Editor’s note: When I first began talking to “Spike Raynor” about contributing articles to this site, I told him I was afraid that, because I was so keenly aware of the misogyny and domestic abuse toward women in the religion, my personal writing sounds very anti-male, which I didn’t want. I know that men don’t always have it easy in the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses but didn’t know the best way to express that, and appreciated a man’s point of view when it comes to JW marriages and relationships especially. I know these types of personal stories must be very difficult to share, so I’m deeply grateful for this contribution in particular and hope it helps warn others and wake them up to the fact that the religion is not directed by any special “magic” holy spirit from god.
~ Alexandra James
When you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Watchtower publishing company desires to direct just about every aspect of your life. This includes your selection of a marriage mate. The Watchtower gives plentiful advice about how to select the appropriate marriage mate, as is evidenced by the August 2016 JW broadcasting. If the Watchtower is directed by God and used by him as they claim, than how could you possibly do better than to follow such advice? This is exactly what I thought when I was serving as a single elder and looking for a marriage mate. How did following the advice of the Watchtower work for me? If you read Karuna Light’s post from August 14, no doubt you have a pretty good idea, as she summed up quite well how “effective” their dating advice is. If you have not read her latest post, “A Psychologist Dissects the Harmful and Downright Laughable Watchtower Advice on Marriage“, I highly recommend you do so. My story is proof that her summation is correct.
A Former Elder’s Story
In my mind, the Watchtower version of reality was reality. I had been raised from infancy believing the claims of the Watchtower organization to be true and solidly founded. As such, I did my best to follow their advice, especially when it came to choosing a marriage mate. Their advice would distort my view of the dating process, and cause me to pass up on more than one girl who would have been an excellent mate for me.
Jehovah’s Witness youths are taught that the most important trait in a potential mate is their spirituality, which to Jehovah’s Witnesses means the level to which they engage in activities that promote the Watchtower organization. The Watchtower teaches that such activities are sacred service to God Almighty Jehovah, and the level to which one engages in such activities demonstrates how much they love Jehovah. Thus, what logical person would not want to be paired with an individual who really loved Jehovah, and demonstrated it by doing endless organizational activities? After all, your eternal future depended on how many of these organizational activities you engaged in.
This was the delusion I was under until I got married. That was nothing short of an extremely rude awakening, and would eventually lead to my waking up from the coma-like existence of the mind control that one is under when they are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Watchtower teaches that there are more “sisters”, meaning female Jehovah’s Witnesses, than there are “brothers” or male Jehovah’s Witnesses. To a large extent, that is true. However, that teaching has the effect of convincing the males – brothers – that they are in demand due to the sheer economics of the situation. This belief was always in the back of my mind, though my reality never showed it to be true. I lived in an area where the ratio was actually skewed in the other direction, meaning the women had more choices than the men. The reason for this was because, much to the honor of the young women in the area, they left in higher numbers than the young men. So, right away, the viewpoint I was given by the organization was not correct.
Nonetheless, I dated my share of JW women. However, there are a few problems when you are dating in a very small group of people, the first of which is that you are far less likely to actually find someone you work well with. Add this to the fact that you are looking for someone with “spiritual qualifications” before you are looking for someone you actually love, and you have the perfect recipe for disaster.
Doing Things By the Book
Of the JW women I dated, some were nice and some were crazy, but none ever truly clicked with me. During this time, I met a few women at work whom I truly fell in love with. However, I never even bothered to try to pursue them since they were not Jehovah’s Witnesses. I can tell you from experience that few things are as heartbreaking as to look into the eyes of someone whom you know you love, and that you can tell loves you, and not to be able to say or do anything about it. That happened to me more than once. That is how indoctrinated I was. Those experiences are now years in the past.
However, I dated several JW girls. My desire to get married, coupled with my desire for sex (since sex outside of marriage is off-limits to JWs), drove many of my decisions; I was a virgin when I eventually did get married, but many of the girls I did date were just not good enough “spiritual partners” for me. I wanted someone whom I could be proud of as an elder, someone who got lots of hours in service, who commented at meetings, and who knew the “truth.” That, coupled with my extreme fear of getting into a marriage that was contentious, drove me to end many of those relationships.
So, eventually, I finally found my spiritual partner. She had pioneered for a few years, and was currently auxiliary pioneering (spending 50 hours per month preaching Watchtower dogma from door to door). She commented regularly, helped people in the hall, and checked all the right boxes for a “spiritual sister”. She was well spoken of by her elders. My friends all fell in love with her after meeting her once. At long last, over ten years of prayer had paid off. Finally, in my mid 30’s, I had found “the one” by following all of the Watchtower’s direction. Jehovah had truly blessed me.
This delusion came crashing down most unceremoniously the day after my honeymoon. That night, as we were getting ready to go to bed, something I will never forget happened. Suddenly, out of nowhere, my wife gets this wild look in her eyes. She needs to call her former roommate because she wants to spend the night there. As she says this, I’m suddenly thrown for a loop, and can’t fathom what just happened. “Why do you want to spend the night with your roommate, what is wrong? Did I do something?” The wild look continues, a look that is something between desperation and paranoia; I can’t quite describe it. She refuses to tell me what is wrong, and will not address it. She just MUST SPEND THE NIGHT WITH HER ROOMMATE.
I’m suddenly shattered. What went wrong, what did I do? Did I just marry someone who has the Watchtower’s mythical “gift of singleness?” ¹ What is happening, and how do I fix this? Is Jehovah up there laughing at me, having just pulled a huge joke on me? As I slowly witness my worst fears materializing before my very eyes, I eventually give in and tell her to call her roommate. She does; her roommate responds by laughing at her on the other end of the phone. My wife stays at home that night, and that’s the end of it. Literally, the day after our honeymoon, the honeymoon period has come to a sudden crashing halt with no warning. The thoughts begin to pour in, “Oh my God, what have I done? Whom did I marry? How did this happen to me?”
The next day I go for a walk to get some clarity and attempt to re-establish my grip on my sanity. It isn’t that bad, I must be over-blowing the whole situation, or so I think. After all, I have served Jehovah faithfully for DECADES, and I followed all the advice of the faithful and discrete slave. How could this POSSIBLY go wrong? Okay, it must just be a passing thing, maybe she was just a bit wound up. It will pass, I tell myself.
That night was the beginning of the end. Things only went downhill from there. My beautiful bubbly wife transformed into someone whom I was literally afraid to go home to. I never knew what would start a fight, and when the fights did start, I was utterly powerless to end them. I would eventually learn that the only way for me to stop the fight was to physically leave my house, the place that I had lived in for almost ten years, the place that was no longer my home.
Coupled with the intense situations I had experienced as an elder working with a body of elders that was extremely contentious, this was too much for me to handle. I began to drink more to cope with the situation. At six months and again at one year in, I told another elder on the body I was serving with about the troubles I was having at home. His advice? “The first year of marriage is difficult.” As the kids would say, WTF?? That brother is now a circuit overseer.
Doing the work of an elder is difficult and time-consuming. It takes lots of effort. I went from doing that by myself on a contentious body of elders, to dragging a boat anchor with me through my personal life. Not only did my wife not support me in any way, shape or form, but she actively drained me and verbally abused me, leaving me with even less energy for my spiritual duties.
The Good News
It was the cauldron of this living hell that finally caused me to wake up. The sheer misery of having waited over a decade for something, having served so much for that decade, and then getting utterly the opposite of what I was promised that I would get, finally freed me to remove the shackles and truly examine things for myself. Such honest examination led to my freedom from the horribly abusive auspices of the Watchtower.
Alexandra James writes from the point of view of one who has borne the brunt of such abuses under the guise of “submitting to male headship.” As such, she is in by far the majority as far as Watchtower whistle blowers are concerned. The organization is heavily rigged in favor of males over females. I just happen to be one of the individuals who was a male elder, yet still had to endure the verbal and emotional abuse of my now ex-wife. I am in the minority.
My ex-wife suffered from an extremely rough past, and some fairly significant emotional and personality disorders. I do not believe she had any intent to be the person she was. I do believe that she literally had no ability to control it. The Watchtower does not provide tools to help such individuals. These people are regularly encouraged to study more, pray, go to meetings, and go out in field service. Those things never helped. As a married couple, we studied several times about marriages, marriage mates, etc. It would make a difference for about a day, and then it was back to normal.
When a person has those issues, they need help from professionals and possibly some medicine; they don’t need to simply preach more.
That is my story. When I watch the JW broadcasting giving advice about how to find a marriage mate, my only hope is that following that advice will wake others up the way it woke me up. Until such a time as everyone is awake, someone will need to keep blowing the whistle to warn people about the incredible dangers of following the Watchtower’s horrifically misguided teachings. I lived it, and as such, I believe I could be considered an expert witness about what it is really like to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I do not fear them, for they are following deluded men – as evidenced by their own literature, nothing more.
¹ “Whether to stay single or to get married is a matter of determining in one’s heart if one is able to cultivate the gift of singleness.”
– August, 2016, Watchtower Simplified Version
For more information on the use of this phrase, see the November 15, 2012, Watchtower and the book, “Keep Yourselves in God’s Love,” pages 110-120.
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