An Ideal Husband?

Maureen Dowd had a column in the Sunday New York Times a few weeks ago, with this same title, minus the question mark. The question mark is, therefore, mine–not to question Maureen, but more the idea that ‘an ideal husband’ can actually exist.

Maureen quotes a 79 year-old priest, Father Pat Connor, who has spent a celibate life observing and counseling those who have chosen the marriage path. Most of Maureen’s piece is quoting Fr. Connor’s summary of a talk entitled “Whom Not to Marry,” which he has given for over 40 years, mostly to high school senior girls–because “they are more interested” (than the boys, one assumes).

The information Fr. Connor reveals in his talk could be fatally demoralizing to the boys, if they were to read it, because from what he says, whatever kind of family they came from is most likely the kind of family they will re-produce, and quite obviously, if they came from not such a good one, it’s basically bad news as it’s way too late to change their origins…not that they ever had the power to do that anyway.

Similarly, the kind of man their father was, is quite likely the kind of man they will be–similar attitudes, values, and ways of doing and being…way too late to change what is apparently and almost inevitably, going to be. Of course, there are the few and far between exceptions–some for the better, some not.

Naturally, women reading this news—after the fact of their choosing–think of the men in their lives, past and present. Some of us also think of the men we have encountered who, like us single women who are looking for good single men to partner with, are most often someone else’s cast-off, or perhaps victim. Yikes. That really does’t sound too appealing, but isn’t it the truth?

I went to a party this weekend where all of the couples seemed happy. I know “seemed” is a key, as well as a catchword. But here’s the thing–assuming you can live with “seemed”–the men all seemed not only to be decent human beings, but interesting, accomplished, stable, happy, and well-adjusted–what we used to call “normal.” Get together an equal number of single men, and would they seem the same? Not in my experience. Another proof that “all the good ones are taken?” Maybe. Had the wives of these men had had sessions with Fr. Collins before making their seemingly good choices?

Fr. Connor makes the well-taken point of the importance of looking at the prospective guy’s relationship to his mother. Boy, is he ever right about that. Only problem is, whether a man has a good or a bad relationship with his mother can bode ill for he woman wanting a long-term romantic relationship with him. I’ve had men come from both good and bad maternal relations–and both have been equally disastrous for romance.

As for falling in love, according to Fr. Connor, the trick seems to be to do that after you’ve known the guy for awhile–not at first sight. That must be where I’ve gone wrong with men in general. According to Fr. Connor’s thinking, once your head is in that blissfully deluded state of being “in love,” you can’t see anything in its proper perspective, and that I can vouch for. So if you’ve fallen for a bad prospect for a husband, and married him anyway, thanks to your rose tinted glasses firmly fixed on your face, then don’t blame Fr. Connor when the rose tinted glasses fall off, everything else falls apart, and you see the reality of the hopeless mess you are in.

My problem with falling in love with someone I’ve known for awhile is that that has never actually happened, and believe me, I’ve tried willing it to. Fr. Connor didn’t address this issue.

Not only did Fr. Connor make the NY Times, but at the end of that week he made it on to the Today Show–so we got to actually see the man behind the rules. He was very affable and just the kind of guy you’d want to go to if you were having marital problems–except for the fact that he’s, obviously, never been married, so never experienced any of which he speaks–at least first hand. Does that work? Well, maybe…maybe by looking in from the outside, his vision is not as clouded, nor his perceptions as muddled as those in the thick of it all with their own private lives.

I didn’t hear any statistics on how many marriages Fr. Connor has saved, but maybe that wasn’t even the point. In Maureen Dowd’s column, a mid-column insert appeared. It was an apology:

“Sorry, June brides–save the tips for next time.”

Oops. I guess the prognosis is not too bright for the most recent crop of June newly-weds, given that they didn’t have the pre-wedding, benefit of Fr. Connor’s wisdom. Maureen apparently automatically assumes that ‘this time’ has little chance of working, as the apology also alludes to ‘the next.’

In the end, I’m not even sure the good Father can solve the mysteries of why marriage works for some and not for others…but he is going ahead and giving it a go. Dr. Phil has gotten pretty loud and strident over the past few years…could we be ready for a nicer and gentler version? I vote for Fr. Connor.

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