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Marriage for the 21st Century

Rodney Richards | Jul 12, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Rodney Richards | Jul 12, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

“Rod, don’t forget to call Richie about seeing a movie.”

“Rod, don’t forget we have a meeting tonight.”

“Rod, don’t forget to take an umbrella tomorrow, it’s going to rain.”

And simple me, five minutes later asking my loving she-mate, “Do you think it’s going to rain tomorrow?”

“I just said that!”

Marriage is a wealth of learning and wisdom, isn’t it? We are forgetful, of both little and big things, like how to listen and retain. So God kindly reminds us, in myriad ways, of our duties and responsibilities, one to another:

Consider, moreover, how frequently doth man become forgetful of his own self, whilst God remaineth, through His all-encompassing knowledge, aware of His creature, and continueth to shed upon him the manifest radiance of His glory. It is evident, therefore, that, in such circumstances, He is closer to him than his own self. He will, indeed, so remain forever, for, whereas the one true God knoweth all things, perceiveth all things, and comprehendeth all things, mortal man is prone to err, and is ignorant of the mysteries that lie enfolded within him…. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 188.

I’m convinced that the institution of marriage was created to remind us of ourselves and our relations to others. Ah, marriage, that grouping of two souls and two bodies and two minds into one spirit that will unite together for eternity.

“Rod, don’t forget to call the dentist and change your appointment, we’re visiting our son that day, remember?”

The perfect training for my person, from my helpmate and consort, who repeatedly has said, “I’m not your secretary.” Yet she lets me, an adult, figure it out. Like training children, God sends us helpers and loving counterparts to train us. Abdu’l-Baha, that master educator said:

Baha’i marriage is union and cordial affection between the two parties. They must, however, exercise the utmost care and become acquainted with each other’s character. This eternal bond should be made secure by a firm covenant, and the intention should be to foster harmony, fellowship and unity and to attain everlasting life. …

In a true Baha’i marriage the two parties must become fully united both spiritually and physically, so that they may attain eternal union throughout all the worlds of God, and improve the spiritual life of each other. This is Baha’i matrimony. – quoted by J.E. Esselmont in Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 177.

Thankfully, gratefully, not used to reminders at all as a young man, carefree, unattached and unalloyed, I came to realize my wife Janet was a gift from God to my side – the side where my rib was removed. Oh, not just for reminders, or critical observations leading to my well-being, but so, so much more.

For marriage between two parties, as Abdu’l-Baha says, is “…fully united….” In other words, true marriage creates symbiosis, an interdependent relationship, an “eternal union.”

Ideally—in a relationship initially based on infatuation, then love, then true love when full trust is established and not blind love—a couple can help each other become more than either one of them could become individually.

Certainly we learn from birth that old maxim, “No man is an island,” coined by the English poet John Donne almost 400 years ago:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee. 

Simply put, a morally and ethically grounded relationship is the cherry, on top of the whipped cream, on top of the hot fudge sundae, my favorite. Yours may be a banana split or an ice cream cone. Either way, any way, what works is what counts, and each of us have wants and needs that our mate understands, usually better than any parent, especially after decades together.

So let’s not write marriage off just yet, please.

What’s your experience with marriage?

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