Sunday, January 25, 2015

Domestic Detente

This is blog four in a series on helping a loved-one involved in a destructive life choice.

Definition of detente:
1 : the relaxation of strained relations or tensions (as between nations); also : a policy promoting this.

Use the strategy of Domestic Detente when you can tolerate the craziness that comes with your partner's life choice. Here are some issues to negotiate with or work around your partner. The goal is to give yourself the necessary breathing room, keep the cultic part of your loved-one disarmed, and leave an open door if your partner starts to loosen up and consider a different life. My experience is mostly around living with Art, a Jehovah's Witness, so some of the advice and resources are specifically geared to that. Tailor the advice to what you are living.

Domestic Bliss

There is a natural personality and a cultic personality residing in your partner. Your goal in domestic detente is to keep the cultic personality calm and unthreatened so that the natural personality within can shine. Take some time to understand your partner’s natural personality so you can reinforce those special and unique qualities. Art, for instance, was raised by non-Witnesses and his parents enjoyed a healthy and productive marriage. He instinctively knows how to be a good husband. I remind him of those qualities so that he models that behavior, rather than the cultic demands as described in the Secret of Family Happiness book.


  • Complete the family member evaluation form produced by Steve Hassan. You don’t need to submit it or send any fees, but the exercise itself will give you insights into your partner.
  • Celebrate all independent thinking.
  • Reinforce breaks away from the society. For instance, if your partner skips a meeting, reassure that Jehovah still approves of your partner. There will be other meetings.
  • Remind your partner that you will not oppose their participation with the Witnesses.
  • It may be a peaceable option to make a pact not to bring up contentious issues (aside from life-threatening choices and child-rearing as described below).


  • Don’t allow the coercive organization or it's beliefs to become the battleground. The issue is larger. You want a partner who thinks for herself.
  • There is no need to conform to the standards of submission as described in the Family Happiness book or any other coercive group just to get along. Allow your own personality to shine through and demand to be treated as an individual with hopes and dreams.
  • Never point out hypocrisy. This has the opposite effect of driving your partner further in to cultic behavior.
  • Don’t panic. Your fearful response will further drive your Witness in to cultic behavior. He has to believe that you are not a threat to his spirituality.


The Secret of Family Happiness - published by the Watchtower Society
Family Member Evaluation Form - Freedom of Mind by Steve Hassan
books by Steve Hassan


In a divided household, the child is going to receive mixed messages. She will be exposed to ideas that outsiders, including you, are going to suffer repercussions for not joining. She may be pressured to abstain from seemingly innocuous activities like giving up birthdays, saluting the flag, participation in extracurricular school activities and holidays. Materials designed for divorced couples can help you, even if you continue together. Like divorced couples, you are negotiating with a partner with different views on raising your children. You want to provide a safe environment for the child while demonstrating that you are working together.


  • Add to his experiences. Expose him to other cultures, celebrate and support his hobbies
  • Reassure him of your love, always, no matter what. Reassure him that you are confident that the world is essentially kind and just, even to outsiders, and that you have nothing to fear.
  • Honor his decisions. You may ask why he thinks so, encouraging that independent thinking that will protect him from coercive techniques.
  • Teach your child critical thinking skills, age-appropriate.
  • Work out differences with your partner behind closed doors so the child perceives that you are working from a united front.


  • Don’t use your child as a double-agent, pumping her for information on your partner’s activities.
  • Don’t allow her to play you against your partner. The two of you determine to give a united front on decisions.
  • Don’t put her in a tug-of-war or ultimatum. “If you like Witnesses so much you can go live with your dad!”
  • Never shun your child, and rebuke your partner in private if this is threatened.


Teach Your Child How To Think by Edward De Bono ISBN 0140238301
Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Strength, Hope, and Optimism in Your Child – Sep 18 2002 by Robert Brooks (Author), Sam Goldstein (Author)
Teach Your Child the World Religions - TED Video by Dan Dennett
Because Life Goes On - Helping Children and Youth Live with Separation and Divorce - Government of Canada

Holidays and Visiting Relatives

Regardless of your partner’s sensibilities, you have a right to enjoy the holidays and visits with non-converted relatives. You need them. I would not force a cultist in to a situation where they are uncomfortable. This merely reinforces the cultic phobia. Go yourself if you have to. If the cultist loosens up later, you have the connections to help that happen.

Some Witnesses will compromise to varying degrees. Children may celebrate a “special day” before or after the anniversary, for instance. This holds true also for turkey at Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Clear year-round decorative lights might be tolerated over the season. Your partner may renege on former agreements however, if he/she seized with a fit of conscience.

Invitations to Join

There will be continuing pressure for you to join: to attend meetings or begin a bible study. In regard to meetings, I suggest you attend once in awhile. You won’t be possessed by demons and with a determination to keep independence of mind, you are not in danger of getting brainwashed yourself.

Follow a deliberately inconsistent and unreliable attendance pattern. Even two meetings in a row will falsely encourage the congregants that you are interested. You might be love-bombed at the Kingdom hall, reinforcing their delight in your attendance. I’ve been patted, touched by strangers in an attempt to connect. Boundaries are often disrespected. I cut this off at the pass by remaining standing until the service starts. That way I can back up if they get too close.

The service itself is boring, regimented. I have a driving need to keep my independence of mind during the meeting. I do this by taking a blank notebook and pen. I write on any subject that takes my fancy.
Even if you are not approached directly, your partner will be quizzed about you.

A passive-aggressive third-party approach is very common. These people with supposed interest in your welfare can contact you directly if they are really interested. See if they would like to go for coffee sometime. Insist on genuine, human interactions.

The bible (book) study is based on “
What does the Bible Really Teach?” I suggest you review it ahead of time with an inquiring mind and make a list of questions and issues. Before agreeing to a study, ask that any question be addressed before moving on. You will be welcomed if you are perceived as compliant, and the study will be cancelled if your questions are too hard. I had a fundamental problem with obeying the bible blindly so my study did not last past four sessions.

Prohibition against Blood

This belief is potentially life-threatening so you should have a conversation with your Witness on how you will deal with medical emergencies. For self-protection, you should have a personal directive on file noting that you will accept a blood transfusion. Insist that the same be done to protect your children.

Watch the blood video with your partner, and prepare questions to discuss. There are omissions in the video, specifically that there is no alternative for blood in the case of some critical conditions, and that the choice to refuse blood may very well be life-threatening.

My compromise is that in a case where my husband is unconscious, I won’t advise his health providers about his stand on blood so that he receives critical care. On the other hand if he is conscious I won’t interfere with his choice, even if it is life-threatening. I would try and protect him from members of the Hospital Liaison Committee so that his choice truly is independent.

No Blood - Medicine Meets the Challenge (DVD) - Watchtower Bible and Tract Society

All topics:

Help, I am in love with a....
Decision - Leave or Stay
Decision - Pick Your Strategy
Domestic Detente
Waking Up Strategies
Relationship Building
Positive Influence
Negotiating With Hostiles