Valentine’s Day is usually seen as a day to celebrate and rekindle love. As Catholics, when we talk about renewing marital love, we are particularly speaking about that sacramental love and grace we received when we made our wedding vows. I had the opportunity to talk to Steve Bollman, founder of Paradisus Dei and host of the national parish-based program The Choice Wine: 7 Steps To A Superabundant Marriage and ask for his best tips about how we can celebrate Valentine’s Day as a launching point for even fuller, more joyful marriages.
Steve has had the opportunity to speak to, and listen to the stories of, thousands of couples across the country: from the engaged and newly married to those celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversaries. His ministry is dedicated to helping every marriage reach its full potential, whether the spouses are relatively happy already or struggling in some way.
Question: Do you think there is a consistent need to rekindle the love expressed between spouses on their wedding day? If so, why?
Steve: Absolutely. If you look at Scripture, the need to continually live the “first love” is critical. If you look at the seven letters to the seven churches in the second and third chapter to the Book of Revelation, the first letter is to the Church of Ephesus. The indictment to the Church of Ephesus is that it has lost the first love. The letters that follow to the remaining Churches get progressively worse. That pattern is very symbolic of the spiritual life. When you lose your first love, it can easily start you on a path to real trouble. The same thing is true for marriages.
Question: In your experience, what keeps spouses from taking their love to the “next level”?
Steve: Easy – the time pressures of our incredibly hectic life. The “Good Samaritan” study we quote in The Choice Wine shows that the vast majority of people are willing to help someone in need. However, if you put them under time pressure, only 10 percent stop to help in the same circumstances. Unfortunately, almost all of us are constantly under time pressure. We’re just doing our best to keep our head above water. Under such conditions, we rarely raise our eyes to see what is possible.
Question: You often speak about the love that spouses had when they made their wedding vows. What is so special about that time and what reality does it point to about marriage?
Steve: It is amazing how God implants “holy desires” into the soul at important moments in life. Most couples truly have noble desires for the kind of husband/father or wife/mother they want to be. Unfortunately, those noble desires frequently get buried under the pressures of everyday life. As such, one of the things we encourage couples to do is to write down those desires. What do you want to be as a husband/wife? As a father/mother? As a man/woman of God? As a brother/sister? As a son/daughter? As a friend? As a co-worker? From time to time, the couple should review them to keep them focused on their higher calling.
Question: In the Choice Wine program and book, you present 7 steps that you say “virtually divorce-proof” marriage and bring spouses closer to the marriage God intended for them. How did you decide on those 7 steps?
Steve: It really comes out in the final chapter of the book. The 7 steps are simply the life that the Holy Family lived stated in modern terms. They help us to discover God’s presence in our midst and to experience the superabundance the Holy Family experienced.
Question: If couples wanted to seek out even fuller marriages starting on Valentine’s Day, how do you suggest they start?
Steve: I think two things are critically important – they need to spend time together as a couple and they need to pray together as a couple. I should mention that for many couples, starting a Choice Wine group in their home allows them to fulfill both of these important steps and to do so with a supportive community of friends. The results have been amazing.
For more about the Choice Wine parish program, self-study, and book, visit thechoicewine.org