Busted Halo

Most dating and relationships books, columns and shows won’t go near issues of faith. Author, professor and speaker Dr. Christine B. Whelan assumes faith has some role, and tackles even the toughest questions.

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February 9th, 2009
We’re turning the tables and asking our readers for advice

Calling all Pure Sex, Pure Love readers: I’m teaming up with one of the most famous priests in America to bring you the best dating and relationship advice. Want a piece of the action? Here’s the story:
Last summer Maureen Dowd wrote a column titled “An Ideal Husband,” featuring love advice from Fr. Pat Connor, a 79-year-old Catholic priest based in Bordentown, N.J., who has spent his celibate life mulling what it takes to achieve marital bliss.
The next day, Fr. Pat charmed the world with more advice for young adults (who you should and shouldn’t marry, why you can’t change a man, etc.) on the Today Show. (Watch the segment here.) And in the spring of next year, his book Whom …

February 5th, 2009
What to do with a husband who "isn't anything"

I had to explain it to the priest as I stood fidgeting with my cell phone antenna. No, my fiancee isn’t Catholic or Jewish, and he wasn’t baptized. I resisted the urge to holler, “YES, I am marrying a FILTHY heathen neener neener!” The priest told me curtly that he could not perform the marriage ceremony since my betrothed hadn’t been baptized. The job of blessing our union was passed to the deacon.
Husband isn’t…anything, really, religiously speaking. He is wickedly funny, always there to lend a hand when anybody needs it, he’s sweet and compassionate and very generous. What happens when a twenty-nine-year old Southern Catholic girl with Evangelical parents…

January 25th, 2009
Is the single life a vocation or just a test of patience...

Erin recently broke up with her boyfriend of two years. They were serious and considering marriage, but he didn’t want children and Erin, 27, very much wants a family. She knows she made the right choice but she’s still heartbroken, she told me recently in an email.
Erin, a longtime reader of this column, feels called to the vocation of Catholic married life — and is frustrated that she hasn’t yet met the partner with whom she can live out that call.
Here’s what she wrote to me:
“How does one live a single life with this vocation? It’s very confusing — not to mention painful and rather unhealthy — when I find myself sizing up all the men in my life as potentials, even friends…

January 14th, 2009
XXXChurch is not a sex site (kinda)

A family member of mine recently said, “Shellie, I’ve accepted that you are working in the sex industry.”
My thought? “It’s about time.”

When I look at my life, even I must admit that it is really sex filled. I am a teen-mom coordinator for a local Nashville nonprofit. That pretty much consists of trying to encourage 13 to 19-year-old “grown-way-too-soon” young women to use biblical insights, my advice based on experience (I myself am a sex abuse survivor with a history of promiscuity) and a little common sense when it comes to making sexual choices. I speak pretty frequently on a book that I wrote in 2004, Inside of Me: Lessons of Lust, Love and Redemption …. (I

January 11th, 2009
Christine Whelan discusses her new book, Marry Smart

Millions of singles made a New Year’s resolution to be more proactive about their love lives. Sound like you? If you want to find that special someone in 2009, it’s going to take some effort. (Amazingly enough, Mr. or Ms. Right will probably not intercept you between your car and your office, or jump into your path as you walk bleary-eyed for your morning coffee.)
While I know that the guys out there are looking for love, too, it’s usually women who spend the most time worrying about their odds of marriage, wondering if there’s something wrong with them. And it’s no wonder: Women read articles in the newspaper about how being too smart or too funny or earning too much money scares men…

December 19th, 2008
How to handle those pesky relationship questions this season

‘Tis the season for Christmas parties, family gatherings … and pesky (but well-meaning) friends and relatives asking you when you’re going to get married. Yep. While we enjoy the anticipation of Advent and look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ, for many young adults this is also a season of waiting — with more than a bit of dread — for the family inquisition into your love life.
Maybe it’s just an innocent comment from your great-aunt: “So, dear, any special someones in your life?” Or perhaps your family is more direct, with relatives tsk-tsking about how “you’re not getting any younger” when you say that “the one” hasn’t…

December 11th, 2008
18 and looking for more than just sex

I want to have sex.
There I said it; it is out in the open, loud and clear, true and honest.
My girlfriend wants to have sex.
We have been in a relationship for a month now, quite happy together. We click, she and I. She has been giving me hints for a while now, and lately she’s been coming close to flat out saying it.
So if I want to have sex and my girlfriend wants to have sex… then what’s the problem?
The problem is that I’m a Good Catholic Boy.
On the outside, my religion is what holds me back. It is what makes her so angry. She can’t understand why I’m behaving this way, why I don’t just give in to our passion. I can’t understand why this is such a problem for her.
Being a Catholic…

December 8th, 2008
Readers share their experiences with and reactions to NFP

So a few weeks ago I began a series on Natural Family Planning (NFP) to start an open and honest discussion about the what, why and how of NFP. The response has been tremendous: Nearly 150 of you replied to the online survey and many submitted in-depth, heartfelt comments about your personal experiences.
According to our BustedHalo survey, 76 percent of readers said they plan to practice—or already do practice—natural family planning. Wait… hold up, I said to myself as I looked at the data: These results caught my eye instantly.
Since numbers from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops tell us that fewer than 4 percent of married Catholics report using NFP methods to plan and space…

December 8th, 2008
A young, modern, well-educated woman discusses her choice to use natural family planning

When Mary Alice Teti read Dr. Christine Whelan’s recent article on natural family planning (NFP), she was excited to see such an important issue being discussed on BustedHalo. Mary Alice—who knew Christine from college—thought the original article only explained the “what” of NFP, however, and wanted to see a broader discussion of the “why” of this Church teaching. Why would a well-educated, intelligent, modern married woman choose not to use contraception? …
I celebrated my thirtieth birthday this past August. My husband and I just bought our first house, and this weekend we are going shopping for a new car that will accommodate the car seat for our baby who is

December 1st, 2008
In response to Cara O'Brien's "Do We Invite God"

I smiled ruefully on reading Cara O’Brien’s article, “Do We Invite God?” Whether to “invite” God to the wedding is clearly a sincere question for her—and many other young adults. But it indicates both a common misconception (as if God needs an invitation to be present and care for us) and a fundamental mistake that many brides make by getting so wrapped up in their wedding that they miss the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony. I urge young couples to strive to keep things simple and get married, not “wed-Dinged.”
Many young women planning weddings think in terms of what is best for “me,” what “I” like, what “I”…

November 24th, 2008
Frustrated American dieters seek spiritual support

As you gather round the family table to give thanks, you’ll consume anywhere from 2000 to 7000 calories as you graze on turkey, stuffing and candied veggies galore. Certainly not everyone is so fortunate to have a horn of plenty this time of year, but the majority of Americans will eat their fill… and then some.
As we gobble gobble, a growing number of groups caution us God might not approve of that second piece of pie. Yes, that’s right. The omnipresent world of wonder diets and slim-down regimes now has a foothold in the world of the omnipotent.
I wrote this piece for USA Today but thought that it might have some resonance with young adult spiritual seekers as well. Post your thoughts below……

November 18th, 2008
A young bride-to-be struggles over God's place in her wedding ceremony

The women sitting behind my mother were horrified. They had just heard the wedding vows of a radiant young couple, vows that included no mention of God or any church. They began whispering and tsk-ing halfway through the vows, and didn’t let up.
Hearing this story made me think about my own vows.
I’m just beginning to plan my wedding and, as a writer, I feel obligated to write my own vows. But I haven’t decided, just yet, what or who might go in them, or what or who might not.
Once firmly in the realm of houses of worship, wedding ceremonies have moved outdoors, out of the box and out from under the robes of the church.
But not every couple married in a church is deeply religious. Not every couple married…

November 11th, 2008
Honest answers for young adults' frank questions

This past Sunday I gave a lecture on sex, dating and relationships at the Newman Center at the University of Iowa. As a professor here, I teach classes on the American family and introductory sociology courses, so I’ve heard a lot about the undergraduate hook-up culture. My students aren’t sure what a hook-up really means, or how to find a lasting relationship when casual sex is the norm. So when the Newman Center invited me to speak to young adult Catholics on these issues, I jumped at the chance.
To prepare for the talk, I attended at Thursday 10 p.m. Mass where about 75 committed Catholic undergrads served as a focus group: After I explained why I thought it was important for issues of sex and dating to…

October 27th, 2008
Why religious and non-religious couples are using NFP

Let’s talk about Natural Family Planning. Wait… wait… did you just grab the mouse to click away to another screen? Give me a chance.
When you think of Natural Family Planning (NFP) you might think of barefoot-and-pregnant super-religious types who are out of touch with modern science. The words “conservative” or “creepy” or “weird” might pop into your head. I know. I’ve had those thoughts myself. In fact, until recently, the only thing I knew about NFP was a stupid joke:
Question: “What do you call a couple who practices natural family planning?
Answer: “Parents.”
But a few things happened recently: I got yet another letter from a reader requesting that I address NFP (a subject I’d…

October 13th, 2008
Prayer in Pen

The Ramona Quimby Diary was my first journal. I was seven, and helpfully it was fill-in-the-blanks. For most of 1985, I recorded my deepest thoughts and darkest secrets in that red, spiral-bound book: I never practiced piano like I was supposed to. I had a crush on a boy named David.

September 21st, 2008
Some Tips on Avoiding the Wedding Bell Blues

I remember receiving that first oversized calligraphied envelope. I was 22 and giddy with excitement as I opened the multiple envelopes, sifted through the tissue paper and found an impressively engraved invitation. I felt honored to be among the chosen to receive this elaborate missive: One of my oldest friends was getting married to her college sweetheart and I was thrilled.
That was nearly 10 years ago—and the bloom has worn off this wedding rose.
I’m going to speak the unspeakable: I need a break from weddings.
This year, my husband and I received 12 wedding invitations. The year before that, there were nine, including our own. The year before that, eight. I’m happy that each couple has found love and…

September 8th, 2008
BustedHalo readers weigh in

In my last column I shared a letter from Susan, a longtime reader of Pure Sex, Pure Love, who has been dating a man struggling with depression. “How do you deal with a partner who’s dealing with depression? Can you help—and if so, how?” I asked BustedHalo readers to weigh in on this email, and dozens of you responded.
Nearly 60% of respondents said that, like Susan, they have been in a relationship with someone suffering from depression, and 75% of respondents said Susan should continue her relationship. Many offered first-hand advice.
Lynn, 25, has been dating a man with depression for four years, and has dealt with the illness first hand herself. “It makes a relationship 10 times harder. There were nights…

August 25th, 2008
The God of Thin?

“Does God really care if we gained ten pounds over the holidays? Yes!” announces The Dieter’s Prayer Book.
“If you’ve struggled with obesity all of your life, you may not even be able to imagine yourself free of the bondage of unwanted fat. But God can,” promises The Bible Cure for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain….
As part of the Templeton-Cambridge Fellowship to study the intersection of science and religion, I explored the world of religious diet books. Surprised that such books exist? So are many Catholics, but religious weight-loss and health initiatives that began among evangelical Christians are spreading to other denominations—and other faiths—as Americans continue to put on the pounds.

August 4th, 2008
Depression Hurts

Recently I received a request from Susan, a longtime reader of my Pure Sex, Pure Love column:
How do you deal with a partner whose dealing with depression? Can you help—and if so, how? And where the lines are drawn between being supportive and looking after your own emotional needs, since depression doesn’t just affect the person going through it. Do you deal with a loved one’s depression differently if you are married versus dating? …
I pondered this email as I left for my final week of the Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship, where one of our lectures happened to be about the recent studied of Buddhist meditation used in the treatment of chronic depression.
“Estimates are that 1 in 6 people

July 22nd, 2008
Navigating your relationship during a recession

My husband, Peter, is a lawyer, and recently accepted a job with Legal Aid, a non-profit organization that provides legal services for the working poor. In states nationwide, community legal services groups are expanding their personal bankruptcy practices as this economy continues to soften, and he’ll be working with many families in financial crisis.
As we spent hours talking about the clients he’s going to work with and their difficulties making ends meet, we began thinking about our own finances. Are we saving enough? Peter drives 30 minutes to work and back each day; if gas prices continue to go up, do we need to cut back in other areas to pay for that increased expense? Our savings are dwindling as the…

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