Ask a Former JW: ExJW and Family Cruelty

Ask a Former JW: ExJW and Family Cruelty

“I’m 30 and live in (deleted). I met this wonderful girl at work and we started dating. It was at this point that she told me she used to be a JW but had been disfellowshipped for having a relationship with another JW, but out of wedlock etc.

At the time this really didn’t matter to me and we continued dating etc. I started to find it strange that her family never visited, even though they lived in the next street. After awhile this really started to annoy me as my girlfriend would get upset most days about being “alienated” by her mum, dad, brother and sister’s, even to the extent of them ignoring her in the street and supermarkets etc. Well, after about 6 months of dating, my girlfriend became pregnant and we happily purchased a house together after renting for awhile. We have now been together for over 2.5 years.

The problem, well, the first thing that happened was the meeting between me and her parents for the first time. I met them and we all had a very polite chat about our future together and the responsibilities of becoming a parent etc, he “preached” somewhat about the JW beliefs and emphasised that he loved his daughter very much (by the way, he is an elder). We didn’t hear from them for awhile, even though we went through a very hard pregnancy, maybe the odd phone call every few months while nobody could hear them.

We next saw them at the birth of our daughter. They said they were allowed to visit as it was an “occasion” or something. So there they were happy grandparents! Well, after that, they gave no support or advice to their daughter about coping with a newborn; we were basically left to fend for ourselves. They would request that she brought our baby round for the other family members to see, and they would make her sit outside the house in the car whilst the “family” poured their “love” over our daughter.

They would also visit our rented house and ask her to go outside whilst they played with (deleted)- something I found out only recently.

A few phone calls over the next 4 months, until our next great news, we got engaged. The flowing day they phoned to state that they WILL NOT be attending the wedding but look forward to us getting married and becoming part of the family again, this obviously ruined this one.

The day after this we had to visit their house to collect some things that were left there years ago, this was a Sunday afternoon and the whole of the extended family were there for after meeting “discussions”. Well, her dad and mum and grandparents came out to congratulate me, but completely ignored her!

The next news was us buying a house. They called the next day to say they were happy and that once we were married they will enjoy our new house with us but until then will not visit!

So, over the last 2 years they’ve probably phoned 5 times, visited 3 times but have been constantly there in our relationship for years, its so difficult not to be angry at them all the time and we are struggling to keep it together.

During all this time and on some of the calls, they would drop in things like “your cousin is getting married this weekend and all the family are going” knowing well that she’s not invited because they are all JW’s, her sister even asked her to borrow her shoes for the wedding!

The last visit was this week, they came to our house for the first time. All was ok, until they went to leave. Her Dad started asking about us getting married and practically told us to hurry up and get married, even if it means going to a registry office. He then said that now I’m a father, do I look at the world differently and that I should speak to him with any questions I may have. He is basically trying to get me to join? He left a copy of the watchtower for me to read, which I burnt. As an elder, he is very slick in what he says and to have a face to face chat is very difficult.

Now, my girlfriend won’t tell them to leave us alone and that we don’t want to become JW’s, even though she doesn’t want to go back, why?

What do you think is the best approach to get through to them that they are hurting their daughter and practically breaking us up? Are they trying to get me to become a JW? Should I be giving my girlfriend more time to forget the life she was brought up in as a JW? I have so many more questions, and to be honest have missed quite a bity of horrible stuff they have done to us. I just need some advice please.
Thank you……..

A”

My Response:
This is the kind of letter that I really hate to get because it breaks my heart.

Here’s the deal. It all depends on how much they are able to examine themselves. Once in a while there is a family that will readjust once the legals are taken care of – ie, once you are married. Until then, any support from them would be considered approval of your non-legal status. You’ll get nowhere until you’re married.

Even then, it will be difficult. Yes, they will try to drag her back in, and they will try to drag you in too. They believe it is their duty to do so – and the elder’s family even more so because they have to set an example, and your dear love is already making it hard for them in the congregation (bless her heart).

If it were me, I probably would have just moved out of the town – that kind of pressure you don’t need. The family is constantly around but only to show that they aren’t supporting you. You’d be better off somewhere else. That having been said, the two of you have already shown bravery and strength – so I have hopes that perhaps you can do something they won’t expect.

There isn’t much they won’t expect. Argument will get you nowhere except into more hostile situations. What you can do, however, is to show them compassion and caring – in other words, to be the ones to set an example of the deeper message of love. You made a big mistake allowing your girlfriend to be excluded! That did not show love or respect for her! Make them welcome if they want to come to the house – and if they want to see their daughter or granddaughter, they will treat her in a way that shows “the fruits of the spirit” – especially loving-kindness and love.

You will have to explain that while you honor their beliefs and have no wish to undermine them, you are the head of your household and you have to insist that their daughter be treated with respect, whether or not they agree with her choices. They may choose to withhold their love and support – that’s their choice – but it’s not a choice for them to be allowed to be with their grandchild while ignoring their daughter.

It will be up to you to say a few very simple things, calmly and compellingly. And please don’t ever allow the situation to undermine your love and respect for one another. Never never never allow your girlfriend to be treated badly – it is your job and I charge you with it – to protect her from being treated badly.

Don’t threaten – just say basically that the visit with the child just doesn’t happen unless they would like to visit your house – which they ARE allowed to do because they are family members, but will feel more comfortable doing if you are married – or if your girlfriend is included. No daughter, no grandchild. Don’t make a big issue of it, and don’t allow them to grandstand on the other issues.

As regards the wedding – just say that you are sorry that they don’t consider themselves to be the family of the bride, because that is a very hard and unloving choice – but it is their choice and you will honor that. Still, if they don’t want to be family, they don’t get the perks of family either.

It is a tough situation and I do not envy you your position. Stand together, be above it, be respectful but calmly in charge. And protect your girlfriend from their cruelty – they honestly believe they are doing the right thing, but it is one of the most destructive aspects of the JWs and they are seriously blind about it. No amount of talking seems to make any difference – all that makes a difference is to show them how they SHOULD be acting – sometimes they will experience cognitive dissonance and have to face that they admire how you handle it.

Please show this letter to your girlfriend. She has to know that she also cannot allow them to make her feel second-rate. She is a mommy now – and the two of you have to model what a healthy relationship is like to your child. It’s hard to have family near and yet not get support – but think of it this way – your baby is so much better off not getting sucked into a situation where this kind of family behavior can be justified as pleasing to the god of love.

You may be able to use their sexism – remember that you are the head of the household now – what you say goes (I don’t agree with the premise myself, my hubby and I are a team) – at least in their eyes you have the right to say that you will not allow visits with the baby while the mother is left out. That’s not kind, that’s not right, and they don’t get to see the child under those conditions. As for the shoes? If it were me, I think I’d say something like – “well I’m not very comfortable lending you these shoes when I’m not considered part of the family enough for you to come to my wedding. Won’t you get in trouble even for asking me?” – but then sometimes I’m not very forgiving. Maybe you can do better.

It’s not usually intentionally cruel – but the effects are cruel, and somewhere deep inside they know that. They don’t know what to do with kindness and compassion and respect – that’s the only way.

Other than that – move.

Hope it helps a little – best wishes, congrats on the house and especially the baby. I hope it works out for you and either of you can write me anytime. If nothing else, I’m an understanding ear.

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