What makes a marriage great? According to a recent study out of Florida State University, the key to marital bliss is low expectations.

FSU psychology professor Dr. James McNulty studied 135 newlywed couples for four years, and concluded that those who didn’t have high hopes when entering marriage were happier than those who believed their spouse would meet all their needs and make them happy. Results from McNulty’s study “Should Spouses Be Demanding Less from Marriage?” were published last month in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

But wait a minute!  As a long-married observer who is just ridiculously happy with my dear husband, I have to ask: Is that all there is?

I mean, would lowering your salary expectations to minimum wage make you happier in your business career? If you expect to have a low-running fever and a cough all year, will you be happier about your health?

Why would a man choose to marry at all, if he didn’t believe his beloved to be the one God had given him, to share his hopes and dreams and with whom he could build a happy life?

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All of which is to say:  Here’s a better way to think of it!

Karee Santos and Manuel P. Santos have recently published a thoughtful and realistic book on life-long love. The Four Keys to Everlasting Love: How Your Catholic Marriage Can Bring You Joy for a Lifetime is a practical how-to manual for building a happy life together.

Four Keys to Everlasting LoveNo marriage–not even a sacramental one–escapes conflict. The man and the woman will have brought into their union differing perspectives regarding hot-button issues such as money, sex, and child-rearing. There will be times when one spouse feels that the other is too focused on work, or when the couple can’t agree on how often to visit the in-laws.

Karee and Manuel Santos divide those common conflicts into four categories, and show how spouses are

  • called to be faithful and forgiving.
  • called to be free.
  • called to be fruitful.
  • and called to love totally and forever.

Not merely platitudes, the Santos’ advice gets downright practical: How can you turn meaningless drudgery into meaningful work? How can you turn challenges into channels of grace? How can a fear of one’s fertility be metamorphosed into a total gift of self? How can you turn your home into a place of prayer?

What about that special challenge of turning children into adults? Do parents sometimes over-emphasize intellectual development, to the detriment of moral development?

The Four Keys to Everlasting Love would be a great engagement or wedding gift for a young couple just starting out on their journey of love. If you are a married man or woman who is still learning how to get this “two become one” thing exactly right, it would be a worthwhile addition to your own bookshelf, too!

Image:  Pixabay