Friday, December 04, 2009

Let's Talk About Adultery


America is talking about Tiger and thus talking about adultery. It got me thinking that it could be useful for Baha'is to talk more about this problem, a problem that may very well be as old as the institution of marriage itself. In my experience, adultery, unlike say, divorce is rarely a topic of discussion among Baha'is. Perhaps it is so rare that it doesn't merit discussion. Perhaps it is so personal, so painful, so shameful that it can only be uttered in whispers. Perhaps the mere thought of its possibility is too frightening for discussion. I don't know for sure. However, my personal and professional experience leads me to believe that problems like this are rarely solved with silence.

You may recall that I have advocated in the past that Baha'is should engage in sex education and that sex education should be part of marriage education. If so, then study, consultation, and reflection about adultery should definitely be on the syllabus. However, I believe that it would have to go beyond simply teaching that adultery is something Baha'is shouldn't commit. It would need to address why adultery is bad for the soul and for civilization, the risk factors and warning signs associated with it, how to respond practically to being tested with attraction to a person other than your spouse, and what if anything can be done to repair a marriage if adultery takes place.

It may very well be that most Baha'is will never face this particular test during their marriage. I'd certainly like to believe that. My suspicion though, is that attraction to people other than one's spouse is more common than many Baha'is would be comfortable admitting. For some, such attraction can and will lead to adultery. Would it not be better to do whatever we can to prepare married couples and those seeking to marry to deal with this possibility?

"The question you raise as to the place in one's life that a deep bond of love with someone we meet other than our husband or wife can have is easily defined in view of the teachings. 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." (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 360)