"Big Four" Highlights


Lasting Love

Catholic couple offers user’s guide to a happy marriage

Our culture puts an enormous emphasis on romantic relationships, with the basic message that the more sex and variety, the better. Yet very little guidance is provided on the most important issue – what makes for a happy, lasting relationship? Married couple Dr. Manny and Karee Santos take on this vital topic in their new book bearing the bold title, The Four Keys to Everlasting Love: How Your Catholic Marriage Can Bring You Joy for a Lifetime (Ave Maria Press).

The book is filled with practical, down-to-earth advice, with examples taken from the couple’s own experiences and Dr. Manny’s clinical practice. You will find why married fidelity is fun and how it makes for the absolutely best sex on the planet. You will also discover why so much that makes for happiness in marriage and family life is really common sense that seems so rare these days.

Dr. Manny and Karee Santos have been married for 16 years and live in Garden City, New York, with their six children. He is a Catholic psychiatrist who works often with couples. She was a successful New York lawyer for 10 years before becoming a stay-at-home mother. They write marriage advice columns for the Catholic press, and also teach pre-Cana. Karee blogs at CanWeCana.

Fathers for Good spoke with them about their book.

Fathers for Good: After this book, is there pressure to be the perfect Catholic couple?

Dr. Manny and Karee: If anything, the book takes the pressure off! We don’t pretend to be perfect, by any means. God is the only perfect partner in our marriage, and we know it. When we were writing The Four Keys, we made a conscious decision to showcase our friends and family members in examples where things went right and to portray ourselves in examples where things went wrong. We didn’t want the book to be a monument to the marriage of Manny and Karee. We wanted it to show how God can work through our weakness – and therefore through every married couple’s weaknesses – to create a love that is strong, a love that endures.

Every marriage has its ups and downs, or else it wouldn’t be such a great adventure. All spouses have their good points and bad points, or else they wouldn’t be human. People who walk down the aisle expecting instant perfection are going to have a very difficult time weathering the inevitable storms. Making marriage last depends on our commitment to focus more on the good than the bad and to keep trying, keep loving, keep forgiving and being forgiven.

FFG: What are the four keys and how did you find them?

Dr. Manny and Karee: The four keys are faithful, free, fruitful and total love, and we found them in the wisdom of the Catholic Church. The four “marks of marriage,” as they’re sometimes called, are often mentioned in programs based on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Pope Francis even alluded to them throughout his recent exhortation “The Joy of Love” (Amoris Laetitia).

Our book uses the framework of the four keys to give couples faith-based, practical advice to help tackle big marital challenges like personality differences, relationships with in-laws, work-life balance, finances, sexuality, fertility, parenting, and family prayer. In a nutshell, our book shows how constant acts of forgiveness build long-term faithfulness, being “we-centered” rather than “me-centered” sets us free from divisive selfishness, being filled with hope rather than fear lets us embrace fruitfulness, and casting ourselves totally and trustingly into the arms of God ushers us into forever.

FFG: Manny, you counsel couples and work on a marriage tribunal. What is the biggest obstacle to a happy marriage?

Dr. Manny: In a word, selfishness. No one is immune to it. If we start thinking we deserve things we don’t have rather than appreciating what we do have, marriages can start falling apart. Selfishness can take many forms. Selfish grasping for money and power can lead to workaholism and neglect of family. Sexual selfishness can drive people to infidelity or porn. A selfish desire for comfort can make us lazy or resentful that the people in our lives, like our spouses or our kids, aren’t giving us more of what we want.

As we get older, the lure of selfishness can actually increase. In your 20s, it’s easy to believe that you can be a hero. You’re on fire with faith and enthusiasm and endless possibilities. But time takes its toll, and quiet perseverance becomes more important than visible heroics. Marriage is a path to heaven, a path to sanctity. That path is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not as if becoming a saint is easier than it used to be!

FFG: Give a sound-bite of hope for struggling couples.

Dr. Manny: To make your marriage last, put your marriage first.

Karee: Happiness is not the absence of suffering. Happiness is staring suffering in the face and refusing to give it power over you, knowing that although life and love are not always easy, they are always worth it.

Find out more about The Four Keys to Everlasting Love.