The Baha’i teachings say that marriage is meant to be a fortress for well-being; a secure entity designed to allow children to be brought into this world, nurtured and developed to become happy and successful spiritual beings. A happy marriage allows the couple to live in peace and help fulfil each other’s dreams. Husband and wife should bring joy to each other and help each other grow.
To achieve those lofty goals, consider these five secrets to a happy marriage, which will allow the partners to harmoniously question and reflect on their own actions, and as a result become positive agents contributing to a marriage that they both enjoy and deserve:
Never offend—and never get offended
We cannot control anyone but ourselves. So let’s put that to work and do all we can to ensure that we don’t offend our spouse. The chances are, despite our efforts, we will do some offending—but at least we will do all we can to minimize the frequency and degree of any offense.
The flip side? We should each understand that our spouse, as a normal human being, will at times offend us. That’s a given. The key is to not dwell on the unpleasant message, but rather let it go immediately:
Act in such a way that your heart may be free from hatred. Let not your heart be offended with anyone… Beware! Beware! lest ye offend any heart. Assist the world of humanity as much as possible. Be the source of consolation to every sad one, assist every weak one, be helpful to every indigent one, care for every sick one, be the cause of glorification to every lowly one, and shelter those who are overshadowed by fear. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 453.
Do it for a greater love
As spiritual beings, we all have greater aspirations than just a physical union in this world. Baha’is believe that a loving, unified marriage will go on eternally. With that in mind we should always do all we can to be an exemplary spouse, not just to please our partner, but also to please God. He is the glue that will keep the marriage together despite the inevitable challenges and ups and downs every couple encounters:
Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every human being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God, you will love them and be kind to them… The imperfect eye beholds imperfections. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 92.
Love each other—and each other’s families
Can you love your spouse, but dislike your spouse’s family? I don’t think so. Is it possible for your spouse to show love to you, if, for whatever reason, you show dislike to his or her family? Probably not. Love perpetuates love. The more love we show to each other, and the more love we show to those loved by our spouse, the more love we will receive in return. That love creates more fulfillment and more joy in our lives, and a better home and environment for our children.
Marriage helps us learn that we are all imperfect, and that clearly includes the husband and wife and those related to them. The key is not to find perfect people—they don’t exist—but to rather work on ourselves, so we stop focusing on the imperfections of others:
One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 169.
Spend time together and find joy in service
Marriages become truly fulfilling and stable when the partners not only fully enjoy each other’s physical presence, but also help each other and their respective families grow with the goal of service to humanity and the betterment of the world. When a life of service expands beyond the individual and encompasses the family and the community, the outcome will improve each other’s spiritual lives, produce greater unity, and generate mutual love and respect:
The true marriage of Baha’is is this, that husband and wife should be united both physically and spiritually, that they may ever improve the spiritual life of each other, and may enjoy everlasting unity throughout all the worlds of God. This is Baha’i marriage. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 118.
Those with a stake in a marriage—which includes the couple, their children and the close extended families—will sometimes hurt each other. That’s just an inevitable part of human relations. But rather than dwelling on the matter to get to the bottom of it, or trying to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong, focus your energies on forgiveness and the immediate restoration of unity:
If someone commits an error and wrong toward you, you must instantly forgive him. Do not complain of others. Refrain from reprimanding them, and if you wish to give admonition or advice, let it be offered in such a way that it will not burden the bearer. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 453.
If you’re ever in doubt about any of these secrets to marital success, just know that you can never go wrong by forgiving, and doing whatever it takes to immediately restore unity between you and the one you love. This kind of forgiving, kind love, shown in a selfless manner, will always help the union between husband and wife thrive, grow and blossom:
Love gives life to the lifeless. Love lights a flame in the heart that is cold. Love brings hope to the hopeless and gladdens the hearts of the sorrowful. In the world of existence there is indeed no greater power than the power of love. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 179.
Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone, let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path. – Ibid., p. 16.