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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 infidelity in marriage.

Although it’s related to the topic of sex, it gets a category of its own, because infidelity is the primary destroyer of trust and commitment, and the leading cause of divorce.

Premarital sexual attitudes and behavior do not change after one marries; if a woman lives with a man before marriage, she is more likely to cheat on him after marriage. Research indicates that if one is willing to experience sex before marriage, a higher level of probability exists that one will do the same afterwards. This is especially true for women; those who engaged in sex before marriage are more than twice as likely to have extramarital affairs as those who did not have premarital sex.  http://www.leaderu.com/critical/cohabitation-socio.html

The standards of the Faith are really clear:

The Bahá’í teaching on sexual intercourse is very clear. It is permissible only between a man and the woman who is his wife.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 344)

Chastity implies both before and after marriage an unsullied, chaste sex life. Before marriage absolutely chaste, after marriage absolutely faithful to one’s chosen companion. Faithful in all sexual acts, faithful in word and in deed.  (Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 233)

A man of noble character and strong willpower, could certainly remain faithful to his wife during a long absence!  (Shoghi Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance v II, p. 69)

There are no legitimate forms of sex outside marriage:

Concerning your question whether there are any legitimate forms of expression of the sex instinct outside of marriage; according to the Bahá’í Teachings no sexual act can be considered lawful unless performed between lawfully married persons. Outside of marital life there can be no lawful or healthy use of the sex impulse except self-control which, when exercised, undoubtedly has a salutary effect on the development of character and of personality in general.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 363)

This includes pornography and masturbation:

Masturbation is clearly not a proper use of the sex instinct, as this is understood in the Faith. Moreover it involves, as you have pointed out, mental fantasies, while Bahá’u’lláh, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, has exhorted us not to indulge our passions and in one of His well-known Tablets ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encourage us to keep our “secret thoughts pure”.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 363)

For more on this topic please see:

Would God Forgive an Adulterer?

The foundation of a marriage is trust. Trust is built on honesty. When you have an affair, you are betraying the trust that has been given to you.

 We have directed all in the nights and in the days to faithfulness, chastity, purity, and constancy.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 46)

It doesn’t only have an effect on the marriage, but adultery retards the progress of the soul in the next world:

 When we realize that Bahá’u’lláh says adultery retards the progress of the soul in the after life — so grievous is it . . . we see how clear are our teachings on these subjects.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 344)

How can we understand the severity of adultery committed by a married person?  Perhaps the answer can be found in the fact that it embraces a number of problems at once:

1) it is a betrayal not only to the spouse but also to God (in the case of Baha’is) as the vow is made to God and not the partner.

2) To carry it out, in general, it involves lies, deceitfulness, insincerity–no truthfulness.

3) Immorality

4) Selfishness

5) Blasphemy

The severe punishment imposed upon adultery by Bahá’u’lláh we can understand. When marriage is entered into in the Bahá’í spirit and the promises are made not to one another but to God –“Promise not that which you cannot fulfill” commands Bahá’u’lláh — adultery is a complete violation of that pledge and a negation of the forces of unity; it is spiritual anarchy affecting both the innocent and the guilty; it is blasphemy towards that Source to which both turn. (The Baha’i World – A Biennial International Record – Volume VII – 93 and 94 of the Baha’i Era – April 1936-1938 A.D. – Prepared under the supervision of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada with the approval of Shoghi Effendi)

There are certain things that we can do to minimize the likelihood of straying.  One of them is what you might expect:

It demands daily vigilance in the control of one’s carnal desires and corrupt inclinations. It calls for the abandonment of a frivolous conduct, with its excessive attachment to trivial and often misdirected pleasures. (Shoghi Effendi: The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 30)

And another might be new to you, as it was to me:

 Give ye great weight to the Nineteen Day gatherings, so that on these occasions the beloved of the Lord and the handmaids of the Merciful may . . . grow in purity and holiness . . . and in the resistance to passion and self. Thus will they separate themselves from this elemental world, and immerse themselves in the ardors of the spirit.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Meetings/The Nineteen Day Feast, p. 1)

Fines also play a role as a deterrent:

God hath imposed a fine on every adulterer and adulteress, to be paid to the House of Justice: nine mithqals of gold, to be doubled if they should repeat the offence. Such is the penalty which He Who is the Lord of Names hath assigned them in this world; and in the world to come He hath ordained for them a humiliating torment. (Baha’u’llah, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 37)

Looking at the Mithqal calculator, the currant fine for the first offence would be $1694.06.  If you have sex a second time, it doubles to $3388.12!  If you have it a third time, it doubles again to $6776.24; and a fourth time to $13,552.48!  Hopefully that’s so far beyond someone’s ability to pay, that they won’t want to chance having sex outside their marriage ever again!

The purpose of the fine is to expose and shame the offenders:

God hath imposed a fine on every adulterer and adulteress, to be paid to the House of Justice # 49

Although the term translated here as adultery refers, in its broadest sense, to unlawful sexual intercourse between either married or unmarried individuals (see note 36 for a definition of the term), ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has specified that the punishment here prescribed is for sexual intercourse between persons who are unmarried. He indicates that it remains for the Universal House of Justice to determine the
penalty for adultery committed by a married individual. (See also Q and A 49.)  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 200)

In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to some of the spiritual and social implications of the violation of the laws of morality and, concerning the penalty here described, He indicates that the aim of this law is to make clear to all that such an action is shameful in the eyes of God and that, in the event that the offence can be established and the fine imposed, the principal purpose is the exposure of the offenders — that they are shamed and disgraced in the eyes of society. He affirms that such exposure is in itself the greatest punishment.  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 200)

If your partner is cheating on you and it can be proven, a year of waiting must be started:

This aspect of the Bahá’í law of divorce, however, will need elucidation and supplementary legislation by the House of Justice. Therefore, at the present time, the year of waiting must be observed when adultery on the part of either party is proven.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 28 April 1974)

If the wife has been unfaithful, the husband must still pay the wife’s expenses during the year of waiting:

There is a Tablet from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá which states that the year of waiting is waived in the case of an unfaithful wife. This aspect of the Bahá’í law of divorce, however, will need elucidation and supplementary legislation by the Universal House of Justice. Therefore, at the present time, in divorce cases such as the one you cited, the husband must still observe the year of waiting, which involves payment of the wife’s expenses during this period.  (Letter from the Universal House of Justice, June 17, 1987, to a National Spiritual Assembly, found in NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

With some time apart, relationships can heal from this most devastating of betrayals, but full responsibility, remorse and true commitment to self-development must be the foundation for the healing. You must be willing to do whatever it takes to rebuild the trust that’s been lost. Nothing less will do. Many do not have the courage or character to take this on. If you do, you have the chance to create an even deeper, more meaningful relationship.  If you don’t, it will lead to irreconcilable antipathy and divorce.

For more on this topic, please see:  Would God Forgive an Adulterer

For more information please see:

Role Confusion 

Money 

Sex 

In-laws and Children

Communication 

Spending Time Together

Love and Effort 

Unresolved Baggage from Childhood

Gossip and Backbiting

For more on this topic, please see:

Introduction to Marriage Vows

We Will All Verily Abide by the Will of God

Sex Before Marriage 

Sex Inside Marriage 

Using the Year of Patience