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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  • I empathize with this pastor’s wife a lot. My husband is a full time pastor for a small, aging congregation, but also works another job because we don’t feel called to live in poverty. I had to quit my job, as our second child (12 months old) is a very medically complex child and we live rurally, so my weeks are spent on the road to therapists in the nearest town (an hour away), or to specialists or inpatients stays to the nearest children’s hospital (four hours away). There are also not people in the church with a heart for children, so my weekends are spent juggling the children and teens for Sunday school, junior church, and youth group (I also combine “nursery” with the children I teach, since we can’t find nursery workers). My husband and I communicate by text, because we don’t see each other. Our last date was eight months ago. I’m exhausted, lonely, and spiritually drained. The older church ladies are also unhappy because I don’t cook meals for them, host ladies teas, or keep the children’s rooms spotless at church.

  • Ok, I’ve got a question for the group. My wife has developed a very deep friendship with our pastor. She has very deep theological questions. He is up at all hours of the night, as it sounds like is par for the course among pastors, and frequently they are text messaging and facebook messaging each other anywhere from 2am to almost 5am. My wife has some insomnia probably due to stress. I’ve seen some of the conversations, most of it is quite benign. My concern is, my wife is very pretty, his wife is a spitting-image of my wife 20 years ago, I’m concerned that he’s “grooming” her to be a replacement for his current wife. None of the talk is sexual in nature, but he refers to them talking as being on “vacation” from the drudgery of married life. She’s made comments that our marriage is her “sanctification”. I don’t want anyone to be married to me that doesn’t want to be. I had no idea that she was having these thoughts/concerns. I thought everything was going perfectly. Long story short, we are now arguing over these middle of the night conversations. I say that it’s like 2 people running around in a gasoline soaked room carrying road flares. She thinks I’m over-reacting, and that since he doesn’t do anything all day he’s up all night and those are his “office hours”. He’s the pastor of a very small church in an impoverished area. We have at most 30 people on a Sunday, one service, and the majority of the people are on public aid. I have a blue collar job and am unfortunately probably one of the wealthier members. So, is it appropriate for this to be going on? Am I wrong to be upset about this? She said he doesn’t think of him that way at all and that he is our Pastor. I think he maybe a Pastor, but he’s also a man.

    • Scarlett says on

      Danger, for sure. Even if things haven’t gotten physical, the emotional and spiritual depth of the relationship has crossed into inappropriate behavior.

    • Gods Will says on

      Seymour, I know it’s years later. I pray things are better. This behavior open doors for the enemy. I believe you have a right to speak up but in a Godly spirit. Such an unhealthy place for your wife, and disrespectful to the marriage. I hope this situation is resolved.

  • Child of God says on

    I hope this can reach others. Sadly, this is my everyday life as well. The only difference is years ago when all of it began, my husband, who is a Minister now, and I were not married. We were living for the world and I was ready to throw the towel in and walk out. I was so tired of the drugs and alcohol around me and my kids, and he loved the lifestyle and honestly that’s what he grew up around and that was all he knew. I hated it and wanted it gone. I knew the only thing that could save us was God. The Lord even dealt with me about sending my children on the church bus to go to church and neither parent was going. So I found this church and completely surrendered to Christ and for months it was just me and my 5 children going. But God promised me, he would give me my true hearts desire and give me back double. And I give him the highest praise because he surely did. Within 6 months my husband (not at the time married) started attending. Then a few weeks after that he laid it all at the altar. For a man, to only know that lifestyle growing up and had to have it everyday as an adult just lay it down and never look back, I knew it was God… As we both were growing in Christ , we sustained from having sex. We already had children together and lived together, so it would be hard to split the family until we married but we also didn’t want to live in sin. We stayed in the same house but we kept our restraints and stood on the word. We got married and he became the Pastors Steward. Another year had passed after that and he went to school to become an ordained minister. I was looking at the double God was giving me. But when he became the minister I started seeing a change in him and our Pastor. At home he wasn’t the humble, loving and compassionate servant we seen ant the church. I reached out to our Pastor for counseling. After 2 sessions they stopped and I was told by my Pastor that my husband and I had to find away to work things out on our own. Well has time passed I began seeing my Husband have much love and respect for our Pastor, he was the Dad he never had… My love for both of them kept me quite about it but then when I started noticing that my husband wasn’t being lead by the spirit and getting lead from the Pastor and he wasn’t addressing his behavior and ignoring the problems at home. I went to the Pastor and was ignored as well. I I realized it was never about Gods Kingdom, it was about his own And my husband was very obedient to him.. I felt betrayed by both of them and other church members. I was pushed away, not listen to and my children the same. We would cry out and ignored. I cried and repented because God was dealing with me too. Instead of giving my problems to him and having faith in him, I gave them to my Pastor and put my faith in him as well.. I started off in the right path and gave my husband at the beginning to Christ but somehow through him to the Pastor in the end. Instead of him learning to walk in Christ. He’s learned to walk with the Pastor and leads the same way. While the children and myself are pushed away. My husband has been manipulated and has been made to believe his own wife is against him and is jealous. Later I found out that is what’s the Pastor told him. He believes everything the Pastor says and does everything he says, and if it doesn’t fit the word it’s been twisted to make it seem it’s ok. So we have been dealing with all this for the last few years. And I still stand today and say God still kept his promise, I didn’t ask to become married , I didn’t ask for him to become a Minister, and there is some great confusions on those parts. I asked to remove the drugs and alcohol out of my home and that’s exactly what God did. So I can’t blame God. God hold all the power not my now husbands pastor and not my ministering husband. God alone has the power and that’s what I will stand on. I know that what’s going on Ian wrong but I’m gonna ahead and thanking the Lord in advance because he’s gonna turn this situation around. Yes my husband betrayed me, yes my pastor betrayed me, and yes my church betrayed me. But honestly I have to also check myself, I should have never put that much faith in man. I took my eyes off God and didn’t have faith in him. God never betrayed me… All I needed to apply was that word and believe in it. It gives you the order in your walk in and with Christ. Before God created the church he created family, before family, he created marriage, before marriage he created man before man was God alone. God clearly laid it out for us in that order . We had believers need to follow that order. That order needs to be preached in the churches by our leaders and we need to see it being done by our leaders as well. Pastors that stand on the word and follow that order and speak the truth will have less calls for help from the church because his congregation will hear the true word of God and see the true word of God in their Pastor. If your a leader in the church or have any position in the church and your home is broken, somewhere the church is broken too., for there to be no conviction, and it’s made to be acceptable. The only relationship that is more important than the one you have with your spouse is the one you have with God. It’s doesn’t matter if your sitting in the congregation, singing on the choir, teaching Sunday school or Preaching the Sermon if your relationships are not in that order than where’s the conviction. Wives have to wait around for our leading husband to be convicted by man to see he’s wrong. And still it’s never a full conviction.. The word speaks of this happening with our leaders and it’s sad. But believers I tell you that God can turn your situation around no matter how bad it may seem. By his power it can be done… I had to let go and let God. Just like before my husband was still at home smoking and drinking and because of my faith, my prayer, my standing on the word see what God did for me.. Not my husband, not for the Pastor of the Church, not the church. Yeah y’all might say but it’s still messed up, yeah it may be and the enemy tried to get me to blame God, but God told me to take it back to the beginning when i first started. Gods not done yet not in my situation and he’s not done in any of yours. Hold on to his love, it’s sufficient and will get you through.. when you are to your witts ends and you can’t take no more, your blessing, your break through is right around the corner. Hold on

  • I’m married to a Pastor and I’m so hopeless and miserable. The mask and the pretending is too heavy for me. There has been unfaithfulness with multiple women, girls from internet. I crave to have a relationship at least 10mins a day for him to give me his attention or to just pray together. I feel IIke I live with a roomate. I don’t say much anymore. The silent pain is excruciating. My heart is crushed, I started having severe panic attacks. I feel so confused. Yet I go to church on Sunday and pretend we are this happy family. I don’t believe anything he’s preaching anymore. It’s sad to see how people in church don’t have any discernment. They put Pastors on the pedestals and forget that they are humans. Everyday the confusion overtakes me if I should run or the will of God for me to keep spending time on my knees and fight for this marriage. I don’t have any one to talk to about this because I know that no one in church will understand or believe me.

    • Hi Nellie. I am deeply saddened when I read your response. I am in the very same predicament. I’ve never ever realized that a person can be so unhappy and lonely in a marriage, where one is supposed to feel safe, loved and cared for. the multiple extramarital relationships, cyber affairs, cheating on me, lies & deceit which have been going on, has really broken me down. I feel like a failure and nothing that I do is ever good enough or recognized. Worst is, he doesn’t show any remorse , nor has he ever apologized to me. He refuses to go for marriage counseling. Since I’ve confronted him he refused to speak to me. He refuses to discuss what has happened, and if I push him too hard, he storms out of the house and drives off. None of our family members or church folk knows what is happening on the home front. He’s blocked me on WhatsApp and other social media platforms, if I send an SMS he never replies, yet he falls over his feet to tend to other’s calls He councils other couples, but our marriage is falling apart. He even threatens me with divorce. I’ve come to the point where I just don’t care any more. I feel unloved, neglected and very lonely. He is aggressive, short tempered, moody and grumpy, and downright rude to me, especially if we have a difference of opinion. He is very disrespectful and shouts me down when I want to discuss something with him. He never apologize, even if he is wrong. To the world and his friends he is the kind, well mannered man of God. I cringe when they commend him on his sermons and knowledge of the word of God. This is not a marriage, it’s a dictatorship! At times I want to expose him for who he really is, but God’s word teaches us not to be vengeful. I forgave him for what his done to me, but its very difficult to forget and move on. I fear God’s wrath upon him and the thousands of other Pastors who mislead their congregations and the world. I don’t understand why they are never convicted. I continue to pray for other Pastor’s wives who are being abused and victimized.

    • Gods Will says on

      OH My Gosh Nellie. I have gone through the exact same thing. I find myself praying to God whenever I’m discouraged or can’t sleep. Like now. I’m praying for all the PW that are operating in despair. Listening to the sermons of the man that’s not in Gods order is so disturbing and very difficult to do. I get it! I have been struggling with this myself. Since COVID, I have been listening to online ministries to recharge. Suffering is Silence is very painful. The need to talk to someone is so vital. I pray for all of us who are suffering in silence and pretending our lives are in order with the God we serve.

  • a double life says on

    I realize I’m a bit late to the party but, I’m there too. When my husband took his first church, we moved away from everyone I knew. He had his family, his ministry, and his hometown. I had very little. I struggled with depression, loneliness, the works. About five years into our marriage, I accepted the mistress. I mean how could I compete? I decided that my husband could not be my whole world. I got used to him being gone. I found other things to fill my life. I was happy. But, then my husband became jealous of my life. He got angry with my neglect. Please understand we had a healthy and happy physical relationship and short amicable conversations. I submissively gave up my little hobbies or projects and tried to do better, only to be left alone once more. Then came the depression, acceptance, fillers, his jealousy, and his anger. The cycle repeats again. This time (in our 10th year), he says that he is going to put me first. I don’t know if I should dare to hope. If he goes back to that mistress, I’m seriously considering becoming two people. One that makes him feel like I have nothing else in this world to look forward to than him coming home. And a second that pursues a secret life all my own, disconnected from the man that breaks my heart. Is it right to keep secrets so that we both can be happy?

  • I AM in a similar situation. I just don’t know what to do. For 6 years my husband had said that he will change but nothing changes…. and then he preaches to me…. I can’t stand it anymore!!! He pastors a small church and sometimes I hunk he thinks he has to be their savior!!!! I’m pregnant with our last child and I feel so alone!!!! Cried myself to sleep last night!!!! I know this is not the life god wants for me!! I just don’t know what to do anymore….

  • It’s a terrible thing when a wife and husband have such distance. Where she needs prayers, but she can probably use some love and sympathy from those in the church. Which it’s also ashame when church members don’t have the closeness that we’re supposed to have!
    But besides this, there should be answers as this is not an uncommon situation! In fact it’s very common. So there should be someone that has some viable answers and solutions.
    Where I think well of our pastor and his wife, where I’d want to be able to help without interfering if I knew how if there were a problem. Many times a problem could exist and no one knows. Then if they do, they don’t know how to help.
    Where some men need to feel admired which may be hard for a wife that’s affection and attention starved. Then when the home flame quit burning.
    Which a church isn’t supposed to be a hired man leading people. He doesn’t possess the gifts of the spirit any times I know of. He’s simply a man more knowledgeable than most. Where status can interrupt quite a bit. Or the demands of the congregation. As well as not being in contact with homelife.
    Where someone surely has experience with this and knows what’s needed.
    Where it sounds as if they’re already divorced, it just isn’t legalized.
    Where it’d be good if the church were taught how to realize such and learn how to help.
    But who knows how to? Again seperate the societal conditioning of culture and learning to have brotherly and sisterly love is more valuable than any academic knowledge. The simplicity of learning to lower ones guard and with who it’s safe and those that would exploit it otherwise turned away.
    Again a priest preacher or otherwise can be put on a pedestal and no one realizes his home needs. Which is common too.
    It also happens to physicians. Where they’re looked at to have the answers where some can have trouble just being a person. Same way in the church.
    God help us and save us from our not being vulnerable enough to be able to be close to. Where it’s a social disease where those who’d exploit someone being the humans we’re meant to be shouldn’t be in a church.
    Think about all the tears held in or cried alone. That’s reality. Where we emphasize toughness and distance which the Bible teaches against!
    When we become numb to each other, it contributes to those lost in drugs and alcohol. Teaching to be mean as if it’s a necessity. Where so many social ills are created from such. Again the Bible says this. Maybe this is why there’ll be few who make it to heaven. Galatians chapter 5, fruits of the spirit.
    Where I’ve known people who were kind, thoughtful and other qualities and were tough if it were necessary.
    Where the tender feelings of a lady, mmmmmmm.

  • Jeannie B. says on

    I feel for this lady. I myself endured the same type of neglect during my first marriage (more than 45 years ago now). My husband really did have a mistress; I didn’t know about it, but he would leave home right after dinner with the children every night, say he had to “go back to the hospital” [he was a doctor], and stay till 2 a.m. In those days we didn’t have cell phones. I would cry, pace the floor, call the hospital switchboard (who told me he was not at the hospital); and finally go to bed and cry myself to sleep. One night when driving my children around town “to look at the Christmas lights” I looked up the street address of a nurse in my husband’s office, decided to drive by there — and there was my husband’s car, parked in her driveway, for all to see — just as big and bold as can be! They’d been having an affair for months, and I never knew about it.

    I cried and cried, and then asked a girlfriend who had been divorced what I should do. She gave me the name of a Christian counselor, and I went to see him. He said most all of his clients are married to either doctors or preachers! –Because doctors and preachers have every excuse to be “working” long hours every day and even at night.

    Well, long story short, I finally woke up to the situation, got myself a good lawyer and divorced the cad. But the reason I tell this experience here is because of the similarities — when a man is in a “helping” profession he tends to get wrapped up in it, and totally forgets his wife and family.

    BTW, fifteen years later I met and married a totally devoted man, who took wonderful care of me and was faithful in every respect, until the day he died. I count my blessings for the Lord having provided him for me.

    God bless you, too, dear friend.

  • Feel free to contact me at reclaiming victory ministries in Tigard Oregon. Have been doing biblical counseling for 26 years. Have dealt with this (unfortunately) multiple hundreds of times. We do sessions all over the country via Skype. TD

  • Paul says in 1 Cor 4 “It is required of stewards to be found FAITHFUL” . After many years in ministry, I have come to the conclusion that I will thankful enough for the Lord to keep me faithful to the end. Brothers, it is okay if you never plant a church. It is okay if you don’t start a new movement. Keep loving Jesus. Keep loving your wife and family. Keep preaching the gospel. Keep walking with God. Keep faithful to the calling. IF God grants you a big congregation or a small congregation, be thankful, and be faithful. This is enough my brothers. It will be more than enough when we are prostrate before the all surpassing splendour of Jesus. Let’s keep our eyes on our dear Bridegroom’s face, and not the Bride’s garments. It is enough.

  • Jennifer Parker says on

    A local pastor talked about this one Wednesday night, and he stressed the responsibility for every pastor, by saying, “no family, no ministry’. While I agreed with him to a certain extent, I didn’t agree totally. This was several weeks ago, and since then I have felt God leading me to respond to your post. This morning, I had to find it and respond.

    As a PW for over 30 years, one of the main things I have learned is this. My expectations that my husband will meet all my needs, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually usually end in being disillusioned. God has gently reminded me time and again that He is my sufficiency, that no ‘man’ can fulfill the depth of my being; that only He can fill my soul so I can be “filled with all the fullness” of Christ. My heart and prayers go out to you. You must remember that God is the only one who can change your husband. Not your feelings, not your desires, not your opinions – only God. Your full trust must be in Him. He can fill you with His peace, His love. When you are filled with Him, your husband will begin to see Christ in you and God will begin to speak to his heart, mind, and soul. I pray for God to begin to heal your hurt, your desperation. You might not want to trust God right now – I understand that – but do it one minute at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time. God loves me – repeat that as many times as it takes. Read what God says about you, even if you don’t want to, do it because you are desperate to hear from Him. One of my favorite verses is from Zephaniah: “He rejoices over you with singing”!!! Who else does that for you? When it seems like no one else does, God ALWAYS does. He loves and cares for you more deeply than your husband ever can; only God can bring your husband to set His (God’s) priorities rightly. I pray you will ‘look to Him, the Author and Finisher of your faith’. He hears your desperate cries, catches all of your tears. You are not alone. I pray for this momentous decision you are thinking about making out of desperation. “Bailing out”, as a previous writer said, gives the devil the false sense that he has won in this situation; but “trusting in” God will restore you, your marriage, your family. I pray you have received the help you need, that you will renew your relationship to God. I pray you will receive this note with all the love that God has filled me with to communicate with you, that it is not just more than just platitudes or words. God loves YOU, you are precious to Him, you are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, this situation is not a surprise to Him. Jesus suffered loneliness, exhaustion, attacks on His life and ministry, so He knows what you are going through; He died to take all of that on Himself so you wouldn’t have to bear it yourself. Do you continue to bear it all yourself or give it Him? That is your choice, dear one. God holds you in the ‘palm of His hand and NOTHING can snatch you’ out of it.

    Please know you are in many people’s prayers. I love you.

  • Oh my… As I read this tears begin to fall. I feel this same kind of pain I to have a husband in the ministry going on 4 years. He tries to balance but some how my family always gets the ” short end of the stick” .

    PS. I pray that I don’t fall in to temptation.

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