DEAR JANE: I’m terrified my wife has unknowingly joined a CULT – she says it’s a self-help group but I know there is something more sinister going on

Dear Jane,

I’m concerned my wife has accidentally joined a cult.

She’s never been the most confident of women and she hasn’t had a lot of close personal friends in her life. But that is something that she’s really been working on changing in recent years. 

As part of that endeavor, she joined a local ‘self help meditation group’ because she felt like that would be an easy way to start hanging around with other people, without actually having to make conversation.

That was six months ago – and now, she’s basically spending all of her time with this group at their ‘clubhouse’, which is the ‘organizer’s’ personal home. It’s a remote farm that has lots of land… and somehow he’s convinced my wife and the other members of this so-called meditation society to donate thousands of dollars to help him renovate it. 

My wife keeps telling me that it’s an investment for a friend, and that he has promised to pay them all back, but honestly I’m getting really concerned.

Dear Jane, my wife joined a self help group - she says it's the best thing to happen to her, but I'm terrified it's actually a cult

Dear Jane, my wife joined a self help group – she says it’s the best thing to happen to her, but I’m terrified it’s actually a cult

When she isn’t working – which seems to take up a lot less of her time these days – she’s at this farm. The other day she told me that her ‘organizer’ had them all doing manual labor in the grounds, moving piles of dirt, mowing lawns, and even laying bricks for a new structure.

She always returns from these ‘meetings’ with a huge smile on her face, which is wonderful to see, but it’s worrying me just how much time – and money – she’s spending at this place. 

The other day she let slip that some of the other members were having open relationships with one another and that was what really pushed me over the edge.

International best-selling author Jane Green offers sage advice on readers' most burning issues in her Dear Jane agony aunt column

International best-selling author Jane Green offers sage advice on readers’ most burning issues in her Dear Jane agony aunt column

Not to seem dramatic, but this sounds like something out of a Netflix documentary and I’m terrified that the next time she comes home, she’ll be telling stories about animal sacrifices or revealing that she’s about to move to this farm for good.

I’ve tried broaching the subject with her a couple of times and she always goes on the defensive, asking why I’d want to take her friends away from her when she finally feels like she belongs for the first time in her life.

I’ve even asked to attend meetings with her but she said that she was concerned my ‘bad energy’ would ‘upset the balance’ of their meetings.

How can I make her see the very clear light of day here?


Unconsciously Culty

Dear Unconsciously Culty,

You are quite right to have been pushed over the edge, and I am so glad you are now starting to look for advice. 

The fact that your wife has donated thousands of dollars – with only the seemingly vague promise that she (and everyone else) will be reimbursed – was your first red flag. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it does indeed seem that there is something distinctly fishy about this group.

Meditation is a wonderful thing, as is finding a caring community close to where you live. 

But once money starts to get involved, together with concerned partners being deemed as having ‘negative energy’ if they dare criticize what is going on, not to mention being kept away from the ‘clubhouse’, it does seem to follow the playbook of a cult.

I am so sorry this is happening to you, and indeed your wife. 

The problem with these kinds of organizations is that they tend to have both charismatic and authoritarian leaders, at least to the people who are caught within the web. 

I will never understand the appeal of Keith Raniere of NXIVM, who branded female followers, and claimed to have one of the highest IQ’s in the world, yet always spoke nonsense and seemed to be a complete dope. 

These people are experts at brainwashing their followers through isolation, hierarchy, and closed groups that outsiders cannot infiltrate unless they, so to speak, drink the kool-aid.

This is already happening with your wife, and unfortunately, with the group now starting to isolate her from you, I imagine she will soon be isolated from anyone else in her life who questions what this group is doing.

The best advice I can give is for you to contact the experts, because once someone has been caught up in a cult, they need to be professionally deprogrammed. There are many resources online, and my suggestion to you is to start pulling in the experts as soon as possible, to figure out a plan of action to get your wife back.

I wish you so much luck.

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