Twelve Reasons Pastors’ Wives Are Lonely

February 15, 2014

ThomRainer.com began as a source of information for pastors, staff, and other Christian leaders. I have been incredibly blessed to discover a subgroup of my readership that has much to offer: pastors’ wives. Many in this group have also shared a common plight: they are very lonely.

Indeed the transparency of these pastors’ wives is amazing. Many have shared with each other on this blog about their battles with depression. My desire to offer help to pastors’ wives has increased greatly. My respect and admiration of them has also grown significantly.

For this article, I assimilated the hundreds of blog comments, Twitter and Facebook messages, and general conversations I’ve had with pastors’ wives. My focus was on the number one challenge they have shared: loneliness.

Here are the twelve most common reasons pastors’ wives have offered to explain their loneliness.

  1. Superficial relationships in the church. “No one ever sees me as my own person. I am the pastor’s wife. No one tries to get close to me.”
  2. A busy pastor/husband. “My husband is on 24/7 call all the time. I just get leftovers.”
  3. Mean church members. “I guess I’ve isolated myself to some extent. I just don’t want to keep hearing those awful things they say about my husband and me.”
  4. A conduit for complaints about her husband. “Last week someone told me their family was leaving the church because my husband is a lousy preacher. Do they have any idea how that makes me feel?”
  5. Broken confidences. “I’ve given up trying to get close to church members. I thought I had a close friend until I found out she was sharing everything I told her. That killed me emotionally.”
  6. Frequent moves. “I’m scared to get close to anybody now. Every time I develop a close relationship, we move again.”
  7. Viewed as a second-class person. “One church member introduced me to a guest visiting the church by saying I’m ‘just the pastor’s wife.’”
  8. Lack of support groups. “I’ve heard that some wives have support groups that really help. I’ve never been able to find one.”
  9. No date nights. “I can’t remember the last time my husband and I had a date night together.”
  10. Complaints about children. “I really don’t try to get close to church members anymore. I’m tired of so many of them telling me how perfect our children should be.”
  11. Husband does not give the wife priority. “Frankly, the church is like a mistress to my husband. He has abandoned me for someone else.”
  12. Financial struggles. “My husband makes so much less money than most of the members. I just can’t afford to do the things they do socially.”

While many pastors’ wives share that there are blessings in their role, many do suffer severe loneliness. I would love to hear from more of these wives. And I would love to hear from others about them. The words I have heard from these women have prompted me to be more intentional about praying for them.


photo credit: johanlb via photopin cc

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162 Comments

  • Suzanne Harvey says on

    Hello everyone. Thankyou for this article. I read it with interest. However, as someone who has experienced a marriage breakdown due to the stresses of ministry combined with a husband who put work first, this article does not go nearly far enough. These are real women who need real answers. There are no answers in this article. There are no resources for these women and families. Telling them you will pray for them is not sufficient. The real answer is that no one in the church seems to know how to help a pastor’s family that is in crisis. When the struggles are happening, there is nowhere to turn in the church. Even the “about” section for this website says that it is for pastors and congregations – there is no mention of pastors wives and families. Pastors wives and families cannot just be lumped in with congregations or pastors. We are a separate entity. We require our own supports. Real supports. Also, many pastors wives also have their own careers (I.e. we work outside the home) both because we want to have a career and we need to contribute to the income in the household. When you have a career and you are a pastor’s wife, you have two big jobs. It is a fact. Your husband does not come to work with you and deal with your job, but you deal with his job on a daily basis. For those of you writing in in real distress, I have been there. My marriage ended in divorce and that has brought me some peace but it was not be my first choice. I must say that I have felt God’s constant presence and love through it all. I am less lonely now than during my marriage and, in the eyes of the church, am somehow an individual again, for better or worse, not just the pastor’s wife.

  • Thank you for this article. I too am a pastors wife, but I am also a pastor. Our family moved to a town that had never had a church of any kind. Together, along with our two children, we founded the first church in the history of our town. We have been serving the Lord together for over 15 years.
    In the beginning it was very difficult as we did not receive support from any denomination as we are a non-denominational/independent church.
    But thanks be to God he has always provided.
    As I have read many of the comments in this thread, I can honestly say that I can relate in many ways.
    One of the comments that I relate with the most is the fact that I am not able or should I say comfortable with getting too close to anyone in our congregation. I have in the past, but because of hurtful comments/treatments from past members I have learned to keep my distance in that regard.
    I am kind and cordial on Sunday mornings, but I don’t go out of my way to try and make close friends. I’m there not only as a pastors wife, but also a pastor.
    I have had very few people that have visited our church that have had an issue with me being a pastor. In conversations with people outside of church is an entirely different story. Because I have received hurtful personal messages of disapproval for being “woman pastor” I decided to write a blog years ago titled: Woman Preach! In it I am able to explain what I see in the scriptures regarding the call of woman as pastors.
    Regarding mean or cruel people in the church, I have learned to confront it head on.
    Since I am a writer, I find at times that it is much easier to write people when I have an issue or help them with theirs.
    There have only been a couple of times where I have encouraged unhappy members to find a new place of worship where they can be happy.
    The government of our church is much different than most. We do not have a board comprised of members of our church. In my opinion that is a disaster because the Lord has not called them to oversee the vision of pastors. God gives the vision of a church to the minister(s) not the people.
    In the beginnings, we did however try to give members of the congregation more leadership roles – but it only backfired and they tried to take over the church.
    We finally learned from another pastor to be who “we” are and we’ll attract people who are like us – instead of attracting people who want to “change” us or the vision God has given us. We have seen a much happier congregation because of it.
    As a pastors wife and woman pastor I have learned a lot over the years. I have learned that with our method of church government, people have no one else to turn to but my husband and I if and when they don’t like something. Most of the time, them come to me first.
    I think that when people support a church financially with their tithes and offerings they feel they have a right to tell you how they’d like to see things run. Because of this we have learned to not coddle people just because they give. And if at any time they cannot accept that their money will not be used to get their way, they have a decision to make – stay or go.
    As pastors we must learn that we will never be able to please everyone. Those of you ladies whose husbands are working tirelessly and come home exhausted and have no time left for you and your children – it may be because they feel if they try to please everyone, then their position as pastor is safe.
    What I mean is – denominational pastors have a board to deal with and if they don’t do what the people want – then they’re out. There is no real job security (except faith in God) – and so your husband is doing everything he can to keep everyone happy. The sad truth – that will never happen.
    In our case, when people are unhappy, we let them go. We don’t try to keep them or their money. There is no one to vote us out. If they become unhappy – they leave, not us.
    But no matter what type of church you pastor, people are people – there are kind people that have chosen to not rock the boat. There are those who love you and the work you and your husband are doing, and there are of course those who are unkind and unhappy with your methods of ministry.
    Bottom Line? I have made many mistakes in how I’ve handled situations in the church and there have been many times that I have handled matters quite well. When I don’t handle them properly and I let it get to me and say something unkind – I simply contact that person and apologize for my behavior.
    I agree with those on this thread who have said that we have an enemy, and they are exactly right – and that enemy knows exactly how to use people to push our buttons. They may not even be aware of it. I have found that when it comes to my enemies, I am constantly reminded to take the same attitude of Jesus – Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
    I pray we are all able to run the race that is set before us. Pastors wife – you are strong. You have God’s Spirit and Strength within to face and overcome anything or anyone that would try to make you feel otherwise.
    You too have gifts and callings. If you’re not aware what those gifts are – ask the Lord to reveal them to you. You’re not just a pastors wife, or the preacher’s wife – you’re a woman of God! Seek out those who are not trying to tear you down, but are in need of your wisdom and strength as a woman of God. Find what your heart is leading you to do, and do it. He will give you the strength and wisdom you need.
    For those of you who try to talk to your husband about how you’re feeling and they won’t give you the time of day because they are exhausted – write them. I do it all the time with my husband, and it is very helpful. It keeps the emotions out and allows us to communicate exactly what we’re feeling. Then once I’ve written the letter, we talk.
    Pray and ask the Lord to speak to your husband. Pray that he hears the Spirit of God.
    God did not have to instruct women to love their husbands, we already do. He did however instruct the men to Love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. Write him and remind him of that verse. I have done it quite frequently, and it truly helps.
    Thank you again for this article. I hope it at least helps fellow pastors wives realize that they’re not alone.

  • I found this article because I went to Google for help (ha!), and searched “struggles of pastors wives”. This article is spot on. I’d probably add a #13 for the pastors wives who have (NOT CHOOSE) to work full-time to be able to afford what her pastor husband can’t afford – like health insurance. Our church doesn’t offer my husband health insurance so it is on my shoulders to provide that. My college degree provided me a very well-paying career, but really all that has done is trap me in a full-time job to support my pastor husband who doesn’t make enough to support our family. I hardly see my 2 kids, much less my pastor husband. He is RARELY home, due to church-related priorities, so I am left with either feeling like a single mom or relying on sitters to watch our kids when I have to work/grocery shop/run errands/insert anything here I’d rather NOT be doing than being with my family. … I am lonely. But, our church members aren’t because they have my pastor husband’s undivided attention.

  • Hello. Thank you for this article. I can really relate to everything you said. I live in a country where I serve together with my pastor husband a non english speaking community. Often I feel people want to get close to me only to be able to get help, with translations etc. Once they learnt the language and they have a job they forget to even come to church some of them. It is so sad. I feel so used. It is also a challenge for me to adress the sisters in the church that dress somewhat provovative. Some treat me with lack of respect. I have to work a full time job because otherwise we would not make it only with my husband ‘s salary. Everything is expensive ad the taxes are high. I really feel very lonely most of my ministry with no woman friends to talk to, except Jesus, He is the Ultimate Friend.

    • I just posted almost the exact same comment – with a few variations. I, too, HAVE to work FT and am left very lonely (and exhauuuuuusted) because everyone else gets ALL my pastor husband’s time and efforts. Hang in there. Just know you have a kindred spirit out here who is struggling with you.

  • Great article.For any Pastor’s wives out there reading this and need a support group, there is a ministry called Leading and Loving It. It connects ministry wives through webinars, Facebook, and GoogleChat. Go to leadingandlovingit.com and check it out. My group has helped me share personal struggles and issues with no judgement, but lots of love, support, and encouragement from other pastors wives. It has been a HUGE blessing in my life!

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