Monday, February 29, 2016

Marriage Matters Problem-Solving Round-up: Income Loss, Depression, Addiction, Overspending & Empty Nests

My husband Dr. Manny Santos and I were extremely grateful when the Editor-in-Chief of our diocesan magazine recommended us as regular columnists for the FAITH Magazine nation-wide consortium. Their Marriage Matters monthly column presents a difficult marital problem in a "he says-she says" format. Our job is to present helpful, faith-based advice in a few hundred words. Quite a challenge, but one we always enjoy tackling.

Here's a round-up of links to our columns over the past several months. And stay tuned for our April 2016 column on faith-sharing groups for couples and our May 2016 column on spouses who are struggling with using Natural Family Planning.

1. She says: "I really want to be a stay-at-home mom"

    He says: “It’s just not feasible right now”

WE RECOMMEND: Taking the hidden costs of working outside the home into account, and realizing that if she is truly called to be a SAHM they'll find it worth the financial sacrifice. (From the April 2015 issue)

2. She says: "He won’t take his depression meds"

    He says: "I don’t like the side effects"

WE RECOMMEND: Talking to his doctor about switching medications, and resolving to fight the depression together rather than fighting each other. (From the May 2015 issue)

3. He says: "I'm afraid she's becoming addicted"
    She says: "I’m in constant pain"

WE RECOMMEND: Learning the warning signs of addiction, and locating outside sources of help. (From the September 2015 issue)

4. He says: "She lost a lot of our money shopping online"
    She says: "I want to repair our relationship"

WE RECOMMEND: Committing to forgiveness of past behavior and total honesty about current and future shopping habits. (From the November 2015 issue)

5. He says: "The kids moved out, and now she's never home"
    She says: "I just want to stay active in the community"

WE RECOMMEND: Shifting the focus to the marriage and deciding on a new direction to take together in this new stage of their lives. (From the Jan./Feb. 2016 issue)

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Marriage Rx: Civilly Married to Unfaithful, Uncommunicative Husband

Question: A young woman (20) who is a family friend has reached out to me for advice on her marriage. She rushed into a marriage (civil) with a man she hadn't known long, and I think she realizes now that she has made a mistake. She's in a pretty bad situation (he is unfaithful and uncommunicative), and she wants my advice, but I do not feel qualified to advise her. She hasn't been in church much for quite some time, and hasn't  had much luck talking to the priests in her area. They've all just told her to work it out. Any suggestions for where she could get help or any resources I could offer her? It does not sound like her husband is willing to seek help.

Answer: Your friend is blessed that she has someone like you to rely on for advice. She is also wise to reach out for help now, as soon as she needs it.

The biggest problem their relationship faces is clearly his infidelity. Approximately 25% marriages have been impacted by infidelity. Husbands are the ones more likely to cheat -- 22% of  husbands have had extramarital sex vs. only 13% of wives. There are many causes of infidelity. Sometimes the cause is pure selfishness. Other times it is fueled by an addiction to pornography, a type of "virtual infidelity" that can lead to physical infidelity, according to Catholic psychiatrist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons. A lack of faith (or "lower religiosity") is also a risk factor, says Dr. Fitzgibbons. The fact that your friend's husband has been unfaithful this early in the marital relationship is particularly disturbing.

Two factors that compound the problem are the couple's rush to marriage and the husband's lack of communicativeness. Most parishes recommend at least a six-month engagement period before getting married, partly because engagement is a time of discernment. Engaged couples should be learning about each other on a deeper level while building a stable foundation for their future marriage. Your friend and her husband skipped that crucial stage. Because of his uncommunicativeness, it will be difficult to make up that lost relationship-building opportunity. Married couples can get past problems with infidelity, but they can't have any illusions about how much time and effort it will take to heal the emotional wounds.

On a spiritual level, your friend and her husband are missing out on the graces of a sacramental marriage. A civil marriage, where at least one person is Catholic, is not valid in the eyes of the Church (without a prior dispensation). An annulment of a civil marriage can be processed fairly easily and quickly after providing the proper documentation. Your friend ought to give serious thought to either getting married in the Church ("convalidating" the earlier civil ceremony) or exploring the possibility of an annulment.

Your friend is right to ask a priest for help. It's unfortunate that she hasn't been able to find one willing and able to give her good counsel. What she probably needs is a trained spiritual director, who can meet with her regularly. Some organizations within the Church, like Opus Dei, specialize in providing spiritual direction. There are lay-run organizations as well. A weekend silent retreat could also help her to determine where God is leading her.

Although the circumstances seem grim, it's telling that neither person has walked out the door yet. You say it doesn't sound like the husband is willing to seek help, but perhaps he would change his mind if he's persuaded that the relationship can't heal on its own. Retrouvaille has brought many couples back from the brink of divorce. A Retrouvaille weekend teaches journaling techniques designed to solve the problem of uncommunicativeness. Post-weekend follow-ups are an important part of the program. Your friend could also find marriage counselors in her area through or sign up for tele-counseling through Dr. Greg Popcak's Pastoral Solutions Institute.

Make no mistake, your friend's marriage needs intensive care. Kudos to you for trying to help her find it.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Marriage Rx: Married to a Catholic in Name Only

What if your husband isn’t interested in being the family’s spiritual leader? My husband Dr. Manny Santos and I discuss ways to attract your husband to the faith while minimizing obstacles (like kids who would rather play than pay attention during Mass).

Question: I am Catholic trying to practice my faith married to a Catholic in name only. We have 3 children together and try to attend Mass weekly but it is very mentally and emotionally draining as it is hard to reach church and the lackluster homilies bring out a scathing critic in my husband who criticizes every statement made while we drive back. Moreover, he is playful with the kids during the holiest moments in Mass and I don't feel he receives communion believing that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. ... I cannot attend Mass as frequently as I want to because of our location and other responsibilities and this is a major source of depression in me. ...Our marriage feels like any ordinary marriage founded on equality and peace within the family but there is no Christ at the helm. I really need my husband to be the head of the family as God intends which is something he finds ludicrous. ...I really do not understand the purpose of marriage anymore but I'm hanging in there all the same.

Answer: We're sorry to hear how much you're suffering, but you've described a marriage with a lot of good in it! The fact that you try to attend Mass weekly as a family is a solid basis for a strong spiritual relationship. Lackluster homilies are a big disappointment for everyone, but it sounds like you agree with your husband that your priest's homilies are not the greatest. Some people have a habit of learning through criticizing and identifying flaws in the information that's been presented to them. It sounds like your husband could be one of these people. His willingness to analyze and discuss the homily is an important opportunity for you to teach him what you know about the faith. If the priest was unclear (or even wrong), you can give your husband more information or better information. If you don't know how to answer one of your husband's criticisms, look up the answer in the Catechism or on trustworthy Internet sites. There is a wealth of spiritual resources out there. In the words of St. Josemaria Escrivá, “Study. Study in earnest. If you are to be salt and light, you need knowledge, capability" (The Way, no. 340).

Attending Mass with kids can be stressful for everyone. Kids frequently wiggle around, get distracted, or cry. Playing with kids during Mass might keep them from crying or complaining too loudly, but it's not an ideal strategy. You can try sitting between your husband and the kids, so the main job of explaining the Mass to the kids and enforcing their good behavior falls on you. Then your husband probably won't be tempted to be playful with them at crucial moments.

Your yearning for Mass and the Eucharist is a great gift and will bring you many graces! But Catholics aren't obligated to attend Mass except on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, so there's no need to despair. Take advantage of prayers of spiritual communion, like this one attributed to St. Alphonsus Liguori:
My Jesus, I believe that you are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I long for you in my soul. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though you have already come, I embrace you and unite myself entirely to you; never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.

Above all, don't forget that God has bound you and your husband together in a sacramental marriage, and Christ is at the helm, whether or not you both realize it. You've described your marriage as based on "equality and peace." Thank God for that -- some people don't have those qualities in their marriage.

Many husbands have difficulty taking spiritual headship. You are not alone. It sounds like you've told him what you want. It's time to be silent and let him ponder the idea at his own pace. You don't have to bring it up again except with God in prayer. Your marriage has a definite purpose -- to get you and your husband closer to God. Your marriage is your path to heaven. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's hard, and frequently it's not what you expect. Be patient. Persevere. Show your husband how much you appreciate his other qualities. Pray that God will bless your husband with the gift of faith, and then trust that Christ is at the helm of your marriage and he will guide you both safely home.

Have you struggled with this issue? What strategies have worked best for you?
To contact us, send an email to catholicmarriagerx at gmail dot com. To learn about our marriage advice book, The Four Keys to Everlasting Love, subscribe here and receive a free downloadable gift.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Marriage Rx: Should I Tell My Friend's Husband That She's Cheating?

In a recent New York Times column by someone calling himself  "The Ethicist," a reader asks if he should continue to conceal his friend's long-standing extramarital affair from her husband. The columnist advised the reader not to reveal the affair because the reader was closer friends with the woman than with her husband. Here is a shortened version of the original question and our very different answer.

Question: I am a man (if it matters) and friends with a married woman, ‘‘Jane,’’ and her husband, ‘‘Peter.’’ The friendship is more with Jane than with Peter. Jane is having an affair with ‘‘Martin,’’ whom Jane has known most of her adult life. I know about the affair because Jane confided in me years ago. Jane thinks Martin is her true life’s ‘‘soul mate,’’ and I think she may be right. Peter does not know about the affair. If he knew about it, I think he would divorce Jane in a minute. Jane and Martin likely will never be together. Martin is married with children, and he lives in another country. Martin visits the United States once or twice a year on business, and during those visits Jane and Martin spend a weekend together, usually in a hotel. Jane lies to Peter when this happens; she tells him she’s away on a business trip. What should I do? If I continue to be friends with Jane and Peter, I end up in some small way lying to Peter, who is also a friend. Name Withheld

Answer: The quandary is that Jane is betraying her husband Peter, but if the reader tells Peter about the affair then the reader is betraying his friend Jane. It's natural for most people to want to run far, far away from such a sticky situation.

The pros of telling Peter about the affair are (1) Peter will know the truth; (2) the reader will no longer have to deceive or lie to Peter; and (3) Jane may be motivated to stop the affair. The cons of telling Peter about the affair are (1) it's really none of the reader's business; (2) Jane told him about the affair in confidence; and (3) Peter might divorce Jane once he finds out.

The New York Times columnist concluded: "you are in a deeply compromised moral situation — one in which the cure is worse than the condition. As is so often the case, there’s no way out from under the net. ... The best outcome often has something deplorable about it." In a word, balderdash (or something else that starts with "b").

There is a way out. It doesn't involve the reader talking to Peter, but it does involve him talking to Jane. It's called fraternal correction, or admonishing the sinner, and it's a spiritual work of mercy. We found a great blogpost setting out a few ground rules for fraternal correction, and this situation meets them all.

1. Is it serious? This one is easy. A long-term extramarital affair is extremely serious.

2. Will it resolve itself? Jane has been able to hide her affair from her husband for years. She apparently has no motivation to stop her relationship with a man she feels is her "soul mate." She doesn't seem to mind involving her friends in the deception either. There's very little chance that the situation will resolve itself without intervention.

3. Will it be effective? The strength of the reader's friendship with Jane actually counsels in favor of his being able to reach her. If she cares about her friend, she will understand that he does not want to deceive or lie to her husband. Perhaps perceiving it  through her friend's eyes, she will see that deceiving her husband is not the right thing to do.

4. Do you have the best shot at getting the point across? The reader may be one of the only people who knows about the affair. Therefore, he may be one of the only people who can convince Jane that her behavior is bad for her marriage.

So, our response in a nutshell is that the reader ought to tell Jane that he doesn't feel comfortable lying to her husband about the affair. He can explain that she is putting her marriage at risk by continuing the affair and that treating her lover as her "soul-mate" is preventing her from seeing her husband that way. If she stops the affair, she may just find that her husband can be the "soul-mate" she's longing for.

Monday, February 15, 2016

What's the Point of World Marriage Day?

When Elizabeth Scalia, editor-in-chief of Aleteia, asked me to write an article on World Marriage Day, I crowd-sourced my mommy blogger friends and got great ideas about how they and their husbands were planning to celebrate. More importantly, I learned what sacramental marriage means to them and how deeply committed they are to it. I am so proud to know them!

Cynics already mock Valentine’s Day as a marketing-driven campaign that generated $18.9 billion last year. Why do we need spin-off events like World Marriage Day ...? Think of it as an effort to reclaim the culture for Christ. 
In our sex-saturated culture, it’s essential to proclaim that romantic love is not the pinnacle of human happiness. As the schoolchildren’s rhyme goes, “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” Romance leads to marriage, and marriage leads to families that are domestic churches forming souls for Christ. World Marriage Day redirects us to that truth.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Give Up Selfishness in Your Marriage for Lent

Since Lent began yesterday with Ash Wednesday, I'm interrupting the monthly series of Marriage Rx advice columns for this guest post from Colin Corcoran of The Catholic Husband. Colin makes an excellent suggestion for growing closer to your spouse this Lent.

To understand what marriage is – we must first understand what it is not: It is not dependent on romantic love, it is not dependent on your spouse doing their fair share, it is not dependent on your spouse not making mistakes – even grave ones that wound you deeply.

What marriage is about: a vow you took before God when you bestowed freely the sacrament of Marriage on your spouse and gave yourself to her in service until your death, marriage is about forgiveness, marriage is about loving even when that love is not returned, marriage is about remaining faithful even when your spouse is not, marriage is about doing whatever is best for your spouse instead of what you think is best for you, marriage is about putting your spouse above everything else save God in your life.

By now you are likely angry. Obviously, you have not stopped reading. Let me explain as Jesus did in the beatitudes – to become first, we must make ourselves last; To become the master, we must become the slave.

What that means in practical terms is that marriage is not about YOU. It is a vow of perpetual service, and when that vow is practiced by both parties simultaneously unfathomable joy and love bloom like roses in the desert. You should also be realistic and understand that any marriage will have it’s ups and downs – some very severe. In order to achieve those joys one must often endure hardship and even sorrow with dignity and commitment. There will be times when nothing but your commitment to your promise and Christ himself carry you in your marriage.

Let your marriage be a reflection of the Love of Christ for humanity. For if you cannot love your wife, how can you hope to love God, much less the world.

Your impediment to doing this is SELFISHNESS. For Lent, please consider giving it up in your marriage and see the difference it can make in 40 days. Then stop and imagine the difference it can make over a lifetime.

Pax Christi,


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Monday, February 8, 2016

Marriage Rx for the Wife of a Gambler

Question: It's a bit hard for me to ask but I see that you have such a wonderful relationship between the Lord and your home life. My loving husband has a big ugly issue with gambling. I have tried numerous things like therapy, church study, Gamblers Anonymous, anti-depressants, you name it. But I learned that if the gambler doesn't want to change he won't. What about the families that stay with a person with that illness? Any advice? God bless. - Gambler's Wife

Anwer: Our sympathies go out to you in this difficult situation. An estimated six to eight million people struggle with a gambling problem, and it's a difficult cross for their families to bear. Many of the strategies for dealing with addiction are the same, whether it's to gambling or to alcohol. So, try these three.

1. Work it until it works. This saying is popular in Alcoholics Anonymous. It basically means that many strategies can help an addict if he just perseveres in them. You mentioned that you and your husband tried therapy, faith-based solutions, Gamblers Anonymous, and anti-depressants. It's good that your husband was willing to try these strategies. They all have the potential to help. Return to what seemed to work best, even in the short-term, and recommit to it.

2. Expect relapses. With a disease like addiction, the aim is recovery, not cure. Relapses can be a common part of the process of healing. But one relapse, or even several, does not equate to failure. As they say, it's not how many times you fall, but how many times you get up again. Or, in the words of Scripture, even a righteous man -- a saint! -- falls seven times, but then he rises again (Prv 24:16).

3. Get help for yourself. Gamblers Anonymous has an outreach program for the family and friends of compulsive gamblers. The program is called Gam-Anon, and it seeks to improve the lives of people who are suffering emotionally or financially because of a loved one's gambling habit. If Gam-Anon is not available in your area, you might want to join a group like Al-Anon, which provides similar outreach to families of alcoholics. You would at least be able to get compassionate support and information about behaviors common to most addicts.

May God bless you and your marriage!

Have you ever struggled with the issue of gambling? What strategies worked best for you? Please comment below. And if you have questions or ideas for a future column, please contact us at!
Note: Nothing in this column is meant to provide psychological or medical diagnosis, treatment or opinion.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Marriage Rx: Should We Have Separate Bank Accounts?

Question: My income is much smaller than my atheist husband’s, but it helps our family afford vacations, dinners out, and private tutoring for our daughter. My husband is rather controlling and gives me a hard time about every penny I spend, especially costs like donations to the Church. I’ve been thinking of opening my own account that I will prayerfully manage according to my own conscience. What do you think? – Roberta
Answer:  Marriage is all about two becoming one, but sharing control over finances is a problem area for many spouses. In dual-career couples, both the husband and wife are used to managing their own bank accounts and making their own financial decisions with the money that they’ve earned. Money represents safety, security and stability to many people, and letting someone else – even their spouse – share financial control requires trust and a certain degree of vulnerability.
We normally recommend having one joint bank account, because it helps couples to think of money as “our money” rather than “my money” and “your money.” The end goal is for spouses to make financial decisions together for the good of the whole family.  That way, the family can mirror the life of the early Christians described in the Acts of the Apostles: “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common” (Acts 4:32).
You have a special situation, however. Since your husband is an atheist and you are a Catholic, there is an underlying disunity in your faith life. It’s extremely admirable that you want to continue donating to the Church, but it’s understandable that your husband doesn’t consider tithing to be a financial priority.  In a sense, you’re between a rock and a hard place — torn between your loyalty to the Church and your husband.
In your situation, it’s okay to accept that marital unity on many fronts is a long-term goal. It doesn’t have to be achieved tomorrow.  Setting up your own bank account for expenses like charitable donations might reduce conflict in the short-term. We encourage you and your husband to talk over the possibility of whether it would help and then make the decision together.
But don’t lose sight of unity as a goal for the future – both financial unity and spiritual unity. Pray for your husband’s conversion. Maybe your steadfast witness of using your own money faithfully to contribute to the Church will be one of the things that eventually brings him to the faith!
May God bless you and your marriage.
Have you ever struggled with the issue of separate bank accounts? What strategies worked best for you? Please comment below. And if you have questions or ideas for a future column, please contact us at!
Note: Nothing in this column is meant to provide psychological or medical diagnosis, treatment or opinion.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Marriage Rx for a Husband Struggling to Find Employment

Since February is the month of romance, I'll be posting a lot of our Marriage Rx columns from CatholicMom. After all, the best foundation for romance is a solid and trouble-free relationship!

Question:  As a very devout Catholic and one who struggles with his marriage every day, I’d like to see you discuss how to overcome financial struggles caused by under/unemployment. I literally live in fear that every day could be the last of my marriage and then the concomitant fear of what my friends would think of me and how that might impact all my service to the Church. – Struggling with Employment
Answer:  Unemployment or underemployment can exact a heavy toll on marriages and families. Pope Francis has said: “there is no worse material poverty, I am keen to stress, than the poverty which prevents people from earning their bread and deprives them of the dignity of work.” Husbands often feel the sting of unemployment most keenly, since many men are dedicated to their role as provider for the family.
A man’s worth doesn’t have to be tied to the wage he earns or his job title, however. As St. Josemaria said:
It is time for us Christians to shout from the rooftops that work is a gift from God and that it makes no sense to classify men differently, according to their occupation, as if some jobs were nobler than others. Work, all work, bears witness to the dignity of man, to his dominion over creation.
For the unemployed, looking for a job is a valuable type of work in itself. It requires time, effort, creativity and sometimes even retraining. The underemployed can still be proud of doing their best in a job that requires less than their entire skill set. There is always merit in doing our work well.
So realize that all the work you do is valuable. Pour your best efforts into your job search and into the work that you have.  Reassure your wife that you are doing all you can.  You can seek spiritual help by praying a novena for work to St. Josemaria.  You can also recite the St. Jude Prayer for Employment and leave your intentions on the website of the National Shrine of St. Jude.  It might help for you and your wife to recite these prayers together.
It’s natural for a wife to feel scared when her husband’s job prospects are diminished, especially if she is dependent on her husband‘s income.  If her fear is translated into berating or nagging, it can exacerbate the tense situation in the home. But perhaps all she really wants to do is help find a solution to your difficulties. Ask her for help!
If what you need is her encouragement and support, ask her. If she has education and workplace experience, she may be willing to get a job (or a higher-paying job) to help the family through temporary difficulties. She may also be able to introduce you to social or professional connections that could lead to new employment. The problem will definitely not be solved by marital breakdown, which is usually highly expensive for both parties.
Don’t worry about what your friends will think or how your service to the Church might be impacted. Focus on the problem confronting you at this moment. And may God bless you and your marriage!
Have you ever struggled with unemployment or underemployment? What strategies worked best for you? Please comment below. And if you have questions or ideas for a future column, please contact us at!