the Hope of Survivors

What Should I Do?

Am I crazy? Is it just me? You’re a pastor’s wife. That means your life is perfect and you have no problems, right? Wrong! While your stress or trials may be light compared to some, you face unique challenges in your role. Those challenges are difficult enough when you and your husband serve alongside one another, and when your pastor-husband is a truly converted, dedicated, loving and Christlike man—a genuine shepherd to you, your family and the flock of God.

Yet sometimes, pastors’ wives may find themselves in a different reality. How do you reconcile your experience with what you hear?

You May Hear Things Like:

• The pastor’s so funny, witty and charming.
• He’s such a caring, Godly man.
• He’s so knowledgeable.
• He works so hard and sacrifices so much.
• He’s an upstanding man in the community, well liked and respected by all in our town.

Sometimes comments about your pastor-husband are hurtful and humiliating. They may even be frustrating and maddening. You seem to be the only person (other than perhaps your children) who sees your husband as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—showing his good side to the congregation and community, but revealing another side to those who are closest to him.

Others May Be Unaware That:

• He may be neglectful or abusive to you and the children at home.
• He may force you to keep his “dirty little secrets” and discuss nothing that goes on in your home with anyone else.
• He may have committed adultery in the past (perhaps repeatedly).
• He may be addicted to pornography (or worse).
• He may control your time, finances, clothing, friendships, or everything about you and the family.

You know he is not who he professes to be and he has no business being a pastor in his current condition. He may tell you God appointed him and is blessing his efforts, therefore, you need to keep quiet and “touch not God’s anointed.” He may claim you are the problem because you’re not more supportive of him, you don’t understand him or his needs, you don’t do enough to help out at home, the church, etc. This likely makes you feel uneasy and distressed. You need to tell. You want to tell, but…

• You may fear his temper and violent behavior.
• You don’t want him (or you or the family) to look bad.
• You don’t want him to lose his job because it would wreak financial havoc in your lives.
• You don’t think anyone will believe you. After all, he’s the pastor.
• You’re afraid he will possibly leave or divorce you if you expose him.
• You’re afraid he might take the children from you.
• You keep hoping and praying things will get better and he will change.

It is normal to be fearful of confronting and exposing abusive behavior, especially when the abusive person is your husband—and the pastor. God does not want you to be afraid, nor does He want you to continue to suffer abuse of any kind. By telling, by seeking help, by making necessary changes in your life, you could save yourself, your children and perhaps even someone else who may be harmed by the pastor.

If your husband has a secret life or a dark side, that places you in a situation that is more of a nightmare than a dream come true. What should you do?

Perhaps you can start by reflecting on your life as a pastoral couple. Does this describe your pastor-husband?

• Verbally, emotionally, spiritually or physically abusive (name-calling, twisting Scripture, hitting, etc.)?
• Sexually demanding, degrading or demeaning?
• Strangely aloof and reluctant to confide his burdens, he neglects you?
• Doesn’t spend quality time with you or the children?
• Very secretive and private about his work?
• Different (more friendly, outgoing, sociable, pleasant) when he’s around others than when he’s at home with you and the children?

If so, take courage! God sees and recognizes your pain and He is there to help you. Read Malachi 2:14-16 for further comfort.

Perhaps your husband does seem to treat you and the children well, as he should. What clues would you have if he were possibly addicted to pornography or otherwise committing adultery, perhaps even with a member of the congregation?

Potential Telltale Signs:

• Dresses differently (style, color)
• New woman at church (maybe he focuses on, compliments, or tries to be alone with her)
• Brushing teeth more (hygiene becomes very important, especially if it wasn’t before)
• Listening to “love” songs (romantic music, poetry)
• Irritable or short-tempered
• More controlling (tries to make sure your schedule is full, knows where you are)
• Suddenly restless (uneasy being at home with the family)
• Increasingly ogles other women or girls
• Pressure toward repugnant, dangerous, or demeaning sexual practices
• Less frequent interest in marital intimacy

What Can I Do?

First, be aware of what’s going on in your own heart and mind. Everyone is vulnerable in some way. If you can safely do so, discuss your feelings with your pastor-husband.

Talk with a trusted friend or counselor. Consider connecting with a Hope of Survivors Pastors’ Wives Division support representative: see Can We Help You? or visit our Contact Us page.

God may impress you to report your husband’s behavior to the church and/or the proper authorities. Don’t allow fear to keep you from doing what is right and necessary.

If this situation doesn’t describe you or someone you know, praise God! But, please don’t discard this knowledge. Proper education can be a safeguard in the future—for you, or for someone dear to you.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18