Advice for a non-witness dealing with a fiance's witness family

by JAG913 39 Replies latest jw friends

  • JAG913


    My name is Jaime and I'm here because my fiance recommended this site. I am not, nor will I ever be, a Jehovah's Witness. I strongly believe it is a cult, but I also am respectful of the choice people make to associate themselves within the Witness "world." I've been researching these websites and am truthfully looking for advice on how to handle my fiance's family of Witnesses. Here's a little background...

    I met my fiance 2 years ago at work. We began dating quietly, as he knew his family would not approve of him dating a non-witness. His Mom became a witness in her late teens and raised his family as very devout followers. Matt, my fiance, went along with it as a child and as he grew a mind of us own around 15, started to disagree with pivotal practices/beliefs. He kept this to himself, but began living his life as he chose, not as a witness. His family didn't realize he wasn't a believer until 2009.

    As we dated, we quickly fell in love and realized we were going to spend the rest of our lives together. I started learning about the witness religion so that I would better understand where he came from and could relate easier to the family opinions. I made it clear I wouldn't become a witness, but I was open to learning about it (BIG MISTAKE). After a few months, we came clean to his family that we were dating and we intended to spend our lives together. This was a very big ordeal. His family stated they would spend time with us each individually, but not together, and that most would probably not attend our wedding when it happened because they didn't agree with us being together. They loved me and thought I was great for him, but the religion would not allow them to support us. I thought this was ludicrous, however I was respectful of their wishes and still saw his Mom and Sister occasionally.

    Fast forward a few months - Matt and I began living together and were very happy. We found out we were expecting a baby, which was a very unplanned suprise! I was raised as a Christian and he a Witness, so we knew that being unmarried and pregnant was going to be a big deal. When we told Matt's family they were highly disrespectful of me. I figured it was anger, frustration and dissapointment so I chose to ignore it and move past it. The farther along in the pregnancy we got, the more demanding his family became. They were berating us because we made it clear we were not raising the baby as a witness. We would celebrate holidays, birthdays, etc. Our child would be allowed to go to school, college, play in sports, etc. All of which Matt was not allowed to do as it would have taken away from his studies of Jehovah (Matt was homeschooled and not allowed in any organized sports as a child). His Mother gave me documentation on how everything I do is pagan (holidays) and was very disrespectful of my beliefs. I finally had it, and stopped responding to everyone. She then showed up on my door when I was 37 weeks pregnant and on bedrest for high blood pressure and demanded I talk to her about it. I made it clear I wasn't raising this baby as a witness and she would be welcome in the child's life to the best of her abilities. She agreed she would see the baby but made it clear that since we were not married yet, etc. the entire family would no longer support Matt. They never came to a baby shower, etc. because it was supporting Matt as well.

    We delivered a perfect healthy little boy on July 30, 2010. She was at the hospital when he was born and got to see/hold him. She began visiting every other week to see the baby, but only when Matt was not home. She would belittle Matt in conversation, taking digs whenever she could. It was very uncomfortable for me, and really upsetting. Despite me asking her to stop, she continued to do this on each visit. It came to a head at the end of September and we told her that it was an situation that we could no longer live with. If she wanted to be a part of our lives, it had to include all of us. Granted, she didn't want to go out in social settings, etc. but we told her we would meet her at the park, have her over for dinner, whatever we could compromise on. She could still come out when it was convienient (if Matt wasn't there) but that it couldn't be only that. We asked her to do something with us 1 time from October - December, and she said no. It was too much. We saw her at a funeral and one other time, but otherwise we have not seen her since September (on a time she actually wanted to see the baby).

    She started calling again recently to see our son. I do not know what to say. How do you meet in the middle with someone like this? She claims she didn't come around for 3 months because she "couldn't bear to see us celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas" knowing it was so wrong in her eyes. Ok, you didn't want to come see our Christmas tree, I respect that. However you didn't call for 3 months either? But now she cares? I don't know how to make this work. To argue with her isn't going to get us anywhere, she isn't going to budge on her religous views. But neither am I.

    So, I guess I'm looking for advice on how to handle this family. My fiance is so sick of them that he doesn't care anymore if we ever see them again. However, I feel bad for both of them. I know it hurts him tremendously to be treated this way, but he loves his true family, me and our son, more than anything and we are truly happy. We have everything the storybooks are written about, as cheesy as it sounds. I feel like it's left to me to maintain some sort of relationship with them, but I don't know if I should. It's very strained. I am not worried about explaining to my son why his Grandma won't come to Christmas or his Birthday party, I can handle that. But what about explaining why he's not important enough to spend time with - to come to his baseball games, encourage his spelling bees, etc. These things she isn't willing to do. So do I keep pushing for a relationship with her and have my son suffer, or will she possibly come around? Do these people (witnesses) ever change in regards to family?

    I guess I'm just looking for advice on how to handle them. I don't understand how this cult can brainwash so many people, but my son also won't be a part of it. So, I appreciate any advice or tips that anyone can share. I know I'm not the only person that's been in this situation, so I'm just hoping someone out there can maybe shed some light on ideas to make it work. I appreciate you reading my story and look forward to suggestions.

    - Jaime

  • laverite


    Welcome! Congratulations on your baby. He's about six months old now, right? What a great age! I'm so sorry life has been so full of all of this crap and stress. You deserve to enjoy this magical time.

    My aunt has been known to say crazy things to my small children about what Jehovah likes or doesn't like. She's told them he hates birthdays. I've had to stop what little contact they had with my family (which wasn't much, anyay).

    Look, they're driving you nuts. They don't respect you or your partner. They are behaving very badly. They don't deserve to be in your lives. Stop the craziness now. It will only get worse as time goes on. When your child is old enough, they'll be telling him that God hates birthdays and children who go to birthday parties will die at Armageddon. Don't let them ruin your son's childhood or your lives.

    They won't be happy until either you become a die hard JW or the two of you break up, whichever occurs first. It doesn't sound as if either option is one you want to go along with at the moment. Remember, they have an agenda. That agenda is NOT in your family's best interest.

    All the best to you and your family,


  • garyneal

    Yeah, the best advice I could give is to limit your contact with them. If your boyfriend wants to continue to have contact with them, that is his perogative. It does not mean that you have to. You are fortunate in that he apparently does not believe in this religion anymore. That's a lot because if he still did in anyway, he is damaged goods and would've been best avoided by non-witnesses.

  • jamiebowers

    Welcome to JWN, but I'm sorry it's under these circumstances. My name is Jamie too, btw. Anyway, I couldn't agree more with Laverite. The Watchtower cult is toxic in so many ways that you should be fighting tooth and nail to keep your baby from it. It would probably do Matt some good to distance himself from his jw family as well. If he doesn't post here already, please encourage him to do so. He may need support from people who have walked in his shoes.

    Congrats on the birth of your baby. Be happy with the little family that you have formed with him and Matt. When the jw relatives come calling, simply tell them that you refuse to be around someone who degrades the love of your life and the father of your child. You don't have to be rude, but you must be firm.

  • Black Sheep
    Black Sheep

    Hi Jaime

    Sorry to hear how silly this has gotten for you.

    His mother chose to raise her son in a religion that treats it's non-believing children badly. It was a gamble that hasn't paid off. WT's Armageddon hasn't come for her and now her boy has left and she has to decide what price she is prepared to pay.

    She doesn't have to shun her son. That is her choice. She could choose to sit down and calmly and rationally talk with her son about why he has left. If she won't, that is her choice.

    I would lay down the law. You three come as a family. She is welcome to choose to visit when you are all together, or she can choose to miss out.

    Let's get something quite clear, right now ..... In the future she will want to indoctrinate your children to believe that Jehovah is going to kill Mummy and Daddy at Armageddon because they are not Jehovah's Witnesses.

    Once they are old enough to comprehend what she is talking about, if you leave any of your children alone with her, she will start telling them stories designed to put the fear of WT god in them. Do not let her have sole charge of your children until you have taught them critical thinking skills so that they are immune to the wiles of high control groups like the WT.

    Take care


  • Listener

    Unfortunately, it's not up to you to maintain a relationship between your family and his that is because it is beyond your control. You may have read here how many feel it is a cult and as such it is very hard to have any affect on their behaviour.

    It sounds like your MIL has moments where she is torn between her beliefs and having a relationship with you and your family but that is for her to deal with and come to terms of how she will deal with it. You are already doing the right thing by telling her when she is behaving in an unacceptable manner.

    Think carefully as to how much influence you are prepared to give her.

  • laverite

    I really like what Jaime Bowers said: "You don't have to be rude, but you must be firm."

  • GLTirebiter

    Welcome to the forum! I'm sorry to hear of another family being subjected to the deliberate emotional manipulation that is the Watchtower's shunning doctrine.

    Your fiance needs your support. He is the focal point of the pressure. This maltreatment is designed to coerce him back into the Watchtower fold, along with your son and you too if at all possible. It really is their doctrine, it's in their publications, and they really do say it's intended as "correction" for misconduct.

    He needs you with him, partners united against the pressure. For the sake of your son, don't allow his mother to dictate your family relations. As others have said, you are your own family now, and it's a package deal: she can accept the entire family, not just parts of it. It's important to start now, the longer you delay the harder it will be to have her respect your boundaries.

    Good luck to you and your new family--may you live happy and free!

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    I thought I was raised by nutty Witnesses!. My family dates back to Russell's days. Growing up, I feared rejection so keenly b/c of the Witnesses. My grandmother and aunt were present in our lives. We never invited them to patriotic festivals at school. As I grew older, college was a touchy subject. They were so devout. Love hinged on the WTBTS stance on anything. It was unlike normal families. They loved me. Two things happened: 1. my aunt visited my mom one day when she was severely depressed from menopause. Some witnesses made her feel like crap b/c you are always supposed to be jolly. With tears in her eyes and so devout, she begged my non-active mother to be certain that I went to dances, parties and received a college education. My shock and gratefulness persists. 2. As I grew older, I could not pretend anymore. It was harder and harder to shield my worldly life from them. I actively lied and hit things so I would not be rejected. I graduated college, was active politcally, attended rock concerts, was worldly in almost every way. They pretended they did not see. My sister infuriated me by not throwing the Christmas tree in a sheet and hoisting it out a window when my aunt showed up. No one mentioned it.

    Time and baby may alter her views. You are annoyed but your husband must hurt deeply. Normal people cannot appreciate the pressure. She is not reasonable. Indeed, she is rude beyond all bounds of a civil society. Cherish your husband and baby. Now that you are older, relationships change. As I matured, I had to make sure my mom also matured. Set boundaries. Some AA meetings might help. AA talks about having no control and focusing on your responsibility. My trait of people-pleasing has impeded my life and narrowed my vision. A favorite Anglican priest once said, You can't say yes until you learn to say no."

    Advice is easy. Action is hard. The baby must be such a precious gift. Witnesses will say your parents will die.......Jehovah will destroy you............Simple life pleasures will be treated as evil. My mom was raised as a Witness. Also, my father. I wish they had stood up to their families.

    There isn't enough space to tell you all the horrors.

  • nugget

    I take it your fiance was not baptised and yet is being treated like a Df'd person. You MIL is ashamed of her son because he no longer believes and because he has chosen a life that though normal by non witness standards is sinful and unholy by hers. She has been taught that her brutal actions will shock her son to his senses and make him realise that he has made a mistake and bring him crawling back to the organisation seeking forgiveness. It is time to draw a line in the sand and stick with it.

    What I would do is say to her that although you respect her beliefs and her as a person you are not going to tolerate her behaviour as it is harmful to your son and hers. Her behaviour is not helping her son see the error of his ways rather it is driving her out of your lives because the situation is becoming untolerable. If she continues to behave as she does then visits will have to be on an invitation only basis. She would not tolerate you going into her home and being disrespectful of her husband and children and you will not tolerate it either. You have tried to be accommodating but her attitude and behaviour creates an unhealthy environment that is toxic to your family. Having a child yourself you find conditional love and any religion that preaches it a disgusting thing and certainly do not want your child exposed to such a bad influence. You still love her but if she fails to be respectful of your wishes she will not be welcome in your home.

    Be very clear of the ground rules and as if she agrees and breaches them then the visit is over and she is asked to leave straight away. You would seek an apology before any further visit. She may be so insulted she never comes back but then the choice is hers. Remember she is in the wrong here and she is the bad person she tries to make it appear the other way round but it is not.

    She may find it impossible to comply but really if she can't then she is a bad influence. If you MIL was a drunk or a drug addict you wouldn't think twice the threat is so clear. This is not but her presence with her current attitude is just as harmful. This will require you to be strong and your fiance needs to support you 100% in this.

  • blondie

    Good solid advice, nugget. This is definitely a toxic relationship and dangerous. You should both be strong and not let this abuse continue. I have not talked to my jw family for ten years because they could not stop their verbal, mental, and emotional abuse. It has been so wonderful.

  • Amelia Ashton
    Amelia Ashton

    Hi Jaime and welcome to the site.

    I agree with everything that has been said so far and wish you and your little family every happiness for the future.

  • bohm


    Hi and welcome! Our situation is very similar, yes its completely nuts. I will write you when i have more time. in the mean time, have you read steven hassans "releasing the bonds" or "combatting cult mind control"?

  • Finally-Free
    You don't have to be rude, but you must be firm.

    Unfortunately, rudeness is sometimes the only thing a JW will understand. Excessive politeness only encourages them. The only way I could ever get a JW to shut up and back off was by instilling a little fear. It's not something that I like to do, but I like listening to their crap even less.

    I recommend drawing up some "rules of conduct" and mailing her a copy. Any violation of these non negotiable rules results in immediate ejection from your home and loss of contact with your family, the length of time to be determined by you. In these rules I would forbid any attempt to communicate religious ideas to my children. You and your fiance are not to be shunned or undermined in any way, and never to be disrespected in any way in front of the children.

    Make them understand that, in regards to your family, you make the rules, and their only right is to obey quietly.

    Knowing JWs, this process may have to be repeated weekly for the rest of your life, sorry to say.


  • designs

    Yep, time to stand up for your values and child. Your MIL may mellow in time, babies have a way of doing that, but expect dinners and other gatherings to be a little tense when you are dealing with people who have an agenda to convert and condemn.

  • DesirousOfChange

    Nugget: I take it your fiance was not baptised and yet is being treated like a Df'd person.... If you MIL was a drunk or a drug addict you wouldn't think twice the threat is so clear.

    Blonde: This is definitely a toxic relationship and dangerous. You should both be strong and not let this abuse continue.

    Jaime Bowers: You don't have to be rude, but you must be firm.

    ALL GREAT ADVICE! You don't have to be rude, but you don't have to allow you or your loved ones to be abused. Yet, your best approach is to always appear reasonable and understanding and willing to compromise.

    Some thoughts on dealing with the situation:

    I am assuming your fiance IS/WAS a baptised JW or the family would not be totally shunning him. (1 Cor 5:11 "But now I am writing YOU to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator.....")

    If he is NOT baptised (as Nugget suggested), then I would ask your MIL what is her scriptural basis for shunning him? In JW legalese, he is simply a "man of the world" or a "weak" unbaptised publisher and should be encouraged, not shunned.

    If he IS baptised, then get the following quote off of the WT-Library CD, from the article “Is it Wrong to Change Your Religion?” in the July 2009 Awake p29: “No one should be forced to worship in a way that he finds unacceptable or be made to choose between his beliefs and his family.”Is she trying to make him choose between his beliefs and his family?? Show her that is contrary to recent (2009) WT doctrine. (A quote from a non-witness website won't be acceptable!)

    Also, get the quote from 09/15/81 Watchtower Pg 29, Par18: "The second situation that we need to consider is that involving a disfellowshiped or disassociated relative who is not in the immediate family circle or living at one’s home. Such a person is still related by blood or marriage, and so there may be some limited need to care for necessary family matters. Nonetheless, it is not as if he were living in the same home where contact and conversation could not be avoided." Determining what are "necessary family matters", i.e., seeing one's grandchildren, is a matter of individual conscience. While an elder or MS might be at risk of losing their position if it is determined that they abuse the loophole, there is no action that can be taken against his mother (unless she is a pioneer). She will be giving up the only opportunity the child has to be exposed to the good influence of a Witness environment.

    A former Circuit Overseer, who was a friend of my parents, said that one of his life's greatest regrets was refusing to go to his son & DIL's wedding, which they had at a non-religious site by a Justice of the Peace (not a clergyman) as a compromise to the Witness family members. His regret was that it alienated this kind, reasonable girl so badly that for years she never agreed to listen to the Kingdom Message like she might have if they had been reasonable on the matter. He sites Jesus example of healing the woman with the flow of blood in Luke 8:43-48. In touching Jesus, this woman broke an absolute rule of the Mosaic Law. Yet, Jesus did not condemn her, but healed her. The WT uses this as an example of Jesus being "reasonable and yielding" vs. ridgidly enforcing the Law.

    Finally, you might have some hope in convincing her that once you are married, he will no longer be a "fornicator". The scripture says to not mix with anyone who is a "fornicator". You might have some success in noting that to continue to do so, would be "adding to" the Word of God.

  • carla

    Lots of good advice already! and Congratulations on your baby!

    Sadly your mil will never stop trying to get her son, you and child into the jw's. Sounds like you have already researched quite extensivley already and know the heartache and problems these ex jw's carry with them their entire lives. My advice to anybody with children and jw's in their life is to never, ever leave your child alone with a jw! not even for a minute. If they come to visit make sure you have another adult around so you can go to the bathroom or kitchen without the 'loving' grandparents slipping in how you will all die at the big A or are evil for celebrating holidays, etc.... Limit your time with them and YOU make the boundries. If she will not abide by them then she doesn't see the child. You are family unit and this only seeing the child and not her own son has to end. How will you explain such behavior to your child if you sanction it? Protect your child's health which includes their mental, spiritual and physical well being. That's your job now. Good luck! you will need it.

  • JAG913

    Thank you all so much for the encouraging advice.

    Yes, my fiance was indeed baptizied at the age of 10. He slowly faded from the organization and avoided the elders as they came knocking on our apartment door and calling his cell phone to try and find him. He chose to do it this way so that he was not DF'd, but just "inactive." We wanted to ensure his family could have a place in our lives if they chose to.

    In our September conversation we set those very firm guidelines, and haven't seen her since. She recently had lunch with my fiance, but took that hour not to ask how her son or grandson were, but to berate him about his life choices. I know she is displeased with our choices, but neither of us is budging on this. She wants to take our son to the zoo this summer, ABSOLUTELY NOT. At 1 year old, she can't really influence him as he won't understand her... but what if they got in a car accident? I can't trust her to care for him the way I would, and I'm not risking her making the decision in my absence (in regards to blood). I have already made the decision that she will never be left alone with him, or allowed to watch him.

    I've never been in this situation before and it seems so extremist. The relationship between her and her son is for them to work through, I support my fiance. But I will not stand idly by and listen to her belittle him. But my son is a different story, it is I who makes the decision and am charged with caring for him. I have made it perfectly clear that anyone discussing religion with him and filling his head with stories and fears will not be tolerated and they will NEVER see him again if this happens even once. I also made it clear that the only time he will ever be in a kingdom hall will be for her funeral (said verbatim). I will not go back on this. I hope it's been made clear.

    I appreciate the encouragement... it's a hard decision to make in "cutting off" a family member. But what Nugget said hit the nail on the head... I would never leave my son with a drunk or drug addict, and this would/could be hurting him just as severely. A broken leg heals quicker than emotional damage. I already don't know how to explain her relationship with her own son when he gets older and questions things... "Grandma won't talk to Daddy because he had you?" Yeah, like that isn't baggage! I also won't have my child used as a pawn. It's amazing that they would miss out on the life of an little boy just to further an agenda... why would anyone knowingly join such an organization that does this to families and people? I can see being raised this way you don't know any different, but to join mid-life, what the heck?

    As I said, thank you so much for the encouragement and kind words. It makes me feel even more comfortable and justified in my decision. My fiance and I both believe this is their choice, they have the ability to be a part of our lives, they have decided not to. But, it's hard on my fiance, and that breaks my heart. To hear them say they aren't happy the baby was born and they will not congratulate him... sickens me. What do I say to him to help? I stand by his side, listen and do what I can. But really what do you say? I guess I'm so new to this whole organization and mind control, it's hard to get used to...



  • Gayle

    JWs trust and obey the leadership of the Governing Body. Most of this leadership never had children. Yet they set the rules on how children should be raised. Also, they enforce for JW family of grown children, who leave the religion, to shun their own children.

    More and more of JW aging and elderly are shunning their own as most children raised in the religion are leaving at some point as they mature.

    Now many of the aging and elderly JWs are facing loneliness and disappointment that they created in their choices throughout their life.

    You must look to your future and your child's future to have a great childhood. A childhood of unconditional love from you, joy in his tender years of simplicity and not the exaggerated burdensome issues of life.

    Your future mother-in-law is the one that will get hurt by her own choice.

  • OnTheWayOut

    These situations are so tough. You want to be fair in recognizing that your son's grandmother wants to be a part of his life, but she's in a dangerous mind-control cult and doesn't respect many aspects of your life. She will attack beliefs behind your back if she is allowed unsupervised visits with the grandson. She will try to make him believe that birthdays and holidays are evil.

    I would say you all are a package deal. You cannot leave your son with his family members ever unsupervised, and they should only be supervised by your fiance. "If you want to visit one, you visit the other with him." If they cannot deal with that, then "Have a nice life." Regardless, send them photos and cards every now and again to make it clear that they are always welcome on your terms.

    If they don't live up to your terms, you can explain to your son that they are being misled by loyalty to a religion and won't visit his dad, that it has nothing to do with him.

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