As you know, divorce is strongly discouraged in the Faith.
Bahá’u’lláh has laid great emphasis on the sanctity of marriage, and the believers should exert their utmost to create harmony in their homes . . . But if, after prayer and self-sacrificing effort, this proves quite impossible, then they may resort to divorce. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 448)
So according to this quote, in order to make your decision, you will have to:
- exert your utmost to create harmony in your home
- make self-sacrificing effort
Before making your decision, ask yourself:
- What steps can you take to create harmony?
- What are you doing to destroy the harmony in your home?
- What negative parts of self would you need to sacrifice in order to stay in the marriage?
Make at least 5 goals for each of the above, then ask yourself:
- Have you prayed for your marriage?
- For your spouse?
- For your decision about divorce?
- What specifically have you prayed for?
- What specifically do you want to pray for?
Now that you know the answers to these questions, what will you do differently?
Here’s another quote which will help you know whether divorce is necessary or not:
Given the value of marriage as a divine institution, Bahá’ís should make great efforts to create, preserve and strengthen healthy marriages, drawing upon the power of prayer and spiritual transformation, learning to consult, seeking guidance in the Bahá’í Writings, exploring creative solutions to problems, and requesting assistance from Bahá’í institutions and/or professional counselors as necessary. (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 121)
According to this quote, you will have to:
- make great efforts to create, preserve and strengthen healthy marriages
- What have I done to create, preserve and strengthen a healthy marriage?
- What could I do?
Refer to the marriage tablet for ideas, and make a list of everything you need to do.
- draw upon the power of prayer and spiritual transformation:
We’ve talked about prayer above, but from the marriage tablet, what are the areas you will need to transform in yourself in order to preserve the marriage?
- learn to consult
I want you to read the following articles and see if they help you with some ideas on learning how to consult:
Which concepts in these articles help you understand how to communicate better?
What resources are available in your community to help with this?
- seek guidance in the Bahá’í Writings: You can do this by:
- Completing this chart, adding new tests as you think of them; and then looking for the virtues and the Bahá’í quotes that will help. I’ve given you a couple of examples to get you started. Think of at least 5 others to add to it.
Virtue being developed
Quote to Help pass the test
|He doesn’t love me anymore.||Turning to God for love; putting God first||What else but remembrance of Thee can give delight to my soul or gladness to my heart? Communion with Thee enableth me to dispense with the remembrance of all Thy creatures, and my love for Thee empowereth me to endure the harm which my oppressors inflict upon me. (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 194)|
|She’s always nagging me.||Consultation; listening, equality||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. (Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, August 1, 1978)|
- explore creative solutions to problems:
Who can help you do this?
- request assistance from Bahá’í institutions and/or professional counselors as necessary
Which institutions and professionals can you consult?
Here are some other quotes which give you some ideas of how to know when it’s time to divorce:
Bahá’í law permits divorce but, as both Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá have made very clear, divorce is abhorred. Thus, from the point of view of the individual believer he should do all he can to refrain from divorce.
- What can you do to refrain from divorce?
Bahá’ís should be profoundly aware of the sanctity of marriage and should strive to make their marriages an eternal bond of unity and harmony. This requires effort and sacrifice and wisdom and self-abnegation.
I want you to read all my articles on marriage, and set some goals based on what you’ve read.
- What else can you to do be profoundly aware of the sanctity of marriage?
A Bahá’í should consider the possibility of divorce only if the situation is intolerable and he or she has a strong aversion to being married to the other partner. This is a standard held up to the individual. It is not a law, but an exhortation. It is a goal to which we should strive.
To decide how you will know if you need to divorce, ask yourself:
- Is the situation intolerable?
- Do you have a strong aversion to being married?
It can be seen, therefore, that “aversion” is not a specific legal term that needs to be defined. Indeed a number of other terms are used in describing the situation that can lead to divorce in Bahá’í law, such as “antipathy”, “resentment”, “estrangement”, “impossibility of establishing harmony” and “irreconcilability”. (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 456-457)
If you don’t know what these terms mean, look them up in a dictionary and decide whether or not they apply to you:
- Ask yourself – is it possible to establish harmony in your marriage?
Keep in mind that aversion can be overcome. To go through the process of reversing one’s feelings, it might also be helpful to remember that feelings (such as love, grief, happiness) powers of the mind:
The other kind of human knowledge is that of intelligible things; that is, it consists of intelligible realities which have no outward form or place and which are not sensible. For example, the power of the mind is not sensible, nor are any of the human attributes: These are intelligible realities. Love, likewise, is an intelligible and not a sensible reality. For the ear does not hear these realities, the eye does not see them, the smell does not sense them, the taste does not detect them, the touch does not perceive them . . . But when you undertake to express these intelligible realities, you have no recourse but to cast them in the mould of the sensible, for outwardly there is nothing beyond the sensible. Thus, when you wish to express the reality of the spirit and its conditions and degrees, you are obliged to describe them in terms of sensible things, since outwardly there exists nothing but the sensible. For example, grief and happiness are intelligible things, but when you wish to express these spiritual conditions you say, “My heart became heavy”, or “My heart was uplifted”, although one’s heart is not literally made heavy or lifted up. Rather, it is a spiritual or intelligible condition, the expression of which requires the use of sensible terms. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, 2014 edition, section 16)
And the mind can be changed.
Baha’u’llah describes what the process could look like:
QUESTION: If during the year of patience the fragrance of affection be renewed, only to be succeeded by antipathy, and the couple waver between affection and aversion throughout the year, and the year endeth in antipathy, can divorce take place or not?
ANSWER: In each case at any time antipathy occurreth, the year of patience beginneth on that day, and the year must run its full course. (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 119)
We know it’s possible for the light of the Divine Beauty to dispel the darkness brought to one’s heart by antipathy so that the power of attraction can rekindle the flame of the fire of love:
The flame of the fire of love, in this world of earth and water, comes through the power of attraction and not by effort and striving. Nevertheless, by effort and perseverance, knowledge, science and other perfections can be acquired; but only the light of the Divine Beauty can transport and move the spirits through the force of attraction. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 130)
We know that victory always follows crisis, and spring will always follow winter, so when our marriage seems to be dead and cold and lifeless, it’s only resting so new growth can spring forth.
Unless the season of winter appear, thunder roll, lightning flash, snow and rain fall, hail and frost descend and the intensity of cold execute its command, the season of the soul-refreshing spring would not come, the fragrant breeze would not waft, the moderation of temperature would not be realized, the roses and hyacinths would not grow, the surface of the earth would not become a delectable paradise, the trees would not bloom, neither would they bring forth fruits and leaves. That fierce inclemency of cold, snow, frost and tempest was the beginning of the manifestation of these roses, hyacinths, buds, blossoms and fruits. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 655)
And we know that the House of Justice has promised:
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)
From this we see that we can:
- make a consecrated and determined effort
- use the power of prayer
- seek the advice of experts
- draw on the spiritual powers available by the bounty of God
What steps can you take for each of these?
If, after being patient, and making a sincere effort to work on these areas over the course of a year, you decide that the marriage is over, then your divorce will be realized:
They must strictly refrain from divorce unless something ariseth which compelleth them to separate because of their aversion for each other, in that case with the knowledge of the Spiritual Assembly they may decide to separate. They must then be patient and wait one complete year. If during this year harmony is not re- established between them, then their divorce may be realized. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 391)
This is a lot to take in! Take your time with each question and each reading, and pray about all of it.
Feel free to share your findings with me if you want, and I’ll continue to offer some spiritual solutions to consider.
Please let me know how this was helpful.