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 how the year of patience can be a tool for restoring marriage.
Research shows that most couples wait six years from the first signs of problems before they try to find help. During those years the problems become progressively worse.
Every day there are people who give up on their marriages instead of trying to find the help needed to solve their problems.
In this dispensation, Baha’u’llah has given us a great tool called the “year of patience”, which, if used properly, can help restore marriages. Often though, it’s undertaken too late, as a requirement for Bahá’í divorce, and with no intention of using it in the spirit of saving the marriage.
Every relationship needs to have a grace period; where couples need to take some time away from each other.
The parties to a divorce must live apart in separate residences during the year of waiting. Any cohabitation of the parties stops the running of the year of waiting. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 397)
During the time apart, the couple is to find ways to reconcile their differences, so that divorce can be avoided:
During the year the couple have the responsibility of attempting to reconcile their differences. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 390)
It is always the hope that, during the year of patience, affection between the couple will recur and that divorce will not be necessary. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 394)
Attempts at reconciliation should continue during the year of waiting. Divorce, though permitted in the Bahá’í Faith, is abhorred and it is the hope that during the year of waiting the couple may become reconciled and divorce avoided. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 396)
The House of Justice gives us some tools to use during that time. It includes studying the Writings; consultation; prayer and meditation; counselling; dealing with anger; forgiveness; overlooking the shortcomings and focusing on the good qualities; and perfecting our own life and character:
Your letter of … to the Universal House of Justice makes clear that you are seeking to re-establish your marriage through study of the Writings and through various modes of consultation and assistance. We are asked to convey its advice on this vital subject of reconciliation of partners in marriage in the context of understanding of yourself and your relationship to others. You are urged to persevere in your studies, in your prayers for resolution of your problems, and in your meditation which may provide guidance and confidence, inasmuch as the understanding of self and of relationships to others are contained in the Writings and in the example of the Master, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
Neither you nor your husband should hesitate to continue consulting professional marriage counsellors, individually and together if possible, and also to take advantage of the supportive counselling which can come from wise and mature friends. Non-Bahá’í counselling can be useful but it is usually necessary to temper it with Bahá’í insight.
You ask how to deal with anger. The House of Justice suggests that you call to mind the admonitions found in our Writings on the need to overlook the shortcomings of others; to forgive and conceal their misdeeds, not to expose their bad qualities, but to search for and affirm their praiseworthy ones, and to endeavour to be always forbearing, patient, and merciful.
Such passages as the following extracts from letters written on behalf of the beloved Guardian will be helpful: There are qualities in everyone which we can appreciate and admire, and for which we can love them; and perhaps, if you determine to think only of these qualities which your husband possesses, this will help to improve the situation ….
You should turn your thoughts away from the things which upset you, and constantly pray to Bahá’u’lláh to help you. Then you will find how that pure love, enkindled by God, which burns in the soul when we read and study the Teachings, will warm and heal, more than anything else.
Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being “perfect as our heavenly father is perfect” and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will-power and energy. (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 454-455)
If we sincerely strive towards each of these things, chances are good that our marriages will be strengthened thereby.
The House of Justice has done a good job in summarizing how “we will all verily abide by the will of God” applies to marriage:
You have asked, however, for specific rules of conduct to govern the relationships of husbands and wives. This the House of Justice does not wish to do, and it feels that there is already adequate guidance included in the compilation on this subject; for example, the principle that the rights of each and all in the family unit must be upheld, and the advice that loving consultation should be the keynote, that all matters must be settled in harmony and love, and that there are times when the husband and wife should defer to the wishes of the other. Exactly under what circumstances such deference should take place is a matter for each couple to determine. If, God forbid, they fail to agree, and their disagreement leads to estrangement, they should seek counsel from those they trust and in whose sincerity and sound judgement they have confidence, in order to preserve and strengthen their ties as a united family. (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 455)
No matter how challenging the marriage problems may seem, there is always hope, if both parties are willing to use the Bahá’í Writings during the year of patience. We have spiritual powers to draw on, which can transform even the most difficult situations, as the House of Justice tells us:
There have been many instances in which a couple, through a consecrated and determined effort, aided by the power of prayer and the advice of experts, succeeded in overcoming seemingly insuperable obstacles to their reconciliation and in reconstructing a strong foundation for their marriage. There are also innumerable examples of individuals who have been able to effect drastic and enduring changes in their behaviour, through drawing on the spiritual powers available by the bounty of God. (Universal House of Justice to an individual, 6 August 1989)
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How has this helped you understand how the Bahá’í marriage vow can help with all the problems in a marriage? Post your comments here: