Good Advice When you have a Wife in a High Control Group

Good Advice When you have a Wife in a High Control Group

notes compiled from the writings of Willard F. Harley, Jr., Ph.D. – Your Love and Marriage: Dr. Harley Answers Your Most Personal Questions

Dr. Willard F. Harley wrote an article on his website that I felt I should share, as his advice is accurate from my experience.  While the scenario he mentions is not typical of all relationships with belief-related conflicts, it is certainly typical of some.  If you are in this position, perhaps it will help.

Harley likens religious conversion in this scenario to an affair:

In marriage, one spouse’s conversion to a new faith can be very much like an affair.  The attraction can be so strong, that the believer is willing to abandon everything, including his or her spouse, to follow the religious teaching.  A conversion experience can not only be like an affair, it can also be an affair.  The messenger of the faith is often the lover of the new believer, which can confuse the issues dramatically.

Then Dr. Harley prints the letter to him from a man whose wife has just become involved in the Celestine Prophecy movement (new age) and has lost her sense of reason, and may even be having an affair with her religious mentor.  The letter described a man whose wife had a recent religious conversion that was actually an escape from a bad marriage.  “In these cases, I don’t recommend challenging differences in faith.  Instead, I recommend focusing attention on unmet emotional needs and Love Busters,” says Harley.  [Love Busters™ are described as “Habits That Destroy Passion.”]  “It’s been my experience that conflicts of faith in these situations usually melt away once love is restored between spouses.”  Of course, this is not always the case, says Harley. (I personally find in exit-counseling wives from the Watchtower, the “love” and “communication” factor were indeed the MAIN KEY to the success of the exit-­counseling session, and NOT the proof of what is wrong about doctrine.)


Note these excerpts from the letter:

“Dear D.R.,

Over the past 10 years, you and your wife have drifted into incompatibility.  Her conversion to new age philosophy may be a symptom of how far you’ve drifted apart, but it’s not necessarily the cause.  If I were to talk to your wife about her transformation, she would probably explain how she tried to stay emotionally connected to you, and that her efforts were rebuffed…  She would also tell me how much she needs someone to talk to, but talking to you had become an exercise in futility and frustration.

“So she did what she had to do, she withdrew from you, and found others that would meet her emotional needs.  These people who met her needs happened to believe in new age philosophy, but it could have been almost anything.  One of them, the man you refer to in your letter, probably did more than the rest to meet her emotional needs, so it’s likely that she has fallen in love with him.  As a result of her relationship with those who met her needs, she has adopted their system of beliefs.

“As long as her emotional needs are being met by these friends, it will be impossible for you to dissuade her of her beliefs.  Notice how she tells you that it “feels right.”  What feels right is that her emotional needs that had not been met by you are now being met by her friends – by her male friend in particular.  Who can argue with that?”

Harley continues to emphasize the importance of now beginning to meet her emotional needs, and continues, “You won’t be able to meet her needs at first, while she is in withdrawal.  First, you must prove to her that you are a safe and pleasant person to be around.  Then she will slowly come out of her defensive shell and give you opportunities to re-connect with her.”


More good advice:

I know you have tried to be tolerant of her beliefs, but as her decisions have become increasing hard on you, you may be showing her disrespect when you don’t intend to.  Be very careful that you focus attention on how her decisions affect you, rather than on the truth of the belief behind the decision.  Remember, she is in the state of withdrawal because something you’ve done has convinced her that you are too dangerous to get close to.

If you learn to meet her emotional needs and overcome Love Busters ™, it will be much easier for her to agree to take your feelings into account whenever she makes a decision.  Your wife is probably very intelligent.  If you use that intelligence for each other’s welfare, your wife will become reconnected to you once again.  You and she will be soul-mates.


from Marriage Builders website:

From the Free Minds Journal vol. 20, no. 1, Jan/March 2001

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