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Marriage may seem like it is just about being a tight twosome—and in many ways, it is. However, its impact also reaches beyond two people. When healthy and unified, marriage is an amazing way to be of service to others.
The Baha’i teachings invite couples to become signs of harmony and unity. Their couple-unity contributes to family unity and expands in ever-widening circles to contribute to the unity of humanity:
Note ye how easily, where unity existeth in a given family, the affairs of that family are conducted; what progress the members of that family make, how they prosper in the world. …And if we widen out the sphere of unity a little to include the inhabitants of a village…the inhabitants of a city…[and] the inhabitants of a whole country… – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 279-280.
Where this unity exists, it can result in joy, glory, peace, and wealth.
Baha’u’llah refers to marriage as a “fortress for well-being and salvation….” Well-being between a couple benefits their children and their extended family. “Salvation” includes the concept of protecting the marriage and family from harm. This marital fortress between a man and a woman forms a spiritual as well as a physical union. Both aspects serve the couple, the family, and others.
On the physical side of well-being, my husband and I have discovered we can take actions like these:
- Encourage each other to exercise
- Eat nutritious and healthy food
- Schedule regular doctor and dentist visits
- Touch each other lovingly and respectfully
On the spiritual side of well-being, the Baha’i teachings encourage married couples to “ever improve the spiritual life” of one another, to become “helpmates,” “intimate friends”, and to co-exist as “one soul” for eternity. For my husband and me, various actions bring us spiritually closer:
- Praying together daily
- Practicing character qualities such as truthfulness, compassion, and patience
- Serving each other and encouraging excellence in work and service to others
- Sharing and discussing spiritual quotations
As we develop our physical and spiritual well-being practices, we increasingly notice that our relatives and some of our friends have decided to make healthier choices too—which makes us feel that our choices serve others through example and encouragement.
This all connects with a global initiative now underway, often led by members of the Baha’i community and their friends, called “community building.” That type of unity initiative includes forming true friendships with others, and creating a collective life that includes worship and service. As couples build strong friendship-based marriages, they can provide an anchor of stability, outreach, and hospitality in neighborhoods and communities around the world.
One way that married couples can serve humanity: by demonstrating that they regard each other as equal partners in service to God and their family. The Baha’i teachings about equality spell it out:
Women and men have been and will always be equal in the sight of God. …Verily God created women for men, and men for women. – Baha’u’llah, from a tablet to an individual Baha’i.
The world of humanity has two wings—one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible. Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 302.
In our marriage, my husband and I committed to make all decisions as partners together. We do this through carefully examining the facts, sharing our thoughts and feelings, and coming to a unified conclusion. This process, which Baha’u’llah calls “consultation,” provides a powerful example to our family members who observe us making decisions together, often involving them in the process. This example and inclusion help them learn skills that they can apply in their lives and work to benefit others.
Creating healthy and unified marriages is not easy. Tremendous growth can happen when two people unite their lives and learn to live and serve in a unified way. Couples who grow together and expand their love and joy also begin to regard their efforts as part of what they do to serve their families and others. Peaceful and united families contribute to a peaceful and united world.
Watch a Q&A webinar with Susanne M. Alexander on the Wilmette Institute’s youtube channel.