Pastors’ Wives Under Pressure …

This month, Church Executive Magazine reprinted my Typical Pastors Wife is Dead article alongside an interview with Trudy Johnson (a marriage and family therapist from Colorado working with pastors and their wives) called Pastors Wives Under Pressure.

While I wasn’t surprised by the things in the interview, I was absolutely heartbroken. You can read the entire interview here, but let me pull out a few quotes to share with you.

“The advent of exploding media makes ‘the fishbowl’ life even more immediate and pressure filled as opposed to ‘the little brown church in the vale’ of times past,” she says. “The past three years I have seen what I would call an ‘epidemic’ of pastors’ wives involved in affairs. While this may sound a bit shocking, technology is making it possible for women and men to connect in new ways.”

“Because of the problems I was facing at home with my husband (difficulty connecting and communicating) and all the demands on my time at the church, I was starting to resent the church, my husband and God.  Eventually, everything just piled on top of everything. It’s too hard being in ministry. My heart isn’t in it. I just want to be a normal person and go to church and not be expected to do all the things I do. I don’t even know who God is anymore and I don’t think he knows me at all.”

“[Pastors’ wives] are held to a higher measure of perfection just by default. Sadly this happens because the man they fell in love with and eventually married is a pastor. Or even worse, their ‘dream guy’ didn’t actually decide to become a pastor until some years after the wedding day. Even though women have ‘come a long way, baby,’ for the most part, being married to a pastor means you fulfill the stereotypical image of being the perfect wife, the perfect mother and a perfect woman in general,” says Johnson.

“Even more alarming, says Johnson, is the hostility rate for this segment of clients. At 85 percent on the hostile scale, she says probably most wives of pastors are stuffing their anger and it’s coming out as depression. Another survey of pastors’ wives shown from Focus on the Family states that 88 percent of pastors’ wives have experienced periods of deep depression.”

Sad? Yes. Yes it is.
Disturbing? Absolutely.
Hopeless? I certainly don’t think so.

Here are my thoughts on releasing the pressure valve for Pastors’ Wives:

1. Community. It is a must. A non-negotiable. So much bitterness, loneliness, negativity, and heartache can be bred in isolation. However, when you can link arms with other pastors’ wives and women in ministry, you receive the greatest gift … the gift of not being alone. Community brings encouragement, companionship, positivity, and uplifting prayers.

That is why we have the most amazing Virtual Community Groups. You can find a group that is a great fit for your role and your schedule and connect with other ladies once a month. You can laugh, share struggles, pray for each other, and get advice from people who walking in your shoes.

And that is why we’ve launched L&L It Local Events around the country. If you have a heart to help connect women in ministry, some of whom are in similar places as the ladies mentioned in this interview, we would love to partner with you. Please contact Lisa by email at lisa[at]leadingandlovingit[dot]com And, make sure to check out the complete list of Local Events to see if there is one in your area.

2. Protect your marriage. Talk, talk, talk to your husband. Trust me, and my own personal experience, not sharing your feelings with your husband is more damaging than withholding those feelings due to fear of hurting his. No taking one for the team. No stuffing those feelings because you feel like you have to. No good can come from that.

If your marriage is in trouble … whether struggling or in crisis … please reach out for help. Go to a counselor. Go to a mentor. Or talk to one of our ladies who are an incredible resource for hurting marriages.

3. Get equipped. Find places where you can get insight and wisdom in navigating this pressure filled journey. Yes, I know there aren’t a ton of Pastors’ Wives kinds of conferences out there. But there are a few with Pastors’ Wives tracks … Velocity (which Brandi and I will be at in February), Saddleback, and possibly others.

But that is why we have two big events coming up in the next year:

JustONE 2012 is our second online conference that will be four different sessions between January 23-February 14. We have incredible speakers confirmed although I’ll leave that for another post. But we are excited. If you missed JustONE 2010, you can see all of the sessions here.

And … our next retreat for Pastors’ Wives & Women in Ministry will be in Nashville, September 2012. We are already starting the planning, and … oh baby … we are getting pumped.

What are some other important ways to release the pressure of being a Pastor’s Wife?

40 thoughts on “Pastors’ Wives Under Pressure …

  1. Elyse

    I was also sad to read this article. Granted, I am only 26 and I have not been the wife of a pastor for very long so I probably don’t know personally the struggles many of these women are going through, BUT I can say that I know of another thing that I have experienced that keeps God so fresh in my heart and keeps my relationship strong.

    Have your own God given passions. What has God planted in your heart that you want to be a part of that you have ignored because life is too busy, or because you are just involved in too many “churchy” things to stick by your husband.

    I would encourage that you can be behind your husband %100 and still have your independent God given passions. Passions and visions that God has planted in you for a reason. Maybe he wants to use you in a BIG way. Marriage, even for pastors families is a balance. You need to support each others dreams and visions, and see God work in and through each other.

  2. Lori Wilhite Post author

    Elyse … I couldn’t agree more. This was huge for me as well. Gotta make sure that you’re following God’s personal call and passion that He’s placed in your life. Working outside of that over time is a sure recipe for burnout.

  3. Anonymous

    I have found that when I’ve reached out for help (re: depression, anger, etc…), it is hard to find counselors who deal with the specific issues PW’s face. I called 2 in my area and never heard back. It’s also expensive; on a pastor’s salary, who can afford $125 an hour? Friends are a blessing, but I have at times felt like I needed real counseling. Thankfully today I am meeting with someone at 10:30. It is a welcome answer to prayer that is way overdue. Thank you for posting this.

  4. Kate

    As a Pastor’s Wife and Licensed Counselor, I am heart broken at the article, yet not surprised. Connecting in community I think is HUGE! When I feel myself slipping into bitter times or even depression, I try my hardest to up my connections and stay on top of it, and being 100% honest with my husband about how I am feeling. Praying for all the hurt out there!

  5. Kristyn VanBuskirk

    Thankful for Leading & Loving It & the foresight that you’ve had in my life! Absolutely invaluable! Also SUPER PUMPED for JustONE & L&LI Retreat!!!!! Anxiously awaiting details 🙂

  6. Lisa Smith

    As a newbie to this arena, thAt article is kind of scary! But I know God put us here and my focus HAS to be on Him to do the everyday stuff!

    Already I am feeling OVER connected…and wouldn’t mind some down time from all the chaos 😛

    But I am super excited for next fall because I live an hour and a half away from Nashville 🙂

  7. Emily

    I can’t say thank you enough… just when I start to slip into a dark valley L&L seems to always pop up with something to remind me I’m not alone.

    And can I just say that I giggled with delight when you said “NASHVILLE 2012” It’s just a few hours from me and I am super pumped!

  8. LeadHership

    I suggest to not be afraid to get Christian counseling & be OK with meds, if the doctor advises.

  9. brandiandboys

    So glad to hear you got an appointment today with someone. Hope it was a good match for you and someone you can see again.

    Seeking good Christian counseling is wisdom… I’ve done it on several occasions and I’m sure will do it again.

  10. Brandi Wilson

    SMALL WORLD… My husband and I met at Western and spent about 9 years in that area. Our first church plant was in Morgantown, Kentucky! Lots of memories of South Central Kentucky.

    So glad you’ve found L and L It!

  11. Mindy

    This is so sad! When my husband first went into the ministry, he was called to a church….across town. We were ready to sell everything and move wherever God led, but imagine our excitement when we realized we’d be staying in our same town! The problem is that I didn’t change, but everyone’s perception of me did. I lost all but a few friends. Even the close ones were wierded out by my new “title”.
    I was a stay at home mom, but when my husband went full time into the ministry (he’s now bi-vocational), I took a full time job at our local counseling center. I met everyone who came through the doors because my job was to do initial paperwork.
    One day a woman had been in for a crisis appointment and came to my office to do paperwork and set her up with a counselor she could follow-up with. She refused to even give her name because she was a pastor’s wife and she was afraid it would hurt his ministry. My heart broke for her, but my eyes were opened that day to the loneliness a pastor’s wife can feel. She was in her 50’s with no family or friends she could turn to – and wouldn’t seek ongoing counseling because, unfortuanatly people are judgmental and jump to conclusions.
    We have struggled with a few things, but nothing as severe as she had. I’m thankful for a community of women I can reach out to if I need to who’ve “been there – done that”. Thank you ladies!

  12. Lori Wilhite Post author

    I’m so glad that, even with all the obstacles, you reached out today. I pray that you were helped in your session.

    Good for you for going for it!

  13. Lori Wilhite Post author

    Agreed! Community is huge!So glad that you have connections to reach out to when needed. And that you have a husband that you can lay all the cards on the table with! 🙂

  14. Lori Wilhite Post author

    Oh … that is sad. But I’m so glad that she reached out, even just a little.

    And I’m so glad that you have a community of women to lean on! So incredibly important!

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  16. Samantha Johnson

    I live in Nashville too! We just moved this year to serve at a new church plant in Franklin. I am so glad to connect with you on here 🙂 It still feels very strange to adjust to a new city and a new culture.

  17. anonymous

    I tell others to seek help but feel unable to do it myself because of how it will reflect on my husband. Also, he is so loved and respected, I feel like no one will believe me or just blame our marriage problems on me. While this time in my life is painful I know that God has a purpose and a plan in everything. He will turn everything for good so I hold on to that hope. He is using this to change me for sure! I see this article as a warning and a wake up call. I don’t want to get hostile towards my family or God. Thank you for all you do!

  18. Kelly Dykstra

    FYI regarding counseling…

    If you don’t want to try seeing someone in your area, there are counselors who are happy to help via phone call.
    I have a good friend/licensed counselor who practices in a medical facility but also, on the side, she sees her counseling as a ministry and does so at a low-cost.
    She is fairly close with my husband and I, and is well-acquainted with the challenges of the pastor/PW’s life. She is happy to talk with you on the phone.

    If you–particularly the anonymous poster(s)–would like to try talking with her, email me at, and I will connect you.

    Much love & prayers…

  19. Libby

    Thanks for this article! It is hard to “keep it all together” sometimes with 3 small kids, a church plant, and a full time job at a youth crisis center. I don’t think i have it all figured out & really struggle sometimes with feeling all alone, but i have done a few things to keep my head above water. 2 years ago a group of ladies in ministry and pastor’s wives started a Covenant Group. I really don’t know how we found eachother – it was a God thing! It is really an open place to share EVERYTHING and pray for eachother. Also – Mondays are really hard…not really sure why, but they are -emotionally and physically. Sometimes we are super excited because Sunday was awesome and sometimes it is dissapointing because attendance was low, etc. I am not sure what the long term solution to this is, but this past Monday i used a vacation day and my husband and i went mountain biking. It was exactly what we needed! It was physical, challenging, and helped us connect. Too bad i can’t do that every Monday! Lately i have also been reading a lot of books. Right now i am reading Love & War a book about marriage, which after 11 years of marriage has sparked some interesting and much needed conversations. On top of all that i am trying to keep things simple (meals, activities, cleaning :), you name it. Thanks Leading and Loving It for this post!

  20. Stephanie Shouse

    So thankful for this L&LI community and for all the great things I’ve learned here! I don’t know if I would’ve survived the last year without you ladies! This article is so sad, but so very true. I continue to suffer with times of depression but I’m thankful for my husband who protects me and for my VCG who listen and love me so very well! Thanks for adding practical insight to these very real stats.

  21. Lori Wilhite Post author

    Monday almost always stink … you aren’t alone in that. I think most people in ministry suffer from the Monday holy hangover.

    I’m so glad that you were able to get the day off and get out together! That’s awesome! And so needed! 🙂

  22. Lori Wilhite Post author

    Hugs to you Stephanie! I know that your VCG feels the same way about you! So glad we all have each other! 🙂

  23. Brandi Wilson

    Kelly… Thank you for giving your contact info for those who might need more info on counseling. Love you and your willingness to help!

  24. Brandi Wilson

    Samantha… Big ole southern “Welcome to Nashville.” I’ve been here 10 years and definitely consider Nashville home… Hope you’re finding your way around and enjoying the city. Sounds like you have a support network but if you ever need anything let me know.

  25. Anon

    It’s been a week since I left him. Super star pastor status, worshipped and praised. He who gives so much to everyone, even single desperately seeking women, and leaves scraps for me, nothing but emotional abuse. I am at rock bottom right now, feeling so alone. The church loves and praises him and sucked us dry. Til we had nothing left. Sad. But God is with me. The Lord is my rock. And this too shall pass. Amen.

  26. Heavvvy Load

    My pastor,husband….to whom I have been married for 18 years and we have a beautiful, spiritually mature teenager who has been affected by us finding out that he has been on plane trips and business trips with his do called assistant whom my daughter trusted as this same lady would pick her up from school during her elementary days.
    My husband denies, lies and everything else that he is not involved with her, They were even on an auto club membership together. I have written docs of all this,
    I feel my entire marriage has been a lie. How can he get up in church and proclaim Gods Word knowing his sins will find him out. How can he perform The Lords Holy Communion with no guilt!
    He denied everything and has not once attempted to beg for my forgiveness or try to see how to mend our marriage.
    Please keep my daughter lifted as the enemy has waged war against my family, my heart, my soul and my mind.
    I know God will carry me through this!

  27. AnonymousPW

    I’m in a super-complex situation. Hubby & i have been married 24 years & surrendered to ministry soon after. Where we’re at now is 1st prostate. Small church but take care of us.

    Where the complexity starts is we’ve had issues (financial, intimacy, communication, etc) for almost our entire marriage, but I’ve only recently realized it could be narcissism. On top of that, I am involved with another man (we connect on many levels & he treats me well).

    I am extremely conflicted because I love both & I know the importance of marriage. But I also don’t want to remain in an emotionally abusive relationship.

    Yes, I have been having some lengthy, emotional, serious discussions with God.

  28. AnonymousPW

    I’m in a super-complex situation. Hubby & i have been married 24 years & surrendered to ministry soon after. Where we’re at now is 1st pastorate. Small church but take care of us.

    Where the complexity starts is we’ve had issues (financial, intimacy, communication, etc) for almost our entire marriage, but I’ve only recently realized it could be narcissism. On top of that, I am involved with another man (we connect on many levels & he treats me well).

    I am extremely conflicted because I love both & I know the importance of marriage. But I also don’t want to remain in an emotionally abusive relationship.

    Yes, I have been having some lengthy, emotional, serious discussions with God.

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