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Navigating the complexity of family relationships and building unity between often diverse family members can be both challenging and joyful. Couples strengthen their excellence with building unity when they practice commitment, perseverance, love, flexibility, cooperation, kindness, patience, tactfulness, and wisdom.
When a couple gets to know one another, ideally they will spend time with each other’s families. When that happens, itis wise to observe how each other treats the opposite gender parent and how the parents interact with each other and with their children. Often these patterns will repeat if the couple chooses to marry and build a family of their own. Ask yourselves: are there patterns you observe that you like and appreciate? Are there ones you would try to do differently? Are there harmful interactions that have become so habitual that the family doesn’t even recognize them?
As you and your partner ask yourselves these questions you will begin to build unity, the important theme running throughout the entire body of Baha’i teachings. The unity of the family, which includes a married couple, becomes a building block for the unity of nations:
Compare the nations of the world to the members of a family. A family is a nation in miniature. Simply enlarge the circle of the household, and you have the nation. Enlarge the circle of nations and you have all humanity. The happenings in the family are the happenings in the life of the nation…. [and] nations are but an aggregate of families…. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, pp. 99-100.
This vital spiritual principle of unity calls on a courting couple to consider how to respect their parents, when to involve them in their lives, and how to expand connections of love and caring. In the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah has created a unique system that both involves the parents and sets some boundaries.
The Baha’i teachings safeguard the right of every couple to make a free-will choice to marry one another, without parental interference:
As for the question regarding marriage under the Law of God: first thou must choose one who is pleasing to thee, and then the matter is subject to the consent of father and mother. Before thou makest thy choice, they have no right to interfere. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 118.
Once a couple has chosen each other, then the parents have the responsibility of either giving or not giving their consent. Parents may choose to spend time getting to know the couple and their characters to help ensure the couple is making a good choice. However, how they carry out parental consent is up to them. Parental consent, as one of the pieces of the pre-marital picture, can make an enormous contribution to family unity. When everyone is in agreement with the marriage, it increases the opportunity for harmony and prevents later problems. The Baha’i teachings speak of consent this way:
Desiring to establish love, unity and harmony amidst Our servants, We have conditioned it, once the couple’s wish is known, upon the permission of their parents, lest enmity and rancour should arise amongst them. – Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, p. 42.
As couples engage fully in the courtship process and begin to get serious about each other, they can cement and strengthen their bond by making family unity a priority. The quality of the relationships that build throughout the process can establish bonds that last.