During the ten years of personal recovery and ministry to pastors and their spouses, the director of CRN has encountered lots of pain. There is no shortage of pastors who are hurting deeply. What about their spouses? It is our experience the spouses of clergy are hurting at a deeper level of agony. Their voices have often gone unheeded, their pain, their desires, their needs and their longings have been set aside because of the urgency and pressure of ministry. This is also true when a pastor finds it necessary to seek recovery and help.
Too often the spouse and her needs are once again marginalized. Resources are short, the pastoral recovery is necessitated by his career and the availability of quality affordable help for these selfless spouses is scarce. Dear spouse, know you matter and there is hope.
Spouses are hurting for many reasons but at least four surface regularly at the Clergy Recovery Network. First spouses hurt because of their own issues. Their weaknesses, failures, addictions and sin of course hurt them, their husbands and the ministry. The experience of CRN is this pain is the least prevalent and severe among ministry spouses.
Another category of spousal pain is the pain caused intentionally and unintentionally by oppressive pastor husbands. Spouses are often silenced by non biblical male domination and the necessity to submit for the good of their pastor husbands and the churches. Spouses are squashed by the weight of non biblical systems which use the Bible to teach a submission which is really oppression and abuse. When wives up against this begin to take care of themselves and seek empowerment to be all God wants them to be as women, spouses and healers they often meet severe challenges at home and in their churches.
Husbands who think they are following the biblical tradition of Ephesians 5 find it all too easy to explain to themselves and their hurting wives the problems encountered in the marriage are their wives faults. They say things like, “If she would just do better, be more, try harder and be sweeter”. Male pastors whose ministries are fueled by selfish ambition or fear of failure seek to quiet their wives concerns using the guise of assumed biblical authority. When he and others use the Bible this way it becomes the worst kind of spiritual abuse. Pushing a wife to become a doormat for the sake of the ministry is a brutal violation of Ephesians 5.
The third main category of spousal pain is the pain which results from the clergyman’s weakness, failure, sin or addictions. Spouses, for example, are often the first to discover the Internet abuse of their pastor husbands. We have worked with many wives who have repeatedly caught their husbands using porn and been silenced. For the good of the church, the children or the Lord their pastor husbands plead with them or require them to join them in the secret. We are not suggesting or implying every time a wife catches a husband doing something inappropriate the wise thing to do is to disclose the matter to the church Board but when secrets are kept and sins repeated and repeated something must be done.
This creates a powerful dilemma for spouses. A spouse who seeks help for a husband who is harboring secret sin must stare down her own insecurity, must face the fact she could cause her husband to loose his career and must crank up tremendous courage to tell the truth. Some spouse who do all this and take a stand do not tell safe and helpful people and the abuse and secrets then continue. When pastors are hooked on sex, gambling, Internet use, violence or other secret sins a spouse must often choose to expose her husband and create instability for herself and her children in order gain the help necessary. Many pastors who were furious when they discovered their wives told someone at CRN what they were up against have come to appreciate their courageous steps toward family freedom.
A fourth category of spousal pain is the pain of a conflicted marriage. Ministry spouses have suffered miserable marriages for the sake of the ministry for centuries. How do you tell someone your pastor husband is a jerk? Pastors who work all the time, are not willing or able to interact intimately and lovingly with their spouses, or who are emotionally distant are not honoring the Lord or truly effective in ministry. If you are a spouse in such a marriage you feel trapped. There is something you can do. We encourage you to reach for help today. Wives are often the first to seek help. You can be one of them and join others on the recovery journey.
If you struggle as a clergy spouse under the weight of the ministry or the pain of personal or marital problems you need support. One means of support CRN provides is a forum for you and your peers to strengthen and encourage one another. Go to CRN Forums and join today. You may also talk via email with a spouse who has Been There, Done That. You may find a fellow ministry spouse who will share your pain. If your needs are more urgent go to the Finding Help page and assume you matter as much as any pastor who shows up at CRN. You do matter this much.
If you are the spouse of a pastor who is struggling with one of the topics in this section of our web site or with an issue which is not addressed here go to the Finding Help page and find the confidential help you need to know what to do next in your confusing setting. You deserve all the help you can find for your self and your spouse. You will find sound biblical empowerment and you will find hope. You are not stuck. Only your silence and not seeking help will hinder you from more hope and help than you imagined possible. You are not alone. Your voice matters. You can make a difference in your husband’s life and ministry. We trust you here.
You are welcome! Hurry back!
Please know you do not have to go through this alone. Please contact us and allow us to walk with you.
I would like to keep my name covered but, I am a woman pastor who has an unsaved husband. I have over 20 years put up with adultury and my husband having a child with the other woman. Not only that it didn’t stop there he continued. He would stay out all night, leave come home when he felt like it, drink gamble, lie cheat list goes on. I have stayed and tried to forgive for the sake of the church, the children I now am in a place where I don’t have a conversation for him don’t want to be bothered I want out he for some strange reason doesnt understand he blames every one else. This i know is effecting me spiritually. I have to get out so that I can be free.
WOW! After reading all of these comments I see the serious need for good sound Pastoral Counselors. Its so sad to say, but so many clergy are in need of serious help. But so many are full of either pride or shame or a little of both,that they refuse to admit they need help let alone get help. Nonetheless, I am in a situation where I am not only a PW that needs help because of the emotional abuse and lack of marital and familial intimacy but my spouse and I are under leaders who’s marriage is in serious trouble. My husband and I feel an obligation to them because of their past help to our family and because they are the main pastors of the church. But the problem is that the male main pastor has an alcohol addiction and refuses to admit it, the female pastor is ready to leave him if he doesn’t get help. They recently lost their home and we are financially unable to really help but my husband has taken money from our home and tried to help without my consent and we are now without money and one of our utilities are cut off. I’ve been made to be the bad guy and selfish by my husband, which is totally the opposite of the truth. I just understand that if he does what the head male leader does then we will be in the same position. Pleas help because I don’t know what to do.
I’m so sorry for all the bad things that you ladies had to go thru.i am a man of the lord.i am far from perfect but my love goes out to everyone on here.remember beware of false profits.love is the strongest thing in the universe.i love you all.if anyone ever needs a friend with a ear I am hear for you and always will be…
I just came to this website by God’s grace. The few comments I have read have made me feel at home. I have always been thinking that I have had the worst experience with the church, pastors and my ex husband but lo! we are many fellows in this ship. I suffered in an abusive marriage for 17years covering my “saved husband”. When I could take it no more and I left, the entire church starting from the pastors fought me with all their might. To this day, four years down, my name cannot be mentioned anywhere near the church. The bad thing is that they follow me to whichever church I go to and ensure that I am not accepted in the church. This has however helped me grow more strong in my relationship with God. I fellowship with a few who stood with me and I believe that God has wonderful plans for my healing and ministry.
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I have been abused physically, verbally and sexually by my husband of 21 years. The abuse started in 1997 and has since escalated. the sad thing about this is my husband is a pastor. I am very frustrated.
I’m glad to know I’m not alone. In my case, there is no larger organization to turn to. My husband is the head of the Church and has things set up in a way that the Board cannot remove him or make any legal decisions without his approval so he does not care what they think. He pretends to be a loving husband and I used to pretend he was. He does not talk to me if he can avoid it, does not touch me more than five or six times a year, does not interact with our children in any meaningful way, abuses our finances, has pursued other women and given me an STD. I stopped playing the game, stopped going to “his” Church, and no longer care that “his” congregation think I’m rebellious and worldly. He has told them I have been adulterous when he is the one who has violated our marriage. He has been married multiple times and will probably be married many more times and has been adulterous in each one. Based on the ugly things he has said about the women in the Church, I think he secretly hates women in general, not just me. I wish I had the ability to be as blind to this as the Church but I live with a fraud and cannot sit within the sound of his voice on Sundays pretending he is a decent man. I gave up on Church but am now finding a new home for my family and me. I’ll always be seen as the rebel or unsupportive wife wherever I go because I cannot tell anyone the truth without being disloyal. I wish I had never married him but I got myself stuck in a mess and have to…
Dale W says
Allison, I am so sorry you have faced both the abuse of your spouse and the abuse of your church. I urge you to go to Christian Recovery International-the link is on the right-and investigate the wonderful resources on abuse. They will be helpfu. The book Soul Repair was writen for you. Some of us are doing all we are able to do to impact the Church and the pain it caused and many of us who are trying to change the Church were once doing the same kind of thing you encountered. There is hope.
My husband and I are not pastors but served in church leadership as Deacons. The abuse of me began in the first few months of marriage in 2002. My pastors were of little help and mostly criticized anyone who had issues of any kind. counsel appts. were hard to get and when we sought counsel outside the church we were chastized. We had about 6 or 7 set appointments at the very most until I left in late 2007. I begged for help, and I was told that if I prayed hard enough and believed hard enough, that God would change this. My husband used what he knew in the bible to abuse me and control me, and he was always applauded for his great spirituality. He nearly killed me several times. When I announced I had made a decision to leave, every job I had in the church was taken away. Pastors tried to convince me to stay in the town. They offered no help in getting out. I have unraveled confusion about God, the church, my role, my husband’s role, and for a year and a half have been battling anxiety attacks that will not permit me to drive over bridges or onramps. I almost gave up on God. I know he pulled me out of there by opening a way for me to leave. The betrayal of my pastors made it hard to trust any. I still do not think the church has adequate answers for the problem. The one I am in will not even address it publicly. Submission, forgiveness and protocol is so convoluted within me I have no idea what is correct except I don’t believe God wants his daughter hurt.
I too have suffered in silence for years- actually not knowing / understanding what was going on- the reason behind my husbands emo and mental abuse and his acting one way at church and another in private- to find out in the last year that he has a sexual / porn addition. It has been a very hard time.
I go to counseling or to the Dr. and they ask have I sought help through the church and ….well no- b/c my husband is the PREACHER- there is truly not a lot of choices for help for the PW.
We are so sorry for your pain. Here at CRN we care about you and want to be of support to you. You may surely join our Women In Ministry forum (click “Forums” on the right) and gain the support of your peers. Also, please know there are lots of congregations and believers who would not tolerate your being spiritually abused in the ways you describe. Your issue, unfortunately, is not uncommon. Of course, there are varying degrees of intensity and an infinite variety of ways abuse happens to clergy spouses. If you wish we would even be willing to interact with you about how we might be helpful to you and your husband. The journey is not easy but he too can change. Go to the contact page and start today to find the help you both need.
My Husband has continued to abuse me spirituallyand emotinally. On the outside he looks like the catch of a lifetime. He has undermineded my every decision and now has informed our 11 year old daughter that seeing a certain move with me will make her sin. He also inform our congregation of this on Sunday as a part of his sermon.
He has totally disgrace me over the pulpit on several occassions to the point that I have left the ministry and is seeking a new church home. I have lost all respect for him and currently if I was finanicall able would file for divorce.