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 catholicmarriagerx@gmail.com!
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 catholicmarriagerx@gmail.com!
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 catholicmarriagerx@gmail.com!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Have You Stuck with Your New Year's Resolutions?

Today's post is part of the Small Success Thursday series at CatholicMom.com.


Surprise -- the first month of the year is almost over! If you don't want your New Year's Resolutions to fade away by the end of January, you've got to recommit to them. Accountability is a big help, and blogging and social media provide almost embarrassingly public accountability! Acknowledging failures and lack of progress can turn into a small success when you  realize what you have to do to prevail in the future. So here's my progress report on the Santos Family's 2016 New Year's Resolutions, including what I've learned from my mistakes.

1. Me:

  • Weekly exercise: I've kept this resolution, because it wasn't too difficult, although I haven't lost an ounce of weight! Strategy for Success: Choose an achievable goal.
  • Daily mental prayer: I haven't managed this, because I haven't chosen a time of day and stuck to it. Strategy for success: Better time management.
  • More homework help for the kids: I get fried pretty easily by the kids' bickering and constant requests for help, so I tend to shut down. I need the emotional equilibrium that comes from daily prayer. Strategy for success: Seek divine assistance!


2. Manny:

  • Weekly taekwondo classes: My husband hasn't made it to weekly classes, because he's too busy helping out with the kids. If I was better at homework help, he could make it to exercise class on time. Strategy for success: Better time management.
  • Spanish-speaking dinner hour: This has been an epic fail. The kids talk and sing at the top of their lungs, while eating as fast as they can and running away from the table after fifteen minutes. Strategy for success: Better discipline and manners!
  • Daily couple prayer: We've been really good at this, since I asked my husband to share the effort of suggesting prayer when I forget. Strategy for success: Seek spousal assistance.


3. Lelia (14):

  • Prepare for kickline and color guard auditions: Lelia's friend told her that color guard takes up a lot of time, with several practices per week. So she's rethinking her desire to join, which is fine with me. With better information comes better decisions. Strategy for Success: Investigate options.
  • Say grace before lunch: Lelia says she's doing well with this.
  • Read more: Lelia isn't reading more because I haven't taken her to the library. :( Strategy for success: Seek parental assistance.


4. Miguel (12):

  • Prepare for Sacrament of Confirmation: We haven't thought or done much about this. Strategy for success: Review and renew.
  • Start travel soccer: Miguel's taekwondo teacher says he'll probably test for his black belt in March or May, so Miguel will be ready for travel soccer auditions in June. Strategy for success: Follow the plan.
  • Read more: We haven't done well with this, mostly because he's been playing the PS4 he got for Christmas. Strategy for success: Less electronics time.


5. Maria (10):

  • Learn to play Fur Elise: Maria wanted to learn the Moonlight Sonata until I convinced her to tackle Fur Elise instead. But her piano teacher is willing to introduce her to the Moonlight Sonata! Strategy for success: Seek expert assistance.
  • Take online course: I missed the January deadline for the current set of online courses, so we'll have to try for the next set. Strategy for success: Try, try again.
  • 10 minutes daily prayer: This would be easier for her if we had a consistent bedtime. Strategy for success: More disciplined household.


6. Marga (9):

  • 5 gold medals: Marga has won some gymnastics medals, but no first place yet. It's difficult to juggle fourth grade homework and six hours of practice per week. Strategy for success: Better time management
  • Pass the state tests: We've asked the school district to give Marga extra help and her teacher is convinced she'll get it. Strategy for success: Seek expert assistance.
  • Add mental prayer to bedtime prayer: Marga still prefers to pray out loud. Strategy for success: Talk to her more about what mental prayer is and how to do it.


7. Cecilia (7):

  • 15 to 20 medals: C.C. has already won 5 medals at her first competition. This will be a piece of cake!
  • Prepare for confession and communion: C.C. has memorized her Act of Contrition, thanks to the parochial school teachers. Strategy for success: Seek outside assistance.
  • Discover academic interests: Nothing on this so far. Strategy for success: Review and renew.


8. Emma (5):  

  • Better speech: I need to get Emma's speech evaluated to see if she qualifies for speech therapy. Strategy for success: Seek expert assistance.
  • More fluent reading: This is tied in to my resolution to help the kids more with homework. We haven't gotten far yet. Strategy for success: More parental assistance.
  • No spoiling: I didn't give her dessert when she refused to eat her meatloaf. Yay! Strategy for sucess: Rock-solid determination



Have you stuck with your New Year's resolutions? What about your family? Review those resolutions, and renew them!



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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Miserere Mei Deus: 4 Video Resources for the Year of Mercy

Ever since Pope Francis announced that a Jubilee Year of Mercy would begin in December 2015, voices in the Church have been following the Pope's call to spread the message of mercy to all people. There are excellent video resources available to inspire and educate us, and many of them are free. Here's a sampling.


1. Ascension Presents An Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy


This series of four short videos (less than ten minutes each) is available here. Each video features a different popular Catholic speaker. My favorite is this one with Fr. Mike Schmitz, explaining what a jubilee year is and why it's so important.





2. Catholic Conference 4 Moms Faces of Mercy


This online conference features more than 20 prerecorded presentations on the topic of mercy. Each presentation is about 20 minutes long. The conference will begin February 20, but individuals and parishes can register now. This trailer explains more about the conference.



My husband Manuel P. Santos M.D. and I will talk about Mercy in Marriage. Here's a sneak peek at our presentation, where we talk about grudges.



3. The Wild Goose by Fr. Dave Pivonka


The mercy of God flows through the work of the Holy Spirit, and so we're fortunate to have a new series of fourteen videos on the Holy Spirit, whom the Celts analogized to a wild goose because of the Spirit's vast potential to surprise us. The videos last between twenty and thirty minutes and are available online for free. Only seven out of the fourteen have been completed so far. The first video was filmed against the stunning backdrop of Niagara Falls where we can "literally hear the love of God being poured forth into our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit."


4. Allegri's Miserere Mei Deus


Music inspires me more than anything else, so these recommendations would be incomplete without a music video. I leave you with this astonishingly beautiful performance of Gregorio Allegri's Miserere Mei Deus (transl.: "Have mercy on me, O God") by King's College Choir of Cambridge, England. You can hear the angels start to sing shortly after the one and a half minute mark. Enjoy!





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