Wilmette Institute Course on Marriage Helps a Couple Refocus Their Marriage

When the Wilmette Institute started a series of courses on courtship and marriage, it had no idea what the response would be. The number of learners signing up for the courses has been extraordinary. Now comments from a husband and wife who took the course called Making the Most of Your Time Together: Strengthening Your Marriage in March 2014 shows how practical and life-changing such courses can be.

Read on to see how Dawn and Kayvan Nur (not their real names) reframed aspects of their marriage with information from the course as they reconsidered how to make the most of their time together. Both answered questions posed at the end of the course, each from his or her perspective.

Question 1: Summarize material learned

Dawn emphasized time management, service, and family unity:

“This was my first Wilmette Institute course, and I did not establish specific learning goals because I was not sure what to expect. I really wanted to deepen on the topic of time management in marriage with my husband. In this course we deepened together on the importance of service as the purpose of our lives and on how family unity and strength is also a priority, and how these two avenues are not in competition with each other but should complement each other. We also reminded ourselves how important humor and friendship are, which are natural for us as best friends, but we also realized we could be making more time for romantic dates and more serious couple time together. We also got some good tips for consultation. Moderation was also an important topic we discussed. And we really enjoyed the love map exercise.”

Kayvan, too, emphasized time management but also found much to consider about prioritizing and balance.

“I did not set learning objectives, but I have learned a lot in this course. My main interest in the course was about prioritizing and time management, and I was happily surprised with the material that covered these topics. The quotations from both the Bahá’í writings and other sources complemented each other and strengthened my appreciation of the Faith’s perspective regarding finding balance in all of life’s activities. The couple exercises showed me how to find balance, and I want to revisit that with Dawn more often.”

 Question 2: Summarize understandings and insights gained

Dawn found that the course helped her to rethink how she and her husband used their time and the need for making more private couple time. A new method of priortizing helped her work together with Kayvan on their to-do lists.

“I have enjoyed the Bahá’í quotations and material immensely, and I will continue to read them for a long time. But there were three main “takeaways” for me. My husband and I are already engaged in a lot of service activities together, serving on the same institutions, hosting and participating in the same core activities, and so on. But I think the major realization we came to was that we sometimes take our time together for granted because we are always together (we also work at the same place, so we carpool together and have lunch together every day).

“We have realized that we need to be more purposeful with our time and invest more time in romantic activities. I was also happy to be reminded of how important this bonding time is. Building strong ties of friendship and love are so vitally important, for the couple as well as for the community that they interact with, but often we get so swept up in taking care of urgent tasks that we fail to make that a priority. Sometimes I forget that the things I enjoy can be just as important as the tasks I do out of duty, and I should not feel bad about taking time for them. This course reminded me that moderation is so very important in all things. Also, I have always used a lot of different goal-setting techniques, but I enjoyed the one employed by the course. I realized that as much as I have enjoyed to-do lists, there is a special power in being able to physically hold a “goal.” We used index cards instead of sticky notes, and we would go through the index cards at night to see how we have progressed.  There is a power in being able to set aside an index card as ‘complete.’ This inspired our art project.”

Kayvan, like his wife, discussed the inspiration he takes from the Bahá’í writings, but he came back to time management and prioritizing and added the importance of consulting about priorities and practicing character affirmations.

“One thing I value a lot more now is gaining inspiration from the Bahá’í writings, both individually and as a couple. Our inspiration, guidance, moral compass comes from the writings, and they should always be the center around which we revolve. As mentioned, time management and prioritizing is really important to me. I feel like I always want to do so much and have so little time to do it (the story of our lives). We can accomplish all the goals that we set together or individually; it is just a matter of prayerfully consulting about what our priorities are. Things will get done, just not right away when we expect them to. I did not realize how powerful practicing character affirmations is. I think that it will help us focus more on each other’s positive qualities. It will always remind us to strive for excellence every day.

Question 3: Summarize skills acquired or improved

Dawn emphasized how helpful she found the goal-setting exercise, which has become a part of Kayvan’s and her daily and weekly planning.

“I think the goal-setting exercise was very helpful for me.  We have used the concept to create a new weekly to-do list (our art project).”

Kayvan wrote about other skills—character affirmations and humor—both of which he found harder to use than Dawn does.

“The skill that I am working on is learning to identify character affirmations. It helps me to focus on Dawn’s positive qualities, which is a source of encouragement to her. I am also working on improving my humor. I think that Dawn and I both use humor a lot, but in moments of difficulties I find it hard to use humor to diffuse a situation or to see the positive side. Dawn is better at this than I am.”

Question 4: Summarize new feelings or attitudes experienced

Dawn returned to the importance of quality romantic time and the implications of a quality relationship for success in all areas of life, especially service to the Cause.

“I think my major learning was that I should not feel guilty about taking time to spend with my husband in romantic pursuits. I have been reminded that this is just as important (if not more important) than my other duties because the quality of our relationship and interactions has great implications for every other avenue of our lives, especially our service.”

Kayvan again wrote about character affirmations and humor and also about the organizational method he and his wife had adopted.

“I have definitely become more conscientious about sharing positive moments with Dawn, especially with humor. I really treasure those moments, and I feel as if humor contributes positively to our spiritual growth. The same goes with playfulness. I am also happy that we have developed a way to organize all of our daily, weekly, and monthly to-do items into a bucket list. Each to-do item is written on a sticky; if the task is not completed, the sticky gets moved from one bucket into the “next-week” or “next-month” bucket depending on the task. This method has motivated us to accomplish tasks. I feel like we are more organized and able to prioritize our activities during the week. We sit together once a week, for example, and plan our meal plan for work and for dinner every night. And if things get hectic, we know that all we have to do is come together, pray, consult, and adjust plans as needed. Nothing is set in stone, necessarily. We can check and adjust.”

Question 5: Summarize changes in values and beliefs

Dawn emphasized continuity and being reminded of what she already knew.

 “I do not think I have changed any of my values or beliefs, but I think that I have been reminded of ones that I already had.”

Kayvan extrapolated from what he had learned in the course to comment on the importance of working with his wife on being good role models for each other and for their future family, incorporating good habits, organization, and balance into their lives, all seasoned with fun.

“One thing I thought about was how I really want us to be good role models for each other and for our (future) kids, based on translating the Bahá’í writings into our daily reality. I also want us to develop good habits, be organized in life, be balanced, and have fun doing all of it!”

One thing I thought about was how I really want us to be good role models for each other and for our (future) kids, based on translating the Bahá’í writings into our daily reality. I also want us to develop good habits, be organized in life, be balanced, and have fun doing all of it! 

Question 6: Summarize ways you can apply or use what you have gained

Dawn once more commented on taking more time for the romantic side of life and bonding, together with consultation and adherence to Bahá’í teachings.

“We will definitely be taking more time for romantic outings and bonding. We will also continue deepening on consultation and try to bring our methods more and more in line with the Bahá’í writings. We will also try to put into practice some of the tips the material suggests.

Kayvan ended by reiterating his interest in time management, not as an end in itself, but as a way to bring him and his wife to account periodically in order to ensure that they are prioritizing goals and achieving moderation, discipline, and balance.

“I think we will definitely use the time-management methods from the material. I like bringing ourselves to account daily, weekly, monthly, and seeing what are goals were, what we have accomplished or not accomplished and why, and what we want to accomplish going forward. We are pretty good at consulting on most matters, big or small, and that keeps us up-to-date in each other’s lives. I think prioritizing and moderation go hand in hand because sometimes I tend to procrastinate and not get things done, and I think that being moderate in our activities gives us balance and makes us more disciplined, thereby allowing us to accomplish tasks.”

The faculty for the series of courses on courtship and marriage are Susanne Alexander, Alex Blakeson, Hoda Kemp, and Wendi Momen.

The courses on courtship include:
Becoming a Couple: Preparing for Marriage (starts on August 7)
Building Unity toward Marriage: Preparing for Marriage (to be run again in 2015)
Engaging in Parental Consent: Preparing for Marriage (to be run again in 2015)

The courses on marriage include:
Communicating and Consulting as a Couple: Strengthening Your Marriage (starts on October 16)
Making the Most of Your Time Together: Strengthening Your Marriage (to be run again in 2015)