Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do
by Duana Welch, PhD
In Love Factually, Duana Welch lays out ten steps to finding love based on her research as a social scientist. At first glance this sounds like the typical line that is handed out to singles, but after I read the introduction, I wanted to give it a chance. The book is a nice blend of personal stories and humor as well as social science data to support various conclusions. It is a reminder that single people today face a number of obstacles when it comes to finding a spouse, but that it is possible and worth the effort.
I will start with a necessary caveat: Love Factually is a secular book for a secular audience. The advice given about when to have sex, and the point of view that the sex of the person you love is irrelevant, are obviously not shared by this reviewer.
With that out of the way, I would like to point out a few specific points in Love Factually that I found particularly relevant to Catholic singles out there (like myself).
Welch begins the book with a number of myths or platitudes about love and marriage that she wants to debunk. These are familiar to most single people—things like, “Your spouse will show up when you’re not looking!” “Marriage is only for the lucky few” or, the one I find particularly irritating, “Before you can be happy with someone else, you have to be happy by yourself.” As Welch notes, this phrase just “sounds so plausible” and that is probably because there’s a kernel of truth in it: you cannot look for another human being to fulfill your desires for happiness. This phrase is very similar to something that Catholic single women (and, I am guessing, men) hear fairly often: once you are totally at peace with Jesus, and content with Him alone, then your spouse will arrive. Addressing the secular version, Welch says that this is just another misconception, and that the desire for another human being to be an integral part of your life is normal and healthy, not an indication that there is something wrong with you.
Another section in Love Factually is startlingly similar to advice that Catholics sometimes receive from spiritual directors: make a list of “must-haves” for a future spouse. Differentiate in this list between ideals or desires and needs. This list is specific to you, but still focused on what is essential rather than superficial or very particular. (For example, “Faithful Catholic” may be on the list, but “Favorite devotion is the Novena to St. Athanasius” perhaps should not be!) Then, as you go over this list, mark the ones that apply to you. It turns out, Welch says, that you should see checks next to almost all of these essentials. This is because, contrary to the idea that opposites attract, compatibility in essential qualities is one thing that makes marriages work. Kindness and respect, Welch notes, belong on everyone’s list. She also writes that once you make a list, you are more likely to notice potential partners around you, and to know where you might need to go to find one. (If “scuba diver” is on your list, and you never go scuba diving, you may have a problem, she points out.)
A section on evolutionary psychology and its implications for the “dating game” is interesting and offers food for thought. It reminds me a bit of Vicki Thorn’s presentations about our “stone-aged bodies” and how we often do not take seriously the effects our hormones and pheromones have on us. Part of being human is this sticky fact that we are unconsciously participants in our species’ plan for survival! One aspect of this game that Welch notes, is for women to hold off on sex until some kind of faithful commitment has been made. “Women, hard-to-get won’t make all men love you. But it will make it very clear, very fast, who loves you and who never would’ve,” she writes (136). She also practically slams the increasing practice of cohabitation, which she says is the opposite of being hard-to-get and expecting the commitment a woman deserves. Duane notes, “In study after study and culture after culture, cohabitation is not marriage-lite. It is a different entity, separate and unequal” (237).
The friends and family plan: this is what Dr. Welch suggests for singles who are looking for a spouse. The community has always played an important role in forming marriages, but in our highly mobile society today, this is often lacking. Young adult groups in parishes or at the diocesan level may attempt to fill this gap, but they are still a less organic way of meeting other people when compared to meeting through friends and family. Welch also gives common sense rules about dating that are good reminders, including encouragement to break up when it is the right thing to do. She calls the relationships that we are tempted to hold on to out of fear “BTNs,” or “Better-Than-Nothings,” and says, without using this terminology, that it is selfish behavior.
Finally, Love Factually reminds all singles to hold on to hope and to keep moving forward, noting that fear is often to blame for missed opportunities. Welch’s writing style and the pace of the book kept me interested, and I recommend it to other singles who might need a little encouragement.
About the reviewer
Sara Perla is the Program Specialist for the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. She attended the Catholic University of America and received her Masters degree in Theological Studies at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C. She is also a baker, a ballet dancer, and an avid listener of NPR podcasts.
Disclaimer: Book reviews do not imply and are not to be used as official endorsement by the USCCB of the work or those associated with the work. Book reviews are solely intended as a resource regarding publications that might be of interest to For Your Marriage visitors.