From the Field
5 Things to Talk About Before Marriage
'Abdu'l-Baha wrote that, "Baha'i marriage is union and cordial affection between the two parties. They must, however, exercise the utmost care and become acquainted with each other's character. This eternal bond should be made secure by a firm covenant, and the intention should be to foster harmony, fellowship and unity and to attain to everlasting life...."*
Nevin and Mercy J. from Ohio, newly married, share some questions that helped them become acquainted with each other's character.
Once you marry, all your attitudes and behaviors regarding money, both in terms of how you've spent your money before finding each other and how you plan to spend your money, will come into contact. The time to begin that process is now.
- How do you approach spending/saving money? Where are you and where do you want to be?
- Who will pay the bills?
- Talk about your debt since you'll be merging that too. Try to pull a credit report for each of you and talk about how you'll manage any debt you might have.
- How much should be contributed to the Baha'i Funds and how often (this is useful question to talk through whether you and your prospective spouse are both Baha'is or just one is)?
- What does saving and investing look like to you?
- What is your lifestyle like if you have little money compared to if you have an excess amount of money in the bank?
- When married, how often should you pray individually and as a family?
- What does it mean to you to lead a spiritual life? How does your potential spouse fit into that picture?
- What does participation in your religious community look like to you?
- What values do you want your children to grow up with?
- Can you forgive people in your past?
- What kind of boundaries are needed with past acquaintances?
- What kind of information do you want to know about the past relationships of your potential spouse?
Love languages are the way we we express love to each other, and we learn these languages from our families, culture, and faith communities/backgrounds. Even if a couple speaks the same language, they may not speak quite the same love language.
- How do you and your potential spouse express love? Gifts? Hugs? Doing the dishes? Surprises?
Balance and Organization
- How do you balance and organize time in your life? What are your priorities? Spending time with friends? Staying in vs. going out? Volunteering? Core activities?
- Is your partner willing to learn how to balance when being asked by you to do so?
- Visit people's houses. Ask them how they stay organized as a couple and, possibly, as Baha'is. Ask them if and how they define roles and responsibilities and talk with your potential spouse about what that would look for you.
- What does it mean to each of you to have a 'clean' or 'orderly' house?
All of these questions should be asked with the intent of understanding the other party. Everyone has been raised differently, has different expectations of a spouse, and a different perception of the answers to the questions above. It's important to always respect the other person's point of view, as well as to figure out how 'Abdu'l-Baha's example can influence and improve your individual and married life. When the other person shares, ask yourself, 'Can I handle this?" No one is going to change because we will it too, and it's important to know before you get married if, in addition to loving your potential spouse, you're ready and able to build a life and marriage together.
*Baha'i Prayers, p. 103