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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April 19th, 2010
Women aren't the only ones wondering whether their date is really "into" them

I recently received this note from long-time Pure Sex, Pure Love reader, Phil, a 26-year-old in Iowa. In a previous column, I’d suggested to readers that simple body language is a good way to tell if someone is interested in you. Phil took that test to the next level and asked: If a woman refuses to let me pay for her coffee on a first date, is she sending me a signal that she’s not interested?
Hi Dr. Whelan,
I think that I have found a variant of the salt shaker test. As you have written in your column, that is when you are on a first date and you put a salt shaker (or something like that) on your date’s side of the table. From what I recall, how they react is suppose to indicate whether they are into you.
If they…

April 5th, 2010
A reader asks whether she should become Catholic for her boyfriend

A few weeks back, a reader wrote in with a powerful question: She had been drawn to the Catholic Church because of her boyfriend. Should she convert without a promise of marriage?
Rakti has been dating her boyfriend for five years, since she was 19 and he was 21. Rakti is Hindu, and her boyfriend, Mark, is Catholic. While Rakti was in college, she began to question elements of her Hindu faith. “After a lot of reading, research, investigation and time I knew in my heart that what I had been raised in wasn’t the truth,” she writes.
From the start of their relationship, Rakti and Mark had discussed religion at length. She even started attending Mass with him, but after a certain point, both she and Mark…

March 22nd, 2010
A new social history says that the women were given the burden for making 20th century marriages work. Whose responsibility is it today?

If I told you that “relationships take work,” you’d roll your eyes. That’s so obvious to all of us in 2010 that it barely counts as advice.
Right?
With thousands of relationship self-help guides in print, daytime talk shows featuring advice on achieving better sex, compatibility and romance, and government funding for marriage preparation and education initiatives, the belief that relationships take work is firmly embedded in the modern consciousness.
The “relationship expert” — be it Dr. Phil McGraw with his televised tough-love guidance for couples on the rocks, or specially trained marriage and family psychologists — holds a central place in the…

March 8th, 2010
Shattering some age-old myths in under a minute

If you scanned the bookshelves in my office, you’d think I have a lot of problems: I’ve got books on how to find a date, have a good relationship and save a failing marriage. I’ve got guides to losing weight, overcoming anger, learning how to pray and finding one’s inner child. There are manuals for self-control, motivation, happiness and overcoming grief. In my own defense, though, I have a good excuse: I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the increasing popularity of self-help books, and in the years since then, I’ve been both a vocal critic and supporter of the $11 billion personal improvement industry.
So when a respected psychologist and myth-busting author comes out with…

February 22nd, 2010
On its 5th anniversary, Christine Whelan discusses the purpose of Pure Sex, Pure Love

Two weeks ago I wrote a column based on the book A Little Bit Married…, a guide for couples in long-term relationships. In it, I hoped to offer some practical real-world advice for spiritual seekers who have been dating for years, and those who are living together or considering cohabitation as a trial run for marriage. Since we all know someone who fits this description, I thought it was a useful book full of research-based advice — and I was eager to hear how young-adult Catholics, and seekers of all faiths, might respond to my spin on the book: Living together isn’t the solution to a happy, long-lasting relationship… but honest communication is.
All of us know the “rules” about no sex before

December 28th, 2009
You're not alone. Some strategies and ideas for change.

A new CatholicMatch.com poll has given us some data to prove what we already know: The holidays are a tough time to be single. Among more than 3,700 online CatholicMatch users polled in the December survey, 40% said that Christmas was the roughest time of the year to be unhitched… with New Year’s Eve a close second with 32% putting it in the number one “ugh” slot.
“I think all holidays are bad without someone special to share them with, but I have my family for most of them,” reported Michelle-407188. “I would have to say the worst is New Years. New Years is for being with close friends! It is way more fun to share it with someone special than alone!”
Women were slightly more likely to vote their solo New Year’s…

December 7th, 2009
Researchers try to reveal beauty and humanity on the web

Sep Kamvar

Feel festive, cheerful and blessed around Christmas — but then slide into the doldrums in the first weeks of the New Year? Financially illiterate — and then suddenly started blogging about how the ups and downs of the stock market impacted you emotionally? Felt patriotic — or depressed — when Obama was elected? The internet knows.

Talk about following the zeitgeist: Computer programmers Sep Kamvar and Jonathan Harris have spent more than four years collecting some 12 million emotions posted on internet blogs. Turns out we’re a pretty predictable bunch: Patterns of the calendar, news events and even the weather influence how we say we feel. And as an increasing number of bloggers worldwide share their lives publicly, we’re developing a new relationship with computers, our fellow bloggers and ourselves.

And this Christmas season, you can track your emotions in their strikingly beautiful, glossy gift book, We Feel Fine (Scribner), that uses sophisticated computer science to underpin its findings about modern human emotion. The brainchild of Kamvar, a professor of computational mathematics at Stanford University, and Harris, a systems designer, the program scans scans all blogs every few minutes and extracts the sentences that contain “I feel” or “I am feeling.” Since blogs often have public profiles, the duo was able to determine the gender, age, and location of the people expressing these emotions, to boot.

Which makes it particularly cool for young adults — and spiritual seekers. You can find out what people your age and faith background are thinking. Who is more likely to feel blessed? What states are most likely to have bloggers talking about religion? It’s all in there — in a really pretty layout that will make you want to flip through the pages time and again.

November 9th, 2009
What exactly does it mean and how is it affecting young adults' behavior

As a young professor at a big university, I’m able to talk to my students about rather personal issues like hooking up, relationships and sex. In one class, I asked students to diagram, on a large whiteboard, the evolution of a relationship — from first meeting to marriage. This was a fascinating exercise, and highlighted one key challenge in the dating game for young adults: “Hook-ups” are very common, but no group of college students can agree on exactly what the term means.
Studies tell us that more than half of college relationships begin with a hook-up. Translation: Before two college students have a dinner date, a meaningful conversation or even exchange phone numbers, there’s…

October 25th, 2009
The recent Sedona sweat lodge tragedy highlights some dangers in our obsession with self help

What would you do for spiritual enlightenment and personal success? Would you agree to spend 36 hours alone in the desert without food or water to help clear your mind and find your true potential? Would you follow a trusted leader into a dark, hot tent to experience a version of a centuries-old Native American sweat lodge ritual? History shows that in the name of self-help, many people will do just that — and more.
Three people died and more than a dozen others were injured as a result of an Oct. 8 retreat in Sedona, Arizona, led by James Arthur Ray, a nationally known self-help guru. According to interviews with participants and their family members, more than 50 people — within hours of returning from a desert “vision…

September 28th, 2009
Learning to fear regret more than rejection

daisy_complex-inside

Call it the Daisy Complex: So many of us worry ourselves sick — think of that silly game where you pluck the petals off a daisy: “She loves me… she loves me not…” seeking an arbitrary answer — and our fear of rejection keeps us from taking the first steps to happiness.

In his head, Thomas plays out the negative scenarios: He asks her out, she says no, and the friendship is ruined — he’s lost her entirely.

Or, he asks her out, she says yes, but then things don’t work out, and everything is weird after that.

Or…

The scenarios of doom are endless. But one scenario is nearly guaranteed: If Thomas doesn’t ask her out or show his interest, she’ll never know he cares about her that way. And that, to me, is the saddest of all possibilities.

“I know it’s a problem,” Thomas told me. “I just don’t know how to fix it.”

Conquering the Daisy Complex

I gave Thomas two bits of advice… and told him I’d share his story with other young adult readers who might be struggling with similar fears. Here’s my advice. What’s yours?

September 14th, 2009
How to support a friend or loved one who's grieving

On a recent Friday night a friend of mine called to tell me her husband had died suddenly. He didn’t suffer and she was with him, but he was young and they’d only been married for a little over a year. At first I thought I hadn’t heard correctly. I was expecting the news that she was pregnant, or that there was a new job on the horizon. Even when someone calls to say they have bad news, death is far from my mind.
“I’m so sorry” was all I could keep repeating. The next week I flew out to see her, brought chocolates and sat there as she told me the whole story. I told her again how sorry I was, and wished there was something more I could do.
While I hope this isn’t something that any of you have…

August 31st, 2009
Our readers weigh in on how the economy has affected their love lives

Katie, 27, and her fiancé, Ryan, got engaged in October, 2008, just as the economy was beginning its free-fall. Ryan was graduating from law school and, with a job lined up at a good firm, he planned to start paying off more than $150,000 in student loans. But in February, Ryan’s law firm withdrew their offer, laying off employees and downsizing their operation. Katie’s salary as a Catholic school teacher wasn’t going to be enough to make ends meet and pay off the loans. While Ryan searched, unsuccessfully, for another legal job, the young couple was in a bind. “Should we still get married? How will we live and survive?” Katie remembers asking herself.
A few weeks back, I introduced…

August 3rd, 2009
How is the economic downturn affecting relationships?

Tim is an unmarried 29-year-old with a master’s in statistics. He’d like to meet a great woman, get married and start a family, but he says the recession has stalled his progress.
“I don’t have the disposable income to go out on a date,” Tim told me recently. Plus, he said, his self-worth is tied to his career. After a few years of underemployment in jobs that haven’t been intellectually stimulating, even if he did have some more cash on hand he wouldn’t really feel up to dating.
“Manliness is rooted in a career, and it is demoralizing to work in positions that require little to no education and have little to no prospect of upward mobility,” said Tim. “All…

June 28th, 2009
Reality show rubbernecking

Recently, I’ve been tuning in to Jon & Kate Plus Eight at the gym. I watch on the sly like I’d rubberneck on the highway: The crash is too gory to view directly, but I can’t take my eyes off the drama. Some research suggests viewers watch reality TV because deep down they believe, someday, they too might be a star. I’d argue it’s even more basic than that: Reality television plays on our ugly, but very human, need to take someone else — especially the rich, attractive or famous — down a peg.
Call it the “Can you imagine?” factor: When Playboy… Playmate Kendra hands her soon-to-be parents-in-law a signed copy of her nude centerfold, the at-home viewers can screech

June 1st, 2009
Nurturing our relationships when we're 'too busy'

For the last six months, I’ve been busier than usual with work. In January and February, I was promoting my new book Marry Smart… and some new findings in mate-preferences research just in time for Valentine’s Day. All the while, I was teaching more than 200 students in two classes at the University of Iowa, grading papers, writing lectures and trying to get started on the book manuscript that’s due on July 1.
So I’ll admit it: I’ve been tired and grumpy and not a whole lot of fun for my husband, Peter, to be around. All of the best of me goes into my workday, and Peter gets the exhausted scraps. As we discussed our second wedding anniversary, which is coming up in a few weeks, Peter said he

May 3rd, 2009
Reconsidering a woman's "wifely duty"

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a column titled “Women need to say yes to sex.” I had my back up immediately — but kept reading. Bettina Arndt, author of The Sex Diaries…, begins the piece with this opening salvo: “What ever happened to wifely duty?”
Got your attention now? Yep, in any marriage, negotiations about sex cut to the heart of power dynamics, trust issues and emotional intimacy. And these are very sensitive subjects. (And no, I won’t be offended if you just click through to read her piece first and then come back to mine. It’s provocative.)
Arndt argues that “the assumption that women need to want sex to enjoy it has proved a really damaging sexual idea, one

April 13th, 2009
Our Pure Sex, Pure Love columnist offers some background on her new web video series The Princess, The Priest and the War for the Perfect Wedding

Thinking about getting married? Engaged? Welcome aboard the emotional rollercoaster: Planning a wedding and anticipating a marriage is a joyful time of preparations — but also a highly charged period of decisions, debates and family pressures.
And, as usual, BustedHalo® is here to help. Recently, I joined forces via the wonders of iChat technology with Father Eric Andrews, a Paulist priest who has over 15 years of wedding experience. Fr. Eric and I answer questions from brides and grooms preparing to be married in the Catholic Church. Why can’t you get married on the beach? Why is the priest being such a jerk? Why do we have to talk about sex during pre-Cana?
In our video series, The Princess, The Priest…

April 6th, 2009
Some highlights from our columnist's visit to CBS TV's Early Show

This morning, I appeared live on “The Early Show” on CBS to discuss dating and relationship strategies during an economic downturn. Watch the show here and read below for more advice.
When is the appropriate time to bring up finances in a relationship — and is it something you should really be asking about early on? …
Money is one of those subjects that’s off limits on the first date — but if you’ve just been laid off from your job there’s no avoiding the discussion. Get to know someone for who they are, not what they can buy for you: Is she proactive about finding a new job? Is he brainstorming about other career paths? Ambition and perseverance are what’s going to pay

March 22nd, 2009
Can ambition be a Catholic virtue?

Margot, 31, wants to be the first female partner at the boutique law firm where she’s worked for four years. She’s getting great reviews from her bosses because she works long hours, always delivers for clients and, “when a partner tells me to jump, I ask how high on the way up,” she says. “It’s been my ambition to be a partner at a law firm for years. So many women start out as associates at firms, but so few end up as partners. I really want that success.”
She admits that to me with a sigh, and an apologetic look. She continues: “Women aren’t supposed to have that burning ambition — or at least that’s the message I get from society. I’m 31, I’m…

March 8th, 2009
Recent comments in the Vatican newspaper raise questions

There’s a new study out from the Vatican: Seems men and women confess to different sins. The most commonly confessed sin for women is pride, while for men, lust and gluttony rule the confessional. Men’s desire for food is surpassed only by the urge for sex.
This analysis is based on a study of confessions carried out by Father Roberto Busa, a 95-year-old Jesuit scholar, and backed up by Vatican theologian, Dominican Father Wojciech Giertych. Recently, Monsignor Giertych told reporters for the Vatican newspaper (and, subsequently, the world) that men were more inclined than women to pursue pleasure.
“Often the most difficult [sin] men face is lust, and then comes gluttony, sloth, wrath,…

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