Dating One Of Jehovah's Witnesses
At some point, a person may find out that the person they are dating and love is, or has been, one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and begin seeking advice due to issues that starting to present themselves.
I have received numerous emails from people dating one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and this topic appears regularly at online forums. The questions usually revolve around the following key points:
- What is the danger
- Is it possible to convince them the religion is a cult
- How to assist them with a range of personal issues - OR:
- Why did they suddenly cut all ties
It is impossible to provide a clear cut answer, as every situation is unique, and each Jehovah's Witness differs on how much they believe the teachings and how actively they are involved with the religion. This is nicely illustrated by the following diagram.
The quadrant your loved one falls in to will have significant impact on how well your relationship will progress, and issues you are likely to face. The further and higher to the right, the less likely the relationship will last.
You may become deeply involved emotionally before your partner's religious background is revealed. They may be actively involved, or may no longer go to meetings. Following highlights the different challenges, according to their current status.
If they are actively involved, this is a huge warning sign to get out of the relationship, particularly if they are having sex with you. Jehovah's Witnesses are advised not to associate with worldly people, and are strictly forbidden from premarital sex. If they claim to believe the religion is the truth, yet break the rules, can you trust their integrity? Will they be loyal to you, if they are not loyal to the God that they believe will grant them everlasting life. Their belief is that Armageddon will arrive shortly, and they will die alongside you if engaging in premarital sex. For the relationship to last there will be pressure for you to join.
If they still attend meetings, then there will be constant pressure on you to convert. Even if the relationship is not physical, dating an active believer is not recommended. They cannot be open about you, as this will get them in trouble. They will hide your relationship, and if found out, be expected to end the relationship until you are baptised.
There are examples of successful relationships where one remains an "unbeliever." Whilst love can be strong enough to overcome the issues this causes, it will always be difficult knowing that you are viewed as the unbelieving mate, in line to die at Armageddon.
In one public talk I attended, a Circuit Overseer criticised those that marry unbelievers, asking "Why would you break Jehovah's laws and marry out of the truth? It is like dragging around a dead log, since they will not survive Armageddon." One unbelieving husband was in the audience and had to be restrained after the meeting, taking offence that his wife was publicly humiliated like that in a meeting, and that he was referred to as a dead weight in the relationship.
Even if they no longer attend meetings, they will suffer guilt at breaking Jehovah's rules, affecting. At some point they may return to the religion, very regularly after becoming parents. If you do not join the religion, there will be tremendous issues on how they are to be raised and what they are to believe.
Alternatively, you may be involved with someone that says they were one of Jehovah's Witnesses, but no longer attends meetings. If they reveal they still believe Jehovah's Witnesses are the true religion, but no longer follow it, this is a concerning sign. The guilt they suffer for not being an active member, or dating someone that is not one of Jehovah's Witnesses, will affect your relationship because of how they view themselves and you. At some point they will want to go back, and if you do not join the religion, you will always be looked down upon as a burden.
The point they want to return is often years after marriage, particularly when a child is born. They may have stopped attending meetings because of feeling unworthy of surviving Armageddon, but upon having a child, they will be overcome by tremendous guilt that they have to save their child. They become active once more as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, causing tremendous strain on a marriage. If you do not join, you will be viewed as a spiritual threat to the child. This can lead to terrible conflict over raising the child, and often divorce and difficult custody battles.
No Longer Believe
A large percentage of people raised as Jehovah's Witnesses leave the religion. You may meet one that assures you they no longer believe it is the truth and have no intention of ever returning. Your boyfriend or girlfriend may claim they no longer believe it is the truth, but their upbringing will still have an affect. Importantly, test that they have done research and have a good understanding of why they no longer believe. If they have left on a whim and cannot explain why they no longer believe, in the future they may go back during difficult times, or under family pressure.
Be aware though that leaving the religion causes huge emotional trauma. This is particularly so if they were baptised as a teenager and then disfellowshipped, as they will be ostracised and shunned by their former friends and family. If their Jehovah's Witness family are shunning them, there is a lot of pain and guilt that will never go away. They may have trust issues, or suffer from bouts of depression. Your love for them will lead you to want to support them, but their issues and beliefs can become more than a relationship can handle. Your love, support and understanding in such a situation can be a life saver for them, as long as you are aware of what will be required of you.
Should You Consider Joining?
An alternative option is to become one of Jehovah's Witnesses. You are in love with your partner because they are a wonderful person, as may be their family. Jehovah's Witnesses are usually genuinely nice people and belonging to a tight knit group can be enjoyable. If you are newly interested, you can expect to receive lots of love and attention at the meetings.
Researching Jehovah's Witnesses beyond their cleverly presented literature will raise a number of questions and concerns. What your partner tells you about the religion may not align with what former members post online, and you will not know who to trust.
As former members, we obviously advise against joining, and back such advice with important reasons. Whilst acknowledging there are good aspects to the religion, Jehovah's Witnesses are considered harmful due to their stance on several key issues, in particular:
- Disfellowshipping and shunning
- Handling of Child Abuse
- Blood transfusions
- View of non-members (worldly people)
- Advice against higher education
- Views about women
- The LGBTQ+ community
One woman fell in love with a young Jehovah's Witness man. He requested she start a Bible study, as he could not marry her until she was baptised. She was impressed with what she was learning. When she told her parents she was planning to become one of Jehovah's Witnesses they panicked, saying it was not a safe religion and it would ruin her relationship with them. They argued at length about it, as she felt they did not know what they were talking about. They pleaded for her to research online before making any commitment. Doing so raised a number of concerning things that she needed to clarify with her boyfriend. Firstly, if they married, how would he feel about celebrating Christmas with her family, as it was an important annual family event. He said he would concede on that and allow her to visit her parents at Christmas. The way he phrased it, and the idea of needing a husband's permission gave some insight into the headship arrangement, one difficulty for a marriage of equality. The second question she asked was regarding blood transfusions. If the situation arose where doctors advised she would die without a blood transfusion, would he authorise one, or be willing to let her die? When he could not answer the question, she knew she could not marry him, a man whose religion had more power over him than his love for her. Despite her initial anger at her parents for not accepting the relationship, she is now grateful that they cared enough to insist she dug deeper into the religion before making such significant decisions.
How to Help them Leave?
How about the alternative of helping your partner realise it is not the truth. Sadly, it is extremely difficult to change what a person believes. How To Help Someone Leave provides guidelines on how to approach this option, but be aware the chance of success is not high and can take a long time.
The trauma of leaving is great, regularly leading to PTSD and depression. Removing someone's religious belief comes with the responsibility of supporting them through the hard times. This will put a strain on your relationship, and during difficult times you may be blamed for ruining their life. It is commendable trying to help, but be aware that this may put your loved one on a pathway that does not end up including you.
What Should You Do?
The advice in online forums predominantly suggests ending the relationship. This is usually the case regardless of whether the person claims to still believe in the religion or not. Breaking up is easier said than done if you are in love, but it is worth considering why that advice is given.
I do not know your particular circumstances, nor have the right to advise on what you should do. What I can recommend is to devote a lot of time to researching the religion, to become aware of what you face being in a relationship with one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
It is never easy to break up with someone you love, but it is not as difficult as being trapped in the wrong relationship. Separation gets harder after marriage and the accumulation of assets. Once children become involved though, there is a whole new level of complication and heartbreak. If you have any question over whether you are in a healthy relationship it is critical you make the hard decisions sooner rather than later.
Written May 2021.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2021