On friendships that never were, exactly

Did I mention that my husband, a pastor, is leaving the pastorate as of July 1? After eighteen years in the ministry, he’s decided to veer off in a slightly different direction, one which does not require a sermon delivery every Sunday morning. And so, like a stage-coach turning into a pumpkin, I become a regular person, no longer a pastor’s wife.

Which is really fine by me. I never did take that class at Bible College: The Pastor’s Wife. I took Greek and Old Testament and even The Pastor and His Ministry because I never intended to become a pastor’s wife. For one thing, I don’t have the hair for it. For another, I’m introverted, not good at hand-shaking and wide smiles and inviting church ladies over for hot cups of tea in delicate china cups.

The sad thing, though, as I ponder our ten years in this church is that I’ve become close to virtually no one. No one really telephones me to see how I’m doing or to invite me to go anywhere. I put the blame on myself, of course. For one thing, there’s my pesky introverted personality. For another, my life since we’ve been here has been dominated by one clingy baby (my son) after the next (my daughter). And now that my daughter heads off to school, I’m homebound again because of my job (at home) working on the computer.

These outer circumstances cannot possibly tell the whole story. I have lived behind a moat in many ways since becoming pastor’s wife. Sure, there’s a bridge over the moat, but usually that bridge is in the upright and locked position.

I sense that people view me as a self-sufficient island, a woman who needs no shoulder to cry upon, no hand to hold, and in some ways that’s true. The older I get, the more confident I become, the less needy and desperate to funnel my sorrows into the nearest available ear. However, I think back to college when making friends was second-nature, the the inevitable drawing together of magnets with opposite poles. I miss that. I miss the immediate connection that I found with those friends so long ago. (Many of those friends are still dear to me.)

I don’t know. It just seems sad to me that I am leaving our church and I feel so disconnected already. I never let down my guard, never lowered the drawbridge and even though I am safe, I am untouched.

We’re not moving, so I imagine that friendships can continue to develop, but I mourn for what never was, for what never grew. I don’t quite understand it–I wonder if I’ve become so dull, so unapproachable, so glum that no one wants to hang out with me? Or is it that adult friendships among women with families and jobs and responsibilities are impossible to establish? I have tried–God knows I have tried–but nothing has caught fire. My attempts are like a pile of damp firewood, unable to respond to a spark, smoldering but never lighting.

I’m a fun girl, I really am. I was, at least. I hope to be again. Maybe that will be easier since I will no longer bear the title “Pastor’s Wife.” I’m passing along the tiara and sash.

30 thoughts on “On friendships that never were, exactly

  1. Mel,

    I was a PK, and know about the isolation that can happen…in fact just put a post up about my childhood church…then this was the very next place I visited…

    Hope your transition goes well. My dad got out of the ministry after a similar amount of time. It is a tough job…


  2. I can only imagine what it must be like to feel like you’re living your life as an example, I couldn’t take the pressure (even though I know God’s mercies are new everyday, not everybody remembers that).

    I always feel like maybe there’s something wrong with me because I don’t have a female confidant. I have trust issues (I hate being gossiped about ) so my best friend is the one person who hasn’t let me down in that area–my husband. We’ve lived on the East Coast for 12 years now and I do have friends but they’re not the sort I call up and say “hey lets go do something” with. I guess it’s because time for myself (and by myself) is such a precious commodity that I’m not wiling to sacrifice it for the whole “getting to know you” drill. I’m never sure if I should just cut myself some slack or try to be better about developing friendships.


  3. I have family in the ministry and I just can’t imagine how difficult it is to balance the life of a Mom to young kids AND being a pastor’s wife (at least the pastor’s wife that everyone expects.) Congrats on the new journey ahead!



  4. I think it is harder the older we get (except for the most extroverted among us). The demands of taking care of a house and family don’t leave us the time necessary to make friends, of course; so if the person you might be good friends with isn’t right in the neighborhood or otherwise directly in your path on a weekly or daily basis, it’s hard to make the connections necessary for a real friendship. Plus, as older people, we probably are a little more cautious about opening ourselves up. A combination of factors, really….


  5. I know what it is like to be the wife of a preacher (but not a pastor) – people hold you to a higher standard and it’s just hard to get close to people for fear of “letting them down”. I’m a lot like you in that I’m a fun person once you get to know me, but I don’t know if it’s because I’m just not willing to invest the time, or if I’m really that unapproachable…I have very few friends at church. I do have a deep desire to cultivate one or two good friendships, because I definitely do not have it all together and sometimes need a sounding board or a shoulder to lean on. Boy, that sounded glum, didn’t it? 🙂


  6. It isn’t you, but it is you. Make sense? lol.

    As the PW, you really can’t become close friends with those your husband is shepherding. So I think all PW’s tend to automatically put up a wall to keep anyone from intruding. Then, on the other hand, most church members are “scared” of being themselves around the PW. I’ve actually had people tell me they were afraid to talk, or mention certain things around me because being the PW, they held me to a level of almost perfection.

    Between those two things alone, it’s impossible to cultivate a true friendship. I know where you are coming from. I’m the same way. I even have trouble making friends outside the church, always afraid something I say or do will come back to haunt me! lol.


  7. My husband just celebrated his 19th anniversary as a pastor. I had him read your blog and he wanted to know if I was your ghost writer! (I don’t have the hair either.)

    I know you are a fun girl just by reading your blog, but even as an introvert, it’s not you! It’s some cultural expectation, that I don’t understand.

    One of these days, I’m going to write for Pastor’s wives who don’t drink from china cups.


  8. For what it is worth, I can’t “let loose” and let me true colors fly around our church people. I feel close to no one, except my husband, and yes, I’m the pastor’s wife, too. Friendships are, at best, a mile wide and a quarter inch deep.

    The pastor and his wife are a safe place to unload your baggage. And after they unload on you, they don’t want to see you much anymore, you know too much.

    I hope that you find that close female friendship you are craving.

    Will you still be attending your current church? What will your husband be doing for a living after July 1? Not moving is a good thing.


  9. Mel, I was really touched by your post because as you know, I’m a pastor. In our experience, relationship building is nearly always lopsided away from us, so that we have to put in seventy-five percent for anyone’s thirty.

    I also agree that people tend to assume you’re together because of your title. Which is too bad.

    I’ve also noticed that you can leave a church years before you quit, if you know what I mean.

    I’ll pray for you guys in your next venture. And BTW, your “pastor’s wife hair” is great.


  10. After reading some of the replies, I must also gently say this: Genuine friendships are not impossible for us. Not at all. They just come in unique packages, and rarely all in one gift.

    BTW, I’ve been in some sort of ministry since 1988. So I’m one of you…

    I’ve come to see that acquiescing to the very real disadvantages pastors face in friendship building is the only thing that creates the impossibility. Hard, yes. Tiring, yes. Often painful? Yes. Impossible, no.

    Yes, friends come, friends go – but most of the best friends of our lives were in our own churches, even in the specific ministries we led. I thank Jesus for that.


  11. I would call you to talk about what’s going on! Man and I would kill for hair that is anything but straight. You’re moving on to another kind of life. Hang in there and enjoy the ride. I am on another kind of ride, but we’re both traveling.


  12. I just came across your blog, and immediately, this post resounds in me. I’ve been a pastor’s wife all our married life (12 years), and honestly, there are days when I think back and wonder, “What was I thinking! I was really naive and stupid.” Most poeple do not envy my position. In fact, I see you as being kind of lucky that your husband is leaving your current pastorate b/c that means you can be an ordinary person. I would not mind if that happened to me. But, my husband loves what he is doing and feels called to this. He is a wonderful husband, and while I do share his calling & see the blessings of ministry, I can totally totally relate and understand. It IS very very very hard to have friendships. People think I am put together too. I have 4 young kids and people have their expectations. I am introverted also and do not care for chit chat. Yet, people expect it and get offended if I”m having a bad day.

    God be my strength. You’re fortunate to just be a regular person. I kind of wish for that too.


  13. I have a friend who is a pastor’s wife, and I didn’t know that for a while at first (different church, though my kids now attend their bible camp in the summers.) Anyway, my initial thought was to wonder if I’d act differently around her…nope. She is who she is, and we even talk religion; it just doesn’t matter. Same thing may occur to some I’m sure with Dr’s wives, and really, wives (or husbands!) of anyone with a profession for which is held some importance. But then knowing the person themselves takes over and it just doesn’t matter.

    Good luck to you and him with everything. You are very interesting and funny to read, and I’m sure have more people that know that about you, and consider you a friend and just like you in your own right, than you know. Perhaps you’ll get more calls now that people won’t be shy to contact you…and will that be a good thing? 😉


  14. We are moving this June to our 3rd church. In our first church, we were there 4 years, and I was just making friends when we moved. This church, we have been here 6 years, and I have been blessed with 3 really good friendships and several more rather surfacey friendships, but still friends that I can call on to pick up the kids or whatever. It’s killing me to leave, and there’s a big part of me that wants to pull up that drawbridge and let no one in at the new church. It just takes so much effort – just thinking about it makes me tired. I have 4 young kids, and I feel much responsibility to get them acclimated and make sure they have friends. Not to mention the whole “how will my kids act if we have someone over – what if they don’t approve of what they watch, how they act, etc.” Most of the time, I don’t even think of myself as a Pastor’s Wife, but I know others never forget it. I consider myself a fun person too, but I always can’t help but wonder what others will think if they deem my sense of humor not reverent enough, or whatever.

    This new church is a huge, wealthy church where my husband will be an associate – I do feel that will take some of the pressure off, and yet I know my walmart clothes and the hand-me-downs my kids wear will be frowned upon. I guess if it bothers them too much, they can give him a raise! Something else the whole church (including any would-be friends) will know and vote about. I’ve never heard about Preacher’s Wife hair, but I’m sure I don’t have it – and forget china cups – we’re strictly paper and sippy cups around here! And, to add insult to injury, I never even learned to play the piano!

    Thanks for sharing, and I’ll be praying both of us make it in our new lives and have the courage and the energy to let the drawbridge down.


  15. My daughter once told me that I give off that self-sufficient vibe, too. It’s not often I let people get close. It’s a trust issue for me. But when I do, the friendships seem to last forever. I have been best friends with Lizzee for 41 years. I have a bazillion acquaintances, but that isn’t the same thing, is it? I dunno…as I get older I seem to require more ‘quiet’ and alone time. I’m so menopausally brain fart challenged it takes too much effort to be ‘fun’ and carry on a lively conversation. My weeks fly by…I have Saturdays to spend with Dear Hubby, my only free day of the week, really, and I enjoy his company so much. I do consider myself blessed that my husband truly is my dearest, most precious friend. And funny?! He keeps me entertained! I grew up in a home dominated by males and I feel more comfortable with males to this day.


  16. I have a hard time making new friends and reaching out to other women for friendship. I also tend to isolate myself, and my best friends are really my sisters, who don’t even live here!

    Being a pastor’s daughter, I know that the road of a pastor’s wife is not an easy one. Often when you DO make friends, you get accused of favoritism, etc. Getting out of the pastor’s wife role may be a very good thing for you.


  17. I always feel better knowing I’m not the only one who feels like she is surrounded by people with no one to talk to. You sound fun to me, but I know the feeling of not being able to “connect” with people. Somedays I think something must be wrong with me and other days I think this is just how I am and I need to accept it, but the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle as usual in life. Just know that there are those who are glad to know you through your blog.


  18. Well you know me; I have lots of friends and more then my share of trusted friends. Our pastors wife and I are bosom buddies. She though is very extroverted and so am I. Our church has about a thousand people in it and our pastors wife is the person that makes it all tick and run smoothly. Pastor thinks hes the one but its really the woman that stands behind him ! 🙂

    If you lived closer Id be your friend.

    Whenever I read about your job there at home it seems to me its coming with a high price; your health, your time with your kids, your friends, your house… I hope you still love me after writing that. I just wonder what sort of fulfillment you are finding in a job that secludes you from the rest of the world and seems to be at odds with the very things your heart desires.

    Love you and take care of yourself.


  19. Hi,I stumbled upon your blog tonight. I am a former Pastor’s wife of 21 years. My husband has been in a different vocation for 8 years now and I enjoy being a normal person. I do have some good memories of being in the ministry, but we are all in the ministry every day, aren’t we? I never had any close friends in the church and I always felt lonely. I definitely know what you are experiencing.


  20. I’m not a pastor’s wife. But your post touched me. I don’t know if introverted is what I am, but I have trouble making friends. I think I’m a fun person. YOU definitely are, or your blog wouldn’t be so entertaining! But for some reason, eventhough people seem to like me, they aren’t interested in really getting friendly with me. If that makes sense. I also am uncomfortable taking the steps to persue a friendship after the first meeting or two. I tend to “hole up” in my own home at night and on the weekend. So, I totally understand what you are saying. Maybe with this change, someone who liked you to begin with, but was distant because you were the pastor’s wife, will take the step to become more.


  21. Hi Mel,

    I don’t have the hair either. Nor do I think I have the personality. On more than one occasion I have been told that I’m not a “normal” pastor’s wife, whatever that means! I’m just me. I’ve had to find my role, as it were, as a pastor’s wife, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s nothing more than just being a Christian. I have personal convictions about certain lifestyles and ways of living and I don’t uphold those simply because I (and my children and husband) are looked at as an example. I do it because it’s the right thing to do as a Christian. I try to live according to the standard God expects of me, not according to the expectations of others. Regarding relationships, I’ve found it impossible to be close with members of the churches we have pastored. To them, I will always be their pastor’s wife and they find it difficult to let down their hair for that reason. I wish it were different, but I think it’s universal and normal. So…I find my relationships with other women outside of the church we pastor. We are part of a large worldwide fellowship, and I have relationships with people in our mother church, and with others who are not part of our immediate church that my husband pastors. Sometimes it can be pretty lonely, especially when the people I’m closest to are hundreds or thousands of miles away, but again, I think it’s normal. I have learned to make Jesus my best friend and find fulfillment in my relationship with Him first. Then, other friendships are an added blessing. This transition for you will be exciting. Onwards to new things! Don’t feel too badly for already feeling disconnected. You are moving in a new direction already. I was totally disconnected for several months each time we’ve left a new position. (In a couple of places I never could fully connect at all.) It may be something God is doing to prepare you for whatever is next. It certainly was in my case. I’m excited for you! It’s never easy to make major changes…believe me, I know whereof I speak! We just moved from Europe to California, dropping off not one, but TWO grown children in our hometown in another state on the way. I mentioned this to you before. Talk about empty next, culture shock, re-entry (to the States), decompression, readjustment, etc! But it’s all good. God has a plan, and our job is to relax and enjoy the ride, because He is bigger and more gracious and merciful than any of our circumstances! By the way, He knows your needs for friendship…I know you know that. Bring it before Him in prayer. I will be praying for you! 🙂 Sorry this is so lengthy and random..it’s late and I really should be in bed!


  22. I think you are fun!

    I will be very interested in finding out how things feel differently to you when your family makes this change….


  23. Fear not, sweet and wonderful Mel. As others have pointed out, it’s not you, it’s the title. You can’t exactly open up to them (even if you WERE extroverted and so inclined), and they’re nervous about opening up to you. Plus, at this time in your family’s life, you are all about circling the wagons. Now a new season is upon you, and with it, new and different relationships. I can’t wait to hear what the transition is like for you. How did the church take the news?


  24. Ahhhh, Mel . . . you’re a very fun girl. It’s interesting, though, I’m hearing this echoed in many places around the ‘net just now, and have been feeling it, too. Seems it might be a combination of all of the above factors – introversion/inability to get out/societal changes. But no, you aren’t too “dull, unapproachable, or glum” in any way. And I’ll accept a hair transplant from you any day ;-).

    I hope things look up for you very very soon!

    One of your smoldering friends (equally introverted, overbooked, and isolated)


  25. i am and shall continue to be your friend…we shall meet in distant cities and love NOT being with pale and simplistic versions of womanhood…just wait, it could happen.


  26. So many have already commented, but I just wanted to encourage you.
    We are a missionary family, and although have never pastored a church, I think we too have felt some of what you are and have been experiencing.
    I would echo Brad’s comment, that it is possible to build relationships, but like anything that is worthwhile, it is not easy.
    As we moved around the country during our training, attending a new church was one of the hardest things. Not only were we only going to be there for a relatively short time, but apparently we had a sign emblazened across our forehead, Super Spiritual, Don’t Need You for a Friend, and of course, Transient. All of which made us lonely in churches.
    Of all the lessons I have learned in the past years, it is that everyone is insecure, no matter how self-confident they appear.
    To create real relationships, we must be real. To meet people, we must reach out. Will you get burned sometimes? Yes. Will you give out more than you recieve? Yes. Will you fail? Yes. Will you be blessed for obeying God and loving others, encouraging them and building fellowship? Yes!
    As Pastor’s wives, missionaries, or other ministry leaders, people nearly automatically put us on a different level, which is completely wrong. But I have come to understand that the only way people will relate to us ‘ordinary’ is to behave that way. To let our faults be seen, to not feel as though we have to keep up appearances as well. It is when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable that we connect with others. We are often in the serving role, but allowing others to serve us, to minister to us is just as important, and we cannot do that when fold in.
    Take the risk! Be open and make the first move. Jump in and let the real you be seen, you won’t be sorry. Even if it is messy sometimes. 🙂


  27. I’ve been catching up on your last 17 or so posts.

    I remember what it was like for one pastor’s wife when I was a girl and worked for them as babysitter and light housekeeper. No matter what the poor woman did, it was wrong (at least according to people with far too little charity and far too much time on their hands).

    Looking at the whole thing from the outside, it seems like the spouses of pastors are expected to fit a mold and when they don’t it can become uncomfortable. Not always, of course, but often enough.

    Best wishes in the new venture.


  28. Oh Melodee, my heart breaks for you as I read your story tonight. For I wore that title for a very short time. It is a hard place to be at times. I think I became more introverted by the experience, too.

    I hope your transition is smooth.

    Many Blessings to you and your family…


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