Twelve Reasons Pastors’ Wives Are Lonely

Church Answers 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 for 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.

Posted on February 15, 2014

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Whew! This article makes me thank God I’m free! Each item equals bondage and that is not God’s will for me. I also think each item represents an unhealthy connection and reliance to people in the church. I think we have to find relationships outside the church. I can’t expect my church to be my friends and confidants. That dynamic simply won’t work. I have to get that type of support elsewhere.

    I do like the date night suggestion. We need to work on that a bit more. 🙂 Good post.

  • I don’t know how many times I’ve said #11 ;(

  • Just a pastor wife says on

    I am pastor’s wife and I just hate my life!

  • I’m joining this party late, but Hey! I’m here.
    As a pastor wife, my husband had a gift of making congregations grow. Whenever a church was not growing, he would be sent there. (by the bishop) Once the membership doubled, it was time to move. I have experienced almost all the frustrations mentioned. Church bullying, loneliness, getting paid peanuts for a salary, name it… We have quit the church ministry 3 times, now we are back. One thing I now fully understand as I am older and more experienced is; the Lord wants us to minister because He has called us. I’ve also learned that it does not matter how many people you minister to. Our current church has 4 members. ….Seriously it does. Does this bother me? Not a whole lot. Those 4 are precious in Gods eyes and if that is who He wants us to minister to, that’s fine. I enjoy ministry now. I look forward to Sundays and midweek house church fellowship.
    I guess I’ve learned that people are just people, we are saved by grace.

  • I have been an evangelist’s wife for the last 5yrs, right from I got married and my husband just became the Pr. last yr. I don’t see any new struggles, but right from the beginning, everyone wanted to be my friend coz I am the man of God’s wife not coz they really wanted to know me.
    That kind of hurts big time. Everyone is quite fake with me and some people just plainly ignore me.
    But I guess I still have to love and let my light shine even though I don’t feel honoured, respected, wanted, loved and no friends.

  • I can really relate to these comments about being lonely. Especially since my husband was pushed out of his job, I have lost who I thought were close friends. I have trouble trusting them. I am lonely yet surrounded by a lot of people. I pray that God will help me work on relationships if they are meant to happen.

  • Pastor’s wives are the set of people in the church that we (members of our various churches)
    should endaviour to support our pastors wives and encourage them in their own ministry.

  • My wife is a licenced pastor at our amazing church. So, basically, I’m a pastor’s husband. Our church has a lot of support and activities for the pastor’s wives, but nothing for someone in my position.

    We have been foster parents for about 6 years and currently have 3 kids in our home. I work full time as a public school teacher, so we are very busy! I can’t say if a man’s experience is different from a women’s, but I do understand the feelings and opinions voiced in the comments. I get it! It is tough. It is not easy! It is frustrating! Having a spouse in full time ministry is a totally different experience.

    But God is good. He has blessed our family. We have great support from family and friends.

    And it’s true, most people know me as “so and so’s” husband, but that’s ok. It’s all worth it for the kingdom of God.

  • Thank you for writing this article! As a young pastor’s wife myself, I can tell you that I have experienced several of those reasons for loneliness. Sometimes it’s almost like the ladies in the congregation are afraid to get really close to you. And if you’ve only been a part of the church for a few years, you find that there are already tightly-knit groups that were formed long ago. It can be hard to feel like you can “fit.”

    For me, probably an even bigger struggle than the loneliness is the feeling that it’s always my responsibility to “fill in the gaps.” I currently have about 10 jobs that I do within our church. Some I have volunteered for because I knew it was something that I could do well and there was a need. But many other jobs I have taken on because no one else was willing to step in. I feel like it’s my duty to do whatever needs to be done that has been abandoned by others.

    Being a pastor’s wife is a tough job! But it is also a blessing in many ways. And it’s a calling for the wife as much as it is the husband! I would encourage other wives out there to befriend other pastors’ wives in your area. It’s a great encouragement!

  • I am a children’s pastors wife. I have 2 grown adult children and 3 grandchildren. We have been in ministry for abt 7 yes. and it is no different in the children’s ministry. parents needing counsel for there children, babtisms and more. we miss alot of xtras with our grandchildren. what advice is out there when you compete with children for your husbands attention. I know what God says. I’m tired of always being last and my kids feel left out. HELP?

  • i only just found this post. It’s a great one. Thank you so much for listening and understanding us (I’m a minister’s wife). I have experienced almost all of those 12 points, and it has been painful. My husband doesn’t really get it. He’s a PK himself, so he kind of thinks he knows everything there is to know about ministry. I’m a different personality than his mother, though. I just do what I can. He has toned it down though. Earlier in our marriage he only wanted me working certain shifts and certain hours (I’m in healthcare), and I burned out at a job that he wanted me to work that wasn’t for me. That was 7 years ago, and I’ve still not bounced back from that personally and professionally + having a baby who’s now 4. He’s acknowledged that that was wrong on his part, and I appreciate that. I’m still nervous about not having his support when it comes to major decisions like that. I wanted to become an RN/Midwife, but since he works 60 hours a week and they’re irregular hours, I can’t see us both being in a profession where we’re on call 24/7 and also raise our child with no family available to help out. That still hurts to give that up. I’m working on surrendering that to God. In my mind, it is what I’m sacrificing for DH and work in God’s Kingdom. Date nights? They only happen if I plan childcare and every single last detail, but he can be really into sports, fantasy sports teams and draft parties. I realize that’s a clueless guy thing, not just a minister thing. But it’s part of the picture. I do get the leftovers. I can only tell him what’s going on with me. He controls his time and interests. Thanks for a safe place to write this stuff, thanks for listening. I don’t feel totally alone as I do have friends. I feel alone in my marriage. That’s sad. I trust God to work in both of our hearts and in my marriage, and at the end of the day, no matter who you are, that’s all and the best you can do. Thank you.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Many of us are praying for you, JCH.

    • I read your comment and I want you to know that I’m praying for you, JCH! I’ll also be praying that your husband grows to be more understanding and considerate of you and your needs. I’m a pastor’s wife as well and I was also in healthcare for a little while as an RN. I wound up having to work at least every other weekend which was hard on my husband and I both. He really struggled with not having me there to support him on Sundays. Between that and getting pregnant with our first child, we decided that it would be best for me to stay home. I don’t regret this decision. I love staying at home with my little boy (he’s one and a half now) and I realized that my calling is not in my profession but in being a stay-at-home mom. I pray that you will be able to do what your heart truly desires and that your desires will come to line up first with God’s desires and then with your husband’s. If it’s more important that you stay home right now … I pray God will give you peace. If it’s time for you to jump back into healthcare … I pray that God will give your husband peace. HE sees the big picture and I know He has great things in store for you! Stay faithful! 🙂

    • Just a pastor wife says on

      My life is just like your. Last night when I complained to my husband the lack of money, he told me I was selfish. I’m tired after 13 years of marriage I am thinking of divorce

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