It's hard to explain my feelings to anyone who was never a JW. I am posting my story here. If anyone has ever had a similar experience or is stuck in a situation please know that there is hope and life does get better.
When I was twelve my Mother started taking magazines regularly from an older woman from a local congregation. I befriended a girl at school who was a witness. She invited me to meetings and the Memorial. I didn’t go to any meetings with her but I did attend a few congregation picnics with her and go on family outings to amusement parks and mini golf. I wanted to make sure they were somewhat normal.
The first meeting we went to was a Service Meeting. I remember being bored to death but people were curious to talk with us afterward so I thought that the meeting was alright. I did feel a little out of place because I didn’t have the right books nor did I have a KM. My mother’s study conductor lent us her materials. I started a study when I was 14. I wasn’t very popular at school and holidays were always wrought with strife and discontent so it wasn’t a big deal to stop celebrating holidays or stop going to school functions. I became an unbaptised publisher at 15 and started going out in service regularly. I gave talks in the ministry school, helped clean the kingdom hall and tried hard to believe everything they said.
I was never on fire for my faith. I did what was expected. I can honestly say that I only felt Jehovah’s presence a few times, mostly when my Dad was beating the hell out of my mother and I prayed that she would survive and my Dad would quit drinking. None of the other kingdom kids would play with me or hang out with me because I joined the field hockey team in high school. I needed to go to college and my parents weren’t going to pay for it. No one ever said anything to me, but I could tell that something was going on behind my back. I stopped studying at 16. The sister they paired me with was a very strict, elder’s wife and pioneer. I admired her honesty but I was not going to be bullied into anything. I stopped the study. Unfortunately, my witness beliefs left me wondering if I had done the right thing which led to guilty feelings that I tried to hide with dating. I went off to college and started a few disastrous relationships. Through it all I kept telling myself that if I had stayed with the “Truth” I never would have brought this suffering upon myself.
I started attending meetings my junior year in college. I started studying again with a younger sister. We became friends and I was attending meetings regularly. My mother started going to meetings again too. I did not go out in service but I kept going to meetings and making friends in the Hall. I made plans to study abroad in France; I was a French major in college. I reasoned that this would be a great way to become fluent and even take part in meetings in France. There was a brother in the Hall who was interested in me and we talked until 10:30 pm after the Service Meeting at the Kingdom Hall. My mother was there with me. She hoped that one day I would marry that brother and be happy. He wrote me in France. I however, didn’t attend any meetings. I didn’t do much but study French. Even though I was halfway across the world I was still socially awkward and didn’t know how to act around my peers. I must have looked like an easy target for the man who would become my first husband.
He was much older than me but he was willing to show me the world. We took many weekend trips. He was fluent in 7 languages and wanted to retire to France. I visited him in Denmark. The relationship became serious right before I went back home. We got engaged a month later and began planning a wedding. We had to get married quickly because a new immigration law in Denmark was going into effect that would not allow for anyone under 24 to get a residence permit. I was only 22 so we had to get married and apply before the deadline. My life went like this – February 14 get engaged, May 19 graduate college, May 26 get married, June 7 start new life in Denmark where I became solely dependent on a man I knew for a total of nine months. For someone like me who grew up dirt poor in a dysfunctional family, this was a dream come true.
The marriage wasn’t a happy one. My husband didn’t know how to relate to me and I was depressed and homesick. I did get a job and joined a sports team but my husband came to the practices and he always told me that if I tried harder I would be happy. I thought that I could find happiness by going to a Kingdom Hall and bring my husband into the “Truth” with me. We went to an English speaking congregation and my husband started studying with a brother. At first my husband tried to discount the witnesses and would argue with them about the Bible.
We then moved to France and started going to an English speaking congregation there. When we found a place to settle we started going to the local French congregation. My husband and I started studying. After two three years of marriage I realized that it was important to me to move back to the US and start a career. I had always told my husband that eventually I wanted to settle back in the States where my family was. My Dad quit drinking and my family was healing. I felt like I was missing out on that process because I was 4000 miles away. My husband bought a piece of land to build a house. He assured me that we could rent it out or use it as a summer home. Meanwhile I moved back to the US and continued to study. I was baptized when I was 24 at the convention near my homestate. My husband flew back to France the day before not wanting to spend the money to change his flight. I got a job and started working on my grad degree. I was attending meetings and basically living on my own. I had my own apartment – I had never lived on my own until I was married.
My husband and I would see each other every few weeks. We fought about money, about not being together and how my decision affected the marriage. He would go weeks without answering my calls or emails. Eventually I stopped trying to contact him and continued with my life.
I relied on the relationship I had with my mother, my best witness friend and the hope that one day Jehovah would fix everything. I continued with my classes, work and going out in service and meetings. One evening at class I met a man with whom I went to high school. I just started hanging out with him and his friends. I was so confused. I knew that if I divorced my husband I would be either disfellowshipped or single the rest of my natural life. My mother noticed what was going on and all she said was that I had to make a choice and live with the consequences.
It was no secret at the Hall that I was unhappy in my marriage. The elders didn’t approve of my moving away from my husband nor did they approve of my keeping my maiden name. I was on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills. I felt unworthy to even pray at that point. My best witness friend did everything to help me and keep me in the “Truth”. I said that someone was interested in dating me and I was tired of being alone and ignored by my husband. My husband flew out and tried to make up. I was so angry at him and myself. I really didn’t see any point in the marriage getting better. He stayed for a few weeks but our marriage didn’t improve. He went crying to the Elders but they told him they couldn’t do anything since he wasn’t baptized and I hadn’t confessed to any wrongdoing. Two weeks later I decided that I was going to end the marriage. He was not going to change or accept the “Truth”. He wasn’t going to join me in the US and he confided to my mother that if I didn’t start behaving he was going to divorce me. I called him on Skype and said that I did not want to continue in the marriage. I wanted enough money to support myself while I finished my last year of school and that was it. He flew out two weeks later. My parents made me go with them to the airport to pick him up. He bought a painting that I saw in a shop months before and wanted for our house. I didn’t have much more to say to him. All of a sudden he was willing to do anything I wanted, go anywhere I wanted and swore up and down that this time would be different. I didn’t care anymore. We both said horrible things to one another, lived apart for two years and wanted different things out of life.
In no time he ran to the Elders claiming I was planning a second wedding. Two elders questioned me about it. I said I was planning a divorce, not a wedding. I told them I was their sister in the faith and that they should be supporting me and helping me to stay strong in my relationship to Jehovah, not catering to the whims of my “worldly husband”. I told them that I would be divorcing my husband and I was not going to stay single from the age of 27 until death. What does my soon to be ex-husband do? He gets on the fast track to baptism. He gets baptized in the US in front of all my friends. He goes to meetings in my home state and cries to anyone who’ll hear about how much he loves me and he understands that marriage is sacred and he will forgive me and take me back. I sent a disassociation letter hoping to get rid of him. I lost all my witness friends and my mother didn’t know what she was supposed to do. I moved to another town and started dating to numb the pain. I felt betrayed by the elders and my husband. Until the divorce was final my husband sent me letters, cards, emails and gifts. He even posted messages on my boyfriend’s live journal. He drove by my new apartment. He convinced my grandmother that I was a cheating adulteress so she wouldn’t speak to me. He hacked into my computer and found an email my boyfriend sent to me as an undergrad about dinner during Spring Break. From that email he told everyone that I had been cheating on him the entire marriage. He tried to get my mother in trouble by implying she went along with my lifestyle. The elders showed no support to my mother during this time. She had an unbelieving husband and a disassociated daughter and no one bothered to support her. That bothered me the most.
I married the man with whom I went to high school. I have been out of the “Truth” for over five years. Recently my ex-husband contacted me about transferring of property outlined in our divorce agreement. I don’t know why he waited over four years to do this but it required some signatures and sending documents to France. What bothered me about this is that he contacted me through my work email and sent a letter to my home. These are addresses that he didn’t know about as I wasn’t working nor did I own a home when we divorced. He stalked me on the internet.
We did have to speak to each other to straighten out some documents. I can’t explain what happened but all those guilty feelings of leaving the “Truth” and getting a divorce hit me square in the face. I never grieved for that marriage and I drowned myself in school work and planning a new life. My ex-husband was so kind during these calls, explaining how he finished the house and planted all the trees he knew I liked. He talked about having pioneers stay over and having dinners with the brothers and sisters. I started to cry because I felt like he was living the life I wanted without me. He always criticized me for wanting to cook for a large group of people or helping out the brothers and sisters. He also went on to talk about how members from my old congregation go out to stay with him and he takes them to all the places we used to go to. I told him I was so sorry and that I wanted to go back to the “Truth” but was scared and didn’t even know who to go about it. All of a sudden he said “Make sure that when you go back you don’t lie to the elders like you did before.” There it was, that same arrogance he showed during our marriage and that lack of empathy came through loud and clear. I realized that I made the right choice in leaving him.
He can have the house and he can have my former witness friends. I have a husband that loves me unconditionally and friends who would never abandon me. My mother is inactive and she still talks to me. She doesn’t blame me for leaving. An elderette told her recently at the supermarket that no one believed the marriage would last and that they hope I get over myself and come back. My mother said that I was a 22 year old girl that made a mistake, my ex husband was older and experienced yet everyone flocked to him and vilified me. The elderette said that some brothers were pulling for him so everyone just followed their lead in accepting my ex.
I’ve been out for almost 5 years. The first year I thought about getting married and then working my way back in. But as I matured I realized that I wasn’t happy as a witness. I missed the social aspect but that was about it. I do believe that Jehovah is the Creator and my life is in his hands. I am no longer sure how to worship him. I don’t believe that the WTS is his organization nor that He is happy with what is going on in it today.