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.
- 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.”
- A busy pastor/husband. “My husband is on 24/7 call all the time. I just get leftovers.”
- 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.”
- 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?”
- 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.”
- Frequent moves. “I’m scared to get close to anybody now. Every time I develop a close relationship, we move again.”
- 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.’”
- Lack of support groups. “I’ve heard that some wives have support groups that really help. I’ve never been able to find one.”
- No date nights. “I can’t remember the last time my husband and I had a date night together.”
- 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.”
- Husband does not give the wife priority. “Frankly, the church is like a mistress to my husband. He has abandoned me for someone else.”
- 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.
More from Thom
Loneliness … I can’t say I’ve defined my feelings in this way but the thoughts expressed above certainly describe my situation. I am content to be my husband’s friend, my children’s mum, a sister, cousin, niece. Of the list provided above, I experience the effects of #1,2,3,4,7,8,9. In my current situation, I, with my children, are choosing to no longer attend the church my husband is working for. Too much negativity that is affecting my kids – I draw the line there; I want my children to love the church, to want to serve God.
As a pastor wife for close to 30yrs I’ve dealt with all these except for #3,4 & 6. I’ve dealt with them but very very little. The others I’ve deal with about all the time. The only one I’ve not dealt with is moving around. we’ve only moved twice. I’ve been stabbed in the back more times than I can count. I trust no one & there’s definitely not a support group for pastor wives. If there were I probably wouldn’t go b/c the ones I know don’t even act like themselves outside of church.
The church we are at now we’ve been here 20 yrs & I can now say the people don’t usually call him unless it’s urgent or very important.
I can say I’m getting to the age now that I don’t care what they think of me. I’m who I am & if they don’t like it then I’m sorry. I know I love the Lord with all my heart & seek to serve Him
After reading this post I feel I should count myself lucky. As a Pastor’s wife, I can only relate to a couple of these struggles. But I will say that seeing the inner workings of a church can be very discouraging and spiritually draining. The power plays by members and politics can get really ugly. I often scratch my head and say to myself, ‘I thought this was supposed to be church?!’ As if church is supposed to be a safe, happy place where everyone is kind to each other, right? 🙂 My husband and I are blessed to be at a church that is filled with warm people. There are definitely a few who go out of their way to not be very welcoming to me…but that has everything to do with them. Not me. It’s a tough position, but it also has some wonderful rewards.
I’ve been married to my husband for 6 years and in our 3rd year of marriage he accepted the call to the ministry and I have been second guessing our marriage and stressing about it ever since. I’m upset because he didn’t discuss his decision with me, to see how I feel about being married to a preacher. I honestly don’t think I would have married him. I feel like such a hypocrite because while I say I support him in his ministry, I’m not happy about it because this is not what I signed up for. He doesn’t pastor a church yet but our present pastor is retiring in a couple of years and he tells us that my husband will be the next pastor of the church. My husband has been a member of this church for 15 years and it’s basically a family church, you’re either in one of the family cliques or you’re on you own. I’m the only relative he has here and I’m the outsider so you can imagine how I feel. My family lives over a thousand miles from where we live and sometimes I feel as though I’m in this marriage by myself and I pray to God that He forgives me because I want to walk away from this marriage and go back to my life pre-marriage. I thought I had a confidante but I was wrong. I have to forgive but emotionally I took a hit which has left me bitter. It’s hard for me to move past this and I know that bitterness will consume me if I don’t put it in check. My husband is not giving me what I need in terms of encouragement or listening to what concerns me. I’m at my wick’s end because he downplays how I feel. I’ve learned to SIS….suffer in silence and pour my feelings out to God. I’m not complaining…just venting. Any words of encouragement is greatly appreciated.
After reading your post, this is exactly how I feel at this very moment. I’ve been married for 3 years and I feel very alone in my marriage. My pastor/husband puts the church above me and his family. When I try to articulate to him my true feelings, then I am left feeling guilty that I am being self centered because of the calling on His life. I love God with all my heart and I love the people of God and His church but I do have emotional needs. We are currently going through marriage counseling but I am to the point I just want to leave. It’s tough being in a marriage where you feel alone and isolated.
Before you respond, yes I am seeking the Lord, yes I am being faithful to God and the church, yes I am supporting my husband and the ministry, yes I am praying for others and feeding the poor, and yes I encouraging the people of God but yet I am still very much alone in my marriage.
So from the other side of things, how does one become close friends with a pastor (Mrs Pastor)? I feel like she holds herself back and it frustrates me. I feel like I crave more one on one time with her. Then I feel guilty for feeling like that because she is busy trying to love everyone in our church and what right do I have to a super close friendship with her?
She’s a lovely person but she is a little reluctant to share her heart and it’s hard to get to the centre of what she is thinking, thus I go from feeling valued to feeling held at arms length. What advice can you offer me?
This article is exactly what I have been feeling for the last 14 years of being a pastor’s wife. I tried on many occasions to talk to my husband about it (I.e. Loneliness, neglect, wanting at least one evening a week together, lack of dating, etc.) We’ve gone to marriage seminars, talked to mentor ministry couples and still, things don’t change. He never schedules time for investing in our marriage and works all week in the office and then up all night on Saturdays getting his sermon ready. He leaves early Sunday mornings for preparations for the service and by the time he gets home that afternoon, he’s exhausted and definitely doesn’t feel like doing anything active or fun with me and the kids. He just wants to vegge out on the couch. When I try to talk about my feelings, I’m “complaining” and not “following the call for my life.” I’m so tired of the cycle of neglect, Loneliness, rejection and hurt that, I hate going to church, don’t read my Bible anymore and have to fight thoughts of divorce every single day. The church definitely feels like his mistress. I’m so hopeless and feel that I’m trapped. The one place I should be able to turn to, the church, is what is killing me on the inside.
If anyone has a recommendation for a fair and reasonable counselor in the Houston/Spring area who is used to working discreetly with people in mine and my husband’s position, I would greatly appreciate it. I’m down to my last resort before bailing.
Dear Hurting –
Please return to my blog post for August 3. I will be repeating your story with a bit more anonymity. I want the readers to pray for you and point you in a healthy direction.
I come from a family of pastors and preachers. So I understand what pastors wives go through. I also come from a very STRONG, spirit filled family and realize that you need to be tough both naturally and spiritually. All too often PW’s are not. I am a young, single professional, successful spirit filled lady. My work has caused me to move/travel. One thing that I have found out is that PW’s are very insecure. I always extend friendship, true friendship. Very few have been able to accept it due to insecurity and jealousy. I dress nice, drive nice and look nice… without arrogance. Many that I have met are so intimidated by this that they literally run past me after church to keep from socializing. Others were certain, I wanted to run away with there husbands although I make it a point to not even speak to the pastor. PW’s pray! Love continuously and forgive more. Also, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the right people/relationships. Many of you shun the poor, hate the blessed and blame everyone else in between. Just be yourself. No one thinks you’re that great. Sometimes we want more honor than we deserve. Love and blessing.
Thank you. As a pastor’s wife it can get extremely lonely. Many of what is mentioned, I can sincerely relate. I thank God that I am never alone. Although the road gets tough, it is important all the more to trust and depend on Christ. When the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, I believe one of the first persons he attacks is the pastors’ wife. If satan(I refuse to capitalize his name) can divide and destroy the Elect Lady of the ministry, then he has accomplished his mission. For me, giving up and giving in is not a choice. In order for me to develop relationships with others horizontally, I MUST first develop my relationship with my Father vertically. Again, thank you.)
Wow. This week am going to meet with with a dozen women that serve with their husband, while pastoring a church. I was asking God, “How and in what way can I help these powerful women, which have been hurt through ministry?” You have all helped me tonight by pouring your hearts out and highlighting the importance of not only giving them the opportunity to share their hearts, but also walking them through the healing process as they pour out what is hurting them. My prayer is that God uses me to to show them that healing doesn’t come unless we pour out the hurt before the process begins. We have to ask Him to begin where we couldn’t continue.
Love you all, by the way I’m also Pastoring with my husband after almost losing everything we had only to discover family comes first. God’s plan now, is to use me with messages of healing for women that feel how I have felt and more. Thank you, Jesus I couldn’t have come this far without you.
I’m new to being a pastor’s wife and it’s rewarding and very challenging at times. My husband was ordained as Pastor about a year and a half after we were married. To make it even more complicated, we are very young late 20s to early 30s. God has blessed me with many gifts. Some I really haven’t even tapped into yet. However, in trying to be a good wife and support to my husband and pastor, my focus and priority is him. My husband also believes my number 1 priority is to support him. And I very much agree. My frustration comes in because I feel the support isn’t reciprocated. I ask my husband to cover me and mentor me one on one that I may grow in the Word. But that rarely happens. I even ask my husband to turn down a few preaching engagements to allow time for us and the family. I feel overwhelmed and emotionally depleted. It seems like ministry is all my husband is concerned about and I must be satisfied to get in were I fit in. I feel bad about feeling frustrated with issues pertaining to the calling on his life. What do I do??
I was searching for encouragement today. Instead I now think I should extend some. I have experienced every one of the ‘numbers’ repeatedly. I have been blamed for everything from lack of growth in the ministry to deliberately avoiding friendship within the congregation to just not being the type of pastor’s wife people expect. I have been told that I lack the humility required to be verbally abused, to accept criticism of my children and husband and turn the other cheek in a Godly manner. And all because I believe that God called us, not the search committee. I believe that God called us to shine the light to a dying world, not pamper and pet the believer who sits in a pew and undermines the Body because they can afford it. I believe that the ‘tithe’ is what WE give to God and it is God Who provides our support as His ministers, not the congregation. So if he doesn’t get paid what I think he should, that’s between me and God not the Finance Committee. And if people don’t afford me the respect I think they should that is more about what I expect, not their attitude about it. And if I use God’s yardstick instead of theirs, I’m good. It won’t be the first time I have pointed out to a deacon that my duty list is policed by God in my prayers not his oversight and expectations. I am directed to seek out the lost, not moderate a Bible Study for the ladies, etc. You can probably guess why I am considered someone who must be tolerated for the sake of keeping this preacher. LOL. No one will ever be able to convince me that it is unGodly to ask the critic to take responsibility for their own actions (or opinions) and refuse to be abused by a ‘brother’. Truth without Love is brutality …
I believe that we are a chosen people, a mighty weapon in the Hand of God, a flame in the dark, a prayer warrior, a soldier in the Army of the Lord. Call me militant if you want, but He doesn’t call us to be part of a morally superior social club – he called us to join the Body of Christ and shine His light to those who sit in darkness. Every time I start feeling lonely and even feeling sorry for myself, God reminds me that when He walked this earth He was rejected by His own. He told us we would experience the same. Count yourself in good company, ladies.
Oh and before anyone assumes that I am a young and inexperienced wife who hasn’t the wisdom to be taken seriously, I have been a pastor’s wife for 17 years – 10 to an Associate pastor and 7 to a Senior pastor – and if I have learned one thing it has been to keep your eyes on JESUS. You will NEVER be all things to all men, but you will ALWAYS be God’s favorite child. And that is more than good enough.
I appreciate your comments more than I can say. I am a full time public school teacher and married to a pastor who received the call several years after we were married and had children. I have always gotten into trouble when I have worried about what people think (including my husband) instead of depending on God. It is impossible to please all people, and we are not called to do that. Defining ourselves based on peoples’ estimations always leads to frustration, and even resentment because people did not create us and they do not have the ability to define us. people can only measure us with their own limited yardstick. God knows our hearts and our limitations. He loves us anyway. I think that is the kind of love that is missing in the church and the world sometimes.
I don’t like being known as a “Pastor’s Wife.” That’s my husband’s job, not mine. I was called to be his wife 20 years ago when he was working in Sales making six-figures a year. Three years ago, He was called to be a Pastor. That’s now his job but NOT who I married. Being a Pastor is now his job. It’s not his name. It’s not my name. Women, whose husbands are in sales, aren’t called “Sales Wives” or the women whose husbands are garbage collection aren’t called “Garbage Wives.” So, why do we get called “Pastors Wives?” Well, you get my point, I hope.
Money: Our family of four now lives just above poverty level. We don’t have rich parents who are able to supplement for us. We completely rely upon the givers in our congregation. We have cashed in our 401k to survive so there’s no retirement anymore. We have two teenagers who will be graduating high school soon and are looking for colleges to attend. We have a two year old grandchild who lives five States away whom we can’t afford to go see for holidays or birthdays. We have only been able to see twice since his birth. The family vacations are a thing of the past as there are no funds for those. Yet, we watch our congregates, friends and other minister families take exotic vacations two and three times a year.
Angry? Yes. I wasn’t asked nor was I prepared for the change of lifestyle being in full time ministry would rob from us. There are no date nights. “Days Off” are interrupted with ringing cell phones and demanding congregate questions.
I’ve never liked wives of Ministers. Most of the ones I grew up around were two-faced, gossips who would just as soon stab you in the back as to look at you – but were always quick with a “God Bless You” and and fake smile on Sunday morning.
I’m still me. I pray a lot. I pray for my husband and his job. I believe all those years in sales were to prepare him for people in ministry and in church. I pray for our children who have sacrificed what they had grown accustomed to for the ministry. See, most people don’t see what the family has sacrificed. When praises are given out, it’s all about the Pastor. Meanwhile, I just try and be the best wife, the best mother, to my family as I was when I said, “I do” to this man twenty years ago. And sometimes the “worse” part can be his job.
I can’t tell my husband how I feel. For, you see if I do, he sees it as somehow being a failure to his family — which isn’t at ALL the case. We love him – no matter what job he has. And he’s a great dad — no matter what job he has. We just have to share him a lot more these days.