Hyperion Books, New York, N.Y., 2010; $22.99.
“Never marry a man who tries to control you,” Father Pat Connor advises women in “Whom Not to Marry.” It is his considered judgment that a man’s “suitability as a marriage partner is nil if he tries to control everything his fiancée does and everyone she sees.”
Furthermore, “don’t marry a selfish person,” and “make sure your partner is willing to make the sacrifices he is asking of you,” Father Connor writes. He believes a red flag is raised when an engaged woman feels called upon repeatedly “to make excuses for someone or rationalize his behavior.”
Father Connor, a New Jersey Catholic priest born in Australia, has counseled married couples and helped prepare engaged couples for marriage over the course of more than 40 years. He directs his book primarily to women, but invites men to pick up any gleanings from it “that may be helpful to them as they mull over whether to choose a particular woman to be their wife.”
Is this a book parents will purchase for their young adult children? Possibly so, since a common parental hope is that a daughter will learn to distinguish Mr. Right from Mr. Wrong. I suspect more than a few parents will applaud when Father Connor states emphatically:
“Never marry a man who is cruel to you–physically or emotionally. (On this one there is no exception.)”
There are many things a woman can do to assure that the man she marries is the right one, according to Father Connor. But “it all starts with being honest with yourself,” he says.
A woman’s perspective makes a big difference when it comes to considering whether to marry the man she is dating, the author insists. He explains:
“Chances are, when you look at your boyfriend, you probably think about how he measures up as a boyfriend. But have you given any thought as to how he’ll measure up as a husband?”
An engagement a year in length is strongly recommended by Father Connor. He urges readers to be careful about the things they shrug off during this time before they marry, since “it might not be so easy to shrug them off in your marriage.” He also counsels engaged couples “to distinguish between pre-wedding jitters and a real solid fear about your partner.”
“Whom Not to Marry” contains many cautionary considerations when it comes to marriage, but I did not find it a negative book. Father Connor points not only to characteristics that may harm marriage, but to qualities that enrich it — like respect, patience, commitment, compromise and kindness.
Kindness “recognizes another person’s humanity,” Father Connor observes. A kind person listens “to another with an open heart and mind,” he says. Kindness “understands what another person needs and is able to respond with generosity, compassion and tenderness.”
The author describes marriage as “an open-ended commitment to an unpredictable person.” In this adventure, “compassion and patience are related” – they are “twin keys to unlocking the complexities of commitment,” he states.
Clearly, though, Father Connor hopes couples will enter marriage with their eyes wide open. So he urges a woman and man to ask each other, “Why are we getting married?” But he says, “You’d be surprised at how many people don’t ask this all-important question.”