Q My husband's father ignored problems until they were unmanageable; my mother fixated on problems in a way that I now see was unhealthy. Despite ourselves, my husband and I seem to be imitating our parents' faults. How can we break this cycle?

— K.J.L.

Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

A George: In addition to the many positive experiences from our childhood, we all carry leftover baggage from our years growing up. None of our parents were perfect and we aren't either.

Accepting that you and your spouse have flaws is a major step forward. It's also good to recognize that problems which have developed over 20 years or more are not going to be resolved in a day.

It's an ongoing process, but the struggle is well worth it.

In order to get the help we need, Lisette and I have always sought out what we like to call “mentor couples” — a husband and wife whose relationship is an example to us.

By interaction with them, we've been able to glean nuggets of wisdom on how to relate to each other.

Lisette: There is no pat answer to problems like the ones you discuss. What's needed is a new lifestyle, built of virtues, and that takes time.

Learning from the example of mentor couples have been a key to our own growth as a couple.

One of the first couples that attracted us was Holly and Ed Andrade, my previous dorm director and her husband. I say “attracted” because they had something that was contagious and real. They were both very close to God and they loved each other in a selfless way.

Holly was very available to me as my dorm director. She would invite me to her room to sit and drink coffee, or just to chat.

One day, after she was married — and still our dorm director — I went to visit her. It was Valentine's Day and she had written notes on 100 hearts saying why she loved Ed.

Over the years I've seen Holly keep on expressing her love for Ed in so many ways. Because of my own background, I needed to see that true married love was real and that it did last. I saw it in Holly and Ed and that has changed the way I view marriage.

I've also learned a lot from Holly as a mother. First-time mothers often have doubts about their own mothering.

So, it's good to be able to go back and forth with Holly on my ideas about raising our son. Topics I've discussed with her range from discipline to schooling to the importance of “date nights” with our spouses.

Find a couple like this — or, better, find several — and follow them. Soon, you may become a mentor couple yourselves!

George and Lisette de los Reyes host “The Two Shall Be One” on EWTN.

Reach Family Maters at: familymatters@ncregister.com