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Featured in: Dating, Courtship, Marriage


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Creating a New Culture for Singles Who Want to Marry

August 2, 2018, in Articles > Baha'i Life, by

The path to finding a mate for life is not easy. Through my personal life and my work as a marriage and relationship educator and coach, I have seen how perseverance, courage, discernment, and commitment are all essential. We and the world need strong, happy marriages that are fortresses of well-being.

We are not yet living in a world that has established a common pattern of courtship based on the Baha’i Teachings. As a result, individuals and couples are experimenting and trying to find their way – sometimes joyfully and sometimes with more difficulty.

As you know, courtship practices differ greatly from one culture to another, and it is not yet known what pattern of courtship will emerge in the future when society has been more influenced by Baha’i Teachings. However, there is no indication that it will resemble the practices extant in existing cultures…. In this interim period, the friends are encouraged to make great efforts to live in conformity with the Teachings and to gradually forge a new pattern of behavior, more in keeping with the spirit of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation.1

The challenge we face is how to engage in patterns of courtship that strive to implement Baha’i principles in a world that is “a bewildering moral environment”2 and in “a society in which materialism, self-centeredness and failing marriages are all too common.”3

So, when we look at what possibly aligns with Baha’i courtship, what is important? 

For one, I believe that it’s significantly about character, as Abdu’l-Baha asks us to “exercise the utmost care to become thoroughly acquainted with the character of the other, that the binding covenant between them may be a tie that will endure forever.”4 This means developing our own characters and then experiencing someone’s ability to consistently demonstrate a variety of qualities, such as being kind, courteous, compassionate, responsible, courageous, truthful, and trustworthy.

The Universal House of Justice focuses us on the topic of character and its importance (the bolding of certain words in quotations was added by me for emphasis):

A couple should study each other’s character and spend time getting to know each other before they decide to marry, and when they do marry it should be with the intention of establishing an eternal bond.5

…your sons may well feel that it is wise to have a long period of courtship in which the prospective partners spend much time together and become thoroughly acquainted with each other’s character, background and family.1

My experience has been that I can adjust to a partner’s profession, daily habits, quirks, diet, and more IF the foundation of his character is solid. Then I can trust his words, motives, and actions. I can relax with him instead of constantly monitoring for concerns, and we can focus outward on our service to others.

I have found it helpful when I’ve been looking for a partner to keep in mind this guidance below, which has helped me choose to spend time with a prospective marriage partner by serving others and participating in community activities together, all the while growing in my understanding of his responses to a wide variety of circumstances. Spending time with others in this manner doesn’t necessarily make it easy to adhere to Baha’i standards, but it helps.

… there is nothing in the Baha’i Writings which relates specifically to the so-called dating practices prevalent in some parts of the world, where two unmarried people of the opposite sex participate together in a social activity. In general, Baha’is who are planning to involve themselves in this form of behavior should become well aware of the Baha’i Teachings on chastity and, with these in mind, should scrupulously avoid any actions which would arouse passions which might well tempt them to violate these Teachings. In deciding which acts are permissible in the light of these considerations, the youth should use their own judgment, giving due consideration to the advice of their parents, taking account of the prevailing customs of the society in which they live, and prayerfully following the guidance of their conscience. … [A]dherence to this standard cannot be over-emphasized as a basis for true happiness and for successful marriage.6

Chastity is one of those terms in the Teachings that seems to make us uncomfortable. Chastity means maintaining sexual purity and reserving sexual attraction, thoughts, responses, and intimacy as a special and respectful gift to share with a marriage partner. In the Baha’i Faith, sex and sexuality are not “impure” or “unholy”; sex is a natural impulse, but it belongs in a certain context, which is within a healthy marriage. Marriage is a divine institution, within which sexual intimacy serves as a unifying factor for a married couple. (If you’d like to read more about chastity, Janna wrote an article called “An Honest Letter to Baha’i Youth About Sex”.)

It’s common to hear the process of learning about character phrased as, “investigating someone’s character,” but, from what I’ve read, this term does not appear in the Writings in English, and my concern is that it implies being a detective. It can reduce the joy and interesting challenge of getting to know someone well to an unpleasant-sounding task. Someone shared with me his concern that unmarried Baha’is are avoiding the term “in a relationship,” as everyone is potentially “investigating” everyone else, which can result in suspicion and intrigue. He also perceived a how lack of public commitment and exclusivity during courtship could make difficult the levels of investment and emotional intimacy necessary for a couple to adequately ready themselves for marriage.

How to identify couples who are courting would vary from culture to culture, from situation to situation, and from couple to couple. However, regardless of how it is done, thoroughly knowing a partner cannot happen isolated from family and community. I believe that what can be helpful is for community members and family to acknowledge couples who are courting, and for community and family to guard against making a big deal out of couples going through this process. The Universal House of Justice writes:

Although a Baha’i may, if he chooses, seek his parents’ advice on the choice of a partner, and although Baha’i parents may give such advice if asked, it is clear from the Teachings that parents do not have the right to interfere in their children’s actual choice of a prospective partner until approached for their consent to marry. Therefore, when discussing the issue of courtship with your sons, it would be best to discuss it on the level of principle without reference to individuals.3

What can be very helpful is when parents, families, friends, and communities provide opportunities for couples to serve together and be together in supportive environments. Getting to know each other well and being chaste are easier when couples fill their lives with joyful activities that moderate the emphasis on physical attraction.

Concerning your wish for a marriage partner to enhance your life and service, you are encouraged to trust in God, pursue your purposes with a joyful heart, and identify opportunities, through your own prayerful consideration or through consultation with others, to meet a man to whom you could consider being married.7

A couple may or may not decide to marry, but they will have every opportunity to determine that for themselves.

These are a few of my thoughts about creating a new dating culture for singles. If you’d like to read more, I’ve co-written a book called Starting with Me: Knowing Myself Before Finding a Partner (which you can purchase here).

  1. The Universal House of Justice, August 28, 1994, to an individual [] []
  2. Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, February 5, 1992 []
  3. The Universal House of Justice, August 28, 1994 [] []
  4. Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baba, #86 []
  5. Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, #1269 []
  6. Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, February 5, 1992, to an individual []
  7. Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, August 25, 2010 []
Posted by

Susanne Alexander

Susanne M. Alexander is a Relationship and Marriage Educator, author, and coach with Marriage Transformation®(;; She is a faculty member for the Wilmette Institute Relationships, Marriage, and Family Department online courses ( Susanne has been single, dating, engaged, married, divorced, and widowed. She is a child, stepchild, parent, stepparent, and grandparent. All of this has given Susanne a diversity of experience to share! She is originally from Canada and is married to a wonderful man in Tennessee, in the United States.
Susanne Alexander

Discussion 13 Comments

Thank you Susanne. A beautiful article. It offers a lot of help and advice (from the Baha’i Writings) about getting into a relationship and getting married.

Criselda R. Figuerres

Criselda R. Figuerres (August 8, 2018 at 2:05 PM)

Criselda: I’m glad you found it helpful. I really, really, want people to have the opportunity to be in happy and healthy relationships and marriages. Often it seems very difficult, and it does require we make many adjustments in learning to live with another person. I certainly have found the advice about paying attention to character very beneficial in my life though. It makes the normal human adjustments much, much easier when you can trust a partner (a sense of humor helps too!). I hope you are successful at achieving the goal of being in a wonderful marriage that serves each other and outward to many others as well. Susanne

Susanne M. Alexander

Susanne M. Alexander (August 8, 2018 at 7:25 PM)

Well stated and explained. We all have a unique path and using Baha’i writings as reference in addition to approaching marriage principles from more religions definitely helps to see the unity in guidance from our Creator for our very own wellbeing and that of inspiration for our fellow brethren and sisteren.

Samir James

Samir James (March 3, 2019 at 11:28 AM)

Samir: Glad you found it helpful. We are so blessed to have the richness of the Writings as a source of guidance! Susanne

Susanne Alexander

Susanne Alexander (March 3, 2019 at 7:18 PM)

Thank you so much Susanne, this is really great. I have looked for a single Baha’i man for almost 15 years and a few years to come I will be in forties. And my dream has always been to have a child before 40s. I am a very active Baha’i and I have been a member of Baha’i dating sites and at times I feel like I was meant to be single. But I will continue praying and have Faith in God.


Tahirih (June 6, 2019 at 1:45 PM)

Tahirih: Thank you for reading and commenting. I wish the process was easier. Sometimes it can be quite difficult to find a partner that we and our parents think can work well for us. And as we get older, we end up having to flexibly adjust to having adopted children and step-children. It’s a different experience than giving birth, although it can also be very rewarding.

My current husband is not a Baha’i, which was part of the shift in direction I chose to finally do. He has come to love Baha’u’llah over time, and we pray together daily. He isn’t choosing to declare as a Baha’i though, and I have to respect and accompany his spiritual journey. I have certainly learned along the way in my life and work that just because someone is a Baha’i they are not necessarily a great marriage partner.

I have resources on this website page called Directing the Course of One’s Life and Understanding Tests which help to illuminate our responsibilities and when doors are open or closed. These documents from the Baha’i World Centre may be helpful for you.

I hope you’ll get a copy of Starting with Me, as it will help to ensure you have done all the self-preparation work. There are courses here to help too:

Sending a prayer!

Susanne Alexander

Susanne Alexander (June 6, 2019 at 3:14 PM)

Thank you very much for the wonderful links.


Tahirih (July 7, 2019 at 5:30 AM)

Susanne I read again this article. I will try and I hope to buy the book Starting with Me. Thanks again!

Criselda R. Figuerres

Criselda R. Figuerres (September 9, 2019 at 1:29 AM)

One aspect of the western style of one-on-one dating is that it is scary and awkward – and for a number of obvious reasons. One of them is expectations. What does the other person want out of this? How am I expected to behave?

The thing that changed it for me was when I was in Haifa, way back when. It was in the evening and I saw groups of young people of both genders walking along the street, joking, laughing and having a good time. Sometimes the two gender groups would merge, sometimes a boy and a girl would walk together, and sometimes the groups would be separate. It flowed like a small-scale murmuration of birds. And absolutely everyone was comfortable with the above shifting. Personally, I thought that was a perfect approach – people getting to know each other without stress and no commitment to spending a three-hour date one-on-one with no way to gracefully bail if you wanted and there can be pressure to repeat the experience. If there were to be an ideal way of Bahá’í dating, the murmuration approach might come very close to it.


JFairweather (June 6, 2020 at 6:33 AM)

J Fairweather: Thanks for sharing! I am lead faculty for ongoing courses at the Wilmette Institute ( for about relationships and marriage. May I share your comment with the Foundations for Relationships course currently running for youth ages 18-30? Susanne

Susanne Alexander

Susanne Alexander (June 6, 2020 at 10:54 AM)

I really love what you have written here, and just bought your book too. I am blessed to be married for 36 years to my second husband, after trying to save my first marriage and recovering from the divorce. I see a great need, mostly for the young adults, but also for the older single souls. We are building communities that are stronger with strong families. In fact, we are the family and are still learning what that really means. I am creating a program that I hope will help people to meet each other and build good relationships across all the differences, and to have the bonds that enrich us all, that may also lead to marriage for some. I will use your wisdom in this!

Kathryn Rutan-Sprague

Kathryn Rutan-Sprague (August 8, 2021 at 4:49 PM)

Kathryn: Strong marriages and families are so vital for the health of our communities indeed! I’m happy to hear about your program…every effort is valuable, and I’m happy to be helpful.

Susanne Alexander

Susanne Alexander (August 8, 2021 at 8:04 PM)

I am new to this site but I would like to invite anyone interested in pioneering to Gallup, NM area to work with the Navajo or Hispanic people here. If something works out between us, friend or partner, that would be a plus.

Bill Bright

Bill Bright (January 1, 2024 at 11:45 AM)

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