I got a question from a woman who was leaving/being disfellowshipped because she had chosen to become romantically involved, and with a non-JW. Her note is edited somewhat to protect her privacy:
Please help with the guilt of leaving my teenages behind while I get DF. First let me say that I’m not out to get or make life hard for anyone who choose to continue to be a witness, that’s their decision but not mine. Emotionally, I’m a wreak…I’m leaving the cong because I’m involved with a worldly man. My two teenage children are very hurt and upset that I have chosen to leave. After all it is what I’ve brought them up to be……how do I first learn to be at peace with my decision- I’m guilt ridden daily. Second how if at all possible to help the kids to help them deal better with my decision.
Well, that’s a tough one. Here was my stab at it:
Of course you’re a wreck and of course you feel guilty – I would be more worried if you weren’t. If you could just walk away from years of training you’d probably be a sociopath, and I feel underqualified to deal with those.
Do your kids live with you? If so, how have you negotiated a space for you and your love? The more threatening thing to your kids is simply going to be the intrusion of a stranger into their space, sharing you with someone else. Believe it or not, that is probably the bigger issue. Have they met? Can you arrange something low-key and somewhat fun to do together where they could get to know one another – maybe a concert/movie in the park or something like that?
Teenagers are just probably going to be difficult with regard to any change. They want you to be the same as you always have so that they can be the ones experimenting with who they are. Basically, I would advice that you stay very calm and don’t allow yourself to be manipulated in any way. The bottom line that they have to understand is that you are an adult and they need to respect your decisions about your own life even if they don’t agree. I would reinforce the idea that this is not “about” them or your love for them.
Try to positively model what love is all about – and keep things respectful in all directions. Unfortunately, that’s going to be your job, and it will be quite a challenge at times. But if everyone involved maintains respect for one another, and you exhibit loving and caring behavior, they might eventually understand your choice. It will take time, I’m afraid, and it really depends a lot on how good your relationship is with each of your kids to start with. Every situation is different, and the only one who can really have a basis upon which to judge your heart and your relationships is you. The JWs make it difficult for people to trust in their own judgment – so I urge you, strongly urge you, to have the courage to think things through very seriously for yourself.
Sit somewhere quiet and think about your love interest as objectively as you can. Is this love, is it just sexual infatuation? Does he show respect for you and your kids? What do you think of his family? Is he someone that you respect – really and truly? What is your decision based on? If you are satisfied that your decision is the right one, then ask yourself why is it the right one? Ask yourself very honestly about the best way to handle the situation. Sometimes it takes a little sorting out, but if you are sure that your decision is right, and you list the reasons why it is right for yourself, then it is easier to come to a point where you can naturally handle whatever comes up, and where you can be at peace with the decision – not torn apart. When you have it really settled in your mind and heart, you can also explain it to others – like your kids (maybe an edited version, depending – giggle).
Don’t avoid thinking it through because the only way you’ll get through this period without significant psychological injury is to be really super clear and honest with yourself. Ultimately, that is how
you can navigate this new terrain. It doesn’t matter so much whether others approve, but you have to make sure deep down inside that you approve.
I’m a little worried, if they are still JWs themselves, that your kids will be pressured to cut off contact with you. You haven’t said whether they live with you or not. Again, you’ll have to think through what it is that you are really rejecting about the JWS. If it is simply – and only – that you know you will be ejected for this choice, then it is a priority of this relationship over the belief system and community. If you have other issues with the JWs, then it’s a little more tricky and you’ll have to be clear with yourself about that too. You’ll have to assess how much of your personal journey might be appropriate to share with your kids. Maybe some, maybe none. It really depends on where they are themselves. All anyone can do is act on their best judgment given the time, the circumstances, and where they are personally.
Ask yourself if you still feel ok about having raised them in this religious group. It’s a tough one, since it all depends on how you feel about their continued involvement. If you still feel that it’s “the truth” then you can assure them that you will support their continued involvement and so on. If not, then you can still assure them that you will always respect their own decisions with regard to their relationship to God (as they must also respect yours), even if you disagree with the group’s priorities and beliefs now. This is an issue that comes up with other religions sometimes too, so therapists might be able to help you mediate.
At some point, and I would suggest waiting for them to initiate a conversation on these topics, you’ll probably have to walk through some of the actual repercussions in terms of what you can and cannot share together if you are divided on faith issues having to do with instructions from Bethel. It’s a volatile time generally, so it would probably be best to respond to their questions and concerns as they have them rather than making a big issue when there are more urgent things on the table.
Keep telling them that you love them and that nothing will change that.
It’s twice as hard to deal with things when you feel isolated – and although your love is there for you in so many ways, he may not completely understand the JW issues side of things. I hope some of this may help – sometimes words from someone else do help. And again, sometimes they don’t – so feel free to take or leave any of this. Even just knowing that there is someone out there who might understand at least some of what you’re dealing with can be a comfort (it’s one I wished I had, and that’s basically the reason I do this).
Anyway – I’m not a professional therapist (if things get really sticky you might consider family counselling). I just know that sometimes a kind or understanding word or a different perspective can really help. Hugs and healing – H
If anyone else has words of support or wisdom for J, please comment.