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 22nd, 2009
New statistics show that what men and women want in a mate has changed drastically in the past 70 years

It’s the perennial question: What do men and women want in a spouse?
Men are increasingly interested in an educated woman who is a good financial prospect, and less interested in chastity. Women are increasingly interested in a man who wants a family, and less picky about whether he’s always Mr. Nice Guy.
That’s according to a study by that I conducted with Christie Boxer, a graduate student here at the University of Iowa. We analyzed results from a 2008 survey of more than 1,100 undergraduates of all religious backgrounds at the UI, the University of Washington, the University of Virginia and Penn State University, comparing the results to past mate-preference studies.
Since the 1930s, researchers…

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 …

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 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 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…

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 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…

July 7th, 2008
Declare your financial independence

This weekend, we celebrated our nation’s independence with fireworks and cook-outs. But according to a recent Busted Halo…® survey, young adults are struggling for an even more personal kind of independence this summer—financial independence.
More than 40% of respondents said they hold credit card debt, and nearly 50% are floating school loans. We’re the first generation in American history to be less well off at age 30 than our parents were at that age. And with the economy’s frequent hiccups, rising gas prices and falling home values, nearly half of respondents said financial discussions with loved ones have gotten more tense.
How can we declare independence from financial

June 27th, 2008
Our readers respond

My last column, "Wives, obey your husbands?" was intentionally provocative… and it worked!
Over the years, as I attended different parishes during college and beyond, I noticed something odd: Depending on the priest, we’d hear different versions of readings from Colossians and Ephesians about how a man and a woman should love and honor each other.
The full text of this New Testament letter from Paul includes this advice: "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as it behoveth in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and be not bitter towards them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they…

June 24th, 2008
After the flood

“I pray that the community spirit stays strong in all these communities, and that the floods can’t drown the love we feel for our neighbors in times of need.”

June 12th, 2008
“Wives, obey your husbands?”

As someone who studies the family and relationships, I usually look forward to the discussion of these big, important issues in the liturgy. At one church I attended during childhood summers, fathers would be recognized on Father’s Day by standing up and receiving applause. At another church, I remember mothers receiving a special blessing on Mother’s Day. And on the feast of the Holy Family, usually the Sunday after Christmas, the readings always caught my attention.
But over the years, as I attended different parishes during college and beyond, I noticed something odd: Depending on the priest, we’d hear different versions of readings from Colossians and Ephesians about how a man and…

May 8th, 2008
Men DO want to marry their mothers

If the old saying is true that men want to marry a woman like their mother, then this Mother’s Day, let’s thank moms for leading the way toward gender equality for a younger generation.
New York Times’… columnist Maureen Dowd has long complained that today’s men are a bunch of insecure wimps who are intimidated by smart—high achieving women and, she argues only want to marry their mother or some intellectually inferior woman to avoid their masculinity being threatened.
The Dowd pronouncements have caused millions of today’s high achieving women to fret over their probabilities of ever getting married. It turns out that Ms. Dowd is correct: Today’s men do want to

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