New Baha'i seeking advice on marriage

Sep 2014
Ashland, Oregon
Hi Friends~
I am a newly declared Baha'i. It has been amazing in this short time already how profoundly my life has been shifting and how much the devotional aspect has been filling me and guiding me. That said, one of the gifts and challenges has been.. incorporating various aspects of being a Baha'i into my current life. Here is one forerunning example I was wondering what the community's thoughts were:

My partner and I are in a deeply committed relationship. We are not married. And also, we have a three year old. We were both of the type that were... not necessarily against marriage, but said it was not for us. Now what does that mean currently... this means that we were together, we had a child together, and since then have decided not to be married for various reasons (i.e. one of them being not wanting to acquiesce to our parent's pressure and get married simply because 'we had a kid', among other reasons), but have chosen, acknowledged, and committed to spending the rest of our lives together as a monogamous partnership and a family. We are deeply in love, and deeply committed to each other. Part of this commitment is of course respecting each other's individual beliefs, searches, expressions, etc.

So here I am, newly declared Baha'i (10 days in), a family man, and as far as I've known and considered myself, a husband, though maybe perhaps not officially.. but its how i've identified myself since my partner became pregnant. We have obviously been intimate with each other in our partnership and enjoy being so.

And now, I am not exactly sure what is appropriate given the scriptures in the Kitab-i-Aqdas regarding premarital sex... Since having declared we have not engaged in intimate relations, partially by circumstance (busy lives) and also partially because I want to be clear about how to approach this correctly in light of accepting Baha'u'llah into my life and being in accordance with his laws.

To tag along with this is that my partner has made it very clear to me that while she is happy she does not want me to 'pressure' or encourage her into the Baha'i faith, to which I told her that one of the main Baha'i principles is independent investigation of truth. As i read the words, I am recognizing for myself more the value in marriage and what it means intimately and broadly, and yet also want to respect my partner and where she is at, her values, and beliefs.

Ofcourse... it has come up in my own body and life.. and i come to two thoughts: 1. I should write on the forum and ask the LSA, and 2. this is a test and opportunity for me.

Thoughts? Sorry for the length and thank you for reading..
In Gratitude,
Mar 2013
Hi Shasta,

Congratulations on becoming a Baha'i!

Don't worry about the past. The important thing is to try to bring your life into conformity with Baha'i law now.

You are aware of the Baha'i chastity laws and how the Writings stress the importance of marriage? Here's a brief compilation on the subject: Marriage, Bahá'í

The importance of marriage is really stressed in the Writings and the chastity laws are some of the most challenging ones in our society at present.

Warmest wishes,

Dec 2012
Greetings Shasta,

This is a common issue with many new adult Bahá’ís because not all people are in a married relationship with their partner at the time they elect to make a declaration. Thus your situation is not unique and you will find that there are many other Bahá’ís in a similar position as yourself. In this respect take comfort that you are not alone and that others are treading the same path as yourself.

I have personally known many Bahá’ís that have been in a similar position as yourself and the way they elected to handle matters differed substantially from each other. In some cases they continued living together in a common law marriage, some elected to marry each after a few years and some elected to break up.

In many ways the solution to any apparent contradiction with the Bahá’í teachings over marriage is to fully appreciate that you have already consented to live with your partner the way that you have been doing. Thus it would be a violation of your own promise, commitment and morale duties to do anything less. In this respect your relationship ranks above the Bahá’í Faith due to a former commitment to your partner. If you always bear this in mind it will help you to find the right path for yourself and your family.

In the Bahá’í Faith it has been written that a believer is forgiven all past transactions at the point of recognising Bahá’u’lláh. If you dwell on this thought for a while you will come to understand that you have done nothing wrong here for Bahá’u’lláh has relinquished you of any wrong doing already. However this does not mean that you will not feel any guilt here. The problem, if any, is to do with your subconscious mind telling you that you are not a Bahá’í in good standing. This is mental battle you need to address because if you fail to do this it will begin to sour both yourself and your family.

On a positive note try to think how a man who is married to many women might feel once they become a Bahá’í. In the end moving to build a better world means that there is always at least one generation in every family that has to make compromises.

Bahá’í Institutions generally understand this issue well, but rather than allowing yourself to be reactive to their approach I would encourage you to become proactive because you and your family have particular legal rights that need to be honoured and respected too. Normally such issues are better handled by the National Spiritual Assembly as they are far more experienced in dealing with matters like this because they are generally much better informed of the realities that exist within the Bahá’í Faith today.

One of my greatest Bahá’í teachers was in a common-law marriage. Therefore no matter what decisions you and your family elect to make in the fullness of time, always understand it will have no detrimental impact in your ability to present the Bahá’í Faith. It is merely a question of learning how to differentiate a naive spiritual attitude from a mature one.

Welcome to the Divine Vineyard. Always be assured that you have just as much right to be here as anyone else.

Oct 2014
Dear SYama,

We enter the Faith from all kinds of backgrounds. I think the main thing is the direction, not being perfect from Day1 - honestly, I think that becoming something like a true bahá'í is a process that takes several generations (good luck to your grandchildren! :))

So, here you are, in a common law marriage right now. Things will be clarified. I guess the most important thing is not to over-emphasize any particular aspects. As former christians, we have a tendency to over-emphasize the sex thing.