Sunday, January 25, 2015

Help! I am in love with a.....

This week marks fifteen years I have been with my husband, Art, a Jehovah's Witness. His beliefs and the requirements of his religion (some of which I do not share) has resulted in differences from time to time. When I fell in love with this crazy, funny man I in my evangelical innocence believed my faith was superior and that in time he would come to believe as I did. He trusted that the same would happen to me. It was not to work out that way and I believe both of us are humbler for that discovery. I am far looser in my beliefs these days and would be happy to allow him the freedom to practice as he wants, except for the coercive elements of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the governing organization directing the affairs of all Jehovah's Witnesses.

As part of my efforts to counteract these coercive practices, I've been involved for over a decade with the Ex-Jehovah's Witness community, and have fielded hundreds of inquiries from the lovelorn, "Help! I am in love with a Jehovah's Witness." Which begs the question, do we have the right to influence a partner away from their firmly held beliefs? Is it even possible? At what point do we decide that a loved-one's lifestyle or religious choice is damaging?

I still receive requests like these so I've decided to record a decade's worth of experience here. Along the way I'll answer these questions and maybe provide help, hope and direction for those in love with a partner ensnared in a damaging life choice. 

Damaging Life Choice

I believe membership in any religion or other organization that uses coercion to control member behavior and supersedes the needs of the organization above that of the individual members to the extent of personal harm, is a potentially damaging life choice. This may be a religious, cultic, marketing, or ponzi scheme.

Obsessive participation in a hobby (extreme sports) or recreational drug (duh) to the point where the person is risking life and limb and their closest relationships, is a potentially damaging life choice.

The person may need help to recognize the danger they are in, and the best people to help are those closest to them. A red flag I often find in propaganda (typically on page two or three) is a warning that those closest to the reader may react strongly against their choice to be involved. The advice in these materials is invariably to ignore these protests (possibly invoking Satan the deceiver). Sure enough, within a few days of a convert declaring themselves to their loved-ones the family indeed do freak out, and the convert receives their first confirmation that they are on the "right path". Sneaky.

The very first efforts of loved-ones instead drive the convert further in to their new-found beliefs. I will blog over the next few weeks on ways to gently draw the convert back to their natural selves, and how to prevent driving them deeper in to the snare.

Topics Covered

The topic headings I will cover in the coming week are:

Help, I am in love with a....
Decision - Leave or Stay
Decision - Pick Your Strategy
Domestic Detente
Waking Up Strategies
Relationship Building
Positive Influence
Negotiating With Hostiles