Marriage Hack: Improve your Marriage (and your Life) in 3 Easy Steps

On this feast of St. Jerome, who is almost as well-known for his temper as for his work translating the bible, we thought we’d share some tips for negotiating marital arguments.

This video reveals a surprisingly simple, empirically-validated technique that anyone can use to improve their marriage and, surprisingly, general life satisfaction in 3 easy steps.  I’ll describe those steps below, but it’s worth watching the video to understand the background of the study and to get a sense of how powerful and life-changing this simple technique can be.



The researchers note that studies of marital satisfaction show that, as the years go by, couples tend to show a steady and consistent decrease in the degree of satisfaction and fulfillment they enjoy from marriage.  This study showed it was possible to arrest this decline by using a simple three-step technique for managing conflict more effectively.  The shocking thing was that they only had the couples in the study do the technique 3 times over the course of a year–for a total of 21 minutes– and it actually arrested the decline in marital satisfaction the treatment group was demonstrating before the intervention and that the control group continued to experience even after the treatment group improved.

The Technique:


Basically, the technique gives couples a way to get out of the negative headspace we can all get into when we disagree with someone.  Even after a conflict is over, we can hold on to resentments without meaning to.  Over time, these bits of unintended resentment cling to us like mud and tar and cause us to get less joy from our marriage.  The researchers helped couples overcome this tendency by teaching them that when they were caught up in a disagreement, they should take a break to ask themselves three questions and write out the answers.

1.  How would a third party who wanted the best for both of you suggest resolving this problem?

2.  What would it take to enact this solution?

3.  What obstacles would need to be surmounted in order to enact this solution?


That’s it.  Couples who took the time to write out their answers three times over the course of a year stopped marital decline cold.  Watch the video if you don’t believe me.  The graph is impressive.


I and my associates have actually used a similar intervention in our tele-counseling practice for years and we’ve seen tremendous results.  While the researchers were limited to doing the exercise three times over the course of a year, we have the opportunity to work with clients to help them develop this technique as a habit.  We find that when couples use this strategy and others like it, not only can they halt marital decline, but they can start to experience a significant increase in marital satisfaction as they learn to let go of their own, limited perspective and work together to find mutually beneficial solutions to their problems.  Give it a try.  And if you’d like to learn more techniques to help make your life and marriage everything it could be, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to make an appointment to speak with a professional, Catholic counselor.  We look forward to helping you experience love

more abundantly in your heart and home!


(And Check out our just released title, Just Married:  A Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving the First 5 Years of Marriage   NOW AVAILABLE!)




6 Ways Parenthood Boosts Your Brain

There have been a number of stories in the news lately about how the “latest research” shows that only stupid women want children (or something to that effect).  In the Culture Wars, this gets translated into the idea that the Church wants women to have as many babies as possible to keep them humble and subservient.

The assertion is as nonsensical as the “research” it is supposedly based on.   Studies in “evolutionary psychology” have about the same intellectual rigor as “womyn’s studies.”  Good-natured jokes about “mommy brain” aside, as this excellent article points out, other research argues that parenthood actually improves brain function in 6 distinct ways…

1. Constantly being exposed to new information. While learning everything about your child’s health and welfare, you’re also exposing yourself to new knowledge sources…. Throw on top of that the information you learn by helping older children with their homework and other assignments, and it’s clear that your brain benefits from this constant infusion of new stimulation.

2. Developing your softer side.  Your kids need very different forms of attention and understanding than even the most challenging adult. 

3. Staying on top of what’s new. Through your kids, you learn- for better or worse- about what’s going on the world that might otherwise have passed you by. How many midlife and older adults today are iPhone savvy because their children (or grandchildren) have taught them about the new technologies?

4. Developing your own abilities.  Perhaps you weren’t the most athletic kid in the world, but as the parent of a young soccer wannabee, you’ve got no choice but to become a little more coordinated with your feet. Or it could be the opposite, and you’re absolutely incapable of doing anything involving fine motor movement (painting, sewing, carpentry). Through practicing with your child, you can encourage the parts of your brain that handle these tasks to grow just a tiny bit.

5. Acquiring self-knowledge. A considerable amount of research on parenthood suggests that parents relive their own earlier stages through the experiences of their children. However, you relive these experiences with the brain of an adult, not a child or teenager. Therefore, by having the opportunity to look anew at the classic issues that children must face (establishing autonomy, dealing with bullies, to name just two), adults can gain new insights into their own development.

6. Staying healthier. Becoming responsible for the young can lead you to pay more attention to your health if for no other reason than that you would like to be around when they grow up. In addition, though, all that running around after the kids, having to provide them with decent nutrition, and learning about the factors affecting their health can help you improve your own.   READ MORE

If you want more tips on smart parenting and parenting smart, check out Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids (2nd ed. revised and expanded)

Because, Y’Know, Pope Francis is “Soft” on Abortion…

My epiphany of this past weekend did not blind me to the challenges Pope Francis’ papacy presents.  Specifically, because his style is profoundly welcoming and he is so committed to bringing home the prodigal, his more pastoral style can be easily twisted by people who’s agenda runs contrary to the Church.

Instead of complaining about this, we need to rise to the challenge.  To help us all do that, I’ll be regularly posting quotes from Pope Francis on the very topics he’s allegedly “soft” on; abortion, contraception, gay marriage and the like.  I recommend we all do our best to take 5 minutes to memorize these quotes so that when people confront us–at the water cooler or wherever–with the tired story that “Pope Francis says Catholics shouldn’t make a big deal about X” we’ll be ready.   So, here’s my first installment in my, “Here’s what Pope Francis ACTUALLY said”  series.

“Every unborn child, though unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of the Lord, who even before his birth, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world. And every old person, even if infirm and at the end of his days, carries with him the face of Christ. They must not be thrown away!” – Pope Francis

Papa Francis, The Prodigal, and “the Good Son.”

How do you feel about Pope Francis’ style?

I’ve been praying a lot about my reactions to Pope Francis as well the reactions I have read from my fellow Catholic culture warriors.    I have friends–sometimes of the more liberal persuasion (but not all)–who think Pope Francis is an incredible breath of fresh air.  I have other friends–usually more conservative–who can’t believe how much this guy is, in their minds, stinking up the joint.

Ambivalence Observed

As for me, well, I’ve been ambivalent–and honestly, I’ve been troubled and a little ashamed–of my reactions.  In the first place, I have always thought of myself as “the Pope’s man.”  I was 11 when Pope John Paul II was elected to the Throne of Peter and 38 when he died.  I loved him.   I have largely formed my life according to his teachings.    I grew up challenging myself to see marriage and family life through the lens of his Theology of the Body and to do my best to both live out and promote the Church’s vision of life and love.    The same went for Benedict, who was at least a continuation of JPII’s thinking if not his style.  I was fascinated by their minds, intrigued by what I could learn at their feet, and eager to put into practice everything I learned from them, because even though living out their words didn’t necessarily win me any popularity contests by the world’s standards, their counsel taught me how to live a truly blessed life filled with love and faith and joy.  Because of all this, I have, as long as I can remember, had a strong appreciation for the office of the pope.


Which is why my reactions to Pope Francis have bothered me so much.  On the one hand, I find much to admire.  His simplicity.  His heart.  His genuine love for people.  His obvious love for Christ.  On the other hand, I have been genuinely put off–sometimes even angered–by a lot of things he has said that, frankly, have made my job harder.

Remember, most of what I do all day in counseling and on the radio is try to help people live out the Catholic vision of love, sex, and marriage.   In the last several weeks alone, I have had people challenge me in ways I haven’t encountered before.  It used to be that when I made some statement about the Church’s positions on marriage, love and sex, people would accept it.  They wouldn’t always like it, but they knew it was true.   They knew it was true, because even if they didn’t exactly get it, they knew what I was saying at least sounded like what they heard Pope JPII or Pope Benedict say.    But now, all of a sudden, I’m getting a kind-of push back I haven’t experienced before.  “Well, the POPE, said…”  Or,  “That’s not what Pope FRANCIS said the other day….”  As if I haven’t read the same interviews.   Then, when I try to explain what the Pope actually said, for the first time, people are accusing me not of trying to faithfully represent Church teaching, but of engaging in “conservative spin.”    It’s particularly frustrating for me, because the contexts for these discussions are often not some bar or church basement where I’m having a friendly argument with someone to pass the time, but counseling sessions where marriages and families and lives are at stake.    For heaven’s sake, I recently had a client who was struggling with serious faith issues and depression quit counseling with me a few weeks ago because, in his words, “I’m much more of a Pope Francis/Nancy Pelosi Catholic and you’re an old-school, Pope John Paul II Catholic.”

Ouch.  How did that sting me?  Let me count the ways….

So, yes.  I’ve been…disturbed by a lot of what Pope Francis has been saying–or, perhaps more accurately, by how people have too easily been twisting what he has been saying.  At the same time, I believe in the papacy.  I believe the Holy Spirit has a great deal to do with who sits in the Chair of Peter.  I believe that God knows what he is doing in the Church and even if the papal election is a very human process, I believe that God wants to use whomever is elected to teach us–to teach me–something important about being Catholic at this time in history.  And so, unlike a lot of other people who have been openly angry about Pope Francis, I have tried to stay quiet, to talk through my feelings with a few mature Christians I trust, and, most importantly, to pray.  A lot.

The Return of the Prodigal

The past weekend, God smacked me upside the head with an insight that has been convicting me hard ever since.  As I was praying, I was suddenly reminded–or, really, more like slapped in the face with the memory of–the Prodigal Son.  Well, not the prodigal son, exactly. That would have been OK.  I’m fine being the Prodigal Son.  But no.  That wasn’t who God was reminding me of.  Suddenly, it was like God took my face in his hands and pointed me at a mirror, and I saw…the good son.  The good kid who stayed behind, did everything his father told him to do, was probably a little glad to see his annoying, pain-in-the-ass brother leave in the first place,  and was more than a little upset to see him come back.  You know, the one with the stick up his rear-end whom everyone acknowledges but no one wants to be like.

God showed me that I was being the “good son.”  And I heard a voice say, “My lost children are coming home.  And you are angry.”

And I remembered the words of the story…

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

And I started to cry.


Here, in Francis, my Papa was running out into the street to meet my brothers and sisters who were lost but now found.   He was killing the fatted calf and putting the finest robes on them.  He was giving them his ring.   And here I was, stuck doing the same damn thing I’ve always been doing and getting even less thanks for it.   People who left the Church, who hated the Church (and yes, hated and sometimes abused me for loving it), who wouldn’t give the Church a second glance were suddenly realizing that God loved them, that the Church welcomed them, and all I could do was feel bitter about it.  Because it was a fricking inconvenience to me.   I didn’t feel bitter because I don’t love them.   I do.  It wasn’t that I don’t want them to know how much they are loved and welcome.  I do.  But I was bitter because, to be perfectly honest, having to love them the way they are today makes my life harder than I would like it to be.   It isn’t enough for me to  just make statements and then sit in my rightness and be right.   All of a sudden, I have to really listen, to deal with the mess of their lives and put up with–no, actually respect— their “who do you think YOU are?” attitudes.    Yes, I loved them,  truly, but not enough.  Pope Francis was showing me that for all my brave words and self-congratulatory thoughts about my commitment to love my neighbor, I loved my comfort zone a little more than I loved my brother and sister who were coming home after a long time of suffering and loneliness.

And I felt ashamed.

Love and Truth

None of this is to say that the Church’s teachings on love, sex and marriage aren’t true.  And I think Pope Francis is showing us this too.   Likewise, none of this is to say that I have to pretend that the Church’s vision of life shouldn’t be upheld, taught, and proclaimed boldly.  But it is to say that preaching to an empty house, or limiting myself to too easy conversations with only the brothers and sisters who agree with me is useless.  I can still have those discussions I love so much, fight for those causes that matter so much, but first I have to get past the pride and joy I get from “being right.”  From being “the right kind of Catholic.”  From being “the good son.”  I have to show my brothers and sisters that I love them–first and always.  That I want them sitting next to me even though we don’t see eye-to-eye.   I have to be willing to learn from them as much as teach.  To acknowledge that they have things to offer me and that I am glad to be related to them even though we make each other uncomfortable sometimes.   If I can do that, if I can show them the love that Jesus has truly placed in my heart,  then I can have all the family arguments I want–and heck, maybe even win a few of them.  But if they don’t feel the love of Jesus radiating out of me, what’s the use in any of it?  Without love, I am no prophet.  I am just a clanging gong.  A noisy cymbal.

I think I’m starting to get it.  I think God, through Pope Francis, is reminding me that being right is fine, but I need to be even more committed to love because it is love that wins men’s hearts.  It goes back to what Pope Benedict said in Caritas in Veritatem, that taken together, love and truth prevent love from being reduced either to mere sentimentality or fideism.  God is reminding me that I still  have a way to go before I have mastered that art.

“Everything I Have is Yours…”

I guess I’m still processing all this, but in the last few days, I find myself a lot less disquieted by Pope Francis words and even the ways people are trying to twist them.  Let Papa bring my brothers and sisters home.  I love them and I will welcome them.  And I will be happy to continue the family arguments with them, because now that they are coming back home, I can.

Finally, to all my  brothers and sisters who are also my fellow “good sons and daughters” who feel as if their legs have been cut out from underneath them as the very people Pope Francis is running to meet accept his love but twist his words, perhaps we can all take a little comfort along with God’s conviction as we meditate on the Father’s words to the good son at the end of the story.

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

And more importantly,  perhaps we “good sons and daughters” in the family can yet find a place in our hearts for our  returning brothers and sisters and even happily join the party our Papa is throwing for them.

Calling All Franco-phobes, “Be not afraid!”

A lot of people–especially conservatives and traditionalists–are freaking out about Pope Francis comments, especially his most recent interview for America magazine.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not unsympathetic.  Even though Pope Francis is not overturning any doctrines or giving out “Get Into Heaven Free” passes to the lowest bidders, he does have a VERY different style that requires some getting used to after the more charismatically catechetical (chasmachetical?) approach of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.  I’ll admit that I, myself have found it as jarring as it is liberating.   That said, I think people’s fears are misplaced.  Marcel Lejeune at Aggie Catholic agrees and I encourage anyone who is tempted to begin dressing in sackcloth and ashes either because of what Pope Francis says, or what the press says he says, to read Marcel’s essay titled, “7 Reasons Pope Francis Worries Some Catholics and Why They Shouldn’t Worry.”    It’s excellent.

And of course, readers should always be sure to read the Pope’s interview for themselves. He is nothing if not accessible!

Dr. Popcak’s prescription for Franco-Phobes?  Take one deep, cleansing breath and call Jesus in the morning (and at noon, and at night).

Is No-Sex the New Sex?

That’s the title of an article at The Science of Relationships.

The article itself covers a few different topics related to this theme, but the thing that struck me was a recognition by secular professionals that a lack of chastity (not the way they put it, of course, but still) is bad for relationships.  To put it in their language, the longer a couple delays the onset of sexual activity, the more likely the relationship will be long lasting and exclusive.

Delaying the onset of sexual activity is one way to increase the odds that a couple will stay together. For example, I spoke with Anthony Paik, professor of Gender and Women’s Sexuality at the University of Iowa. He suggests that the onset of sex after the first month of dating can lead to commitment. “In one of my studies, it turned out that the longer couples delayed sex, the more exclusive the relationship. And if men engage in sex within the first month of dating, they are 4.5 times more likely to be nonexclusive later.”

Yet many people hold the modern belief that in order to have a long-term bond, they must audition their mate sexually, as if hooking-up is a way to win the marriage lottery. Sexual chemistry, they say, is necessary for long-term happiness. If this theory were true, people who do not test their sexual chemistry before commitment should have shorter, less happy relationships. But psychology professor Dean Busby and his colleagues at Brigham Young University were unable to make this connection in a study of more than 2,000 couples. People with good sexual chemistry early on did not stay together longer.8 He explained his results to me this way: “The mechanics of good sex are not particularly difficult or beyond the reach of most couples, but the emotions, the vulnerability, the meaning of sex and whether it brings couples closer together are much more complicated to figure out.” 

Perhaps those seeking platonic love online understand more than anyone the nutritional benefits of companionship, trust, and non-sexual touch. Maybe no sex is the new sex.

It’s a good piece.  Go take a look at the whole thing.

Why Wills? In which We Recall the Last Time Popcak took Wills to the Woodshed

Ah, Garry Wills.  My favorite professorial poseur and religious rebel-without-a clue.   He’s back with a new argument for using books as kindling in the form of a doorstop titled, Why Priests?  A Failed Tradition.  Stephen Colbert has some fun with him on the topic the other day and does a fairly good job responding (although he doesn’t challenge Wills demonstrably false assertion that Augustine didn’t support the priesthood.) Take a look.

I really have to wonder what anyone sees in this guy.  He’s a terrible historian and a worse theologian.  I wouldn’t even bother posting this except that it gives me an opportunity to revisit the last time I took Wills to the woodshed in the LA Times for his preposterous claim that religious people have no right to be concerned with abortion.  Here’s a sample…

 Garry Wills’ recent L.A. Times Op-Ed article “Abortion isn’t a religious issue,” in which he claims that abortion is not a religious issue, might as well have begun with these fanciful words, because the article is as imaginative a bit of fiction as anything the Brothers Grimm could have penned — only significantly less entertaining.    In his essay, Wills cherry-picks Thomas Aquinas’ theology; employs a simplistically idiosyncratic interpretation of Scripture and massacres history, science and philosophy, all in a fevered attempt to assert that people of faith should kneel at the altar of secularism because, he argues, Christian opposition to abortion is a Johnny-come-lately moral position founded on little more than thin air and pious politics.    Oh, really.

Neither faith nor reason supports Wills’ claims.  (READ MORE)

It really is appalling how this guy is given a professional forum to churn history for his own flaky ends.  For a more thorough look at the Weird World of Wills (and more importantly, how to respond to your second cousin when he brings it up this Thanksgiving) check out Fr. Robert Barron’s review of Why Priests?at Word on Fire.




Hi All You Happy People: 21 Habits of Supremely Happy People


I came across this article that summarizes recent developments in positive psychology research into a list of 21 habits happy people cultivate.  Taken individually, each item has been shown to empirically boost our baseline happiness level a bit.  But as I looked at the list, it occurred to me what a powerful effect cultivating even a handful of these habits into one’s everyday life would have.  They are all so simple.  Most interesting to me is the consistent finding that the happiest people are not the ones who pursue pleasure but the ones who pursue a meaningful and engaged life of connection and service to others.  Sound familiar?

Or as the article puts it….

After exploring what accounts for ultimate satisfaction, Seligman says he was surprised. The pursuit of pleasure, research determined, has hardly any contribution to a lasting fulfillment. Instead, pleasure is “the whipped cream and the cherry” that adds a certain sweetness to satisfactory lives founded by the simultaneous pursuit of meaning and engagement.

As I describe in my book, The Life God Wants You to Have:  Discovering the Divine Plan when Human Plans Fail, one can be happy (in the sense of being content, confident, purposeful, and connected to others) even in the face of hardship if one looks for ways to pursue meaningfulness (using your gifts to improve both your life and the lives of others), intimacy (pursuing deeper and healthier relationship), and virtue (using the events of life to become a better, stronger person).  Even if it is impossible to resolve the problems one is facing in the short term, pursuing meaningfulness, intimacy, and virtue in the moment makes you happier and more hopeful.

What positive psychologists call, “Authentic Happiness” (defined above as the pursuit of meaning and engagement), what (I would argue) Christians call Joy, is an important part of the Christian walk.  One of the best ways to evangelize the world is to let our faith motivate us to intentionally cultivate the “little ways” of connection and meaning that lead to true happiness–and, while we’re at it, holiness too.  Take a look at this list of the 21 Habits of Supremely Happy People and see which of these little behaviors you’d like to cultivate to be a happier person and a better witness to hope.

6 (+2) Reasons To Question The Assertions of

I’ve been seeing a lot about, a new website that purports to offer a Catholic vision of family life as a corrective to the alternatives the world has to offer.  It’s been making a splash in both Catholic and secular circles, generating spirited conversations on Catholic blogs as well as secular feminist sites like Jezebel.

It is clear to me that the founders of the site have a deep love for the Church and for family life and that they mean to do good.  I would like to be able to say I could support the work of  As regular readers know, I have dedicated my life and ministry to promoting the Catholic vision of marriage and family life.    Because I believe in the importance of accurately representing the Church’s teachings on marriage and family life, I have taken a degree in theology in addition to my clinical, professional degrees.  More importantly, I have theologians, canon lawyers, and clergy, including my own bishop, who serve as advisors to my ministry.  In fact, the Pastoral Solutions Institute is officially under the authority of the Bishop of Steubenville and is listed in the Official Catholic Directory as such.  I believe this kind of oversight is important for a lay ministry to maintain its integrity as a faithful and authentic Catholic institution.

Unfortunately, it does not appear to me that has any such oversight.  As well-intentioned and heartfelt as the site’s founders obviously are, the site is chock-full of errors in Catholic theology, tradition,  and logic.  Their article, 6 Reasons to NOT Send Your Daughter to College is particularly problematic.  Again, I bear the founders no ill will and I do not suggest that they intend to spread error or confusion.  Honestly, it is not my habit to go out of my way to criticize other laborers in the field.  As I say,  I actually appreciate their intentions.  But you can’t do a good thing in a bad way and, sadly,  that is exactly what is happening on their site, especially in this very problematic article.  Because of the press their work is generating, I have deep concerns that they are misleading the public about the very institutions (Catholicism, family life) they state they support.

Education of Women: Catholic Teaching & History

Many of their arguments against providing a college education to young women boil down to the idea that college discourages women from being wives and mothers and/or leads them into sin.  First of all, I know of no research to say that this is true–certainly no more true for women than men.  More importantly, this assertion flies in the face of the very first principle of Catholic Social Teaching; namely, the right of every human person to life AND education.

As it states in Gaudium et Spes #26, “Therefore, there must be made  available to all men* everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such  as food, clothing, and shelter; the right to choose a state of life freely and  to found a family, the right to education, to employment, to a good reputation,  to respect, to appropriate information, to activity in accord with the upright  norm of one’s own conscience, to protection of privacy and rightful freedom  even in matters religious.”

(*please note, in the context of the document, it is obvious that the document uses “men” in the generic sense of “people.”)

 Catholics have always been behind the educational development of  all persons, including women, because the more education a person has the more they are able to appreciate all the levels on which life is a gift.  While I admit that a college degree is not necessarily the hallmark of a well-educated person, it would be  profoundly unjust to deprive a person who was capable of benefitting from such an education because that person was a woman.   Even if a woman planned to be a wife and mother, the Church would NEVER claim her college education was wasted.  Catholics assert that education is about forming the person, not plying a trade.   The Church has always believed, in teaching and practice, that every human person–male or female–has a right to receive as much education as they are capable of taking advantage of.  The Church has never supported the notion that women should not be educated as fully as possible.  In fact, 1st century Catholics scandalized Roman society with their generous attitudes toward the dignity and education of women.

FixtheFamily:  A Catholic Theologian Responds

In addition to these few comments of mine, I would like to point you to a post by Emily Reimer-Barry for a more comprehensive evaluation of’s claims.   She is a Catholic theologian at the University of San Diego and Catholic Moral Theology blogger and she offers her thoughtful and sensitive analysis here.  Following’s format, Reimer-Barry’s article presents 6 (+2) reasons why the original article about sending young women to college is inconsistent with Catholic teaching contrary to the author’s assertions.  Dr. Reimer-Barry’s article is very well-done.  She successfully avoids the temptation to “eat our own” that too many Catholics indulge in.  Instead,  she adopts a pastoral tone that I truly respect.    Here’s a sample…

I proceed with the goal of describing which of Mr. Alleman’s claims are theologically inadequate, which parts of his arguments are methodologically unsound, and which conclusions are contrary to Catholic teaching, offensive to women, or both. But before I begin, I want to clearly state that I will not engage in personal attack, and I will not question Mr. Alleman’s intent or motives. I believe him when he says he is a family man. He seems genuinely interested in the Catholic moral tradition. But I believe that he presents a distorted view of feminism and a flawed interpretation of magisterial teachings. Even though my goal is dialogue with Mr. Alleman, it ultimately does not really matter if he reads this. But when I was thinking today about why his website is so dangerous for young women, it occurred to me that many young Catholic readers may stumble upon his website and become confused.  Readers may wonder if there is another way to think about gender norms, sexuality, prayer, discernment, and marriage, while remaining in the Church (there is).  Readers may wonder if he presents an accurate portrait of feminists (he doesn’t). My goal is the same as his: to reach a wide audience of readers on the internet who would like to know more about the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage and family life. As he writes on his website, “You don’t have to be rich or have an advanced degree to access or understand them. Just bring a willing spirit, open mind, and willingness to change.” I ask the same.    READ MORE….

Correction with Fraternal Affection

I join Dr. Reimer-Barry, not in condemning the Alleman family’s effort, but in encouraging them to check their math, as it were, and present, not an idiosyncratic and incomplete vision of marriage and family life, but the fullness of Catholic teaching both for their good and the good of the Church which we all love and long to serve.  It is my hope that comments like mine and Dr. Reimer-Barry’s will help the Allemans fulfill their desire to serve the Church more effectively.   I recommend that they take these charitably-intentioned comments to heart and seek appropriate pastoral and theological oversight by placing themselves under the authority and guidance of their local bishop and any theologians he may see fit to appoint to guide them in their efforts.   I wish them all the best for the future.

6 Stages of Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts

Sex addiction statistics show that 25 million Americans visit cyber-sex sites between 1-10 hours per week. Another 4.7 million in excess of 11 hours per week. (MSNBC/Stanford/Duquesne Study, Washington Times, 1/26/2000).   According to Datamonitor, over half of all spending on the Internet is related to sexual activity, with 30 million people logging on at pornographic Web sites daily.  According to some estimates, sex addiction affects about 3-5% of Americans, but that number is also considered to be hopelessly low because it is based upon the number of people who seek treatment, not the probable hundreds of thousands of people who never ever look for help.

Of course, this is all terribly devastating to the spouse of the sex addict who is almost always completely surprised by the revelation of the addiction and goes through his or her own stages of healing.

There is help though, for people who are ready to heal.  Patrick Carnes, who spearheaded most of what we know today about defining and treating sexual addiction, has identified 6 stages of recovery for partners of sex addicts..

They are…

  • Developing/Pre-discovery–This is where the partner of the sex addict has a sense that something is not right, but she can’t quite put a finger on it.  Things aren’t adding up, but she isn’t sure why.
  • Crisis/Decision/Information Gathering–The truth is out now.  Phone records or credit card statements or internet histories or other signs have been discovered.  There is no denying that there is a real problem here.  The partner will respond by trying to micromanage the addict.    It won’t work.  This is a good time to involve programs like Sexaholics Anonymous.
  • Shock–A hopelessness can start to set in as the partner realizes that they have been living with a stranger
  • Grief/Ambivalence– The partner begins to mourn the old relationship and the lost innocence.  This leads to a new honesty and a new willingness to face what is still good and worth saving in the relationship combined with an honest assessment of the work that needs to be done.  This can lead the partner to wonder if its worth going on in the relationship.
  • Repair–Now the partner commits to the work of healing themselves and the relationship.  They are learning how to hold their mate accountable without getting sucked into the drama or the con games.  The spouse is honestly seeking treatment and working a program.  That makes it safe for the couple to begin working on making the marriage healthy.
  • Growth– A new honesty and authenticity is blooming in the relationship as the couple relates to each other on a level they never have before.  There are still a lot of hard conversations ahead, but each talk brings out something new and good to work with.

It can be devastating to find that one’s partner is struggling with their sexuality through porn, adultery or other sexual acting out.  But there is hope and healing to be found.  And it is worth hanging in there.

If you would like more information on working to heal a relationship damaged by sexual addictions, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute Tele-Counseling Practice at 740-266-6461 to speak with a faithful, professional, Catholic counselor today.