Working it out together: Three couples share their recipe for a happy marriage

Áilín Quinlan asks three couples to share the story of how they met and their secrets to a happy relationship

FOR Nick and Kieran Murphy, it was love at first sight in a trendy Cork gay bar.

The couple’s romance, which began in earnest a few days later with dinner lovingly prepared by Kieran, led, within five years, to marriage.

Nick, now 30 and working as a parts advisor with a major car dealership in Cork city, was a barman at the time in Chambers Bar when he first laid eyes on Kieran on St Patrick’s Weekend 2011.

“I was working there at the time as a barman and I was finishing up that weekend,” he recalls. They had a few drinks together and swapped phone numbers, and Kieran, 29, who is a pharmacist with HIQA.

“He invited me to dinner and the relationship began — he made chicken stuffed with black pudding and wrapped in bacon,” recalls Nick.

The couple became engaged at Christmas 2014, and tied the knot two years later in a civil ceremony at the Triskel Christ Church, smack in the middle of the centenary celebrations of the Easter Rising.

“The city was decked out in tricolours for the centenary,” recalls Nick. The couple, who, he says, are “massive GAA fans” not only arranged to have their menus printed like match programmes but had the Proclamation printed on the inside.

Attended by almost 130 guests, the wedding set them back in the region of €8,500. It officially finished up at 2am, but unofficially continued until after 5am in the hotel residents’ bar.

The next day, the duo flew to Thailand for a three-week honeymoon before settling into life as a married couple.

“Having a bit of patience goes a long way, and a bit of understanding,” says Nick.

“Listen to one another,” he advises, “because if you don’t you won’t know anything.”

Now living in the suburb of Wilton, he and Kieran are conscious that small things really do matter when it comes to keeping romance alive and a relationship healthy — this Valentine’s Day, for example, Nick’s cooking a special meal for a cosy evening in by the fire.

“Being there for one another when it’s needed is important. Doing small things for each other like making each other’s lunches if one person is under pressure,” he says, adding that they make the effort to go out together regularly.

“We go to the pictures now and again, and if the weather is decent on a Sunday’ we’ll go for a spin or a walk or go jogging.”

Other favourites are binge-watching a series in front of the fire and taking holidays together. “It’s time away with each other. We go to the Canaries a lot because the weather is reliable and you’re not restricted by the climate or the time of the year.”


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A full half-century has passed since the morning that lovebirds Pauline and Seamus O’Brien tied the knot on St Valentine’s Day at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Ballinlough.

Pauline a book-keeper, and Seamus, a quality control expert, met at work in car firm Dunlops.

“We were good friends at first, but we grew close over a period of about two years,” says Pauline, who recalls that Seamus proposed in 1969 and they spent about a year organising their wedding.

On the day, their guests attended a wedding breakfast, and the day finished up around teatime.

The 88 guests at their reception in the Metropole Hotel, Cork, dined on fruit cup Maraschino, a choice of soup, chicken or fish, and a choice of sherry trifle or peach Chartreuse followed by tea or coffee. “It cost 22 shilling a head.”

The bill — she has kept the receipt, along with other mementoes of their big day all these years — came to £145, 10 shillings and eight pence, and the day finished up around 5pm or 6pm.

“Seamus and I drove straight to Cork Airport and flew to London for our honeymoon.”

How times have changed,” says the mother of three adult children from Silversprings, Tivoli. “Nowadays weddings go on for three days — my children’s weddings all involved a day before the wedding itself and a day after, and really, we had about a week of celebrations prior to the big day as well.”

The key to a successful marriage, Pauline and Seamus believe, is that firstly there has to be give and take in the relationship, and secondly there must be a commitment “to never let the sun go down on a difference of opinion or a bad feeling.”

It’s also very important to have interests in common also. “We both love socialising and singing and dancing. We’re very sociable people and we’re fairly positive too, and we very much enjoy each other’s company. That brings you through all the trials and tribulations and sickness in life,” says Pauline.

The couple, both aged 72, are grandparents to nine grand-children between the ages of four and 19, who they enthusiastically describe as “the icing on the cake”.

They have big plans for this Valentine’s Day, their 50th wedding anniversary. The couple with renew their wedding vows at a function in the Metropole and enjoy a sit-down meal with nearly 160 guests. “We started planning about 18 months ago.”


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Next August Caroline and Jim Burns, both in their early 50s, celebrate 25 years of marriage.

The couple, who met at the IT company where they both worked — Caroline was a line inspector and Jim was in the testing department — were initially just workmates, but gradually, what started out as friendship became something deeper.

“Jim was more outgoing than me and very chatty person, and he likes a bit of craic. He approached me and we got talking and after a couple of months he asked me out,” says Caroline.

The relationship deepened, and after some years of saving for their wedding and a deposit on their home in Cork’s Cathedral Road, the couple got married on August 25, 1995.

“We got married in St Coleman’s Church in Macroom where I am from.”

At the wedding reception, about 120 guests sat down to chicken and mushroom vol au vents, soup, turkey and ham with all the trimmings, followed by Baked Alaska.

“The whole thing came to about €1,500 and the cost included teas, coffees and sandwiches later on in the day,” she says, adding that the dancing and wedding celebrations continued all night.

“The fun actually went on until the milkman was coming into the hotel the next morning at around 6.30am,” she laughs, adding that the couple, who have one son Seán (22), honeymooned in Santa Ponza.

“Like every other couple we’ve have had our ups and downs, but for us a successful marriage is about friendship, about liking each other and about sticking together,” says Caroline.

She also strongly believes that having religion in the home is important.

Common interests are important to a successful relationship too. “You also have to have things in common. Jim and I both like socialising, and foreign holidays and we try to go abroad twice a year even if it’s only for a long weekend on the Costa del Sol. We attend concerts together — we always go to the Marquee in the summer, as well as concerts in Dublin.

“We’ve seen everyone from Michael Jackson to ACDC and Status Quo to Tina Turner and the Bee Gees! No matter how busy we are, we will make time to go out together.

“This Valentine’s Day I’m working but we’re going to Killarney the weekend before, to see the High Kings in the INEC — and we’re really looking forward to it.”