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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  • PW at a loss says on

    WOW! Just wow. I found this article, when I googled “pastor’s wife neglected.”
    My husband, whom I love very much, is full-time senior pastor. We have been married for 16 years and have 4 children. I am a stay-at-home mom and the volunteer church secretary. My feeling of “neglect” seems to be a little different from the others that I read, but the emotions are the same. My husband makes a point to take me to lunch 2-4 times a month although we rarely get an evening date due to extracurricular activities of 4 children. He loves me and he shows it in many ways. I am certain of his love for me and of my love for him.

    So, what’s the problem, you say? He preaches a sermon every Sunday morning and Sunday night and leads an Adult Discipleship class on Wednesday nights. He leads a men’s Bible study 3-4 times a month and a men’s prayer breakfast once a month. All of this requires study. He devotes himself to study which of course includes reading his Bible. It also includes reading several other books constantly and listening to sermons/podcasts as well.

    I recently overheard him comment to someone that approximately 25 hours of study time is requires for each sermon. He preaches 2 sermons a week. That’s 50 hours. This is not including prep time for the Adult Discipleship class, men’s Bible study and men’s prayer breakfast.

    He reads, listens to podcasts or watches videos constantly. He is a godly man. I don’t question for one moment that is doing the right thing during this study time.

    BUT here’s the problem…on Christmas Even, he went to the church to study. He explained that he needed to go early (we have a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service) so he could spend some time studying since we were going to be out of town visiting family for several days after Christmas. Makes sense to me, right? We spend two and a half days after Christmas with my family. He took his backpack on this trip and spent the bulk of the time we were there with books and laptop spread over the dining room table studying. He did take out enough time one day to take our boys to the movies. He took time one evening to have a 2-hour private conversation with my brother. And he spent about an hour one evening playing cards with a group of us. The entire rest of the time we were there, other than when we were eating or sleeping, he was studying. He took time for our sons and my brother, but couldn’t sit in a room with me to visit.

    He will schedule time to go and do things with our kids…special movies with the boys…special shopping trips with the girls. But I get thrown a bone in the form of lunch at the local convenience store or a flea market trip 2-3 times a year.

    Last night I asked him if he wanted to play a game with me and kids. He snapped back “I can’t!” because he was studying (as always). He studied for a while, then watched almost an hour of a football game…all while the kids and I were in the room with him. Then DURING today’s sermon, he made a public apology for snapping at me. I really wasn’t even bothered or hurt by the tone of his voice when he snapped at me. I was more upset by the fact that he “couldn’t” take time to play a game with us, but he could watch a ball game.

    I fear for what my children are learning by watching this behavior. I don’t want them to think….sigh….I don’t know what I want them to think anymore.

    If I say anything about it, then I’m being selfish and asking/wanting too much. I will be asked “don’t you know that I love you…don’t I show you that I love you…didn’t I take you to lunch last week…didn’t we go to the flea markets…” blah blah blah blah blah blah. I feel that there is no point in my even addressing the problem. How to you say “you are studying too much” without sounding like a high maintenance, selfish woman?!?! It’s lose-lose.

    I just want to spend time with my husband. Sometimes he studies at home during the week…that’s nightmarish. He’s either in the living room or bedroom and I feel that I have to walk on egg shells to make sure I maintain an environment conducive to his studying. He loves to tell people that he is home now more than he used to be. Whatever! Just because you are under the same roof doesn’t mean you are home. If you are in another room and don’t want to be disturbed because you are studying, then that doesn’t count as time at home.

    He was bi-vocational for 10 years before he went full-time 4 years ago. I was certain that we would see him more than we did when he was bi-vocational. Kids probably do see him more because he is able to be involved in there extracurricular activities by coaching basketball and such. But I see him less and less due to his head buried in books, videos or podcasts.

    I would love some advice on how to address this and I would love some prayers as I muddle through this.

    • Lonely young wife says on

      You just described my life! I am praying for you and your heart. I cried reading this. The study steals him emotionally, mentally and physically. Don’t get me started on vacations. What vacation? He sets uo shop in the corner to read his pastoring books and to get ahead while he has time. He says thats how he relaxes. We didn’t get to do a honeymoon because seminary classes started the week after our marriage. Looking back I should have seen this coming.

  • Looking for a Pastor who is MADLY in LOVE with HIS WIFE says on

    Wow! I stumbled on to this site when I googled “my pastor puts his wife down” I was overwhelmed with heartache when I read the posts.
    I’m thinking that there is definitely a post on here from the wife of the lead pastor of the church I attend. They don’t seem to have much of a marriage and don’t even try to cover it up.
    I have been looking for a Christian church and recently found one with great Christian music and 4 pastors. However, when the lead pastor speaks he always finds a way to put his wife down at least 1x in the 30 minute sermon. When the 2nd pastor in line speaks, he talks very well about his wife but he puts himself down throughout the entire sermon. The third pastor in line is the only one who delivers a great sermon he doesn’t put himself down or his wife but he’s young and I’m afraid that he’s going to pick up bad habits from the other 2. The fourth pastor has only delivered one sermon in the 9 months that I’ve attended this church. He delivers the best biblical sermon. I’m considering asking the lead pastor for the schedule and only attend service when pastor 3 and 4 are on the schedule. Can anyone give me advice on how I should handle this?

  • A tired fed up desperate and resentful pastor’s wife says on

    I hate church now. I resent al the people at church because they seem to matter more than me them or anyone related to anything about a church. I ah e to deal with all these dumb expectations from people in church who think that I have to be a certain way. I was told by a church member that I’m don’t say hello to her and other women feel that I’m cold. Now my husband wants to talk to me about how he can “help” me to have a more positive image. I’m not trying to change my image because I’m not in the business of changing peoples opinion about me. I’m one person! I can’t say hello to everybody, hug everybody and be all things to all people. I don’t even like hugging people! It makes me cringe! I can’t be myself around people from church. I try to talk to my husband and all I get are all these answers about my spiritual growth. It just makes me resent him and them more. This life is so burdensome! I don’t read the Bible much any more. I don’t pray much anymore either. I dread going to church! Are there any happy pastor’s wives out there? Is ther hope? How does this get better? I’m waiting out the last few years before my child goes to college and after that I think I will bail out if I don’t go absolutely crazy before then!

    Is there any hep out there? I’m desperate.

  • Patrick Thompson says on

    I have asked for advice before from you and your advice was well received. However, I still find myself in a precarious position of serving in a church where my son-in law is the pastor and his wife, my wife’s daughter is in full control of the church. What do I mean by full control? The pastor has to ask her either in person or by phone before he will make some of the simplest decisions. Currently, she runs the church board, Christian Education, Women’s Ministry, our food bank, she is on the worship team, and just recently we were able to acquire a Sub-Way franchise, which she completely take care of the business of that also. I get out of breath when I see everything that she is doing plus still working a job. I have been wanting to leave this church for over three years, because I believe I can serve somewhere else that I can use the gifts that God had given me to include my education. I do teach in this church but years ago I was told I had to start teaching out of the denomination cirriculm instead of just teaching from the Bible. I do have a PhD in Theology and I really know how to teach from the Bible, which is my passion. I’m not trying to portray my innocence of being critcal, but trying to explain something that I think is very unhealty. Most of the people in our church have never been “churched” and therefore would not necessarily notice nor complain. My wife does not like me talking about these things to her, but at the same time sees the same things. Our church hasn’t been growing for years and is now shriniking. I feel like the pastor’s wife and the pastor are threatened because of my education and the fact that people like my teaching in the church. They never ask for ideas or opinions from the board or anyone in the church, not that they have to, because the A.G. are Sovereign when it comes to the Pastor making all decisions. I could go further into this comment, but I think you get the picture and the dilemna I face. I almost feel like I have literally wasted several years in this church under the control of the Pastor’s wife.

  • There is help! Please check out Dave and Peggy Jones who have a ministry to pastors and pastors wives. They served for over 30 years in ministry and now raise support to help people that are desperate in ministry or struggling or who just need rest, and it’s free! They are dear friends of ours and have helped us in our own marriage as pastor and pastors wife.

  • Depressed PW says on

    I revisit this post every year it seems. Things just get worse. I’m a Pastor’s wife with a husband who is honestly self-centered, and cannot see the pain and neglect he is causing his family. I used to try to convey this honorably, but when you are sinking in sin, you don’t want to be told about yourself. I get that. There’s way too much to write, so I’ll just ask, would some real prayer warriors bombard heaven for me? I’m so over this life.

  • My wife told me that she is going to divorce me. From the world’s perspective, I am extremely successful. Rich, great job, smart, healthy, married to a beautiful woman, a number of smart, great-looking kids, big house, serve in the church, educated at the best schools in the country and also degrees from Christian colleges. But that’s the outside. As she says, “I’m done.” I’m reading through this trying to figure out where we went so wrong after over 2 decades of marriage. We’ve always strived to serve Christ. She has had a very difficult time during our marriage submitting in a lot of areas (sexual, television, how to discipline kids). As our kids went into the teen years and showed signs of rebellion and typical teen sinful stuff (times about 100!), I tried to manage the house and guide the family in the fear and admonition of the Lord. But she always wanted me to do something different. Take away the phones! Don’t let them be friends with those other kids! Don’t let them go out! Make them respect me! Of course, these are easy things to say but difficult things to actually force. And they don’t change the heart. So I did some and did other things in lieu of some. But it was never enough. Why? Because I wasn’t doing it her way and because the “results” were not sufficient. The kids show disdain for her because she is mad all the time. They don’t have much of a relationship and I try to be a peacemaker on both sides. But it’s never enough for her. She seems to have quenched the Holy Spirit as she just wants out even though she knows it will have a negative impact on the family, her witness as a believer, and the Church. And she knows it will disqualify me from ministry. I’ve pleaded with her, but it falls on deaf ears. I’m sure I’m responsible somehow, perhaps I haven’t cherished her enough. I just don’t know. But I somehow have not managed my family well, even though I am a strong leader in other areas of my life. Perhaps the ladies can tell me what I can do. I’m at a loss and I want to serve God. Part of the problem is that I often tell her how we (she) can live better for Him. It comes across as judging, of course, and she takes it as criticism. But what is a man who is charged with leading supposed to do if his wife doesn’t follow? Help!

    • Your wife doesn’t need you to “lead” her and she doesn’t need to “submit to you sexually” or any of that other stuff you listed. Your post is full of all the things you do that upsets your wife, and all the ways you feel your wife is wrong. Your wife needs a friend and a partner. You are readily admitting you aren’t these things.

      And why did you announce you are rich and successful and you’re having problems with your wife? You aren’t a pastor if you’re rich, that’s for sure. Are you preying on sad, lonely pastor’s wives here?

  • This is me... says on

    I apologize in advance for the lengthy response. I just need to tell my story in a safe place. I’m a pastors wife and my 14 year marriage is exactly like the woman’s who began this discussion. The only difference is my husband’s responses over the progression of my pleas with him. Early on he would silently, with no expression, listen to my concerns and desires and say he’d try to do better. He’d be okay until I came to him with something else. Mid-way through our marriage he would respond with rolling his eyes, shaking his head, sometimes snickering at my words, defending himself, or dismissing my argument calling me disrespectful, clueless, and contentious. He’d ask ‘do you just like to fight?’ and say I have no clue how disrespectful I am, that I’m blind, and I’m just missing it. I’d ask him to tell me what I’m missing, that I just want him to hear me and WANT to try to improve things (more time together, show interest in me, WANT to do life with me) and he’d say if I didn’t know he couldn’t explain it to me. These discussions usually ended with him telling me to shut up or a stern ‘that’s enough’ and walk away. He wasn’t moved by my pain and I slowly began losing respect for him. He became really good at saying/doing things to make me feel small. He would not apologize or seek forgiveness unless I shamed him into it. I continued to express what disheartened me and my concern that if this pattern continued we’d end up divorced. This enraged him because he swears he’d never do that — he’ll stay no matter how horrible things get. I wish he had that much determination to invest in our relationship.

    Throughout all of this, he didn’t partner with me in ministry either. He wanted to do it alone, actually requested I not get involved. Sometimes he’d need me to do something for him and I would do it. But mostly he was a silo, an island, always studying and praying, didn’t pursue family or friendships but had numerous acquaintances due to his wit, humor, and gregarious personality. Still he wouldn’t allow anyone to tell him anything. Not me, not the head pastor, no one. He deflected blame onto others when his performance was questioned. Then he was offered his first head pastor position and he took it. Our daughter was 3.

    Our problems continued. He became even more isolated now that he was the head. We went to counseling but nothing stuck. I started realizing he expected me to never question him or his behavior, something that was modeled in his parents marriage, and I watched it play out with our daughter as she got older. Any “why daddy” or “do I have to” was met with him calling our then 5-6 year old disrespectful (saying she learned it from me) and threatening to spank her for it. When her happiness and safety was on the line I started setting boundaries, and that’s when the real battles began. I took up for her, pointed out his harshness with her. Others noticed it, too, but no one confronts a pastor. I’m his only open critic. I told him he could do or say whatever he wanted with me, but not with her. And he has. I’m now screamed at, called names, cussed at. And after telling me if I was a guy he’d break my ribs, he physically removed me when I refused to be dismissed. That was last week. I left with my daughter that night and we stayed at a friends. I debated about returning, but decided to the next day. After 4 days of silence, sleeping separately (which has gone on about a year now), he attempted to sweep it under the rug with a comment to me about our dog. I told him I didn’t want to talk until we talked about what happened. He’s staying away except to sleep at night and we haven’t spoken since. Of course no one in our church or neighbors or friends in town knows any of this. He’s well liked, loved, revered. No one would ever believe he’s capable of anything like this. And I’m left wondering what should happen now.
    A counselor we went to this year told me it’s okay that I’m angry because what’s happening isn’t God’s model. She said to no longer get my validation from my husband, to only get it from my relationship with God. And she felt this behavior from him is narcissistic, something she believes was modeled for him all his life and runs deep. She doesn’t think he knows how to love but feels we can turn this around. After this past week I’ve given him back to God and left the outcome with Him. I no longer desire for him to WANT to do life with me or pursue me as God intended. I used to be so broken that he didn’t show love toward me and didn’t pursue me. Now I’m the one who doesn’t care. And yes, my relationship with God has suffered, and that’s where I’m focusing every effort now.

    I don’t know if my marriage will ever be as God intended or if it will even survive. I don’t know if my husbands heart toward me will ever change and my respect for him can be regained. I don’t know if divorce should be on the table. I realize we’re both culpable. I eventually lost heart and contributed to where we are. I started looking at him and not at God for my worth. But I do know I’m no longer desiring him or the success of our marriage more than I desire God. That was a mistake I’ll NEVER make again. Whatever I do, I will keep my eyes fixed on the One who deeply loves me and desires SO MUCH for me, no matter what.

  • Tired Pastors Wife says on

    Thank you for this, I now know that I am not alone. My Marriage has become somewhat of A Nightmare for me, My Husband is definitely NOT the Man I once knew. We’ve been Married for 7 Years and I’ve spent the last 3 in Misery, I honestly have no idea who he is. We don’t talk, we don’t have a sexual Relationship no intimacy nothing that normal Marriages have. Once he got the Call and started Bible College nothing else and no one else mattered not even myself nor his Child.

    I tried speaking to my Husband before during and after Bible College, but he’s pretty good at being A Rug Sweeper. I explained to him several times that we were disconnected from Each Other and I warned him that once the bond was broken it would be extremely hard to reestablish, it fell on deaf Ears. Now after going through this for 2 Years almost 3 he wants to just pretend everything is okay, and nothing has ever happened. I’m no longer interested in him sexually not interested in reconnecting with him. At this point in my Life I’ve become him all he cares about are appearances so I play my part while putting away Money to Divorce him very Soon.

  • Pastors wife j says on

    Kind of in the same situation. Been pastors wife for 4 years, plus BC of the area we pastor in he has to have a full time secular job as well. I homeschooling our 6 children, take care of the home, and Sunday school ordering, and church supplies. And am feeling so run down like this isn’t even worth the battle, especially since he has gotten so angry when he’s at home. And everything is mine or the kids fault. Even though I’m drowning in homeschooling and tried talking to him multiple times it has only gotten worse. So this time I am not saying a word until God says letting him go on and praying God will show him in such a way to make a HUGE change……

    • Pastors wife j says on

      Forgot to add he has aquirred a worldly friendship and this person has become his best friend, leaving me virtually friendless and so lonely. He knows how this person changes his behavior but continues to have this friendship.

  • Lynda Carver says on

    My husband and I met and married in seminary. A church hired him to as the bi-vocational lead pastor. Eventually he became full time and brought me on as the bi-vocational associate pastor paid on a stipend bases. In hindsight, I cherish those years of congregational support, compatibility and accountability. Of course we encountered challenges common to team leadership but nothing debilitating.

    With my permission he pursued and attained a new pastorate. We’ve been in this new church for three years and progress has been slow. After two years, he brought me on in a titled-unpaid capacity. The new congregation supports his leadership; and, they cordially tolerate my presence as his wife and as a church leader. I feel undervalued and unappreciated by the congregation.

    While my husband promotes and celebrates me publically, privately he tells me that I make his life miserable. He does not want to hear how hurt I feel when the congregation ignores my contribution to the ministry. I led several ministries, manage and execute communications, develop policies and procedures, and, help all ministry leaders plan and facilitate missions.

    I don’t really expect much from the congregation. But, from my husband, partner in ministry, I expect more compassion and understanding about my feelings. To avoid argument, I am strategic when I express my feelings to him but it never seems like the right time.

    I want my marriage, I accepted and prepared for my ministry calling, but I feel like I’m in the background of my own life. Marriage and ministry makes me sad and mad.

  • Paige Condray says on

    This all sounds so familiar.

    I am a pastor’s wife of almost 15 years. Our first 11 years were bi-vocational and now we are just starting our 3rd year of full-time ministry.

    We have 4 kids. We live in the community where my husband is pastor, our kids attend the public school here and it is a very small community (around 300).

    This year’s Mother’s Day marks my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. They live in a town about 150 miles away. Recently, I approached my husband about possibly joining me and our children to surprise them for the Mother’s Day service at THEIR church. I immediately got the response I somewhat expected. “Well, there are 3 really important Sundays (Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter) and I can’t miss Mother’s Day.”

    I’m crushed. 3 really important services? Aren’t they all important? I know he is implying that we’ll most likely have lots of visitors that day and he hates not to be there. Is the Church really going to fall apart if he misses preaching a sermon on Mother’s Day?

    And aren’t those holidays EVERY YEAR? I’m asking for one. Just one. Am I out of line? Am I asking too much? Should Mother’s Day service take precedence over my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary? Why do I feel guilty for having asked now?

    I thought family was supposed to come before the Church?

    • Lynda Carver says on


      I empathize with you. Do not feel guilty, for another moment, about asking your husband to leave church for Mother’s Day. Family is our first ministry. I’ll be praying for agreement in your household. It is your Mother’s Day too.

      I also pray you can navigate past hurt feelings and any bitterness against your husband and church.

      Your husband has a powerful opportunity to demonstrate Eph 5: 25 to husbands, that is to love your wife as Christ loved the church. The church is the bride of Christ and he died for her. May your husband be willing to sacrifice this one day for you.

      Praying Fervently

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