How do you define a successful marriage?

In anticipation of St. Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14 — a day to celebrate romance and love — Vermont Catholic asked couples married for different lengths of time, how they define a successful marriage.

Their responses follow.

Jean-Charles and Celine Thouin of Ascension Church in Georgia have been married for five years: “We define a successful marriage as one where both spouses make the conscious decision to love and respect each other throughout their marriage. God’s love naturally radiates from their union. The couple needs to work together toward the common good and have the same definition of what the common good is. To achieve a successful marriage it takes intentionality, patience and forgiveness, all of which come from the grace of God.

Bill and Elaine Ryan of St. Alphonsus Parish in Pittsford have been married for 25 years: “A successful marriage is a happy marriage, where each person is happy to be in relationship with their spouse. God is the center of the marriage. One key for our marriage is that we consulted God before we married and believe we were called to be married. It is important to continuously listen to and heed God’s guidance. Being open to the Holy Spirit, seeking guidance directly (through prayer and reflection) or many times through others is a large part of the grace we strive to receive throughout our marriage. We also make great efforts to listen to each other and gently confront the other if necessary, asking forgiveness if needed.”

Kim and Michael Doleszny of St. Michael Parish in Brattleboro have been married for

41 years: “A successful marriage is based on being truthful and caring, making time to be with each other and loving each other, committing to each other, being patient with each other, having a sense of humor and good communication. Always support each other and be respectful to each other. Marriage is about marrying your best friend, having fun and laughing together. There are always hard times and days that aren’t always perfect, but at the end of the day you know you always have each other’s heart.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, at least three different St. Valentines, all martyrs, are mentioned in early martyrologies for Feb. 14. It notes that popular customs associated with St. Valentine’s Day had their origin in a belief in England and France during the Middle Ages that halfway through the second month of the year the birds began to pair. So, Feb. 14 was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and as a time for writing love letters and giving small gifts.

—Originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.