MY WIFE RECENTLY JOINED JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES. HOW CAN I GET THROUGH TO HER?
My wife recently joined Jehovah’s Witnesses. We had a bad experience at our last church. They had hired a new pastor who complained a lot and she felt this new pastor was not acting very “Christian.” I told her that everybody is “human” and dismissed her concerns. Then, the church fired a close friend of hers who had helped her with her duties at the church. When the new pastor disregarded her criticism over the incident, she left feeling very disappointed and bitter. Then, our son got into serious trouble. With the events going on in our lives at the time, my wife was a poster child for what the Jehovah’s Witnesses were looking for.
She took their love bombing and to this day claims that they were the only people who cared to help her. I started to go to the meetings, but after about two months, I began to see problems with their beliefs. She quickly told me that if I had any question, talk to the Elders. I did finally sit down with them, and even though I had valid arguments, it did not help my wife see the Watchtower as a false religion. From that point on, she has been unwilling to talk with me about her religion or any religion. Her excuse is that I am just negative and she knows that any discussion with her is just trying to prove how wrong the Witnesses are. This is really very frustrating! I even approached my wife asking her if it would be OK to socialize with some of my friends, and she flatly refused. I asked her why and she said that she feared that my friends would want to talk about religion. I feel really torn over her lack of trust. Do you have ideas on how I can approach my wife?
You hit on something when you noted your wife’s “lack of trust.” A wife that is drawn into the Watchtower after going through a difficult situation in her family and/or marriage, is far more susceptible to the “love bombing” affects of Jehovah’s Witnesses, than one that has strong emotional ties both to the husband and a network of one or two caring friends. In your case, not only was your marriage relationship compromised by pressure from your son’s problems, but your church support system had been torn apart. It’s little wonder your wife gravitated so easily to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Her attraction to them is much like an affair. Her new friends in the Watchtower have replaced her “trust” in you. When she says that they were the “only people” who cared to help her, she is also blaming you. She may have felt that you reacted passively to the situation in the church and then focused so much of your energy on fixing the problems with your son that you inadvertently neglected her emotional and spiritual needs.
Not having spoken directly with your wife, we can only speculate on the reasons why she lost her confidence in your leadership and chose to trust the Jehovah’s Witnesses over you, but if we were to guess based on the details you’ve mentioned above, the following may have occurred.
Her distrust may have started when the church hired this new pastor. She lost respect for you because you seemed unconcerned over this new pastor’s unchristian behavior. Up until this point, she trusted you to lead the family into healthy religious devotion, but when this new pastor came and you did not share her concerns, serious doubts over your ability to discern unchristian behavior may have begun to creep into her mind. Her fears and disappointment over your spiritual passivity escalated when her close friend at the church was fired, and you did nothing to support her in approaching this new pastor over the incident. Then, your son got into serious trouble. Frustrated by your passive leadership, she likely blamed you (at least in part) for your son’s problems. By this point, she had lost confidence in your leadership. Feeling like she had been emotionally abandoned and was dying spiritually, she may have felt that she had to find “the truth” for herself.
This is when the Jehovah’s Witnesses stepped in. Her Christian support network had been torn apart. Her husband who was supposed to protect and lead the family spiritually had failed (in her mind), and now Jehovah’s Witnesses came into her life and offered to “save the day” by becoming the support she had longed for you to be. She was vulnerable, and she took the bait hook, line and sinker.
I’m sure the Jehovah’s Witnesses really listened to her. She talked about her struggles with you, the church and your son, and I’m sure they gave her plenty of empathy. They then told her that the reason her family was falling apart was because you were not in the only true religion. The fact that this new pastor at the church had failed so miserably, just confirmed that there was something seriously wrong with “organized religion” (the Watchtower term for all other religions). There was probably also some “blame” laid upon you for not “standing up” for her with the problems in your church. Now, the spiritual and emotional wedge between you and her was complete. She had lost all trust in you and readily gave over to them the spiritual reigns of her life. They had won her heart and had given her a “hope” to hang onto in the struggles she was facing. The “affair” had begun.
As she began her “studies” with them, the Jehovah’s Witnesses warned her that now that she was learning “the truth,” she should expect to be “persecuted” for her new faith. After all, Jesus said His disciples would be “persecuted” for the truth (John 15:20), and He also said that His followers will be “hated by all” (Mark 13:13). She was told to expect the people she loves the most to object to her becoming a Jehovah’s Witness and this would be the sign that she had truly found “the truth.”
At first, when you started attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall, I’m sure she was hopeful that you would convert to her new love. When you saw problems and wanted to talk to her about them, she insisted upon you meeting with the “elders” because if anyone could convince you that this religion is “the truth,” they would. By this point, she had already stopped thinking for herself because they had won her heart and she had given them her full trust. The issue of whether or not they were “the truth” was no longer open for discussion in her mind. When you objected to her association with them, it only confirmed everything the Jehovah’s Witnesses had warned her would happen.
So, this is what you’re up against. Since this religion is meeting all of her spiritual and emotional needs, any attempt to dissuade her of her beliefs at this point is pulling her sole emotional security blanket out from underneath her. For her own sanity, she feels that she cannot allow you to do this until you have a valid alternative to offer her. You’re going to have to treat this situation like you would an affair, and rebuild your marriage by working to rekindle the love and restore the trust she once had in you, before you can work on resolving the issue of her religion.
1. LISTEN TO HER CONCERNS AND HELP HER FEEL SAFE.
The first step to reclaiming your marriage is to schedule a romantic weekend away for the two of you to be alone and to talk about what has happened in your marriage the last few years. Let her know that your plan is to hear her out, to understand things from her perspective, and to just “listen” to what she has to say, with no ulterior motives, defensive attitudes nor belittling of her thoughts or religious beliefs. Because her trust is broken and she has already experienced your negativity to her involvement in the Watchtower, you have become her “enemy,” not her “soul-mate.” She will likely be fearful to bring up how she really feels about you. So, you will need to take the lead and start by first apologizing for all that has happened the last few years.
Your goal in this first meeting is to make her feel safe and to own up to your part in her feelings of abandonment. She has been emotionally pulling away from you for quite some time and feels that she must keep this wall up to prevent you from taking away the only “hope” she has in her new found faith. Express to her your sincerest apologies for not being there when she needed you the most. Apologize for your indifference toward the pastor’s attitudes and actions and admit that you were wrong to not help her hold this new pastor accountable.
Let her know that you deeply regret not being the spiritual leader in the home that you needed to be, and that you realize that this is part of the reason your son got into the trouble he did. Ask for forgiveness for not listening to her and really hearing her out when she joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Acknowledge that due to your failure to lead the family into a safe religious environment, you left her no choice but to seek emotional and spiritual help elsewhere.
Let her know that while you disagree with many of the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you respect her choice to become one. Apologize for the attitude you had when she tried to explain her faith by having you talk to the elders. Admit that she had good reasons for her beliefs, and even though you feel her reasons are not as good as yours, you had no right to make her feel like you were belittling or ridiculing her faith. Make a deal with her that until she brings the subject up and is ready to discuss the differences between your faith and hers, you will completely lay off trying to convince her otherwise. Apologize and ask if she would be willing to give you a second chance to allow you to earn her trust back.
Whether she says anything right away or not, just gaze lovingly into her eyes. Hold your gaze for at least a minute. Do not look away, and you will begin to see the lady you fell in love with so many years ago. She too will begin to see the one she fell in love with and she may start to cry. When this happens, you’ll know that you are beginning to break through her protective shell and speak directly to her heart. It may seem like an eternity before she is ready to say anything, but when she does start talking, just listen. Do not try to defend yourself on ANYTHING. Just let her share whatever is on her heart.
It will be a very emotional time for both of you, and you may feel hurt over some of the things she says, but you must listen and hear her out. Apologize, even if you feel like she is not seeing things correctly. In this case, perception is 100% of reality. She needs to know the depths of your love. She needs to see that you humbly admit what she perceives as your mistakes and that you truly want to change.
She will most likely be dumbfounded by your sudden change in attitude and may be suspicious of underlying ulterior motives to subtly attack her new faith. You must not go there until her trust in you is fully regained. This may take months, and possibly years, but you must regain her trust before you can ask her to take the step of discussing and comparing the differences between your faiths.
She must get to the place in her heart where she no longer sees you as an enemy, but as her soul-mate—the one she fell in love with so many years ago. You will need to convince her that you deeply love her and care for her physical, emotional and spiritual well-being; and that you will make every effort to fully listen to her concerns and do something about them.
Remind her of the dreams you both had when you fell in love with each other. If spiritual aspirations were included in those dreams, remind her of those, but be careful not to do so in a way that brings up a debate on her current religious state of beliefs. Your goal is to rekindle the intimate love you had when you were first married and bring back to her memory all the fun times you’ve had together before the Jehovah’s Witnesses entered into the picture.
2. READ BOOKS AND WEBSITE ARTICLES TO REBUILD YOUR MARRIAGE:
As you work toward rebuilding your relationship, try reading marriage enrichment materials together. Even if your wife is not ready to read the following books and website articles with you, read them yourself and start practicing the principles discussed in them. Here are a few resources we recommend:
- The Crazy Cycle – Foundation of Love and Respect
- My Husband Is a Mysterious Island – Why Won’t He Talk to Me?
- The Wounded Human Spirit
- How to Resolve Conflicts of Faith
- Why Women Leave Men
- The Three States of Mind in Marriage
- The Policy of Joint Agreement
3. HELP HER BECOME JEALOUS OF YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE.
As one who has been fully redeemed by Christ, you have a security in your walk with the Lord that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses are motivated by fear and guilt to perform according to the dictates of the Watchtower organization. There is never any point at which a Jehovah’s Witness is guaranteed eternal life, and even at the highest levels of performance within the organization, there is the constant threat of failing and being wiped out at Armageddon. They may seem happy on the outside, but inside they feel inadequate and unworthy. There is a constant struggle to measure up to others in the organization and out-perform others in order to gain extra privileges. This is especially true of Jehovah’s Witness males as they strive for elder, overseer and ministerial servant positions. Women are not immune to the performance treadmill, for superiority attitudes and constant gossip and backbiting plagues the loyal. Just read a few of our Ex-Jehovah’s Witness Testimonies on our website, and you will read story after story of Jehovah’s Witnesses (some in the organization for nearly 50 years), experiencing a crisis of faith over the lack of love in the congregations.
Your wife, being a recent convert to the Watchtower, is most likely still in the “honeymoon” stage of her “affair” with this religion and may not have yet witnessed these things about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it is only a matter of time before she will. When this does occur, this is the time when she will start to notice the peace and joy that you have in your relationship with Jesus that she doesn’t have as a Jehovah’s Witness. If you haven’t done so already, you may want to read our article, “How To Witness Effectively to Jehovah’s Witnesses – Breaking the Watchtower Barrier.” This discusses how to share your faith as an eternally secure Christian with a Jehovah’s Witness who does not have this assurance. We suggest questions you can ask to open up a discussion on these issues in a non-argumentative way. Other ways you can perk her interest in your faith are by doing the following:
- Have Personal Daily Devotions in the Word of God. Set aside a few minutes every day to spend time praying, reading and studying the Bible. Let her witness the changes God will make in your heart as you study His Word daily. From time to time, when God gives you a specific word of encouragement through a specific passage you were reading for the day, you might share it with her but don’t overdo it, or it may seem like you are trying to “show-off” your spirituality. What you want to do is get your spiritual life in order so that at what point she wants to talk, you have something to offer her, and she’ll be able to see by your life that you are serious about being the spiritual leader she can respect.
- Increase Your Prayer Life. I’m sure this one has already grown in your life as there is nothing like spiritual conflict to drive one to his knees in prayer. Keep doing what you are doing and take every opportunity you have to pray—whether its stopping to pray with your wife during a conflict or dealing with struggles in your family, or just taking a moment to notice the blessings of God and to thank Him. Don’t think she won’t notice and this may be very appealing to her since Jehovah’s Witness prayers in the Kingdom Hall tend to be formal and non-personal. One word of caution: When you pray aloud in the hearing of your wife, use God’s name “Jehovah” as she will be very uncomfortable with any prayer addressed to “Jesus” or “Lord.” Even prayers stated simply to “God” are uncomfortable for Jehovah’s Witnesses if “God” is not qualified by the use of His personal Name “Jehovah.”
- Share Your Experiences at Your New Church. If you left your previous church association and are currently attending a different fellowship with better leadership and solid Bible teaching, share with your wife some of the experiences you are having at this new church. Give her examples of sermons that would affirm some of the things she is being taught as a Jehovah’s Witness. For example, the use of God’s name, if the pastor talks about “Jehovah” in his sermon or a song is sung with “Jehovah” in it, tell her about it. Jehovah’s Witnesses are told that Christians do not use God’s name, so when this is done in a Christian setting, it will subtly undermine the lies she has been told. You might also talk about any examples of love you witness in your church. But again, you must be careful that when you do share about your experiences at this new church, it is NOT done with an attitude to put down the Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you share about something you know Jehovah’s Witnesses are told Christians do not do (like the use of God’s name), do not make a big deal about it, but merely mention it in a non-confrontational, “by the way” manner.
- Talk About How God Intervenes in Your Daily Life. Psalm 33:13 states, “From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth–He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” (New International Version) The God of the Bible is concerned with the intimate details of our lives. We can come to Him with anything on our heart and He will answer. However, the Jehovah’s Witness concept of God is that He deals with people in mass through an organization, not personally one-on-one. While an individual Jehovah’s Witness may pray and claim to receive an answer on big issues such as someone becoming one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the average Jehovah’s Witness would not pray for less important issues, such as asking for help to find misplaced keys. As God intervenes in the big and small areas of your life, share these experiences with your wife. It will serve as a testimony of the relationship you have with the Lord and cause her to spiritually hunger for what you have.
4. RESPECTFULLY DISCUSS DIFFERENCES OF FAITH
As you have been working to restore your wife’s trust and respect, your hope is that she will return to the point where she is comfortable talking with you about her spiritual beliefs. She needs to trust that you will not belittle the reasons she gives for her faith nor pressure her into looking at literature she is uncomfortable reading. Keep in mind that her attachment to the Jehovah’s Witnesses is an emotional one, and intellectual arguments against her faith will only be affective when her trust in you is restored to the point that she no longer needs to rely upon them to meet her spiritual and emotional needs.
Up to this point, as you have made a commitment not to discuss her beliefs until she is ready to do so, you’ve been careful to keep all spiritual discussions focused on you and what God has been teaching you in your faith. You’ve also been careful not to venture into religious discussions that would threaten a debate on Jehovah’s Witness beliefs.
Given her current state of not wanting to discuss her religion or any religion, you may be questioning if there will ever come a time when she will open the door for a discussion of her beliefs. Opportunities will come whether you or she think they will. For example, as she becomes more set in her Jehovah’s Witness ways, how will she feel with a Christmas tree in the home, or allowing you to invite the family over to celebrate your children’s birthdays with a cake and candles? Will she attend family gatherings on holidays? What if she notices your Bible does not have God’s name “Jehovah,” will she ask you why? How will she feel about your talking with the children about political issues, the war-effort, blood transfusions, salvation in Jesus, prayer, heaven or hell, etc?
Whether she admits it or not, the issue of her Jehovah’s Witness religion will come up in your marriage and it is at times like these that she will either have to put her beliefs aside and allow you full freedom to lead your family spiritually, or she will need to engage with you in a discussion over her beliefs with a goal of each of you endeavoring to win the other over. Or she will need to agree to discuss a respectful compromise where you and she can both maintain your beliefs, but limit your freedom to practice those beliefs for the health of your family and marriage.
For practical steps to follow when discussing your differences of faith, I highly encourage you to read the following article by Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr’s Marriage Builders website: “You Believe What?!” – How to Resolve Conflicts of Faith (Part 2). The following resources on our website will also be helpful for you:
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