Married to the Preacher’s Wife

I had made a transition from Vicksburg, MS to Columbus, MS.  When I went to visit my folks at Magnolia Bible College one day, I ran into a fellow preacher with whom I had gone to college.  He heard me mention to someone else something about the move I had made, and asked why I had made the decision to leave Vicksburg.  He was a good enough friend that I knew I could joke with him.  So I had a little fun with him and I told him that I had left Vicksburg because I had gotten the youth minister’s wife pregnant.  I had been the youth minister, but it took him a minute to remember that.

Because the transition in towns was also a transition in ministry, I was no longer married to the youth minister’s wife. Now, I was married to the preacher’s wife – and have been ever since.

This preacher’s wife has worked midnight shifts in hospitals to provide for our family when my salary was too low to do so.  All the while she believed that the church budget could have handled an increase and she believed that I was worth it.  She single-handedly taught our children how to behave in the “household of the Lord” because I was preaching at the only time that training could be done.  She has watched me wear myself slap out during an especially hard month of ministry and then comforted me when I vented all of my frustrations out to her; and she held her tongue about how she wished at those moments that I would get out of ministry.  She has given up Saturdays when something fun could have been done so that her husband could do a wedding or a funeral when there was only one reason he was the one called upon to preside – he was the preacher.

She has refused to respond when someone said something hurtful to her when it seemed that the only reason that they said it is because they feel like they can say anything to the preacher’s wife.  She has had to endure every one of my crummiest sermons knowing that if she had gotten to preach that she could have done a better job.  She has given herself wholeheartedly and with a volunteer spirit only to be eventually treated like she was obligated in some way because she was the preacher’s wife.

Her needs have taken back seat to the needs of other people because she is married to a man, who like most other preachers, has an incredibly hard time saying “no” to anyone who has a legitimate need.  She has gone without the companionship of her husband so that someone who will never darken the door of the church building can have his companionship in a moment of crisis.  She will watch her husband give hugs to, and be sweet as honey to his biggest enemies in church, and don’t pretend they don’t exist, when she knows he is likely to fall asleep in exhaustion later without being as sweet to her.  She will often on Sunday mornings put on her mask, and pretend to be happy with the man she married, even when she is angry or disappointed in him.

I am the preacher.  I am married to this woman.  I am married to the preacher’s wife.

If you are married to the preacher’s wife, believe her when she says that her experience is different from other women and give her what she says she needs in order to survive that difference.  It’s not going to be what you need or what you think she needs.  The answer for most is not going to include the three little words: “suck it up.”  You are married to the preacher’s wife.  That advice, though it may be the best advice you can give yourself sometimes, or your basketball- playing son, is not helpful to her – unless she says that’s what she needs.  And by the way, the preacher’s wife that I am married to did this past week; but that doesn’t mean that is what she will need next time.  And, in case you don’t know, the preacher’s wife knows when you are advising her to “suck it up” even if you don’t use those words.

If you are married to the preacher’s wife, do not run out of energy before you get home every night.  Imagine if you were to get into your wife’s car, drive it around all day, park it in the garage with an empty tank unable to even make it to the first stop sign, knowing that she needed the car for something very important to her.  That is what you do when we get home in evening and have no “fuel” for her or for the children you share.

If you are married to the preacher’s wife lead yourself as a couple to regular renewal.  Your wife, like you, has limited emotional, physical, and spiritual energy.  She spends that energy much differently than you.  She idles at a much higher rpm than you.  You, the preacher, are much like the Toyota Prius that I recently rented and drove over a weekend.  You come to a place where you can idle for more than a moment and your energy expenditure cuts to nearly zero.  The preacher’s wife to whom you are married, though, doesn’t have the “nothing box” that most men, and therefore, most preachers have.  Your advice to her to “quit thinking about it” likely does more harm than good. God created the preacher’s wife to be different from the preacher.  He created her with the ability to remember stuff that you forget.  He created her to be emotionally involved in more stuff than you get emotionally involved in.  She cannot “quit thinking about it” just by sitting in front of a TV, or getting out the Wii, or going to the golf course or basketball court.

If you are married to the preacher’s wife, she needs an afternoon in the sunshine at the lake; or a chick flick at a theater where the arm rest lifts up so that you can sit closer to her and concentrate more on her than you do the movie; she needs you to turn off the cell phone, get off the computer, get away from the TV and spend some uninterrupted time with her.  She needs to hear you tell someone else, “No I can’t talk right now.  I’m busy;” when what you are doing is finishing watching her favorite TV show with her.  She needs to see you love on her children and play with them with a high level of enthusiasm and energy.  She needs you to listen to her as she tells you the things that irritate her; and listen without defending anybody, including yourself.

If you are married to the preacher’s wife, it is likely that keeping your frustrations to yourself will make her feel like she is not close to you.  She’ll know that you’re frustrated.  Sometimes she’ll think it’s about her when it’s not. Sometimes she’ll know it’s about somebody else; but you won’t share it with her because you don’t want to upset her.  And the fact that you won’t share it upsets her.  The solution, unless you and the preacher’s wife work it out differently,  is for you to share with her and then love on her – in her way – so that she feels close to you, united with you in frustration, and secure with you.

If you are married to the preacher’s wife, I’m concerned for you.  I’m concerned because I know that a lot of preacher’s wives and their husband are calling it quits.  In a two week period recently, I learned of four men married to preacher’s wives who were experiencing or had recently experienced divorce.  If you are married to the preacher’s wife, I’m concerned for you.  I’m concerned because the preacher’s wife to whom you are married will never divorce; but she may be one of many who is convinced that she will never be happy.  She and her husband will keep that part of the covenant that they made with each other and God to be “faithful until we are parted by death,” but the rest of those promises about love and respect have not been consistently kept in a long time.

The solution is not to stay in a loveless marriage.  The solution is not to leave.  The solution is not to wait for the preacher’s wife to leave. The solution is to allow God to work in you and the preacher’s wife to make your marriage what he designed it to be.  Your marriage can be great!  When our marriages mirror or relationship with God, we have hope for the future and heaven on earth today.  Bring love, respect, communication, oneness, covenant renewal and forgiveness back into your relationship and see with amazement what God can do!

If you are married to the preacher’s wife, and you need some help, get help now!  Don’t put it off. Discover the regular opportunities around you to enrich your marriage.  Don’t let pride keep you from pursuing counseling or coaching that can move you and your spouse to a better relationship. There are Christians counselors in your area who will help you.  JeannaLynn and I coach and consult couple-to couple – even preacher’s wives and their husbands.  Pursue that help!

If you are married to the preacher’s wife, you know these passages.  Live them with the preacher’s wife in mind.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-  for we are members of his body.  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”    This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church and about the preacher and his wife.

Richard May

(“Married to the Preacher’s Wife” was presented originally at a a Preacher’s Lunch at Oklahoma Christian University)

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