The Tragic Story of a Hurting Pastor’s Wife

I receive volumes of blog comments, emails, and social media communications every day. On occasion, one of those comments will stop me in my tracks, like this recent blog post comment.

I am providing it to you almost completely unedited. I made a few edits to protect the identity of the writer.

I respectfully request you not to lecture this lady, but to offer prayer and encouragement. The headings are mine, but the words are hers.

The Lonely Pastor’s Wife

“Please allow me to share my feelings about the last many years of being a pastor’s wife. I tried on many occasions to talk to my husband about it (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.”

The Pastor with the Messed Up Priorities

“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 in the afternoon, he’s exhausted and definitely doesn’t feel like doing anything active or fun with the kids and me. He just wants to veg out on the couch.”

The Pastor Who Does Not Listen

“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.”

The Plea for Help

“If anyone has a recommendation for a fair and reasonable counselor in the Houston area who is used to working discreetly with people in my and my husband’s position, I would greatly appreciate it. I’m down to my last resort before bailing.”

My Reason for Sharing This Information

Any time I hear about a marriage failing, I feel sick to stomach. It happens too often. And it happens too often with those who are in vocational ministry. Of course, it is not limited to the role of pastor. Such cries of hurt are emanating from the spouses of all kinds of church staff.

So I offered her words to you with the hope that it could be a caution for all of us in vocational ministry. Love your spouses. Love your family. Take care of them. Give them the priority mandated by Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-5).

And please pray for this pastor’s wife. She is truly hurting.

Posted on August 3, 2016


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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208 Comments

  • Peter Maxwell says on

    I go to https://lhhouston.church, one of the churches in Houston. To feel a sense of community and friendliness among the people is fantastic. I believe that God is working marvelous miracles in this great cathedral. I genuinely hope they are successful since they are one of the sincere churches actively trying to better our community.

  • I met my husband on social media who introduced himself as a pastor we became friends and less than 6month got married
    I met the church very young one with 15congregation I later found out that people left because of his unfaithfulness and having affair with ladies in the church.
    I later found how lair and lazy he is.he cannot afford common basic needs and the marriage was full of struggling .I have now left the church to my mother church because I don’t trust him a bit everything he tells me are not true .I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do

  • Peter Maxwell says on

    Beautiful sermon and it reminds me of one from our Pastor here in https://lhhouston.church/ , Keion Henderson, who also talks about the family and the challenges that couples really face in the real world. I really hope more people will listen to men of God instead of anybody on social media who just says nonsense!

  • Felicia Wright says on

    Good morning, Mr. Rainer. I ran across your blog this morning while searching for info on hurting pastor’s wives. I can 100% identify with the pastor’s wife whose story you shared because I have the same exact story. Her’s was written in 2016 but I’ve been living mine since 2014. I actually did bail in 12/21 and we’ve been separated since. He seems content with the separation and continues doing ministry as usual. My thoughts are, “this CAN’T be RIGHT”. Who do I talk to? What do I do? I’m in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) region. And did I mention that he refuses to go to couples counseling?

  • Ellie Oke says on

    This is me right now. I’m hurting so bad. I never understood why I felt so depressed, far from God, why I despised reading the Bible, why my prayer life was practically non existent, until it hit me, that my marriage is a mess and not in the way that people would expect. We’re not fighting, but that’s probably because I’m so submissive and I don’t tell him the truth because he’ll either get defensive (which would turn into a fight) or he’d pretend to take it on board, change for a week and then drift back into the usual routine. We decided to send the kids to a private Christian school only three days a week and homeschool them the remaining two days, to give us time as a family, but that ended up never happening and instead the children and I are neglected in that time because he is married to his job. If I’m in the middle of a heart to heart with him, and someone calls him about something often very unimportant, he will literally answer the phone when I am mid sentence, put his hand up at me and expect me to wait for him to finish on the phone. Could it not have waited? Am I really that unimportant? Would he do that to anyone else?

    I’m so beyond done and we haven’t even been married long. I’m currently pregnant and expecting a fourth child not long after having our son, and I’m so sick! It happens each pregnancy. He has had to take on everything I would normally be doing because for the first four months of pregnancy I am literally incapable of doing anything other than throwing up. It seems that he does what he needs to do for the sake of his family staying alive and functioning, but it’s so clear that it is a serious burden for him, and that ministry is more important to him than his family. The church doesn’t help either, people pretend to care meanwhile taking up all of his time, knowing that I am bed bound and our kids are in need of his attention. Very few people step in to help when they can, but even then it’s only so that he can give his undivided attention to the church, when there are other leaders who can very easily and should step up!

    I’m so hurt, angry, disappointed and fed up. It has made me depressed, but I know he doesn’t care to change. For him, it’s just pray that his wife stops feeling depressed, yet HE is the problem… no amount of trying to cast out demons is going to fix this.

    What’s sad about all of this is that he’s a genuinely great man! I hate it when people mistreat him, he gives his all to the things of God. It’s just that he doesn’t see his family or his marriage and the things of God, and so he takes my loyalty and submission for granted.

    He never takes me out, he never buys me anything nice, he rarely pays attention to me, and I’m not saying this as some kind of materialistic crazy woman who needs her husband’s undivided attention. He literally never bothers ever, because I’m not a particularly materialistic person, I’m very frugal, never spend money on anything for myself and don’t ever insist on spending his money, so he automatically takes that as a safe card to never bother with me.

    I’m so tired, and so incredibly over my marriage. There is no intimacy I got pregnant probably one of the few times it happens, that’s probably once every two months, not at all in recent months, and it’s never very passionate if I’m honest. There’s not attraction there, mostly because I can’t be attracted to someone who doesn’t care about me, and it’s gotten so bad that the enemy is attacking me with dreams of other men in the church giving me the attention my husband isn’t giving me, which is revolting and makes me want to gauge my eyes out when I wake up in the morning.

    Pray for me please, I’m crying whilst I am writing this and I don’t know what to do anymore. We have only been married 2 years, my first two children were born out of wedlock before I was saved, my husband took them on as his own when they were only a few years old, and I can’t bare to see them witnessing a loveless marriage.

    My husband is amazing in so many ways, but he isn’t so good at prioritising his family.

    Please pray for me before it’s too late. I could never divorce him but I don’t feel like I’ll survive this marriage.

  • Don Davies says on

    This is just a sad story. Devastating and really shows you that Pastors are human too and need our support and prayers too. Our beloved Keion Henderson, https://www.keionhenderson.com/ from here in Houston is Truly heaven sent and we really love and support him. May God always be with him and grant him strength and good health!

  • Lioness of God says on

    I’m a pastors wife myself and I came across this article, tears just rolled out.. I’m writing this my husband just told me that he doesn’t care even if we can leave(severaltimes and always). He is very dismissive, emotionally abusive, defensive,prideful, he doesn’t pay attention to anything but people and church, I feel so neglected, hurt and hopeless. I know for a fact that he does not love me. I remember after giving birth to my son he was 1 week old , he spat on my face twice over a petty argument that he started. He always tells me how he feeds and works for us and I must be grateful, he always tells me how iam not a submissive wife and that I talk too much, when I raise important issues either he ignores and sleeps or walks away and lock himself on the other room. I feel so lonely and neglected I fear leaving cause I have nothing sustaining me, I don’t even know where Id go should I decide to leave. Iv been tortured emotionally and I’m numb, I feel so worthless and unloved. Somebody tell me iam crazy…When I try to watch reality shows he’s always shouting at me, one time I watched pageants, he started yelling at me saying that iam watching nonsensical things and I’m corrupting my kids .. imagine PAGEANTS for God’s sake! I honestly could write a book about how pastors wives are suffering and dying silently for the sake of protecting the family and avoiding shame. I’m broken at times I have to repent for thinking that I might be the problem.. is this the Love that Jesus speaks about ” husbands love your wives as I have loved the church” God help me

    • Thom Rainer says on

      I hurt for you. I pray you will find someone, ideally a counselor, who can guide you through these painful times. Please get help. You need it and deserve it. I am praying for you right now.

    • Pastors Punching Bag says on

      My Pastor Husband of 37 years is the same way. He says he loves me with nothing but words of hate and anger coming out of his heart. He’s had multiple affairs prior to salvation leading me to believe it would not happen anymore while in his walk with the Lord and then his calling as a Pastor. But that’s when it happened again and in my heart I believe more than twice one being with my own family member. I’ve loved him from a very young age and believed we could work thru many things and that God was the only source of love we needed but these past few years have been more so of mental abuse than prior that you start believing that you are the problem and are at fault in everything so much that you are omitted deleted and erased from the ministry down to the title of being the Pastors wife and then your taken out of everything in the home to where your left with the door wide open waiting for the foot to kick you out and he says he loves me. Of course as the wife you retaliate fighting for what you believe is right but I’m not sure after reading how many Pastors wives actually go thru the same thing. I’m not perfect by far nor do I claim to be and I questioned his calling and prayed for God to please share and show me his vision as well to be in one mind and one accord .. I never claimed to be a Full Bible Scholar and was years behind him as he was saved years before but if that was his calling and I was already saved at the time I certainly didn’t want to be in disobedience with the Lord and miss out on the blessings. But I always felt my husband’s flesh was weak for women as as that was his weakness and was taken out of bondage and led into salvation but never completely surrendered. Jealousy and Trust played a huge part in our marriage because of the infidelity and I always thought if I just made him believe it could happen it would make him think twice but he made sure it would happen over and over and made sure I would know to hurt me. So now I’m months apart from him apart from ministry and apart from God.. I’m beyond hurt and broken as a Pastors Wife

    • Katherine says on

      Read these books “power of a praying wife by Stormie omartian”, and “making marriage work by Joyce Meyer” it will really bless you and change your perspective. I feel the problem from what you’ve said might not really be your husband. You might first have to accept the fact that your husband is a pastor called by God, that’s to say believe in him like you believe God and then adapt according to the Bible. The truth is you have to be submissive to enjoy his love. I use to think this way too that my husband doesn’t really care about me until I encountered God through those books. Remember you are a help meet for him meaning you are to help him fulfill purpose not only raise children. Someone once said “those who make news do not sit in front of the TV”. Does he find you studying the word of God, teaching your kids about God on Sunday evening or so, praying or you just do church services because you don’t have a choice. You gotta love him by loving what he’s doing. Jesus said “if you love me you will Obey me”. I hope you get my point. I’ll be praying for you

      • God’s word does not only talk about wives being submissive. It actually gives more verbiage to a husband loving his wife and ‘giving himself up for her’. It also says that if his own house is not in order, how can he care for God’s house. This does not mean dictatorship without accountability, however. It does suggest his family must be a priority.

        A pastor is to be accountable for his behavior, just as any other church member. Scripture does not teach that he is not to be questioned or called to be in order himself. Scripture says he is actually more accountable than other believers. So, where are these pastors’ accountability? Blame must not be assumed, or laid upon the wife, merely because of one verse in Ephesians and one in Hebrews. All of scripture needs to be taken in context. Hebrews considers Sarah a ‘woman of faith’, yet she laughed at the prophecy about her child, and insisted Abraham do something that he didn’t want to do. Abraham didn’t like it. He didn’t want to listen to her or do what she said. Please recall that God Himself sided with Sarah and told Abraham to ‘listen to his wife’. Remaining silent about a husband’s sins is not the ‘submission’ we think of in the current church trend. Again, Sarah was still called a woman of faith, even though she spoke up to her husband, and questioned prophetic words.

        That’s why I always encourage advisors to consider all of scripture. There is much more to be learned about marriage. Consider Abigail and Nabal. In some churches today, Abigail would have been called out as an in submissive wife because she went behind her husband to someone he despised and pleaded for her family’s safety. She even went so far as to call her husband a fool. She saved her family and servants’ lives by doing so. God took her husband’s life shortly after. Abigail was considered a godly woman. She did what she had to do in a certain circumstance to spare the innocent – herself and her family.

        There are more examples than those two regarding how God expects a husband to be accountable, and how a wife is allowed to make appropriate decisions and speak up when needed.

        In addition, too often men are made pastors when the Lord did not call them to it. Therein lay many of the issues.

        Our church had a large men’s conference a few years back and one of the speakers sent out a questionnaire to all the pastor’s wives, including associate pastor’s wives, to ask them about their marriages. The replies were shocking. Over 85% spoke of husbands that were harsh, angry, carnal, abusive, drunk and much more. There’s a lot more to a marriage than just one person. That’s why Paul went on to talk about how the husbands were to behave. It’s a two-way relationship.

        Thank you for reading.

  • Don Davies says on

    I really think that pastors are also human. They make mistakes, and also deal with situations that are hard. But like what Pastor Keion, https://www.keionhenderson.com/ taught us in one of his sermons, if you have God, you will always get back up on your feet after a fall, and you will always realize your mistakes.

  • Don Davies says on

    Thanks for this. Even ministers of God go through trials as they are human. But they themselves should really listen to God and see what they need to do in their lives. A good man will accept his mistakes and will make things right. A pastor in Houston TX, Pastor Henderson of https://lhhouston.church/ once spoke of this during service. That’s where I realized that you will not be right all the time so you have to be humble enough to let God teach you the right way.

  • I was amazed when I read so many of these stories of the struggles of being a Pastor’s wife. It comforted me to know I wasn’t alone. My husband of almost nine years, who is bipolar, has a sexual addiction, anxiety, and many more issues, decided to become a Senior Pastor four years ago. I grew up Methodist, going to church, but never had a pastor in our family. I had no idea of the politics that go on in the church or the loneliness I would endure. I am not perfect, but my faith is great. I have always prayed silent and loved the Lord. Being a very happy and social person, I would learn my husband was not. He lied to me when I met him about everything. He said he was a very happy person, loved doing and going everywhere I did, had only slept with less than 5 women (ha ha), hated porn, and was so loving and kind to me. After a year he started seeing escorts again, or maybe sooner. I then learned from his daughter’s he had a huge escort addiction with his ex wife. I was never told about that. Lot’s of things came out after that. I found a Christian counselor to see to seek forgiveness. That has went on for 8 years off and on. You see, I just get there thinking I have forgiven, then I find something again. He loves porn and video porn. Of course, that’s the bipolar mental illness. I have been told, he likes fantasy. I am not his fantasy. My counselor asks why I stay. I am a very faithful, loyal person. And because of the bipolar excessive money spending, we have no retirement or savings. I try my best to go on Sunday morning and be present in the Lord. My depression has taken over me, I have lost myself. I was an attractive, smart woman. He doesn’t pay any attention to me and yes all he does also is stay on his phone or is texting. Church is 7 days a week, we live on property. He is a people pleaser. So yes, being a Pastor’s wife has been very hard. I pray, Lord help me. There is so much more that has happened, this is just a part.

    • Brenda Juniel says on

      Hi Lynn, I am a Pastor wife myself. There should come a time that all the lies and etc. need to stop. For God know mans and whats in man heart? Ask your self why do you stay. You can Forgive this what God wants us to do, get yourself out of the way of this disaster that is soon to explode and be revealed openly. God bless you my Sister in Christ. No more suffering in silence as a Pastor wife.

    • Gods Will says on

      Wow! Are we living the same life?? I wish we all could come together in strength and Love.

  • Pastor wife says on

    I thought I was alone in this. Every woman he knows is shown more respect than me. He has secret work friends that he calls and texts. Along with the pornographic pictures but I’m the most important thing. Now I am a burden, my fiends had to feed me the last 2 weeks and he moved out last night. He still preaches, most of his messages are geared towards me “the hater”…I lost my husband and pastor. I am alone here. He has family here. It’s just me and my daughter. He left us with $10.00 after I paid the rent and bills.

    • Gods will says on

      I totally understand. This happens to me as a pastors wife. I pray your strength and your healing. I am still in the healing process. Oh how, I wish the pastors wives can come together.

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