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Susanne Alexander

Susanne M. Alexander is a Relationship and Marriage Educator, author, and coach with Marriage Transformation®, www.marriagetransformation.com; www.bahaimarriage.net; www.bahairelationships.com. She is the Department Chair and also a faculty member for the Wilmette Institute relationships, marriage, parenting, and family online courses (www.wilmetteinstitute.org). 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.

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Striving to Belong, Be Seen, and Be Heard

Baha’u’llah has charged us with creating unity everywhere in our lives. Sometimes, though, our inner wounds get in the way.

A very young me internalized “I don’t belong” from relatively simple experiences like being excluded from friend’s birthday parties and being sent to my room as a punishment. More deeply I internalized it was better to not belong as closely to my family after my mother almost died and her attention was focused on my younger baby brother. It seems to be a common human experience to have an inner child voice born from reacting to early challenges, especially those that involve rejection, severe criticism, or disconnection.

Our inner-child voice operates, often unconsciously, and interferes with connection with others when we are adults, especially if we seem to be experiencing rejection or disrespect from someone. I see it in my work as a relationship educator and coach based in the United States, in friends, and in myself. For some, the inner operating phrase is different: “I’m not good enough”, “I’m invisible”, or “I don’t matter”. But the outcome is the same: disconnection and disunity with people that we really want to be close to. There is hope:

The bright rays of union will obliterate the darkness of limitations, and the splendors of heaven will make the human heart to be even as a mine veined richly with the love of God.

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Building World Citizenship One Marriage and Birth at a Time

Cross-cultural marriages and children born from these marriages appear to be part of creating one human family. When my American stepdaughter married a Norwegian-Swede last year and moved to Norway, we really didn’t understand this. During the wedding, our home became decorated with a few things in Norwegian flag colors, which happen to be red, white, and blue, just like our flags in the US. Now, however, a granddaughter has arrived, and suddenly our perspective is very different.

The concept of being world citizens and building one human family is large and complex. It’s far more than having treaties across borders of homogenous countries for example. Here is a view from Abdu’l-Baha: Continue reading

5 Things to Consider Before Asking for Consent to Marry

You and your sweetie are talking about marriage. Being in a happy marriage builds love, promotes well-being, and creates an ever-expanding unity. In comparison, being in a conflicted marriage is misery. The good news is you have a lot of control over the outcome; “Careful preparation for marriage is an essential first step in the preservation of Baha’i marriage.”

Asking for and receiving consent from all living parents is a requirement of Baha’i marriage. It’s a new concept to have couples independently arrive at the decision to marry and then to have parents respond. I’m always striving to understand the guidance from the Baha’i Writings on the subject. I’ve considered and given consent, and I’ve also asked for it from my own parents. I am exploring the topics of consent and marriage with couples and parents globally as a marriage and relationship educator and coach. However, everyone involved in consent is in a learning mode and simply trying to do their best. One way I am learning is by asking couples in difficulty what they could have done differently before they asked for consent and got married. Here is my checklist of 5 things to consider as potentially helpful for you before asking for consent:  Continue reading

4 Things I Am Learning About the Covenant and Families

There are many terms in the Baha’i Faith’s Teachings that are easy to read but often difficult to understand and that require life-long study and deepening. One of them is the Covenant, in this case, the Lesser Covenant (if you’d like to know more about the Greater and Lesser Covenants, you can read about them here). In its essence, it’s a mutual promise between Baha’u’llah and anyone who believes He’s brought a new message from God and strives to uphold His Teachings.  Continue reading

How Marriage Consciously Creates a Better Future

Horns honk, text messages ding, there’s a new deadline to meet, college assignment to complete, a relative needing attention, a service commitment to carry out, or sadness to process with a friend who just got divorced. Our minds get so full of noise that becoming conscious of something can be difficult. I find it takes me a lot of quiet, alone time to even focus on something for a short time.

I recently re-read a quotation that I’ve read countless times before, and the phrase “acutely conscious” struck me. The passage relates to how young people can consciously create a better future, but I think it’s worth everyone’s time and attention. The Universal House of Justice tells us (the bolding is mine):  Continue reading

Creating a New Culture for Singles Who Want to Marry

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.

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” and in “a society in which materialism, self-centeredness and failing marriages are all too common.”

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

Who Is Family? A Reflection on Courtesy and Respect

The Baha’i Faith teaches us that humanity is all one family. However, thankfully they don’t all come over for holiday dinners, call at all hours on the phone, or get annoyed when you forget their birthday! Yet Abdu’l-Baha tells us:

God has created the world as one–the boundaries are marked out by man. God has not divided the lands… That is why Baha’u’llah says: ‘Let not a man glory in that he loves his country, but that he loves his kind.’ All are of one family, one race; all are human beings.

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4 Spiritual Qualities that Help Unite Marriages

I love being in a happy marriage. I love the quotations from the Baha’i Writings that talk about the wonderfulness of marriage. Sometimes though the guidance is challenging to understand and follow. I’m currently striving to grasp this particular quotation below, especially the second sentence:

Baha’is should be profoundly aware of the sanctity of marriage and should strive to make their marriages an eternal bond of unity and harmony. This requires effort and sacrifice and wisdom and self-abnegation.

These are my thoughts on that sentence, based on my personal experience and my work as a marriage and relationship educator and coach based in the United States and working with couples in many countries.  Continue reading