When a minister stands to speak as God does on the subject of marriage, most listeners assume he and his wife practice what he preaches in the privacy of their home. Because of the stressful nature of the pastorate, the generational breakdown of family relationships and the driven nature of professional leadership this is seldom the case. Most ministry marriages are not models of Christianity let alone Christian marriage.
Emotional distance is more common than intimacy with clergy couples. The fishbowl pressures on pastoral spouses and children are enormous and they feel it keenly. Most ministry family members suffer in isolation, loneliness and silence. Few professions scrutinize and criticize their leaders and leader families like the Church does its pastors. These realities alone complicate the marriages and family life of pastors.
Family of origin issues hurt clergy couples too. Husbands and wives who happen to be in ministry come from dysfunctional families of origin just like members of their church. Many pastors play the hero role they learned as children. This may make the pastor a hero in the congregation but living out a family of origin role will hurt him in his intimate relationships. Some are black sheep making up for what they did. Others are trying to please Mother Church like they unsuccessfully tried to please their moms. All of the dysfunction dealt in a minister’s family of origin which is not healed before one’s pastorate is practiced in the Church family. The narcissistic childhood wound becomes the arrogance of the Ministry Professional.
Pastors dysfunction like parishioners.
They also struggle with the same issues as other families fight about. Money, sex, communication techniques or lack thereof, parenting styles, schedule conflicts, and all the garden variety marital issues show themselves at the parsonage too. Pastors are wonderful, flawed, precious, defective, valuable human beings.
With all of the complicated issues above and more beating like fierce winds against the homes of our Christian Leaders it is a wonder any ministry marriages thrive. When their marriages are conflicted their resources are also severely limited. When a dear Christian Leader and his wife are about to fold under weight of their own personal and marital issues and the ones imposed on them, few know of any resource which is readily available to them. A common repeated phrase to come over the CRN phone line is, “We had nowhere else to turn.” Most pastors love their denominational leaders but disclosing the depth of their marital pain to their “boss” is counter intuitive. Few risk it.
CRN is thrilled to be available to spouses, ministers and clergy kids to mentor them through their crises, including marital crises and parent/child conflicts. If your marriage is suffering it is not necessary for you to assume you just have to tough it out. If you suffer in silence you will not be better off, your spouse will not be better off and the ministry will not be properly served. Only if you get help and change will the power of Grace prevail. Getting the help you need for your marriage may seem risky but not getting the help you need is riskier.
Many desperate spouses have made the first contacts which led to a growing marriages and improved ministries. If your marriage is hurting it will not likely be fixed by a seminar, another book or merely praying. The humility required to reach for help is the beginning of the healing. If you are afraid your husband will react terribly if you tell the truth you cannot wait. At least make contact and describe your fear and your reality. Facing this troubled water alone is not necessary. You will find grace, hope and courage. Reach for the help you need no matter what your spouse may think. Go to the Finding Help page of this web site and begin a better way of living and marriage today. You are worth it.
If your wife has been saying for sometime you need help in your marriage, nothing could help your marriage more than your seeking help. You can do it. Go to the Finding Help page of this web site and make marital progress today.
Dani Kendig says
On the list of things Petri fails to address here is that a huge penalty for modern married couples is the “community property” requirement in Wisconsin (one of only nine states to retain it). In an age where both partners typically work and have personal credit, the less stellar financial history of one person directly impacts the other the moment they sign the license. I know several couples who cohabitate unmarried in large part because one doesn’t want the other’s debt or liabilities. Remove that penalty and see what happens.
marriage communication says
These two are absolutely precious! Two stellar people got together and look what they have. What a great example of staying power. God bless them and their family.
Shannon Sookoo says
It’s the second time when i’ve seen your site. I can understand a lot of hard work has gone in to it. It’s really good.
As I read the comments of Pastor’s wives here my heart hurts for each and can see so much of the same in the wife and family of the Pastor who left hurt and harmed from our church. Long story, but I once said to this Pastor; ‘If a Pastor’s wife does not make up her mind right from the start to work beside him in the church finding her part in his role there, she will spend a great deal of time alone raising any children herself.’ He was not happy with her and it was obvious they did not get along. Sadly she was just not suited to him. Ministers would not dream of divorcing, as that would admit defeat not worthy of God’s servents. After all a minister is to love his wife as he does the church! Tall order for any Christian! Ministers are people too and hardly anyone remembers that or gives them the same love, forgivness and understanding that they do to others! I could see how hard it was for them honestly understanding the hardships that ministry puts on marriage and the family. He matured well, was very nice looking and noticed by the ladies; yet she looked dowdy, frumpy and was not nice to be around nor joined in any of the church activities. She did teach preschool children and with them she was a differnet person; kind and loving. She loved kids and they had 5. It is not easy at best, but ministry is a hard life for all envolved. A faith situation is harder to live in than most? A book called “She wants Love, He wants Respect” I understand is a good one?
Free Mobile Skin says
With all of the complicated issues above and more beating like fierce winds against the homes of our Christian Leaders it is a wonder any ministry marriages thrive. If your marriage is suffering it is not necessary for you to assume you just have to tough it out.
international marriage says
Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to mention that I’ve really loved browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing for your feed and I’m hoping you write again very soon!
I can’t read through this article without crying. I’ve been a pastor’s wife for 9 years and what I could do mostly sitting quietly on the pew and make sure my small children don’t disturb the service. The next day go to the highly pressured and underpaid job just to make the family ends meet. I don’t know where to turn most on our dark moments, suffer depression, isolation and loneliness. I graduated a master in divinity, an official degree of Christian clergy, but undervalue by our organization because I’m a woman and a pastor’s wife.
Pls, keep writing and spread the hope.
Dale W says
I am so sorry for your painful journey. If there is any way you would be willing to talk about it i would be happy to hear your heart.
Dale W says
Thanks for your comments.
Veola Sakowski says
Just what I have been thinking. Your post was fantastic. To get an ex back is not the hardest of the tasks But it sure can take some time
Aukea Rienks says
The discouragement I’ve experienced during my 27 year long role as a clergy wife has made me unable to attend the church
where my (retired) husband still works on a part-time basis.
I’ve always felt that there was “another woman” in my husban’s life: the church. She alway came first, the parishioners
were visited and comforted, the sick and the homebound prayed. My husband had time for them all.
He truly was a mostly absent husband and father who gave no
direction or comfort within his own family.
We life side by side in emptyness with no spiritual or loving
connection in any way or form.
It is a sad marital excistence that I do not wish on any young
woman contemplating marriage to a clergyman.
Dale W says
Vicki, you left this comment some time ago and I am sorry it has taken so long to respond. We do have forum for spouses of pastors. On the home page you will find a column on the right of services offered. There you will find the service “forums”. If you click on this link it will take you to the forums page with one forum called “Women in ministry forum”. click the “here” in that paragraph and you will be taken to a web page to register for that forum. Other wise please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and lets see if I can be of any help for you. Ben Baker
Just FYI, I am the daughter and granddaughter of ministers. I could not read past the first sentence of this article. It exemplifies everything that is wrong with “lay understanding” of what a clergypetson is. It also alienated me, daughter of a pastor, right off the bat.
Why would anyone assume: 1. That a clergyperson (minister, rabbi, imam, whathaveyou) “speaks as god”? Clergy are just working it out up there, like everyone else. They do not speak “as God” anymore than anyone else does. 2. That ministers practice what they preach anymore than anyone else does?
Please, especially on a site such as this, try to humanize thinking and speaking about people in the clergy. I have known so, so many members of the clergy. They are alcoholics, cheaters on spouses and liars as much as the rest of us. They are caring, weeping, yelling and loving, as much as the rest of us. THAT is where the real recovery is: humanizing them – in the eyes of the laity as well as in their own eyes.
Vicki Reavis says
Is there a blog or forum for pastor’s spouses? I am facing many of the situations listed above and just need a safe and annonyoums place to VENT. I don’t know where to turn and cannot afford counseling.