How to Rescue
Your Loved One
from the

an online guide
to helping
Jehovah's Witnesses
escape from bondage

also available as a
paperback book

How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower 2010 edition
Buy printed book from publisher
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"Rescue" from a Religion?
Don't Delay--Act Today!
Overall Strategy
Techniques that Work
Tools to Use
Step by Step
God's "Prophet"
A Changing "Channel"
Doctoring Medical Doctrines
Strange Ideas Taught in God's Name
"God's Visible Organization"
Providing an Alternative
Can This Marriage Be Saved?
When Children Are Involved
Warning: The Life You Save May Be Your Own
Afterwork: Gradual Rehabilitation
Appendix: Resources & Support Groups

How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower
Home | Preface | Introduction | "Rescue" from a Religion? | Don't Delay--Act Today! | Overall Strategy | Techniques that Work | Tools to Use | Step by Step | God's "Prophet" | A Changing "Channel" | Doctoring Medical Doctrines | Strange Ideas Taught in God's Name | "God's Visible Organization" | Providing an Alternative | Can This Marriage Be Saved? | When Children Are Involved | Warning: The Life You Save May Be Your Own | Afterwork: Gradual Rehabilitation | Appendix: Resources & Support Groups
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Chapter 13
Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Of the men who have phoned or written me after their wives converted to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, many have stated that they are seeking a divorce, that they are now living apart, or that they fear a separation is imminent. Can a marriage be saved, when one member becomes a JW? Or, if the bond is that between a parent and a grown child, between close relatives, or simply between friends, does the fact that one party has  joined the Witnesses automatically spell doom for the relationship? Our discussion in this chapter will focus primarily on the situation of a married couple, but the suggestions offered can be beneficially applied to save other friendships as well.

Close communication and intimate sharing of thoughts and feelings enrich a marriage, drawing a couple together. But this rapport is difficult to achieve when the worldview of one mate is a world apart from that of the other. A religious split between husband and wife can be truly painful. Scripture speaks of a married couple as “one flesh” (Matt. 19:5, 6 kjv). What closer relationship could there be than that? A husband is counseled to love his wife as his own body (Eph. 5:28). So when mates start to go each their separate way religiously, it is like a person’s left leg going in one direction while the right leg tries to go off in another direction—very uncomfortable!

Religiously mixed marriages are often successful where both parties are adherents of mainstream religious bodies. But exclusivist groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses inject extra tension into the relationship. In part this is due to the hostility with which the sect regards outsiders and the hostility with which outsiders respond to the sect. Also at issue are some of the JWs’ more extreme positions, especially as they relate to children of the marriage. Added to that, there is the busy schedule of activities that the Witness must maintain without the mate.

There is certainly plenty of potential for marriage problems, but the first factor that needs to be examined honestly is the motives of the parties involved. All too often the new religion is simply an excuse used by a mate who had already wanted to end the marriage and who has finally found a “respectable” reason for doing so. It may be that the one who has joined the Witnesses has done so knowing this will be the last straw that will convince the spouse to depart—or perhaps sensing that the Kingdom Hall will provide a supportive atmosphere for leaving an unbeliever. Then again, it may be the non-Witness who feels that friends will understand his leaving a wife who has now joined a cult, whereas they might not sympathize were he to admit that he has simply lost interest in the marriage.

So, the new religion sometimes becomes a scapegoat for the party on either side who really wants to get a divorce anyway—for other reasons. If this is the case, nothing that can be said or done about Jehovah’s Witnesses will have any effect on the situation. The religious issue is just a smokescreen hiding the genuine problem. If you perceive that this describes either you or your mate, the best step to take would be to seek professional help—preferably a secular marriage counselor acceptable to both parties—and to work at resolving the real obstacles, rather than allow either party to excuse himself and deceive others with the religious scapegoat.

But now suppose that it really is the religious difference that is at issue and that imperils the marriage. It should be noted that Christians, who believe in the Bible rather than The Watchtower, find no divine injunction to divorce a mate who joins a false religion. To the contrary, Scripture encourages the Christian to remain married: “ … If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him” (1 Cor. 7:12, 13 niv). Unfortunately, immature Christians sometimes see matters differently and actually encourage separation from a JW mate.

Of course problems can be expected. The wife may feel obligated to preach Watchtower doctrine to her husband, whether he wants to hear it or not. Likewise he may harangue his wife with strident lectures about the organization’s false teachings and harmful practices. In either case, if the listener responds in kind, the resulting argument tends to escalate in loudness and in bitterness. This, in turn, leads to such frustration on both sides that they stop speaking to each other on that subject—if not ceasing communication altogether.

But, if you are a Christian who realizes that God “hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16 niv), there are ways that you can make your marriage work, even though your mate has become a Jehovah’s Witness and seems determined to remain one.

First of all, before we look at methods for obtaining cooperation from your spouse, you would do well to look at yourself and how you fit into the picture. If you see self-pity or belligerence in the mirror, it is important to work at eliminating it, since it can be as destructive of the marriage as anything your mate could do. Ask yourself if self-pity is truly justified. Don’t marriage partners pledge faithfulness “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health”? Aren’t there many who find themselves with a mate who has become “worse” in areas far more distressing than a difference of religion? Moreover, isn’t it true that “it takes two to tango” in most marital disputes?

Unless your spouse is absolutely determined to end the marriage, you can do a lot on your part to make it work and to keep it peaceful. The Proverbs tell us that, “Without wood a fire goes out” (Prov. 26:20 niv). If you avoid adding fuel to the fire, arguments over religion may not flare up as often. If it becomes apparent that your mate does not want to listen to anything you have to say on religious subjects, you need not feel an obligation to keep pushing the issue. This would not constitute surrender or defeat on your part, but would simply show that you accept the wisdom of the apostle Peter’s counsel, where he wrote, “Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behavior” (1 Peter 3:1, 2 rsv). Peter wrote that advice to Christian women who were married to non-Christians in ancient Pontus, Galatia, Cappodocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Their husbands may have been Jews hostile to Christianity, or they may have been pagan idolaters or Roman emperor-worshipers. And, yet, Peter recommended good behavior, rather than argumentative discussions, as the way to win them over. Likewise in your marriage to a Jehovah’s Witness: if she does not want to listen to your words on religion, preach to her “without a word” by your loving conduct and tender affection.

But there are certain things about the organization’s teachings on marriage that it will be helpful for you to know. Believe it or not, the Watchtower teaches basically the same approach outlined by Peter in the Bible—except it is the Witness who views you as the “unbelieving mate.” You can help eliminate religious arguments by pointing out Peter’s counsel to your mate, and asking if she agrees with it. (She will have to say Yes. Then she is obliged to try to win you over without a word of argument.) But be sure to do this without pointing the finger at her, making her feel that the problem has been all her fault. Accept at least some of the blame yourself.

While local JW elders sometimes take it upon themselves to encourage separation from an unbelieving mate, the official policy from Brooklyn headquarters is to do everything possible to keep the marriage together. Divorce with remarriage is allowed only if the non-Witness engages in sexual immorality with another person, although it is often assumed that a non-JW who spends nights away from home is doing this. A permanent separation is also permitted if the unbelieving mate moves out of the home or becomes abusive to the point of endangering the Witness’s life, health or well-being.

Notice that religious difference alone is not listed among the acceptable grounds for separation. However, JW elders may interpret preventing your wife from getting to Kingdom Hall meetings or attempting to persuade her to leave the religion as endangering her spiritual well-being. In such a case they may advise her to leave you.

Ultimately, though, it will come down to the two of you. Do you both really want to stay together? Then you can make it work. Many others have done so. How? Basically by applying the biblical principles outlined above for a good marriage—principles which Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses generally agree upon, and which form the basis of most marriage counselors’ advice.

Sometimes it is said that marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition. But a person determined to carry out his or her marriage vows will find that there are times when it is necessary to give 100 percent, expecting nothing in return. The result, though, from 100 percent giving is usually a better return than when one insists upon giving no more than 50 percent and demands 50 percent in return.

What if there are children involved? Is there any alternative to divorce court and a bitter custody battle? This is one of the points that will be considered in our next chapter.

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