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Michele Fleming :
20 article(s)

Michele Fleming, M.A., is a counselor, national speaker, and writer on Christian relationships for CatholicSingles.com. Michele has a master's in clinical psychology with an emphasis in the integration of Christian theology. She is currently completing her Ph.D. and her research is focused on dating and relationships. She is a member of the Christian Association for the Psychological Sciences and the American Psychological Association. Her website is www.michelefleming.org.
October 21st, 2014
What to do if you suspect a friend is a victim of domestic violence

Question: I have a friend that I think might be in an abusive relationship, but I don’t know for sure. Every time I try to talk to her about it, she shuts down, and now she barely talks to me at all. Why does anyone stay in an abusive relationship? Is there anything I can do to help?
Answer:… I wish there was a simple answer to your question. Being aware of the potential for abuse is one way to protect your friend, but as you have found out, it’s very difficult to confront the situation if she isn’t willing to talk to you about it.
Any type of relational abuse, including verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, coercion or controlling behavior, is considered “domestic violence.” It happens in dating relationships,

September 11th, 2014
How to add a dose of honesty and truthfulness to your dating life

Dating and relationships are hard work. And trying to remain true to your values while dating can be even harder.
The media, and everyone around us, say to live by the “pleasure principle” — I want what I want, when I want it, because I want it. No regrets; no boundaries. And when I’m done wanting it, I can walk away. We might find some pleasure, but, sadly, very little fulfillment in that.
Here are some tips for living out your values and finding integrity in your dating life.

Define Your Values
Your values define what is most important to you and form your guardrails for life. They make up who you are, and what your relationship will embody. Your values are made up of many aspects of your life, including religious…

May 8th, 2014

Question: My boyfriend and I are beginning to have serious conversations about marriage. He is a shamanist, and I am a Catholic. He has attended Mass with me on multiple occasions, has prayed with me, and is open to conversations about marrying in the Church and raising our kids Catholic.
It’s not that he’s thinking of converting, and that’s not what I expect of him either. I just know that interfaith marriages can be very challenging. What would be your advice for conversations we should have before deciding on marriage and also advice for our lives together as partners and potentially parents?
Answer: I want to commend you for considering this question now. When couples get engaged first and…

February 4th, 2014
A Q/A about handling delicate family dynamics

Question:… My boyfriend and I have been together for five years. Within our first year together, and prior to meeting his family, he received a Facebook message from his older brother, stating that I was no good for him, and that I was going to break his heart and leave him wounded. Shortly after that, when I went home with him to meet his family, his brother would not look at me and barely said hello. Ever since then, whenever we have been in the same room or building, his brother completely ignores me … Moreover, when my boyfriend attempts to speak to his parents about the situation, they act as if they have never noticed it and immediately dismiss the problem. What should I do? If we are eventually going to be family,

December 20th, 2013
Tips for navigating the holidays when you’re single

The holidays are a time of joy, worship, and general holiday cheer — at least in the movies. We experience those things, but sometimes we also experience the pain of being single. One Christmas, I was the only single adult at my large family gathering, except if you counted my 80-year-old grandmother (who, as a widow, likely didn’t consider herself single). Here are some strategies to help you stay in the true spirit of the season.
Strategy One: Connect With Your Tribe…
Your tribe is the people closest to your heart. Sometimes it’s family members, but many times it’s made of friends. Make special plans with your tribe, beyond the “normal” plans of going out or hanging in. You can organize a Christmas

December 3rd, 2013
How the movie Don Jon helps us identify what sexual pleasure is really about

Last month, I saw the movie Don Jon. You may have heard of it — or heard others talk about it. The character development and story line are a great commentary on our modern hookup culture. And as we would expect, it’s full of lots of nudity and sex scenes. If you are trying to stay chaste, or even avoid porn yourself, then don’t see this movie. Despite the sexual content, what makes this movie great is its quest for the meaning of sex.
In the film we meet the typical (or stereotypical) single Italian Catholic man, Jon Martello, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Jon is stuck: He loves women, but he loves porn more. He and his buddies go out at night hoping to hook up, dissecting women based on a grading scale of their…

September 26th, 2013

Question: My fiancé and I, both practicing and serious Catholics, are having major problems with chastity. Both of us had saved sex for marriage until we met each other so this is not something we have taken lightly.
I am so concerned about what this bodes for our future marriage. Does this mean we will have problems remaining faithful to each other? At this point, I just don’t know what to do. Are we bad for each other? Do we just give up and find other people? Is our relationship doomed? What are we supposed to do from here?
Aghh! I strive for excellence in all aspects of my life, but in this one area where I have no willpower or strength. I don’t know what to make of this.
Answer: I can hear your anguish and concern.…

August 16th, 2013
How to build a relationship based on trust -- and to know when it's time to walk away

Dear Michele,
I’m not sure if I can trust my boyfriend. Every now and then, I just feel like he may not be telling me the truth. Sometimes I catch him looking at other girls or flirting, although he says I’m being oversensitive. I don’t want to seem paranoid. I don’t think he would cheat, but how can I know if I can trust him?
Dear Can I Trust Him,
Let me state my bias up front: I tend to counsel people to listen to their gut. You know your relationship better than anyone. If you feel as if there is deception, then I would encourage you to continue to explore the possibilities and to be very open with your boyfriend about the process. At the same time, sometimes our own histories get in the way and make us suspicious when our…

July 2nd, 2013

Question: I know the Church’s views on cohabitation and premarital sex, and I agree with those. But how does the Church feel about spending the night together without having sex? My boyfriend and I are going on a trip in a couple weeks and are planning on staying in the same room. I am comfortable with him, and although I know we won’t be having sex, I am still feeling guilty about sleeping in the same bed as him for a few nights. Is this considered sinning? Should I feel guilty?
Answer: I’m thrilled to hear that you are living the Gospel message in a way that is very counter-cultural. Reserving sex for marriage is a powerful way to celebrate the beauty of our sexuality. You are embracing the belief that to love…

May 22nd, 2013

I’m going to be starting a new job several states away, and I’m wondering if I should try to continue to date my girlfriend? We’ve been going out for about nine months. Does it make sense to try to date long distance?

There is no “right” or “wrong” decision when considering a long-distance relationship. I know couples that met online, never lived in the same state, and ended up happily married with kids. Then there are marriages that must deal with distance due to job or school changes that crumble after just a few months apart. There are many things to take into consideration when thinking about dating long distance. Here are five questions to guide you as you make your…

April 3rd, 2013
Wrestling with emotions as a single bridesmaid

Dear Michele,
I’m having a difficult time since two of my good friends got engaged recently. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for them, but I can’t even seem to find a decent date, and it’s hard not to feel some jealousy. I’ve been asked to be in both weddings and a part of me is dreading it. I’m also beginning to wonder if something is wrong with me. Why does it seem like everyone else is moving to the next stage of life and I’m stuck here?
– Always a Bridesmaid
Dear Always,
You are brave for being honest about having conflicting feelings: happiness for the joy your friends are experiencing, and jealousy that you don’t have that same joy for yourself. A lot of people would deny feelings of jealousy because…

February 12th, 2013
A look at the origins and symbolism of the celebration of love on February 14

Question: So what’s up with Valentine’s Day? I’ve been dating my girlfriend for two years, and she wants me to go all out with gifts and an expensive night out, but it feels phony. Wouldn’t a box of chocolates be ok? I never knew what to do on Valentine’s Day even when we first started dating. What does the church say about Valentine’s Day, and why does it matter?
Answer: …I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day either. I love romance as much as the next girl, but if you are married or dating, it can feel like a Hallmark holiday. When I was single, it felt like a reminder that I was not in a couple, even if other days I was totally OK with my status. But before we dismiss it entirely, we should understand

January 21st, 2013

I received some great feedback on “A Cohabitation Conversation” published last fall, showing just how pertinent this topic is for couples. I was struck by the advice of one reader:
While I do agree that premarital cohabitation is not a good idea, it doesn’t always end up in divorce or unhappy marriages. My husband and I lived together for 6 years while we were in college. During those years of cohabitation we learned more about our Catholic faith we shared and grew stronger in that faith (understanding what the Church taught and why it taught it), we married, and have been very happily married for 23 years (with 4 children). While our situation was a bit different from the norm, I would NOT encourage couples to…

December 20th, 2012

Question: I really thought by the time the holidays came that I would be in a relationship. I want to be joyous and celebrate the holidays, but I’m finding it’s hard to be single while everyone else around me seems to have a spouse and children of their own. Any suggestions?
Answer: …Being single can be hard, and many times people who marry young or don’t have a strong desire to get married don’t understand how difficult it can be. Being single at the holidays is especially hard. It’s one of those times, similar to the wedding season, where it seems like everyone else is coupled up.
I remember one particular Christmas gathering where the only single people were my 85-year-old grandmother and me. My sister had

December 7th, 2012
Is a holiday introduction to your significant other’s family a good or a bad idea?

Question: My boyfriend has invited me to meet his parents this Christmas. We’ve been dating about four months. Is it too soon to meet his family?
Answer:… I’m not sure there is any “right time” to meet your boyfriend’s family; the decision is really up to each couple. It can be a significant step in your relationship, or it can simply be part of how you are able to celebrate the holiday together. Here are some guidelines that can help you decide, along with tips to make introductions go more smoothly.
First, if you are not dating exclusively or if you don’t plan to stay in the relationship much longer, then meeting his family would give the wrong signal. On the other hand, if you see this relationship moving

November 13th, 2012

Question: So, why is the Catholic Church so hung up on (or down on) sex? If two people love each other and are in a committed, monogamous relationship, what’s the big deal?
Answer:… It certainly can seem like the Church is “hung up on” sex. That’s only if you only listen to the sound bites. “Don’t do this. Can’t do that.” But the truth about the Church’s teaching on sex is intimately tied to the truth about love, the foundation of the Gospel message. The Catholic Church believes sex is designed by our Creator to strengthen our marriages and bring new life into the world. So what’s with the bad rap?
In general, people don’t like rules that feel like restrictions. But God’s “rules” are simply

October 11th, 2012
Sorting out what faith means to your relationship

Question: My boyfriend is a “lapsed” Catholic and not that connected to organized religion. I have a more active and practicing faith. Should I be worried about our religious compatibility?
Answer: There are lots of details to consider, so let’s look at some questions that can help you discern if you need to be worried about your religious compatibility…

September 26th, 2012
Navigating today's dating world and the question of dating more than one person at a time

Question: Is it OK to date more than one person at a time?
Answer:… The straightforward answer is you are free to date more than one person until you commit to being exclusive with one person. The whole point of dating is to figure out what you eventually want in a spouse. Dating allows you to discover what you can’t live with, or without, and to learn more about your own values. Dating around can be a fun stage of being single!
If you are starting to get the sense that one or more of your dates would be hurt to find out you are dating other people, then that may be a sign that dating more than one person may no longer be appropriate. Let’s start by defining what you mean by “dating.” If dating means a couple

September 5th, 2012
Examining the realities of living together before marriage

Question: My apartment lease is about to expire and my girlfriend and I are talking about moving in together. How do we know if it’s the right time in our relationship to start living together?
Answer:… This is a question that comes up frequently in many different forms when a life transition triggers a discussion about living together. There are actually two parts to this question: should we live together, and if so when is the right timing? Living together likely seems like a good idea. You can spend more time together as a couple and split expenses. You already spend several nights a week at each other’s house, so is it really such a big move?
Before we examine the religious or spiritual implications of

July 23rd, 2012
A Q/A about the right point in a relationship to discuss marriage

Dear Michele,
When is it the right point of a relationship to start talking about marriage?
Signed,
When to Discuss Marriage

Dear When to Discuss Marriage,
Simply explaining you are interested in getting married to someone, some day, is a normal part of getting to know someone and can occur as early as the first few dates. My husband told me the first week we were dating he was ready to move forward with the “second part of his life,” letting me know that playing the field was something he wanted to put in his past. But a discussion about marriage between two people who are dating exclusively is a different story. A serious conversation about marriage can create a significant shift in your relationship,…

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