If love is blind, “marriage is like a trip to the optometrist’s office,” warns an 81-year-old priest from New Jersey in a new book for women designed to help them evaluate whether the man they’re dating is marriage material. Up front, Father Pat Connor addresses those who might question his authority to speak on the topic. “You might be thinking, ‘He’s a priest. He’s never been married,’ and in that you would be correct.” But, he goes on, “for over 50 years I have had the privilege of speaking with young women on the subject of whom not to marry. These women have opened their hearts and minds while bringing me their questions.” Questions such as: “Is money really important in a marriage?” “Yes. Yes. Yes, to that one,” he writes in Whom Not to Marry: Time-Tested Advice From a Higher Authority.
Remember, he writes, “You can be deeply in love with someone to whom you cannot be successfully married.” If you’re thinking love conquers all, “it doesn’t,” he writes. Top on his list is, “Never marry a man who cannot hold down a job.” Then there’s “never marry a man who has no friends.”
When a portion of Father Pat’s list appeared in the New York Times, a twice-married and divorced woman sent him her own version: “Never marry a man who is more affectionate in public than in private. Never marry a man who notices all of your faults but never any of his own. Never marry a man whose first wife had to sue for child support. Never marry a man whom your children don’t like.”
Father Pat advises women to take a year between the decision to marry and the wedding. “Use the engagement as a time to ask questions,” such as, “What would I be glad to know about him that’s impossible to know in the first few months of dating?”
He writes about one woman whose fiancé loved to shop for expensive clothes. “Then he wants to go to pricey restaurants to show them off,” she told Father Pat. “I prefer eating at home and wearing my comfortable clothes. How can I change him to like the simpler life?” “Change him? Forget it! He’s a bad risk for marriage. I’m afraid it’s just that simple,” Father Pat told her.
One of his must-haves is physical attraction. “There used to be, in one of the formulas used at weddings, a wonderful sentence that was said by each spouse in turn: ‘With my body, I thee worship.’ If you feel no physical attraction to him, don’t marry him!”
He urges women to ask: “Has your love grown since you became serious about one another?” “Do you see in this person the qualities you want in your children?” “Do you love each other with equal intensity and are you sure your love is not one-sided?”
Beware of the “Green-Eyed Monsters.” “Envy and jealousy are as complex as they are puzzling, and they’re both destructive.” He tells of a young woman who loved to dance but complained, “my boyfriend always declines my offers to dance with me. When I’m dancing with other boys, I can feel him staring at us. How can I help him to like dancing and to stop staring?”
“You’ll probably never get your boyfriend to like dancing,” Father Pat told her, “and the staring only means that jealousy is in play here. Have a chat with him about that unlovely quality. If he persists in his jealous-laden behaviour, drop him!”
If your boyfriend has cold feet, “Never put yourself in the position of trying to persuade him to marry you. No good can come of that,” he writes. “It’s important to pay attention to those actions that convey a lack of commitment on his part.”
Adhering to dating rules is another mistake, he says. “I’m uncomfortable with this rules approach to dating—rules that take into account anything from who calls whom and when, who pays for dinner, and how many dates to have before either becoming intimate or moving on. Rules can quickly morph into ultimatums, and that’s no good for anybody.”
Also, think twice about the “fun or quirky proposals,” like eloping to Vegas “on a whim.” Father Pat urges women to “think about it. The decision to get married will affect your entire life. Do you really want to enter into something so casually?”
One couple’s modest engagement rings made him happy. The groom said, “We bought these rings, one for $15, one for $20.” The couple hoped to upgrade later on. Father Pat told them, “I hope you forget in future getting more expensive rings. Put the money toward your children’s college funds!”