In this series of articles we’re looking at how the Bahá’í Marriage Vow “We will all verily abide by the Will of God” can help solve the 10 most common marriage problems. In this article we will explore the topic of communication problems in marriage.
Many marriages break down because of a lack of communication, or knowledge of how to consult effectively. The Bahá’í Faith gives us many tools for effective consultation, which is beyond the scope of this article, but I suggest you seek them out and learn how to apply them to your marriage.
The standards in the Bahá’í Faith for consultation are very high:
The prime requisites for them that take counsel together are purity of motive, radiance of spirit, detachment from all else save God, attraction to His Divine Fragrances, humility and lowliness amongst His loved ones, patience and long-suffering in difficulties and servitude to His exalted Threshold. Should they be graciously aided to acquire these attributes, victory from the unseen Kingdom of Bahá shall be vouchsafed to them. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Administration, p. 21-22)
Learning how to apply each one of these could take a lifetime!
Once these have been considered and understood, you can move on to full and frank discussion, characterized by moderation, balance and lack of domination:
Family consultation employing full and frank discussion, and animated by awareness of the need for moderation and balance, can be the panacea for domestic conflict. Wives should not attempt to dominate their husbands, nor husbands their wives. (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 453)
It should be focused on fellowship and void of power struggles:
The atmosphere within a Bahá’í family as within the community as a whole should express ‘the keynote of the Cause of God’ which, the beloved Guardian has stated, ‘is not dictatorial authority but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation’. (Universal House of Justice December 28, 1980)
The discussion should be animated by love and not by arguing. One of my favourite quotes is:
If two individuals dispute … both are wrong. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 84)
Shoghi Effendi explains it further:
The more the friends argue back and forth and maintain, each side, that their point of view is the right one, the worse the whole situation becomes. (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)
Sometimes when tempers are flaring, you might need to walk away and return to the topic when clearer heads prevail:
When criticism and harsh words arise within a Bahá’í community there is no remedy except to put the past behind one and persuade all concerned to turn over a new leaf, and, for the sake of God and His Faith, refrain from mentioning the subjects which have led to misunderstanding and inharmony. (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)
When you notice that a stage has been reached when enmity and threats are about to occur, you should immediately postpone discussion of the subject, until wranglings, disputations, and loud talk vanish, and a propitious time is at hand. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 178)
Learning to consult effectively is not an easy tool to learn, since it involves letting go of your ego, so that you can understand the other person’s opinion:
Consultation is no easy skill to learn, requiring as it does the subjugation of all egotism and unruly passions, the cultivation of frankness and freedom of thought as well as courtesy, openness of mind, and wholehearted acquiescence in a majority decision. (The Universal House of Justice, 1966 Jun 10, Youth in Every Land)
In order to find truth we must give up our prejudices, our own small trivial notions; an open receptive mind is essential. If our chalice is full of self, there is no room in it for the water of life. The fact that we imagine ourselves to be right and everybody else wrong is the greatest of all obstacles in the path towards unity, and unity is necessary if we would reach truth, for truth is one. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 136)
In the end, it’s not a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s best to come to an agreement in unity and both are wrong, than to continue to press for one’s point:
It is my hope that the friends and the maid-servants of America become united on all subjects and not disagree at all. If they agree upon a subject, even though it be wrong, it is better than to disagree and be in the right, for this difference will produce the demolition of the divine foundation. Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 411)
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How have these principles helped you understand the Will of God in communication in marriage? Post your comments here: