issues might not be providing me with the best perspective, so...
But even with that, I think that a book that has as its sole focus *marriage* and particularly how, as a woman, I can find a man to bind myself to (legally or not)is probably starting on a lower rung for me to begin with. Add to that the fact that lately I feel like reading all of these relationship self-help books without any relationship even on the horizon is a bit like watching a marathon on The Food Network while dieting. Ha ha...
I'll tell you what: when I find someone whom I'd even consider spending the rest of my life with, married or not, I will read this and who knows- it might be just what I need to shift my perspective. The only way to work through those obligation issues is to address them head-on, right? :)
I think we are fundamentally on different pages regarding this subject which is most likely due to the fact that I have never been married. So for me, I pretty much interchange "committed relationship" with "marriage" in so far as the ramifications and strategies for success are concerned. Based on what you and the others are saying, there is just a critical difference between marriage and non-marriage-based relationships that I cannot relate at this point in my life.
I'm not sure how different the pages we are on (in regard to this), but I do want to point out to you a couple of things:
1) If you are willing to take marriage advice (or take what you can) from a never married/never WILL be married priest, how is that so far removed from taking perspective from those of us among your friends who are married or have been married?
2) You have a wonderful example of marriage in your own parents' marriage. Maybe a conversation with your mom about this subject might prove enligthening.
3) Don't sell yourself short. If you count committed relationship as equal to marriage, then why can't you base your opinions on your own previous, committed relationships? I think your opinions on this subject are quite valid... especially when they're *yours* and they involve, exclusively, *you.*
When I say that we must be on very different pages, I am referring to you thinking that this book's confines are too narrow for you and that you want an intimate relationship that is not headed towards marriage. For you to think that, there must be a fundamental difference between what is good for a married relationship as opposed to a non-married relationship. I am admitting that there must be something about marriages that I simply cannot know until I have been there myself.
As for your points, I am not sure that I follow #1. I try to take advice from a lot of people - friends, priests, rabbis, toltecs, etc.. Did I come across as not wanting to take advice from someone?
For #2, I agree, my parents had a wonderful marriage. It had its ups and down, for sure; but my parents were deeply in love.
As for #3, I do take my past relationships into my judgement about my life. I think perhaps you think that I am taking other people's advice without thought; it is actually quite the contrary - I take what they say and I use it to reflect deeply on my life. It is that very fact that allows me to take advice from a priest (someone who has not, nor ever will be married). I am sorry if I come of as not basing my beliefs on my life experiences.
.... perhaps that needs a blog post of its own ;)
I fear we could go back and forth with the "no, what I meant was..." as we often do, so I will just say that I think that what you suggest would make an excellent blog. :)
I am sooo far past my bedtime, so I simply leave you with this:
Ben You are an enigma! Are you right brain or left brain? You are an inspiration in the Coldfusion world, but then you create such emotion and connection because of your personal vulnerability. And you seem to get a bigger response from your 'Mr Love' posts than the Coldfusion ones ;) My kinda man (except that I have been married now for 17 years and have 3 beautiful young adolescents to show for it)!
I'm kind of a narrowly focused person; so, I try to keep my mentality as well rounded as possible when I can. I think building the emotional brain requires just as much practice (if not more) as anything else. I'm glad you're liking this stuff - I do enjoy thinking deeply about it.
Ha ha, long time reader, first time commenter. I love these offshoots from work, it really gives the feel of the over the cubicle wall conversation to those of us working through the intertubes.
I've been married for 7 years, and the best marriage advice I got was from a Catholic priest. Granted, he was a bit different from the norm as he had a pretty wild life before becoming a priest.
Anyway, first bit of advice, 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions.' Don't let problems fester just because someone means well. If it's bothering you, address it.
He said he's never had so many women hit on him since becoming a priest. Men capable of making commitments are very attractive. It's important for married men to think about how they are going to handle attention from other women. Even talk it out with your wife 'what if I went to lunch at work with a female colleague' etc. And... if it's not something you'd feel comfortable telling your wife about, it's not something you should do.
And most importantly, he said every day he wakes up and decides he wants to be a priest that day. This means you can't just think you make a commitment at your wedding then it's all done. You need to mentally and emotionally commit to being married every day. Successful marriages don't happen, they are the product of work and effort.
And my advice to single people who are looking for the 'right person'. Don't waste your time 'looking' for the right person, spend your time BEING the right person. Your right person will find you.
Hope some of this helps someone, Cheers!
Some very good stuff there; I particularly like the point, "Don't waste your time 'looking' for the right person, spend your time BEING the right person". Part of these kinds of posts are me always trying to be a better person, understand myself more, and take better control of my life. As such, this rings very true with me.
All in all, I think goes to show up as that valid, effective advice can come from anywhere. Waking up every day and being a priest is not really any different than waking up every day and wanting to be a better man, son, friend, husband, person, etc..
Thank for the food for thought.
<quote>And my advice to single people who are looking for the 'right person'. Don't waste your time 'looking' for the right person, spend your time BEING the right person. Your right person will find you.</quote>
Not a truer word was spoken. You must embody the qualities you are looking for in a mate. Probably more importantly, you need to 'give' them. If you are looking for love, give love. When you give up your attachment to love, and give it rather than expecting it to be given to you, it returns to you manyfold.
Just my $AUD 0.02 anyway.
I've definitely been going over that in my head a lot in the last few days (since Dan posted). I often times find myself listening to an interview or watching a movie and seeing something do something great and think to myself - I hope one day that I'll be able to demonstrate greatness like that.
But it's that "one day" mentality that I think is holding me back sometimes. This has nothing to do with intimate relationships (this time); but, I have to remember that there is so much opportunity in the "now" to be great - that it doesn't have to be one of those "dare to be great" situations.
You are very hard on yourself, and you really don't need to be. From what I have been able to gather about your personality from your postings, you are a very generous person. What you give to the ColdFusion community is fantastic - certainly from my point of view as a 'receiver'. You are already one step ahead of most people since I would believe that your natural tendency is to give.
Please also bear in mind that part of reaching that 'special place' is the letting-go of ego. I believe that part of that is being humble and happy to embrace every opportunity to give of yourself to anyone. To help an old lady pack her groceries in the car, or offer your phone to someone broken down by the side of the road is a noble thing and is what separates truly generous people from those who do it for recognition.
I am certainly grateful for all you give to the Coldfusion community and I am in your awe! Give yourself a break and accept yourself for the great person that you are!
What Cathy said. :)
Btw, tried to find this book at Barnes & Noble but they didn't have it. They did have a sizable display of Chapman's book, though. I think your blog made him "hot" again. Ha ha...
What Cathy said. What Gus said. What Brad Goettemoeller said.
Dude, you're in NYC and have access to eHarmony and Match. And you're handsome. I'm quite jealous of you.
I celebrated my 2nd anniversary a month ago, but I'm struggling w/ "TWS" -- Tiger Woods Syndrome. Just kidding -- sorta. Still, I love my wife, but want more. Or different. Yet, I also remember being single. It's like you can't win. Love Stinks (J Geils!)
I was on a "Self Help" book kick for a while, and it /is/ beneficial to seek wisdom, but I've come to the conclusion that everybody else knows as little as I do, just that their perspective is different. So, I learn a bit about their perspective, but I don't take their persp as mine. Instead, just kinda absorb it and morph it.
You come across like a really nice guy. Maybe too nice. I can't believe your ego was crushed by you college GF saying she didn't depend on you for her happiness. I dated, and was one, of the opposite types: my happiness depended too much on their happiness /of/ me.
I got a broken heart and eventually became a better guy after a stint in Angryland.
To make a point, just analyze a little less. That's what made me a happ--, er, a "more content" person. Also, I became more selfish. I'm not selfish, but I became more selfish than I was. I "gave myself away" to others too quickly, and got burned every time.
My wife and I were friends for years before we started dating. I think that's where I'm struggling. I want the (Jenny) "HOPA." Yet, I had crushes on lots of hotties but wasn't interested in them, long-term.
What I do know is once we moved in together, the relationship changed a lot. Suddenly you're living in her house and a new roommate you're stuck with is living in yours. What was no longer is. And it's not like a typical rommate situation that you say, "Well, in XX months I can move." No, now it's "What would a divorce cost? How would we split the house?"
How old are you? I'm 33. Are you seriously dating -> thinking of popping the Q?
Thank you so much for the kind words and the perspective. I will try not to be too hard on myself :)
Ha ha, that's awesome.
I appreciate you really sharing your story. I'm turning 30 shortly. I am not really dating, though I have been a few dates lately (although I didn't really think of them that way - probably just not a mindset I have been in for a while).
I was crushed at the time of this; but, like you, I spent some time in "angryland" and emerged a better, happier person. What can I say - I was young and a bit naive. Plus, I have traditionally been a bit sacrificial in my relationships and I think that wears me down too much. I am trying to replace sacrifice with *communication*.
Living with someone is definitely VERY different than living alone or with people you can move away from. I have essentially lived with two people in my life and I know that things can get very interesting if you have points of conflict that cannot easily be resolved (ex. early riser vs. night owl).
I wish you well on your journey and I humbly suggest that communication is always a powerful tool.
Right?! Between this and Sam's book you're like a human New York Times bestseller list. Respect. :)