The Manchurian Candidate: Jehovah’s Witness Version

Nov 23, 2013 by

manchurian candidateDoes this sound familiar? It does to me.

“I met the most wonderful man. He’s clean cut. He’s a hard worker. He is honest. He has beautiful eyes. He doesn’t smoke or drink or do drugs. He’s everything I ever wanted in a man and I think I’m going to marry him!”

Three months pass.

“I don’t know why but his family has very little to do with either of us. I think they resent the fact that we’re not married yet. They seem really religious. They gave me some reading material from the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society but that was it. They weren’t friendly at all.”

A year passes.

“Mike’s parents  came to see me to check on when we expect to have the baby. They came to the house while he was at work and left some material from the Watchtower again. They were a lot friendlier this time. They must have accepted our marriage finally! They are still pretty weird but they seem harmless enough.”

Three years pass.

You post the following on my blog:

“Doug I’m hoping you can help me. I found your blog, thank God, and you seem to know a lot about Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m married to a former Jehovah’s Witness who has recently decided to go back to the Kingdom Hall. He’s insisting that I and our two children go with him. He’s acting really weird and distant, almost cold! I don’t believe in the Jehovah’s Witnesses and I really don’t want to change my faith just because my husband thinks its a good idea. Can you please give me some advice?”

Does this describe your situation? For a lot of unsuspecting husbands and wives it most certainly does!

Family conflict, separation, divorce and bitter custody battles are standard fare for what I like to call the “Manchurian Candidate Syndrome”.

In that movie the main character had been subjected to years of intense mind control and manipulation. Afterward, he was then placed back into society where he would live a seemingly normal life until his prior programming was triggered at which point he would act strictly according to the programming.

How does this apply to former Jehovah’s Witnesses?

A former Jehovah’s Witness can, at any time, based upon any number of “life triggers”, perform a complete 180 and go right back to the life they had in the Jehovah’s Witnesses before they met you. In some cases, a life that you had no idea even existed!

Their personality will change as will their requirements of you and any children you may have with them.

Their entire value system will change.

Their habits will change.

You’ll swear you’re living with a complete stranger and not the man, or woman, you married.

He will cajole and pester you to attend “the meetings” with him at every turn.

He will force the kids to go with him to “the meetings” and in the door to door activity against your wishes and theirs!

He will leave Watchtower propaganda around the house for you to see and read.

He will forbid the celebration of all holidays in “his house”. No more birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, or Thanksgiving for you or your poor children.

He will invite total strangers (with the emphasis on strange) to the house to befriend you and your kids with the express purpose of getting you to have a “Bible Study” or attend “the meetings”.

He will insist that you all sit down to have a “family Bible study” together but you won’t study the Bible. You’ll instead study more propaganda put out by the parent organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses i.e. The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society.

He will insist that you can’t pray aloud in his presence and that only he can pray for you.

He will insist that you leave your church.

He will demand that you stop taking “his” children to your church.

He will forbid your children from organized sports, serving on the student council or having “worldly” friends over.

He will stop associating with your friends and possibly your extended family.

He will make it difficult for you to associate with anyone, even your close friends with the only exception being his Jehovah’s Witness friends.

These actions and attitudes are all designed to box you in, isolate you and make you “easy pickings” for the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society.

Your picture perfect life as a family is over. Welcome to a long and painful life as the spouse of a “reactivated Jehovah’s Witness”.

Addendum: Not all reactivated Jehovah’s Witnesses will act in such a negative and drastic manner. They may take a totally different “tack”. They’ll be extremely pleasant to the point of being “weird”, cooperating with you in every aspect of the marriage, helping with the kids, etc. Know that this is designed to open you up to a Bible study or attending the meetings. That is their primary goal in anything that they do. They want you to become a JW too. Then they can live “happily ever after” with their theocratic family and on into the “new system”. When they figure out that their nice JW image isn’t working they will most often resort to the more drastic measures noted above.

Any major life change can trigger this return to the organization. It can be something as simple as a job loss. It could be a major world event like a war in the Middle East or an earthquake. It could be the death of a parent or sibling. It could be a prolonged illness. It could be a newborn child in the family. Any number of “triggers” can cause a drastic change and an insatiable need to return to the organization. Some of it is fear based i.e. “end of the world” fears and some of it is guilt based i.e. “I’ve got a new child and I need to raise him in “the truth”.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are repeatedly programmed to “get back to the meetings” or “get right with Jehovah” when the proverbial manure hits the fan in their lives. This is fear based behavioral programming at its worst! Former Jehovah’s Witnesses do a pretty good job in faking normalcy when everything is going their way but when a major life challenge occurs watch out! They are going right back to the meetings unless they have fully addressed the programming and gotten some serious professional help.

What do you do? Where do you go? How do you deal with this?

These are some very tough questions that scream to be answered!

Firstly, I suggest that you read anything by Steven Hassan, one of the foremost authorities on cult programming and recovery. He has written several books (go to and search his name and you’ll get a list of the titles he has written or you can go to the recommended reading section on this blog.)

Secondly? You’ll have to GET TOUGH!

A lot of people are going to try to make you give in to your husband’s demands. They will try to intimidate you, scare you, guilt you, and otherwise influence you to do things you know you don’t want to do.

Don’t allow them the satisfaction of getting into your head or that of your children!

Did you know that I took a pretty big risk in starting and writing this blog?

For several years I wrote in secrecy. Then my wife, a long time, and now inactive, Jehovah’s Witness, found me out while she was surfing the web.

She threw a total fit and threatened to leave me over it.

I thought about it, prayed about it, and then adamantly told her that if she felt strongly enough to infringe upon my God given right to share my experiences then she could leave. Amazingly enough, she didn’t. She realized that I wasn’t going to cave to her pressure and eventually gave up on trying to change me.

Does she like the fact that I write this blog? No.

Can she do anything about it? Not on my watch!

The next thing you should do is to consult an attorney or family advocate for some education as to what your rights are as a parent, especially when it comes to fringe groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

You’ve got to take control of the situation and learn everything there is to know about cult programming in order to combat the mind control that is spewing from your spouse and into the impressionable minds of your children.

Formulate a “worst case scenario” exit plan and then work from there. If the relationship is salvageable and you wish to save it then do so. If your spouse is willing to respect your rights and wishes then perhaps you can work things out where you’ll have a semi-normal life together. My wife and I have been able to do just that.

However, if your spouse is too far gone, insists on having it “his way or the highway”, then perhaps it is time to plan for the inevitable.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can attend the meetings with your spouse without being adversely affected. You will be. The mind control techniques used by the JW leadership are highly effective and can turn the most hardened Christian into a mindless cult follower in a matter of months.

If you have children, and your spouse is taking them to the Kingdom Hall, prepare for them to turn against you in short order. Your spouse will even use them to convince you to come to the Kingdom Hall.

I’m speaking from brutal experience, both mine, and that of the hundreds of horrified people who have written in to me for advice regarding this specific issue.

You’re in a battle. A battle of wills against a mind control group so insidious (and talented) that they’ve been able to make repeated false predictions about the end of the world without losing much of their fan base when it didn’t happen according to their predicted dates. This group controls  just about every aspect of the lives of their seven million adherents using fear and guilt, and they want to control your family.

If you find yourself in this situation you have my sympathy. It isn’t easy but it is possible to live a somewhat normal life if your spouse is willing to accept and respect your decision not to participate in his “reactivation”. If it is just too much for you to take and he isn’t willing to honor your right to choose then get out of the marriage and move on.

Life is hard. It’s harder if you’re married to a Jehovah’s Witness.

For those of you who are dating or even thinking of dating a former Jehovah’s Witness I can only give this advice:

Don’t do it.

You’ll thank me later.



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  1. anonymous

    I began crying reading this post. I am married to a non baptized but born in JW that left when he was a teen and then 30 years later….. well it seems to be the same old story.

    I can’t agree with you more on your last comments. I love my husband so, so much, but would NEVER have married him knowing what I now know. That is a very, very scary mental place to be in. His behavior didn’t get as far as your listings, but it went far enough. We have a child, and he went to the Catholic Church with me the day our child was baptized there. ( He knows I would never even ask him to go to church with me so he knows I respected those boundaries) She is in a parochial school and he agreed then she should go there.Then about three years ago things began to change,….his JW upbringing was never dealt with in his mind. So after going to studies and meetings and conventions with his mother, he eventually decided, one fateful night, that I had to study with him and convert, even began telling his daughter what she was learning in school and church was wrong earlier in that week.( He had also promised never to do this). I blew a gasket, he later apologized, backtracked, said he ” went about it the wrong way” and the damage was done. I began REALLY learning about the JW. He even said to me fairly early on during that time, that constantly heard and used phrase, “But where else would I go?”

    After I went through the cycles of wanting to show him all I was learning about the WT control, and falsehoods ( Bad move, which was basically pushing his cult buttons to ignore and reinforce what the WT teaches) I realized with the help of some exjw forums that this was the totally wrong approach. After his hurtful, dismissive, and abusive behaviors came to a nasty explosive point earlier this year, he calmed down and stopped going to studies and meetings, etc. By this time I learned to keep all of what I learn to myself and just try to strategically plant seeds of cognitive dissonance doubt without ever saying anything about the WT or JW etc. But I know it is in the background of his mind, waiting, just like before when I was unaware, ignorant of the true nature of the WT control. Now I am fully aware and it makes my emotional life very difficult. It’s waiting around for him to decide what side of the marriage fence he will be on, while not communicating with me at all about his thoughts. If he goes back to the JW I see major problems ahead. He may truly have no thoughts or plans in mind, and that is why he doesn’t share. In the WT world he was taught not to think about and plan anything but instead just follow the WT teachings. So I wait….. and the waiting, worried mind is not a healthy place to be in. It has cost me a lot of my own health, unfortunately. My strength was sapped during the time period because I was also dealing with other very serious emotional matters. That of the emotionally and physically demanding, long process of a parent dying, and also the loss of income, and that was only two others, there were more.

    I believe his interest in going back was triggered by both his sudden unexpected lifelong health problems, and going from having to worry only about himself, to supporting a family, and it was a huge stress on him. I can understand going back to the “comfort” of what he knew before, even if it in reality it would not be comforting. He was in the love bombing process for a while, so that was highly appealing as well.

    So people reading this, please, if you are dating an active JW, or a non active JW who has not recognized the truth about the Wt and come to accept it…..walk away. It’s not worth it. I promise you. I love my husband deeply, desperately at times. But I would not have married him if I knew about the WT control, and his emotional attachment even when he had not been active in so long.

    The effect the WT has on people is lifelong and far reaching, and that has to be understood when going into a relationship.

    I can deal with so much that is difficult to deal with in him ( as I am sure he does in me) but the WT is very different, on a different level. We had a calm household and happy marriage until this happened. Now we both feel the continual strain this unresolved issue puts on our relationship.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your experience Anonymous.

    A lot of people read my posts and they can’t believe that the Watchtower controls their adherents so completely. You’ve confirmed what I’ve seen and experienced in my life and while some former JW’s handle the WT control better than others, the fact is that even in “moderate” JW’s it causes a deep rift in the relationship between them and their non-JW spouse.

    You are absolutely right. Sharing negative things about the Watchtower with a former or current JW can cause serious problems as they attempt to deal with this new found threat to their concept of reality. It becomes a fight or flight response in their mind and you become their enemy. Not the sort of thing that contributes to marital harmony.

    Anonymous, you have my deepest sympathy. I sincerely hope that you and your husband are able to find some middle ground and some happiness there.

    Yours in Christ,

    Doug Shields

  3. anonymous UBM


    Thank you so much for your reply. It means so very much to me to connect with those who really understand. Talking with a therapist can help some, but unless they really know and understand the WT control they can only help to a point, and sometimes the advice is not helpful at all. It is super difficult to locate a spiritual abuse therapist, but I did find one recently.

    The change in my husband when talking about anything JW is down right scary. I saw the glassy eyes, the change in the look over his face, and a 180 in his normally super caring, nice , thoughtful, and calm behavior. I had read about this kind of transformation, and if I had not seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t really believe it of the JW. I previously believed they were harmless nice people. (Which they are. The individuals for the most part are good people trying hard to do the best they can). It is the leaders, and the high control they demand that is so dangerous and harmful. The leaders can cause a loving parent to never see their grown children or know grandchildren if a baptized child decides to leave the JW. There is no way to predict who will obey the rule and who will not. It is dangerous for those who do not follow that strict shunning rule and still want to be in the JW.

    As you correctly pointed out, my husband then saw me as a threat and enemy when I found out the reality of the JW and tried to tell him that which he did not want to hear. He would lie ( Which is taught to be ok when someone does not “deserve” the truth) and get angrier than I had ever seen him. He was a different, overly aggressive person. Now that he has not been active for close to a year, my husband is back to the man I married again. I keep coming back to exjw’s on the forums or blogs to help me understand that part of him. I feel it has helped me a great deal both in how I needed to back off, and also to recognize he may not accept the reality of the Watch Tower. The mind control is not about intelligence, it is about emotion. That took a long time for me to understand. I read many good books; Hassan, Franz, Cameron, and one I don’t see mentioned much but found helpful “Twisted Scriptures” by Mary Alice Chrnalogar. I keep going back to the books as well.

    Thank you for this blog. I just found it recently, and it is information and communication like this that keeps me, an “unbelieving mate”, sane while trying to continue to save the marriage.

  4. readytorun

    Omg…This is my life.

  5. I’m sorry that it is and sad that you’re not alone in saying it.


  6. Watchtower widow

    My spouse went back to Watchtower after I became a Christian. Unfortanetly I let him take our son with him. I didn’t know how powerful that mind control was. I was hoping he would rebel against it like most teens. But it never happened and now he’s 23. He’s a really smart person much smarter than his parents but sooo blind by the tower. My husband had been disfellowshipped as a teen and married me at age 20. Back in at age 30. Every weekend devoted to the Borg last 20 years of marriage he’s 50 now . Every Saturday and Sunday
    Thank you Doug for the work you do gives me hope

  7. Thank you for writing in.

    I’m so sorry that you have to deal with this. I wrote this article to help stop unsuspecting people from making these same mistakes. I have to say that I get email and posts regarding this problem more than anything else.

    When a JW reads my articles they will often say: “Oh he’s just got sour grapes and has a bad attitude.” or “His experience isn’t typical.”

    This problem is rampant in the cults and many, like you, who have written in confirming what I said here is a huge help to everyone who reads this article and might possibly benefit from it.

    Thank you WW!

  8. Christian

    I was born and raised in a jw congregation. I rebelled in my early teens but have been struggeling with guilt issues ever since. I have a hard time finding my place in society because i was taught that everything outside jw is evil and I’ve had some issues with that, feeling like an evil person myself just for beeing myself and for beeing a part of society. Not that i parttake in society as much as i could and would like to. I have anxiety, depressions and generally struggle with low self asteem. I deal with theese issues everyday, luckily i have good friends who help me through it by beeing there for me. I hope i will beat my mental programming and personally i dont like any kind of religiously based mental programming. I think it is deceptive and wrong to force your “beliefs”(delusions) on anyone. At the end of the article you’re basically telling people to not to date me and maybe you’re right to do so. I guess it is possible that i one day woke up and started believing again and then i would try to pull other people in to that cycle of guilt and fear that the witnesses worship. I don’t want that to happen, but it could. I guess i just have to do my best to break my programming and stop beeing so afraid of everything and everyone and to leave all my feelings of guilt behind. Easier said than done though. To do it i need people who love me around. Without that it is impossible.

  9. I feel your pain and I’ve been exactly where you are. I’ve felt like the person most alone in the entire world and I suffered a long and hard period of time where I felt I had nobody who could understand what I was going through. Even when I attended other churches they couldn’t understand what I was going through. I finally realized that this was “okay” and all that matters is that I understand what I went through.

    As Jehovah’s Witnesses we were programmed to look at ourselves through the eyes of others constantly. I stopped doing that. I now am happy and at peace because I have learned to love and accept myself as I am just as GOD does. You see JW’s are so busy looking at themselves through the eyes of “elder so and so” and “sister so and so” that they forget to look at themselves through the eyes of the only other person that counts and that is Christ.


  10. Anonymous


    I recently came across your blog, amid a frantic search for some information about JWs, as I am going through a challenging spiritual, intellectual and emotional journey. It has to do with an abrupt breakup of a very nice and promising relationship.

    The person I thought I knew and love, who professed love and commitment to me and made plans to restart life together, just dropped off the radar; she will not talk to me or respond to emails.

    I am a Christian and she gree up as a JW but left the organization for several years and began to attend meetings periodically over the past couple of years.

    Without her knowledge, I also began visitng a congregation in another city, to learn and explore. I wanted to get to know her and her religion better. The elders met with me to study and talk, however, I quickly noticed that they appeared to be a bit uncomfortable with the consistency and intensity of my questions and my research. I began the discussion with a topic on authority. I asked them to convince me beyond a doubt about the ultimate authority of the GB, and I will accept the rest of the doctrinal provisions without any questions. The discussion broke down when I took a copy of Crisis of Conscience to the study. They referred me to the JW .org, instead of answering my questions.

    So, I thought I had sufficient information and the two of us began to talk. All along I had a sense that she was not too interested. Every time we discussed something related to faith, she found a way to change the subject

    Recently she attended a convention; that’s where everything changed. Her disposition was fundamentally transformed, infused with fear, guilt and hostility. She informed me that we can no longer stay in touch because she wants to stope living a double life and the idea of being shunned is too painful.

    Initially I felt terrible because I thought I did something wrong. After desperately trying to understand what happened and numerous unsuccessful attempts to reconnect, I decided to step away; intellectually. The emotional journey is much more complicated.

    About a month ago I asked her a hypothetical question regarding the most fundamental requirement one must meet to inherit God’s Kingfom. The response was that a person must ask God Jehovah for forgiveness. I was glad to hear that and told her that I asked God to forgive me years ago, and I believe he forgave me because of Jesus Christ, so I will be in His kingdom, even if I don’t accept all of the doctrinal provisions of the JW Organization.

    It was our last discussion …

    Thank you for sharing your stories … It is extremely helpful.

  11. married to JW

    Doug is so right about this Mancurian Candidate syndrome, you are lucky that you are discovering this early in the relationship. My sisterinlaw hated the religion since her early 20’s and now that she’s almost 60 she’s going back. Unless, they have been converted and are born again in Jesus, that guilt and programming is still there. My husband went back when I became a Christian 20 years ago. Raising kids with him teaching the Watchtower has been quite a challenge. I feel bad I couldn’t stop it and it looks like if I have grandchildren they will be raised in this cult too. Anyway, criticizing the religion makes them freeze up and shut off their brains. It’s so frustrating because if they would only look at the glaring evidence they could see that they are following lies.

    Jesus, Love, prayer, I wish I had stuck to just that, I might have had a chance. There’s also a powerful dark force that is evident whenever there is an opportunity.

  12. Anonymous

    Married to JW, thank you for the response.

    I am almost afraid to admit, but your observation of the powerful dark force – a possessive kind – may be the most reasonable explanation for such a dramatic and sudden change in a person.

    Jesus promised that our prayers will be heard – I need to remember that the responses are offered according to His will, not my wishes. I am not a patient person …

  13. You dodged a pretty big bullet Anonymous. Count yourself lucky. Yes it hurts but imagine the level of pain you’d experience after starting a family with this person and then having it taken away from you. That is what would have happened.

    Go find someone who shares your values and beliefs and make a life with that person. I’d do a thorough background check though, just to make sure she’s not a former cult member.

    That’s the best advice I can give you.


  14. Patience isn’t one of my virtues either Anonymous.

    I’ve lived a long time and I’ve seen a lot of things. Perhaps there’s nothing scarier to me than to see a sweet little old lady turn into a totally psychotic aggressor in a split second because her religion was threatened by something I said. I’ve seen that in my mother, other people in the congregation, and I’ve seen it in my wife.

    Demonic possession couldn’t be much worse than what I’ve witnessed in these confrontations.


  15. Anonymous

    Live and learn …

    Thank God for references like you, Doug and others with similar experiences.
    It helps to read your comments as I sort things out.

  16. Anonymous


    Just a brief thank you and a follow up to the earlier comments and your responses…

    Recently I have learned more then I ever wanted to about the devastating aspect of the WT control over its members and the direct impact on those who are in contact or in a relationship with a witness. It is painful.
    For the life of me, I cannot understand how someone can decelare another person (one whom they claim to love) worldly, and under the control of the evil system, and in the name of God completely cut you off and disappear ..?? How is that biblical? It is not …

    I read and re-read the comments above many times in hopes of accelerating the healing process. No, it doesn’t work that way. Only through the grace of God and time … I hope. Reading the comments and occasionally writing a few words does help.

    Have a good day.

  17. Be the change you wish to see in others.

    That’s the best advice I’ve ever received.

    I’m a better father, husband, “brother” and friend as a result of seeing the horrible examples set by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Thanks for your kind words!


  18. Tony

    Hello I have been reading the blog and find it very interesting.

  19. Anonymous

    Doug, I found your blog about 2 hours ago and I am in total shock! I cant stop reading everything here!

    My Brother married a JW…really nice girl. We knew nothing about the religion, but we were raised catholic and just thought she was another denomination of Christian. Except now they have kids and it is getting weird! He is now studying and saying that he wants to really live like the Bible says, which apparently means that he can not come to holidays(Although they met at a Christmas Party). Excuse me but what is pegan about Thanks giving??? You know what they do now on holidays? Of course all the JWs have the day off too so they go to her family, eat a turkey dinner together, because that is what is on sale at that time of year and just don’t call it Thanksgiving. Total hypocrites! First I was just mad, Really MAD! But now I am afraid, I have 2 beautiful nieces and am hearing about the abuse of children. My brothers wife was filmed without her knowledge as a young woman and of course it did not leave the church. Are my nieces in danger??

    Want to hear something sad, the little 4 year old says to me in March, “My mommy doesn’t like Christmas”
    I asked her why, and then she says, “Jehovah doesn’t like Christmas” I asked her why, and with the saddest look she whispers, “He doesn’t like Valentines Day or Birthdays either” That broke my heart!! and she isn’t even in school yet. What will her life be like? What can I do to help her, and will they eventually stop seeing us all together???

    Why are we loosing our brother?

  20. Read Steven Hassan’s book “Combatting Cult Mind Control.” It will educate you regarding cults, all cults, and how they work.

    I believe that you are losing your brother and sadly, there’s very little you can do about it.

    If you want to keep any relationship with him and his children, I suggest that you NOT say anything negative about the religion to your brother or his wife or kids. If they feel that you’re a “bad influence” on their family they will cut you off and never speak to you again.

    Once he’s fully indoctrinated, he’ll do his best to convert you and your family to the Jehovah’s Witness cult. That is what their programming makes them do.

    I’ve lived what you’re going through. It is heartbreaking. Reading the book by Hassan is the best thing you can do to understand what’s happening, why it is happening, and what your best plan of action is to help your brother see what’s happening to him.

    I’m praying for a good outcome Anonymous!


  21. Lucky


    It has been over three years since I came across your blog as I was desperately trying to navigate through the jw maze.

    As I look back, I cannot believe I even considered anything like this…!!

    Thank you for encouraging me to walk away and for calling me Lucky for not getting drawn into the system permanently. I dodged a pretty big bullet indeed!

    A Lucky one

  22. I’m so happy for you “Lucky”!

    Thanks for your kind words.


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