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Sometimes when children want to get married, there are barriers to getting consent from their parents. Recently I had an email from someone in this situation, and have her permission to share this with you:

My boyfriend’s dad and I have a falling out. We don’t talk anymore. I tried to make things right but he doesn’t want to talk to me. So, I just left him alone and prayed. It’s been almost a year now. My boyfriend and I are really happy but we both know that there’s the problem of his dad not liking me anymore. We brush it under the carpet but know that one day we won’t be able to ignore it anymore.

I’ve always been thinking about it. For us to marry, I know we must get his dad’s consent. I know in my very soul, things will never be well between us. So, I know he will never give his consent. It saddens me a lot. How can I promote unity if I can’t even start with his family?

It hurts so much because I know what I need to do. I know I need to let him go. I shouldn’t put my boyfriend in the situation where he needs to choose or torn between his father and me. I know I should be selfless and let him go. But it’s hard.

Yesterday I tried really hard to let him go. I mean, I tried breaking up with him. But he doesn’t want to do it. He says we shouldn’t decide right now.

We are both hurting because we know what’s the right thing to do (to let each other go) but we are having trouble doing it.

I think about the passages below:

“Beware lest ye commit that which would sadden the hearts of your fathers and mothers. Follow ye the path of Truth which indeed is a straight path. Should anyone give you a choice between the opportunity to render a service to Me and a service to them, choose ye to serve them, and let such service be a path leading you to Me. This is My exhortation and command unto thee. Observe therefore that which thy Lord, the Mighty, the Gracious, hath prescribed unto thee.”

“Bahá’u’lláh has clearly stated the consent of all living parents is required for a Bahá’í marriage. This applies whether the parents are Bahá’ís or non-Bahá’ís, divorced for years or not. This great law He has laid down to strengthen the social fabric, to knit closer the ties of the home, to place a certain gratitude and respect in the hearts of the children for those two have given them life and sent their souls out on the eternal journey towards their Creator. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 369)”

I always feel like there’s an insurmountable obstacle between my boyfriend and I.

Will you please shed some light? Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way although I don’t see how…

I replied:

What a painful dilemma to be in!

It may comfort you to know that:

At some time or other, every Law of Bahá’u’lláh may impose a test upon the faith of a believer and the question is whether the believer will meet the test or not. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 371)

I’m sure that God sees your pure-heart; and your desire to align yourself with His will!

Before you break up with your boyfriend, I recommend 3 things:

1.  Ask his father for consent; and if he says no, ask him what it would take in order for him to give it.

If in a given case the parents at first withhold consent, there is no harm in the child’s asking his parents to reconsider, bearing in mind that he has to abide by their decision. The child, on the other hand, may not wish to pursue the matter; it is left entirely to his own judgement of the circumstances whether to request reconsideration or not. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 370-371)

2.  If he refuses, you can take the issue to the Assembly and see if they can intervene. There is a power in the Institutions that goes beyond what we can understand, in unleashing spiritual forces of 9 people +2!

Bahá’ís who cannot marry because of lack of consent of one or more parents could consult with their Local Spiritual Assembly, to see whether it may suggest a way to change the attitude of any of the parents involved. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities)

There have been instances when parties have appealed to Bahá’í institutions (local and national) to assist them in removing any misunderstanding that may have stood in the way of a positive decision on the part of their parents. But there are no hard and fast rules in these matters. Each case is dealt with according to the prevailing circumstances at the time. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 370-371)

When cases arise involving any of the circumstances discussed above, a Local Spiritual Assembly should ascertain all relevant facts and refer the matter for consideration to your National Spiritual Assembly. You should exercise care not to unduly invalidate the rights of the parents; yet, while children have the obligation to abide by the Bahá’í marriage law, they also have the right to be protected from the excesses imposed by parents that violate the spirit and intent of that law. Should particular situations arise for which no clear solution is apparent, you should refer the matter to the House of Justice.  (Written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, 19 January 2010)

There are times in the past when the House of Justice has given consent; when a parent won’t.

He has indicated that under certain circumstances, the parents could be deprived of the right of parenthood as a consequence of their actions. The Universal House of Justice has the right to legislate on this matter. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities)

If all of this fails, then yes, the marriage can’t take place:

If any one of the parents refuses to give his or her consent for any reason, including the fact that a Bahá’í ceremony is to be carried out, then the marriage cannot take place. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities)

If it does, you will be subject to administrative sanctions:

Regarding your question of applying the sanction of suspension of voting rights to people who marry without the consent of parents, this should be done from now on. The laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas are explicit and not open to any ambiguity at all. As long as the parents are alive, the consent must be obtained; it is not conditioned on their relationship to their children. (Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 44)

You’ll need to let him go, trusting that God’s got a better man in mind for you.

There’s a value in your sacrifice! Not only will it lead to spiritual growth for yourself and your boyfriend; but it will also lead to a more rapid spread of the Cause and a greater unity among the community. This is God’s promise!

In order to live up to the Bahá’í Laws for the new age we are entering upon, we have to make sacrifices. If the Bahá’í themselves will not sacrifice for their Faith, who will? It may often be difficult, but the results will be seen in a more rapid spread of the Cause and a greater unity amongst the Community itself. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 373)

In this case, there are certain “remedies” suggested as you go through the pain:

The believers, when faced with such problems, should put their trust in Bahá’u’lláh, devote more time to the service, the teaching and the promotion of His Faith, be absolutely faithful to His injunctions on the observance of an unsullied, chaste life, and rely upon Him to open the way and remove the obstacle, or make known His will. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities)

From this quote, we see you are to:

• put your trust in Bahá’u’lláh
• devote more time to service
• teaching
• promotion of His Faith
• be absolutely faithful to His injunctions on the observance of an unsullied, chaste life
• rely upon Him to open the way and remove the obstacle, or make known His will.

What’s been your experience?  How has this been helpful?  Post your comments below!