by Susanne M. Alexander, Chair, Relationships, Marriage, and Family Department
In the spring of 2020 in the early days of the COVID-19 epidemic, a group of about a dozen young adults in Australia decided the meeting restrictions provided a great time to study about relationships. They registered for a 365 self-study course, and faculty quickly realized there was a great opportunity for a live course to happen.
We launched Foundations for Relationships #1 on March 30 for 18-30 year olds and had 45 learners, including 26 Australians. Topics covered were: character, expectations, friendship, being a couple, parental consent, and marriage.
The faculty consulted about the 5-Year plan para. 39 that encourages youth to marry, knowing it said, “This generation of youth will form families that secure the foundations of flourishing communities.” This focus prompted us to schedule the course two more times in 2020 and three times in 2021, changing the format so that all participants were in discussion groups. The two additional courses in 2020 drew 104 more learners, including 61 Australians. Participants also came from Malaysia, China, Japan, Brazil, Canada, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Norway. The institutions in Australia have been promoting the need for relationship and marriage education, so this course provided a significant boost for their efforts.
Faculty for the three courses included Susanne Alexander, Leslie Asplund, Alex Blakeson, and Dave Grammer in the US, Marabeth Lum in Canada, and Fiona McDonald in Australia. They were assisted at times by Monica Sahih and Parsa Partovi in Australia and Katlin Wagner in the US.
Participants shared a bit about their learning:
“I found it helpful to be more exposed to some healthy psychology around relationships and self-improvement. The [character] qualities table in which we filled out our strengths and weaknesses and the table in which we filled out what was important for us in a relationship were very tangible and objective.”
“I have definitely become more comfortable with very frank discussions about my expectations around marriage and marital life and especially the physical and sexual connection between partners. It has made me more aware of these components personally, and I have found it easier to have healthy discussions about it with my friends and potential partner.”
“One very tangible action-plan I have made since concluding this course is to reach out to my parents to make plans to meet once a week to deepen together and reflect on the [Bahá’í] Writings around marriage, to share their insights in an open way, and to gain greater unity of thought around the subject and the principles which may lead to early marriage.”
“The course helped me think about how cultivating relationships can be one facet of living a life of service, rather than being entirely separate from service. Healthy relationships are better achieved through the acts of service to each other, and together serving the community. It builds a stronger bond between people. The course really reinforced how crucial it is for two partners to place service and God in the center of their marriage.”A massive thank you for everything. I have loved this course so much and have truly learnt so many new things.
A massive thank you for everything. I have loved this course so much and have truly learnt so many new things.
Click the title to register for Foundations for Relationships #4, which begins on January 25.