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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  • Bobby Rushing says on

    Bro Rainer: do you have a helpful resource or study that would help my wife and I prioritize our activities to make our marriage healthier? I feel her resentment and dislocation but I don’t identify with all the anger or being hostile to ward God. I love the ministry and feel as I I get no support from home?! This situation is baffling and hard to understand… please recommend a resource that can help us both understand how we feel and can have healing in Jesus!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Bobby –

      Try The Love Dare. Make certain both of you agree to each of the day’s commitments in the book. Another good resource is The Five Love Languages. Prayers for you, my friend.

      • Bobby Rushing says on

        Thank you! Treasure your prayers! I pray that God will help my life to encourage her.

  • I’m not a PW; I’m a PK. I HATED every moment of it. My parents were married over 50 years, but Mom was extremely lonely in her marriage. We were put on a N0-Failure Allowed performance contract so he wouldn’t look bad. He was (and still is) conscious of his image and what people think. It was a nightmare… We were always second chair (if that high) to the church and the members; he was on call 24/7. We never took family vacations because the shepherd couldn’t leave the sheep although he neglected the sheep that lived with him. He is showing signs of dementia now, and I’m his sole caretaker. Honestly, I struggle with honoring him as God has mandated and resenting him for decades of neglect and self-centeredness. He still pastors the church and has said on numerous occasions that he had to neglect his family because the Bible says, “Woe unto the shepherd who does not feed the sheep,” and “Woe unto the shepherd who scatters the sheep.” Yet his family starved for his attention and the kind words, patience, and consideration he showed others. I’m struggling with all of it…

  • Ladies I want us to come together and talk through. Drop me an email. We have so much on common.

  • Maruyi Hester Hughes says on

    I am not married to a pastor but to a husband that uses the scriptures to let me know he is the head of the household. He has breakfast with his pastor every week to get hurtful ideas. My husband tell his pastor everything I do but will not tell him how pornography hurt me. His pastors miss treats his wife and my husband can not see it.

  • i am so relief that i’m not the only one dealing with issues of being a PW. i love my husband but sometime things he do don’t make since. i’m tired of the arguing, i am becoming resentful toward him. i have read so many of the replies and couldn’t stop crying, because i can relate. i just wish i had someone to talk to face to face.

  • The lady’s blog and the comments are my story over and over. Obviously we are hurting as we are desperately searching for articles like this. (Notice it was written in 2016…4 years ago.) For the 1st time ever I don’t feel crazy. I am throwing in the towel though. Almost 30 years. I can’t live like this anymore. I will be the bad guy because he is perfect. Leaving will cost me everything and him nothing. I just can’t keep going.

  • My husband is a leader in a small church, I’m a worship leader. My family had suffered due to his stubbornness with one of our female lost person who destroyed our life.I took care of her , welcome her to our home, taught her and feed her. They committed adultery and had an illegitimate son that I was praying to conceived for many years.
    I became so angry and bitter, My anger had caused me to commit sin and I feel so lost.
    Regreting all the good things we did helping others while our family suffered and lost everything we ever had. I find it so difficult to move forward , I forgave them both and still married to him but seems that I cannot accept their son and having trauma serving again. I just lost the passion for other people. I want to get heal and be happy again.

  • My husband is a pastor. I am the worship leader. My kids play the instruments and handle the media. I was angry with him recently and walked out of church all the way home because he refused to hear me out and insisted I should do my job screaming at me while standing at the back of the few members that attended church that evening. The worship team backups lead worship but also saw his attitude towards me. I had good reason to approach him though. I felt embarrassed and confused. He won’t speak that way to anyone else in church. When he came home he screamed and started praying in the house as though I am possessed. Screaming at me in between his prayer. Saying that i have a bad spirit a filthy spirit on me. I said a few things but I didnt mean him or ‘his” church any harm. I couldnt be at church with the way I was feeling. I felt i should just leave and take my anger with. This is not the first time he has done this to me. Not forgetting all the times he embarrasses me in front of people and think nothing of it. Can be his parents, our children, church member, even my family. He has spent hours working on the church and making it look good but our home needs to look good and he ignores that part. He doesn’t listen when I speak. He thinks he is always right. He’s never wrong and he will come out like a shining star. He always says that he is anointed and I that when i say things to him that he feels is wrong then its dangerous for me cos he is anointed. He prayed last night that God must deal with me.
    I am so done with feeling this way – i could not cry last night about it nor can I cry today, yet it pains me to have to go through this every so often. I don’t have anyone that I can speak to as all the pastors in our area are his friends and I am concerned of the consequences I might let arise in discussing our issues with them. For my husband it will look like I am trying to bring him down. He won’t look at it from my point to fix what is breaking. I tired and miserable and I don’t feel like going home after work.
    Please give me some advise.

    • Hurt Pastor’s Wife says on

      My husband and I just started a church and this is EXACTLY how I feel now. I feel like the entire church comes before me. How are you guys now? Did things get better for you?

  • I am a pastor’s wife and I needed help. I was googling hopelessly and found this website. I read it and cried a lot. This is exactly what I am going through right now.
    I have two year old daughter and if I keep my life like this, I don’t know if I can joyfully raise my kid..
    I desperately want to leave my husband and the church..

  • Anita R says on

    I am 57 years old and a pastor’s wife. I have been active in *his* ministry for 22 years and I am burned out. He is a wonderful man, truly, but I have been last in his priorities for a long time. I stopped being active in *his* ministries last year after I snapped at him in front of some youth group kids. I knew it was time to step away because my anger (rage?) was showing.

    Now I stay at home for the most part. Our lives have totally separated now that I am not his grunt worker. That has made me feel worthless and ashamed… what purpose do I have now??? I have no friends because I don’t feel safe getting close to anyone. All of the women I know think my husband is perfect and admirable (in public, he is). They know nothing about what I am experiencing other than I am “depressed.”

    My faith is almost gone. I no longer feel the Holy Spirit and I hate church (as others have commented) It is a painful place, where I sit with people who have caused me so much pain. We have a few who are so mean-spirited and critical, including one ELDER who constantly judges my husband and has verbally attacked him more than once. His wife has written viciously attacking letters about my husband to the board. The other elders are afraid of him so they did not make him step down when the majority of the church (80%) tried to vote him out. So attending church is a painful and ongoing reminder of the trauma I have endured there… it is like silently being revictimized and asking for more.

    My husband and I live separate lives. When he is home, meaning two hours or so a day before he collapses into sleep, he spends all of his time on the computer in his office (where he eats), then he’s off to bed. I seldom even see him and I never know where he is if someone asks. Saturday is his day of rest since Sunday is his busiest day, but he hops into action if anyone needs anything. But if I need something, he blows it off. I have a broken threshold in one doorway that I have asked him to fix for THREE years. I am somewhat handicapped, and I have asked him to make us a walk-in shower for my safety (he is a carpenter)… but he has ignored that request for years, too. But if someone else needs something, he hops up immediately to assist–everyone thinks he’s so wonderfully attentive. And what a dream husband he must be!

    I am close to divorcing him. I want to retire and move away to a warmer climate, but he has made it clear he will NEVER retire. The only way I will get that wish is to leave him. I have no one to talk to because we live in a small town and EVERYONE knows him and thinks he walks on water. To whom can I possibly talk??? I have been depressed and angry to the point of considering suicide but now I take all kinds of psychotropic medications to numb that inclination. But the anger, the rage, breaks through when I least expect it.

    I hear the pain of the women here and I share in their unheard cry for help. I understand the shame and guilt they might feel for even thinking about their own feelings. I wish someone would write a book about what is happening to us… and not some flowery women’s book about Jesus loving self-sacrifice. Our voices need to be heard by those who claim to “care about” us!!

    • This is my story as well, but worst. I feel so helpless and hopeless with no one to talk to. Will keep lifted in prayer along with other Pastors wives.

  • Tired and grieving PW says on

    Wow. I have sat and read these messages for about an hour now. Oh how I relate to them! My husband has been a full time pastor the entire length of our marriage…16 years. I fully supported his calling (he told me about it while we were dating). He is a good pastor, loves his congregation, and loves me and our boys without a doubt. But I have to say, that his “marriage” to the church is slowly pushing me away.

    In the last 5-6 years, I have felt the increasing burden of feeling the need to be perfect. Our kids are expected not to act up (any parent wants that, right?). To my husband, any type of incident with them, it will be viewed by the church as a problem with us and our parenting. The church may not want us here anymore, if we can’t control our kids. It’s all about appearances with my husband. This living in the fishbowl is slowly draining me emotionally and spiritually.

    He is on call 24/7. He has missed family meals, our boys’ sporting events, family events with my side of the family (oddly enough, he can typically make it to his family’s get togethers), and many other things. We hardly ever have a date night, never have taken a trip without our kids, (my husband would never do it). He doesn’t want to go out with other couples and have fun or take a trip with other couples. He’s always too busy or just doesn’t want to. I NEED this, whereas, he is content with being totally involved in his work.

    To add to these stressors, about 2 years ago, my grandmother (who was more like my mother, as I lost my mom when I was 15) passed away. It wasn’t a shock but painful, nonetheless. Then, about 11 months later, my husband lost his grandmother. Two weeks later, I lost my sister suddenly to a massive heart attack. She was not only my sister, but my best friend. I was devastated. Still am. It has now been nine months. I can promise you…I didn’t miss a beat at church though. I still continued to teach the kids’ Sunday school class, help out on Wed nights, etc. My husband was asked to do a burial of a church member on the same morning we had my sister’s visitation. As horrible as this sounds, I was livid. I needed him. But instead, he was away preaching another funeral.

    So, I’m dealing with the worry of “what will people think?/how will this or that look to the church” . At the same time, I’m grieving, lonely, and angry. The one person I could always go to (my sister) is gone. I never read my Bible, pray here and there, and really don’t want to go to church, but all the while, living with a smile on my face when I step outside the walls of my house, when all I really want to do is curl up in a ball and cry. Why? Well, because I’m the PW. Everything has to appear perfect.

    I’m so sorry for the other ladies who are experiencing similar marriages. This is not how a marriage is to be, right? Praying for things to change…

  • Lonely young wife says on

    So many tears and I cry with them. I feel their pain and in a final effort I sent this to my husband who is about to enter his first lead pastor role. I have been feeling this way for years. Thought the Emotional Healthy relationship course at church would help but he doesn’t take it seriously. We never discuss it at home. He gets mad when i talk to him so I started to text and email but he hates them and doesn’t respond to those.

    When he read this he said “wow depression is a real thing for these ladies.” Totally blew off the part of the “pastors” wife is a wife to a man who has emotionally and mentally abandoned her.

    He sees me as emotional and wont talk with me a out my feelings. We need to just pray about them. Give them to God…which I pray all the time. I am at the point of emotionally detaching and distancing myself. I cant do this anymore. Never eye contact, fumbling apologies and only comes close when he needs physical attention. I feel sad because he made so many promises about this next move during interview process then when he was called out about “oneness” in our marriage. Now that he has the job it is back to lonliness and my so called “depression”. I am done and leaning on the Lord…12 years of this.

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