• Making Friends

Friendship dilemmas of being a pastor’s wife

December 16, 2015 | By | 5 Replies Continue Reading
A pastors wife feels left out of ministry friendships.

QUESTION

Der Friendship Doctor,

I am in a particularly difficult situation. I am a pastor’s wife. I try not to expect too much as far as friendships go. It seems very difficult for others to want to reciprocate a friendship with me once they find out I am a pastor’s wife. I don’t completely understand why but I’ve learned to accept that fact.

However, I have had a few women in my life that seemed to reciprocate my friendship. But after a period of time, they just excluded me from our group of friends. This has happened to me numerous times.

The friends that I’m currently having issues with are also my sister-in-law’s friends. We have always gotten along until about a year ago. We share in the ministry together, our kids are the same age, and we just all get along. All of a sudden, they stopped including me in the get-togethers. I would find out about them when someone would accidentally say something in front of me.

When I finally confronted them and asked why they were upset with me, they acted like they didn’t know what I was talking about. A few months later I asked again. That time they said they just forgot to invite me.

More recently I’ve been extremely hurt. One of our family members passed away so I called everyone trying to figure out when we are getting together to make arrangements, and just for general family comfort. They told me they were not getting together, that the feelings were just too raw. Later I found out they did all get together. My heart is completely broken. I really need some advice on this. I feel very lost.

Signed, Pamela

ANSWER

Dear Pamela,

Recently in Christianity Today, a guest writer wrote an article about the “Pastor’s Wife Effect.” The piece suggests that your experience, although painful, may not be too unusual.

She wrote:

Sometimes these chasms are self-inflicted, the result of having been hurt in the past and keeping ourselves safely aloof. Sometimes they are the result of an unhealthy church culture that puts our husbands and families on pedestals.

But sometimes they are the result of congregants not making peace with the fact that their pastor’s wife is just a regular person.

In your case, it sounds like although you have made efforts to engage with members of your ministry, you have been repeatedly rebuffed. It may be that one or more of the women in this clique have a hard time relating to the idea of the pastor’s wife. I can only take wild guesses as to why. Perhaps, they worry that you and your husband will judge them. Perhaps, they think they have to act differently in your presence.

Many times, women’s stature or role in the community or workplace separates them from the mainstream (e.g., CEOs, teachers, therapists) like you. Perhaps, it would be easier for you to find one friend within the ministry rather than to try to enter a clique of women that are already so closely bonded together. Another possibility would be to organize an informal group (e.g., to volunteer in the community or to visit local museums or theater) within the ministry that might give you the opportunity to work side by side with others so they could see you as a real person.

There is an online group called PastorsWives.org/ that might be helpful in connecting with other women who are facing similar challenges.

Hope this is somewhat helpful.

My best, Irene

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Category: MAKING FRIENDS

Comments (5)

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  1. Liz says:

    Dear Pamela,

    I have been in your situation! My advice is to do a few things. First of all take very good care of yourself. Be extra kind to yourself, get your rest, eat well, go walking, fix your make up – whatever it is that makes you feel good.

    Next, don’t even bother or worry about making friends – just make some opportunities to spend time with acquaintances. Make new acquaintances, meet people and set up or join some type of group (bible study, book club, whatever). The point is (for now) just having a scheduled outing of some type where you are with other people. Maybe a group from your church – that you don’t know very well.

    If after a couple of weeks/months there seems to be someone that you click with – ask them to join you for coffee or a walk. If they say no – then let it go. Ask someone else if it seems right, but take it slowly and don’t worry if nobody seems to click with you.

    As for the friends that have forgotten to include you, I’d go on without them. Be very pleasant, but leave them be. A bit of distance for a while is best for now. Say nothing else about your being left out, you don’t even notice that anymore. If someday in the future they become friends with you again – great, but if not that is ok also.

    Warm wishes to you, and I hope that everything works out well for you.

  2. NeedFriends 12.17.15 says:

    I would like to be your friend because my lifestyle matches that of a preacher’s wife. I know preacher’s wives, but they are the biggest gossips on the planet. This does not apply to all of them, just the ones I know. They are good friends for me because I’m not into a whole lot of worldly things. Sometimes I want to reach out to them, but wonder, “Is she going to the one of the PW who gossips?” I love PWs by the way, that’s just been my experience. I hope you find a friend you works for you mutually.

    So I stay over here. I wish you well in your quest for friendship.
    I would love to meet someone just for coffee and a movie every now and then.

  3. Ben says:

    I am sorry for your loneliness because I too have suffered in the midst of many a congregation. I want to simply offer a different perspective to consider.

    All my life I have been taught by people in religious authority what “Christianity” is all about. The very words in the Bible are always parsed and interpreted and passed on by religious leaders in an “authoritative” way and the community of believers in any congregation always is led to believe that they have perfect understanding of what God is telling them and everyone else is wrong. Could it be that we are all wrong? When Jesus tells us not to judge immediately people will refer to scripture indicating “righteous judgement” as though we (as the supposed ones who have perfect insight) truly do have perfect insight.

    Having had my son when he was in grade school watched by a Mormon family after school there was no denying how closely knit that family structure was compared to many I witnessed in main stream religion.

    What I believe you are experiencing is the fault of all our interpretations of what God really wants us to be. There is a scripture which defines “pure religion,” which is to look after widows and orphans in their distress and remain unspotted from the world.

    In most the churches I religiously attended for over three decades I longed for a closeness with others that just never came to be in spite of volunteering my time, talent and treasure.

    Again my reason for writing this is to help you realize that maybe the problem is not you in all respects, it’s the way we have all allowed religious authorities to beguile us with how God really wants us to be. Jesus came at a time and brought a whole new awareness of what God had really intended. Martin Luther came at a time and brought a whole new awareness of what God really intended. Maybe it’s time for a new awareness to counter what we have been told what God really intended.

    Know also this… You are not alone in being disappointed by people who you would have thought would be there for you. Never fun to go through and maybe figures like Jesus or some of the other figures like Dietrich Bonhoeffer suffered more than all of us…

  4. Amy F says:

    Pamela, have you ever tried to get together with others pastors’ wives, perhaps hold a brunch and invite women who you may or may not know? Since some pastors are women, you might even want to ask them as well. If your theory of being a pastor’s wife holds true, I bet women pastors might also feel isolated.

    Because you say this problem happens with both family and friends, you may need to consider that the issue is something other than your role in the community. Might something of which you are unaware about your personality be pushing others away? I believe self awareness is the key toward changing situations and that self examination, though often painful, can lead toward personal growth and insight.

  5. Ruth says:

    As strangers on the Internet, we would only be guessing at what the root cause of the problem is. The phrase “it’s lonely at the top” comes to mind. Also I wonder if some are jealous of you. Irene gave you 2 great resources.

    Because I’m very active in our church, my heart aches for you. I’ve seen people jealous of people in ministry and it’s so ugly.

    Their behavior reminds me of how Jesus’ companions excluded him.

    And it brings to the forefront the nasty truth of cliques in church. They are alive and well and look just like high school.

    Because of your faith, in your shoes, I would pray for wisdom, revelation, knowledge, understanding and insight into this situation as well as check out the resources Irene suggests. Don’t forget to forgive them and yourself as well, when needed.

    There are a few books on the subject, perhaps you’ve read them already. https://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&client=ms-android-att-us&source=android-browser&q=books+on+struggle+of+being+a+pastor+wife

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