No Greater Complement

Married Couples Offer Male-Female Insights


Before their wedding in 2012, Krista and Tony Doran thought they knew about each other’s differences. But living together as a married couple has given them the opportunity to understand those differences even better and to learn how they benefit from their complementarity.

The Dorans, who live in Minneapolis, point to their distinct ways of communicating, handling tasks and planning social events. In their first years of marriage, they’ve been figuring out how their masculine and feminine sides come together.

Maybe the biggest way they differ is that Tony tends to be more laid back, while Krista is more of a planner. Daily life together has made this clearer.

“Those are probably differences that we notice more now, because we now spend so much time together and live in the same house,” Krista said.

They have a different approach to communication, too. “I think verbalizing is definitely a gender difference, at least in our relationship,” she said.

Along with communicating differently, the couple looks at planning and completing tasks from different sides. For Krista, they’re sometimes better done right away, while Tony might take his time on long-term tasks, focusing on what’s immediate.

The fact that they meet somewhere in the middle gets them both to a better place, Krista said.

“I know that I tend to stress out more and really worry: ‘Okay, what are we doing?’” she explained. “I worry about the future more. He kind of brings me back to reality, I guess, sometimes. We definitely complement each other in that way.”

Older couples can see how their complementarity has been beneficial to their marriages.

Gene and Judy Messing, also of Minneapolis, have gone on 38 canoeing trips together, the latest to Quetico Provincial Park (the Canadian side of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota) — that’s about one trip for every year of their marriage.

As in other areas of their life together, the couple has a “system” for managing the trip tasks, which is built on mutual respect for the strengths and sensibilities of husband and wife. Through storms, white water and raising four children, the Messings, who attend St. Charles Borromeo in St. Paul, continue to paddle in sync both in and out of the water.

Ever since their honeymoon trip, Gene has charted the course from the stern of the canoe, while Judy has set the pace from the bow. “I’m happy up front, and he’s happy in the back,” Judy said.

While Gene steers, Judy renegotiates the direction when they face obstacles or rapids. “We complemented each other,” Gene said. “The rule always was: You get your end through, and I’ll get my end through, and I’ll follow you.”

The couple paddle on opposite sides of the canoe, their strokes perfectly in sync, which Gene said keeps the canoe stable. To Judy, it’s like dancing: “I call that our dancing together when we’re canoeing.”

As he steers the canoe, Gene also plans the trip. Judy studies and adjusts the route and sometimes checks his adventurousness.

“He’s very much a good leader, and he’s looking for input,” she said.

As they raised their children, Judy was a nurturing listener, and Gene was the disciplinarian.

Their different gifts helped them run the screen-printing business they had for 20 years. Judy handled the accounting, and Gene was in charge of the production/operation management. “It was so wonderful to work together because we had totally complementary gifts,” Gene said.

Whether at work or gliding on a calm lake, they reflect distinct aspects of God, Gene said. “Women reflect God’s beauty, and men reflect God’s strength,” he said. “We get to experience that on our trips, because so much of what we see is so beautiful — God’s creation — and being able to share it with my wife is a blessing — that whole aspect of the husband-wife relationship, the beauty of the woman, the strength of man and the attraction of man and woman: We see the power of nature as well when we’re out there. Beautiful God created us man and woman, husband and wife, different but so complementary.”

Michael and Monica Bernstein of Seattle, who have been married for 13 years, have grown to understand their masculinity and femininity more deeply.

In their daily life, faith and in parenting their five children, the couple sees how their complementarity as husband and wife helps them work together for the benefit of their family.

The Bernsteins say they model masculinity and femininity without realizing it, such as in Michael’s way of relating to the children by playing with them and Monica’s manner of caring for them when they’re injured.

Michael isn’t afraid to take risks, while Monica is more the voice of safety. “I’ll be the one who will teach the kids to make a campfire or do things that are more dangerous,” Michael said. “Monica reminds me that maybe we shouldn’t make fires so close to the house.”

Another way they differ is in how they plan. Monica “tends to think out long-term plans for the direction our family goes in,” Michael said. “I tend to be the one who executes more on the short-term plans and who finishes them.”

Michael works outside the home as a software engineer and Monica stays home with their children, ages 1-12. The arrangement — their personal and financial preference — enables Monica to home school.

While the local Seattle culture tries to erase the differences between male and female, the Bernsteins teach their sons how to be gentlemen and their daughters to be ladylike, without defining “women’s work” and “men’s work,” Monica said. They also show their kids what men and women are capable of, regardless of gender.

The Bernsteins differ in how they approach prayer; and as a result, they give their children a broader view of how faith is lived, Monica said.

“If [Michael] had 15 minutes to pray, I think he’d reach for the rosary, where I would do something a lot more freeform with my prayer,” she said.

Faith also gives the couple permission to recognize masculine and feminine differences in themselves and in their children, Michael said.

The Bernsteins recognize complementarity not only in their differences, but in what they have in common, including reading and being outdoors.

“As time goes on, we’re sort of recognizing that we do have these things that are alike, but also even within those there’s that complementarity that we come at them from a different way or we see things slightly differently,” Monica said.

The Bernsteins have learned to use their complementary differences for the benefit of their five young witnesses.

Susan Klemond writes from

St. Paul, Minnesota.



Language of Stories Leads Engaged Couples to True Beauty of Marriage


By Susan Klemond


When it comes to telling engaged couples about the Church’s teaching on love and marriage, Deacon Bill Turrentine believes in the power of stories.

He gets technical enough in explaining courtship, the marriage sacrament and natural family planning (NFP) in his new book, Your Love Story: The Couple to Couple League Guide to Engagement and Marriage, but he hopes his own story and those of couples and priests will keep engaged couples reading.

The book, targeted at those preparing to marry in the Church, is about much more than NFP, said Deacon Turrentine of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

It tells engaged couples what Catholic/Christian marriage is and why they should want it, said Deacon Turrentine, who, with his wife, Patricia, has taught NFP for 30 years and also helped couples prepare for marriage.

An update of a previous Couple to Couple League (CCL) marriage-preparation book, the new publication offers a more modern — yet orthodox — approach to the sacrament, said Kate Sell, CCL’s vice chair and a senior partner at the Atlanta-based marketing communications firm Kennedy Brownrigg Group. The book is designed not as a marriage-preparation curricula, but as a pastoral resource for priests, deacons and mentor couples working with engaged couples, she said.

CCL launched the book at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September, according to Sell.

The book focuses on beauty as an inspiration to conversion, which is necessary because couples often have absorbed society’s impoverished idea of sexuality and marriage, said Deacon Turrentine, a member of the CCL board of directors. Even among those who go to church and have attended Catholic schools, many don’t understand sacramental marriage:  “They’ve come to the marriage-preparation stage already with a very secular idea of what marriage is all about.”

By contrast, Pope St. John Paul II has given us the theology of the body, a deep understanding of sacramental marriage, said Deacon Turrentine, which seeks to convey that God’s plan is exalted and beautiful. Married couples share in the mysteries of Jesus’ sacrifice and the life of the Trinity, which are woven into their marriage, the deacon explained.

“We’ve got both this urgent need, because of the reductive view of society, and this great treasure in the Church of this deeper understanding of the beauty of marriage,” Deacon Turrentine said, as part of the CCL book. “It’s really bringing that great treasure to bear in a way the young couples can understand and that makes sense to them.”

Deacon Turrentine also presents a stairway progression of a relationship to a happy marriage, beginning with courtship.

Unfortunately, society has rearranged the stairway steps, Deacon Turrentine said. “People [often] lead straight from attraction into sex and don’t go through the process of gaining knowledge and chaste love — and so they don’t get to know each other in the way that they could.”

When couples have sex during their engagement, children are often seen as “invaders,” and this mentality can persist during marriage, coloring family life, he added.

Bill and Nicole Hull of San Francisco were selected to read the book in 2013, before it was published and before their 2014 wedding. They thought it had the potential to help other couples better understand the covenant and sacrament of marriage. 

“With so many ideas out there of what marriage is, what the Church teaches can too often just seem like one option among many,” Bill said. “However, as Your Love Story explains, it is grounded in the very reality of who we are as man and woman. With some personal anecdotes, real-life testimonies and gentle humor, [Deacon Turrentine] brings the reader along on a journey to discover the beauty of the vocation of marriage and what God has in store for those who are so called.”

By giving couples a vision of love and marriage through the language of stories, Deacon Turrentine said his book offers help for creating God-centered marriages.

“There is a great richness in being married,” he said. “It’s a path to God, a way of the cross that leads to the new life of the Resurrection. There is something very compelling and beautiful there that our society does not adequately prepare people to understand.”

               Susan Klemond writes from St. Paul, Minnesota.