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By Matt C. Abbott

3/6/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

One of the most important things that I learned was the nature of happiness. Indeed, I think that without a sound understanding of what happiness is, a person will be frustrated in finding happiness whether or not he is married

What my wife and I did on that day, I had seen done countless times before in movies and in reality. In exchanging vows, we had done what our parents and grandparents had done, following innumerable generations before. In taking the vows, we became husband and wife; we were married. Although I knew something about the nature of marriage, I did not realize at twenty-two how much more I had to learn. Although I now realize how much more I still have to learn, in this book, I write about what I wish I had known-or had known more clearly-on that bright day in 1992.

Highlights

By Matt C. Abbott

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/6/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Seven Myths About Marriage, Carmel Communications, Matt C. Abbott, Ignatius, Marriage, Happiness, Dr. Christopher Kaczor, Jennifer Kaczor


CHICAGO,IL (Catholic Online) -The following is a brief interview with Dr. Christopher Kaczor, author of The Seven Big Myths about Marriage. Below the interview is an excerpt from the book's introduction. Thanks to Dr. Kaczor for taking the time to answer my questions; to Kevin Wandra of Carmel Communications for facilitating the interview; and to Ignatius Press for giving me permission to publish the excerpt. Click here to order a copy of the book directly from the publisher.

*****

What inspired you to write The Seven Big Myths about Marriage?
 
Dr. Kaczor: In my very first job as a professor in New Orleans, the chair of the philosophy department, the Jesuit Father Al Holloway, came to me in 1999 and asked me to teach a course called "The Ethics of Love and Marriage." He told me the previous instructor of this course had left, but the students enjoyed it a lot. So I inherited his syllabus and taught the course.

Over the years, I've continued to teach the course, adding and changing things along the way, and I've gotten a very positive response from my students. I thought in writing a book, I could share what I was teaching with a much larger audience. My wife Jennifer helped the project immensely by including several of her very funny stories, and one sad story, from our marriage. Her stories add a lot to the book.

What would you say is the biggest obstacle to a successful marriage in the present day?

Dr. Kaczor: I think one obstacle, a myth I talk about, is that a marriage is ruined, or you should get divorced, if you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences. The truth is that all couples have irreconcilable differences, including happy couples. 

How do you think the clergy and laity should deal with the sensitive moral issues of contraception (within marriage), infertility and divorce?

Dr. Kaczor: These are very difficult issues for many people. I'd say it is best to emphasize the positive; for example, the good of procreation, the good of working at your marriage. Also, it is important to note that we are all imperfect; but despite our weaknesses and shortcomings, God loves us all and calls us to growth and development so we can find deeper happiness. 

There's a recent article about the rising U.S. divorce rate and the supposedly strengthening economy (click here to read it). What are your thoughts on this article?

Dr. Kaczor: Marriage and economics are related in some interesting ways. Sometimes people stay in a marriage because of external constraints such as that they cannot afford to leave. I think a better motivation is the knowledge that many troubled marriages-if people stick with them-later return to a better condition. Also relevant is the fact that in marriage a commitment was made, which is relevant for making good ethical choices.

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INTRODUCTION

Happiness and Identity

My wife Jennifer likes to keep it real:


My husband and I were a little late to the home-buying party. Specifically, we had been married for almost twenty years when we could finally, kind of, sort of, if we stopped feeding the kids, afford to buy a house. And so we did. We took everything we had, quite of bit of what other people had, and a lot of what the government promised, and we bought a house. I wish we had not.

The list of things I am not allowed to buy anymore is overwhelming in its detail and its scope. It starts with clothes and haircuts, and ends in the emergency room. I do have enough premium denim to last me a good solid year, and with spring on the way I can count on Mother Nature to help me in the highlights department. I am not looking for sympathy on those accounts. This weekend I cut fourteen year-old Caroline's hair (she cried for only a few hours afterward), and I now buzz the boys' hair myself.

But it gets worse. "No more fast food", my husband informed me. "Even when I'm running kids between two, three, four different athletic events?" I whined. "Nope", he said. "Plan ahead." Darn. Okay, fast food is bad for the kids anyway, and if I cannot slap together a few PB&J sandwiches at this point in my career, I cannot really call myself a mother. Fine. I'll live.

Now, I realize, reader, that if you have stayed with me this far, you are beginning to be disgusted. "This woman is a baby", you are thinking. "Fast food and premium denim?" you are muttering to yourself. "There are some folks in Haiti that I would like to introduce her to." Yes, yes, I know. I myself am somewhat embarrassed. But two things, reader, two things.

First, it gets worse. Stay with me. Second-and you are not going to like this-I challenge you to give your spending a once-over and see how you rate. I am not going to push; I am just saying . . . People spend thousands on quack nutritionists, and I do not see anyone attacking them. Apparently, paying some weirdo to diagnose imaginary digestive problems is fine, but wanting to look your best in the latest fashions is hedonistic.

Anyway, when we still could not make ends meet with the peanut butter and jelly, my husband informed me, by way of turning off my reading light, that we would be giving up electricity. "What!" I bellowed. "I am the only mother anywhere in America who doesn't own a cell phone, and now I have to give up reading!" "Just for a year or so," he said, "until my income increases." "Well . . . urrgh", I said to the dark form next to me.

In the morning, by way of natural light, I resumed my reading. It is like living in Bill Gates' opposite world. I read somewhere that his house is so smart that as his lovely wife moves from room to room, her music, lighting, and television move from room to room with her. Not only is my house not as smart as Bill Gates', but neither is my husband. First, he does not wait until I leave a room to turn off the light, preferring, instead, to flip the switch in anticipation of my leaving the room at some theoretical time in the future. "I'm tying my shoes!" I scream from behind the wardrobe, only to hear back, "Wear slip-ons."

But one night we reached an apex, and I think I made my point. As I was cautiously feeling my way down a pitch-black hallway, I stumbled over a folded mat and went head over heels, landing on my you-know-what. "Ow!" I screamed. "This has to stop!" Chris and the kids felt their way through their various dark rooms until they found me in the hallway. Risking foreclosure, Chris turned on the light and helped me up. "The idea", he said, "is that you turn on the light when you enter a room, and turn it off when you leave. The math is really very simple."

"Yes, it is", I said. "Even a straightforward divorce is expensive, but one complicated by negligent injury claims could cost you the house." And then, of course, because he is such a good man and takes such good care of our family, I apologized, turned off the light, and lightly kissed him while the kids all yelled, "Eww!"

The gritty, nonglamorous, everyday reality of marriage is known only once one has become married-indeed, only once one has been married for a while. It is that reality that my wife Jennifer captures so well.

But how did this all begin? Let me recall another memory. The year was 1992, and I was at Saint James Cathedral in Seattle. The tuxedo fit fine, but the rented shoes were a little big. I stood in front of the altar, and next to me stood a stunning woman in a white dress. My five closest guy friends were on my right. Her five closest girlfriends were on her left. In the middle, before us, was a priest, the pastor of the cathedral, Father Michael G. Ryan, whom I had known since childhood. Along with 350 of our friends and family, he would witness the most important commitment I would ever make. I tried to stand up as straight as I could, for I knew that everyone in the place was looking at and listening to me.

Taking Jennifer's hands in mine, I spoke loudly and clearly, "I, Christopher, take you, Jennifer, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life." After a moment of silence, she, in a softer voice, said to me, "I, Jennifer, take you, Christopher, to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life."

What my wife and I did on that day, I had seen done countless times before in movies and in reality. In exchanging vows, we had done what our parents and grandparents had done, following innumerable generations before. In taking the vows, we became husband and wife; we were married. Although I knew something about the nature of marriage, I did not realize at twenty-two how much more I had to learn. Although I now realize how much more I still have to learn, in this book, I write about what I wish I had known-or had known more clearly-on that bright day in 1992.

One of the most important things that I learned was the nature of happiness. Indeed, I think that without a sound understanding of what happiness is, a person will be frustrated in finding happiness whether or not he is married. We all want to be happy. Every day, in whatever we do, we seek this goal-one that we share with every other person on the planet. Many people seek marriage because they believe that marriage or their spouse will make them happy. But will it?

To answer this question, it is necessary to examine happiness. What exactly is happiness? How can we find it? What really helps us to become happy, and what does not matter much at all? The answers that we give to these questions make a great deal of difference for our vision of what marriage is. Indeed, the way we live our lives answers these questions and determines the kinds of persons we become..

-----

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He has been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR and WLS-TV in Chicago, and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.

---


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