Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Break Up Marriages?

“IF ONE partner changes his or her religion, the marriage will break up.” So goes the claim of many people. At times, this warning is delivered to a marriage partner who chooses to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But is this assertion always true?

Understandably, when a married person starts to take an interest in religion or to change long-held religious views, it can come as a shock to the mate. It may cause feelings of anxiety, disappointment, and even resentment.

It is often the wife who first feels the need to change her religion. If your wife is studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, how might this affect your marriage? If you are a wife who is associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses, what can you do to ease any anxiety your mate may feel?

A Husband’s Perspective

Mark, who lives in Australia, had been married for 12 years when his wife began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. “I was happily married and had a satisfying career,” says Mark. “Life was good. Then my wife decided to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I suddenly felt that my lifestyle was threatened. At first, I was unsettled by my wife’s newfound interest in the Bible, but when she told me that she had decided to be baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I became seriously concerned.”

Mark began to wonder if his marriage would end because of his wife’s new faith. He thought about stopping her Bible study and forbidding her to have any contact with the Witnesses. Instead of reacting impulsively, though, Mark allowed some time to pass. What happened to his marriage?

“Happily,” says Mark, “our marriage is even stronger now than it was before. It has continued to improve since my wife was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses 15 years ago.” What helped the marriage to succeed? “Thinking back,” says Mark, “it was largely because my wife applied the good advice  found in the Bible. She has always tried to treat me with respect.”

Advice From Successful Wives

If you are a wife who is associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses, what can you do and say to help ease any anxiety that your mate may experience? Consider the comments of these women from various parts of the world.

Sakiko, Japan: “I have been married for 31 years and have three children. I have been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for the last 22 years. Living with a husband who does not share my beliefs is sometimes a challenge. But I work hard to apply the Bible’s counsel to be ‘swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.’ (James 1:19) I try to be kind to my husband and to yield to his wishes when they do not conflict with Bible principles. This has helped our marriage succeed.”

Nadezhda, Russia: “I have been married for 28 years and have been a baptized Witness for the last 16 years. Before studying the Bible, I didn’t think that my husband ought to be head of the family. I liked to make many decisions on my own. However, I gradually found that applying Bible principles contributed to the peace and happiness of our family. (1 Corinthians 11:3) Slowly it became easier for me to be submissive, and my husband has noticed these changes in me.”

Marli, Brazil: “I have two children and have been married for 21 years. Sixteen years ago, I became a baptized Witness. I learned that Jehovah God desires married couples to stay together, not to separate. So I try to be a good wife, to speak and act in a way that makes Jehovah and my husband happy.”

Larisa, Russia: “When I became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses about 19 years ago, I realized that the most important thing was for me to make changes in my life. My husband can see the way the Bible has influenced me for good​—that it has helped me to appreciate him more. Initially, we would have disagreements regarding child training, but we have resolved those differences. My husband allows our children to come with me to the religious meetings I attend because he appreciates that they are being taught only what is beneficial for them.”

Valquíria, Brazil: “I have one child and have been married for 19 years. Thirteen years ago, I became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At first, my husband didn’t want me to engage in the public preaching work. But I learned to reply to his concerns in a mild manner and to help him see that the Bible was having a positive effect on my personality. My husband gradually understood how important it is for me to engage in the preaching work. Today, he gives me full support in my spiritual activities. When I conduct Bible studies in outlying rural areas, he even drives me there in his car and patiently waits outside until I am finished.”

A Force for Good

If your spouse is associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses, do not fear that this will break up your marriage. As many husbands and wives in all parts of the world have found, the Bible is a force for good in a marriage.

One husband who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses honestly admitted: “I initially felt some anguish when my wife embraced the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I now feel the gain was worth the pain.” Another had this to say about his wife: “My wife’s faithfulness, determination, and integrity have caused me to have great admiration for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Our marriage has benefited greatly as a result of her religious beliefs. We have made allowances for each other and have treated our marriage as a lifelong partnership.”

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How Do Jehovah’s Witnesses View Marriage?

Jehovah’s Witnesses view the Bible as God’s inspired Word. So they take seriously what it says about marriage. Note what the Bible says in the answers to the following questions:

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses encourage their members to separate from a marriage mate who is not a Witness? No. The apostle Paul wrote: “If any brother has an unbelieving wife, and yet she is agreeable to dwelling with him, let him not leave her; and a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and yet he is agreeable to dwelling with her, let her not leave her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:12, 13) Jehovah’s Witnesses abide by this command.

Is a wife who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses encouraged to ignore her husband’s wishes if he does not share her beliefs? No. The apostle Peter wrote: “You wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.”​—1 Peter 3:1, 2.

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that a husband’s authority is absolute? No. The apostle Paul said: “I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) A Christian wife will respect her husband as being the head of the family. However, a husband’s authority is not absolute. He is accountable to God and Christ. Therefore, if a husband commands that his wife behave in a way that breaks God’s law, a Christian wife will “obey God as ruler rather than men.”​—Acts 5:29.

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that divorce is prohibited? No. Jesus Christ said: “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication [sexual immorality], and marries another commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9) Therefore, Jehovah’s Witnesses hold to Jesus’ view that adultery provides grounds for divorce. But they also strongly believe that marriages should not be dissolved for trivial reasons. They encourage their members to abide by Jesus’ words: “A man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh. . . . Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.”​—Matthew 19:5, 6.