Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

May 3, 2011

Book Review: How to Get to I Do by Amy Bonaccorso

With all the glory and beauty of the royal wedding fresh on our brains, there seems no better time to share with you the latest book on dating and marriage on my shelf. Amy Bonaccorso's How to Get to I Do: A Dating Guide of Catholic Women published by Servant Books is a must-read for our Catholic sisters or any of our sisters who are seeking a God-centered marriage to a good man. I knew as soon as I saw the very name “Bonaccorso” that I would be in for a treat. Although my Italian is rusty, my training in Latin reminds me that "bona‟ means good and "corso‟ means way – so I felt confident that her words would be a "good way‟ to follow. And she did not disappoint, after all she successfully navigated the crazy dating world in DC!

Amy writes a witty, humorous, and very honest how-to guide for young women who are nearly in despair as they face the increasingly insane (and oftentimes seriously scary) world of dating – including Catholic dating. The book is different from other Catholic dating books because it is more realistic, modern, and often has little sections from her husband weighing in with a male voice, which is always helpful for us ladies who are constantly wondering what the men we fall for are thinking! She reminds us that to find a good man, we need to involve ourselves in social situations that will attract them like joining faith-based groups, practicing the hobbies and activities you love, and having no fear to be yourself. She encourages women to be hopeful and courageous, after all God does not want you to be a doormat for men to walk all over (see page 112 for Amy‟s take!)

Bonaccorso starts with an interesting distinction between "dating‟ and "courtship.‟ We often hear courtship praised by many of our Catholic and non-Catholic Christian compatriots as the only redeemable way to meet your future spouse. After all, isn't dating for the promiscuous, secular world? I've even heard that if you don't have sex after the third date, a man will dump you. Why should he pay for all those dinners and not get something in return? Isn't that the dating mentality? Mrs. Bonaccorso doesn't think so (that's right, she's a recent Mrs. who wrote this book to let us all know the secrets that do in fact work in finding Mr. Fabulous!) And for the record, I don‟t think dating necessarily promotes promiscuity either, but it can be tough and discouraging to see so many men who do and who seem to expect sex in return for dinner (seriously, I've met that guy).

What Amy does not like about the courtship mentality is that it often relies on fathers to choose what man they should marry regardless of her age. According to Bonaccorso, this simply is not realistic: “A thirty-five-year-old professional woman has every right to ask her father‟s opinion about a man, but she has no business asking to him to manage her relationships for her.” (p. 7)

Although I am still unsure on the actual distinction that Amy is making between "dating‟ and "courtship‟ I think I can see the point here: the courtship mentality, at least in my experience, can sometimes lead to an over-idealistic and often time unrealistic view of marriage that can actual destroy a relationship because of unfulfilled (and unfulfillable) expectations. But she is adamant that your family and friends should have no objections to your potential spouse and that he should be incorporated in your social circles of friends and family and vice versa. After all, if he isolates you from those who love you, that is a major red flag and you should run away as fast as you possibly can.

Amy also gives touches on some subjects that we don't think about don't like to think about, like: don't be afraid to attack the issue of finances with a future spouse. What's your debt and his? What would it be combined? What's your plan for paying it off? Let's be honest, many marriages end tragically because of financial struggles. She minces no words: you must be assertive in asking your future spouse about this aspect of your lives. I could not agree more. When I was engaged (and thank God I did not get married!) I found out only weeks before the intended marriage that Peter had very staggering debt. If we had married – that would have ruined our combined credit and set us up for a lifetime of hardship (not to mention the fact that he was not honest about it in the first place!)

So much of Amy's book resonated with me – even at times bringing me to tears. For example, she tells us to beware of certain "types‟ of men who prey on good women like "the dream weaver‟ who is hypersensitive, always makes you feel like you need to walk on eggshells, or seems mentally unstable. (Could she have described my ex-fiance any more accurately?) She warns of deceptive men who pretend to respect and uphold your chastity but actually seek to break you down. She experienced them and so have we. But Amy hopes that by following her advice we can recognize these ones before becoming emotionally invested. If only I'd read this earlier…

One slightly peculiar note about Bonaccorso's advice is her positive endorsement of the online dating world. Since she met her husband this way, I suppose she should certainly feel positive about it. She writes, “Online dating is the new equalizer. All are equal in cyber space: men and women, introverts and extroverts, and people from different geographic locations. Online dating makes it possible to become acquainted with individuals you never could have met otherwise.” (p.20) Amy was so insistent that the positives outweigh the negatives of online dating, that I actually tried one for a month, but was only contacted by very old men and very strange age-appropriate ones. One of them with a very scary picture sent me a message that read only “Marry me now.” Totally weird. But Amy's experience was very different and I am sure that if I tried it for a longer duration, I may have found a diamond in the rough. But for now, I am satisfied with the traditional ways of meeting people, which Bonaccorso also covers extensively.

In the final sections of the book, Amy gives advice to the newly-engaged and marriage-preparing couples. I really appreciated her take on co-habitating since so many of our generation (so frustratingly) seem to think this is a necessary pre-engagement transition. Not so! “Don't allow the pride of some co-habitating couples to sway you. Remember that people who themselves cohabitate will secretly admire your strength for living independently.” (p. 137) Bravo! She admonishes brides not to become selfish Bridezillas who think the day revolves around them. It does not. It involves not only your husband-to-be (yep, remember him?), but your families and the entire Mystical Body of Christ. We need to treat the day as such, and moreover, treat the marriage as such as!

In short, I found How to Get to I Do an engaging read with advice I wish I had earlier and am relieved and excited to have now as I re-enter the dating world stronger, wiser, and more confident about who I am and what I want. Get yourself a copy and then get one for a friend, and be confident that Bonaccorso's wise words will indeed lead you on the "good way‟ to finding your good man.

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