Busted Halo
Features : Sex & Relationships
 
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February 24th, 2014
Details like music and flowers are important on your wedding day, but they aren't true preparation for the marriage ahead

There are few years in one’s life that are more exciting (and sometimes more hectic) than an engagement year. After the proposal begins a slew of preparation activities. Book the church, find the reception venue, select your wedding party, decide on wedding attire, choose flowers, select music… “I could never plan a wedding in only a year!” a co-worker once told me. The truth is, a wedding can be planned in a few months if you really have to. All that stuff, while important to making the wedding day memorable, is — in the words of my future father-in-law — “fluff.”
The truly important stuff of a wedding is the growth and preparation of the couple themselves, so…

February 12th, 2014

One of my new “guilty pleasures” is grabbing the Magazine section of the Sunday Boston Globe and going straight to “Dinner With Cupid,” which my husband has rechristened, “Dinner with Stupid.”
It is a microcosm of the dating game. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Globe, this feature pairs people (mostly young, mostly straight), matching up their list of attributes and interests in the hopes that they might promote a match of some sort, or at the very least, an enjoyable blind date.
Contestants fill out forms stating what they like to do on a Saturday night, who would play them in a movie, what is their favorite way to spend downtime, and more. The magazine shows pictures of the two people, usually…

February 10th, 2014
On Valentine’s Day, celebrate love and also reflect on what’s holding you back from loving more fully

Imagine getting a Valentine’s Day card that reads “Happy Valentine’s Day!” (on the front) and “What are you afraid of?” (on the inside).
Yes, I know. That is single-handedly the worst and scariest Valentine’s Day card. Ever.
Though it might seem ironic, I love all the Valentine’s Day hoopla. That’s right: I love going to CVS in the month of February. I love the cheesy gifts, the dozen roses, and the candy hearts. Yes, I’m that person who makes all the plush toys sing in the seasonal aisle. For many years, I found myself agonizing over which Hallmark greeting card to buy in the card aisle: Funny? Sappy? Romantic? Heartfelt?
However, now at age 28, I genuinely wonder if we are really getting anywhere…

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…

June 25th, 2013
Getting married is the right time to check back in with your faith -- and make sure you and your spouse will be on the same page

We thought we were just checking the box of official requirements for a Catholic wedding ceremony. And looking around the room at the 52 other couples, it was obvious many of them did too.
We were all undergoing what priests call “Pre-Cana,” some kind of mandatory workshop on preparing for marriage. My fiancé and I didn’t know exactly what that entailed; but we knew this one took a single Saturday, while others spanned multiple weeks or at least a weekend. So with three months to go before our wedding, here we were.
From 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., we dug into the nitty-gritty of married life: managing our expectations for finances, children, chores and the inevitable disagreements. We were given organizational…

June 13th, 2013

It’s that time of year! Wedding bells are ringing, champagne is flowing, and toasters are abundant as couples celebrate their nuptials.
In a flurry of tulle and taffeta, it can be easy for the happy couple-to-be to forget what a wedding is truly about. Suddenly, conflicts arise over table arrangements and what really constitutes the color “eggshell.” You find yourselves arguing over whether the one-man-band that he wants, which specializes in kazoo covers of this year’s hit songs, or her entryway made entirely of fresh roses and mother-of-pearls is really what the wedding needs. Without warning, you have both become the reality TV figures you used to giggle at together. But it’s not only the bridezillas…

May 29th, 2013
Ease up on planning for Day 1 and start planning for Days 2-18,000 of a long marriage

Once my fiancé and I got engaged, I found out that in the wedding industry, they call spring “Bridal Christmas.” That’s because such a significant proportion of couples get engaged between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Come March, they get down to wedding planning, and in the spring and summer, nearly 65 percent get married. A spending bonanza has begun.
The U.S. wedding industry — or the bridal-industrial complex, as some call it — is now estimated at $50.6 billion. Magazines, websites, bakers, caterers, stationers, dressmakers, florists, photographers, videographers, bands, DJs, limo drivers, restaurants, reception halls and hotels are just a few of the businesses that…

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

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