A review of Always together always alone: The truth about being a minister’s wife

Posted Aug 10, 2017 | Academy of Preaching and Celebration

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By Joyce Thomas

In my review of the literature on pastor’s spouses, I recently read Always Together Always Alone: The Truth about Being a Minister’s Wife, by Anne Brackin. Brackin is a former pastors’ wife who documented in her doctoral studies the loneliness and other feelings that many pastors’ wives experience. Many pastors’ wives have stated that they often experience loneliness or some form of depression while in ministry, and for many, this is their number one challenge. According to researchers, loneliness is defined as those “feelings persons have in the absence of meaningful human contact . . . that can leave people paralyzed and helpless” (p.36).  Even in a congregation full of people, spouses of pastors often stand alone without sincere human contact with people who truly love them and want to be their friend. It sounds unbelievable, but more often than not it is true for many pastors’ wives. The title of this book, Always Together Always Alone, says it plainly: pastor’s spouses are always together with people, yet they are alone.

Brackin documents how loneliness begins in parish ministry. She explains that many clergy wives are not recognized by their own name or title, but are recognized by the job and cultural role of their clergy husband. Even if a name is given, many people soon forget because so much focus is placed on the attention and praise of the pastor (p.25). The truth of the matter is many congregants simply ignore the spouse until they have a need to reach the pastor and see his wife as the bridge. I know from my own experience this is true. There were times when I stood next to my husband, the pastor, on a Sunday morning and some members of the church would walk pass me without speaking, as though I was not there, but would have a full conversation with him. However, when they could not contact him, they would ask me to give him a note or message from them. It was something that happened over and over again.

Brackin discusses other ways in which loneliness develops, such as moving to a different congregation. It is not away easy to enter a new community and develop new friendship in places where people have already established relationships, unless the clergy husband intentionally introduces his wife to the people he meets. She also shares reasons for loneliness that are often overlooked, such as low self-esteem, lack of social support, low social skills, and relationship dissatisfaction.

One thing that I think Brackin describes especially well is how sometimes the wife does not take her own identity seriously because she identifies herself only as a partner in ministry. Many clergy wives take on the identity of their clergy husbands instead of their own and lose who they are and what they want to do with their lives.

Brackin documents several ways to escape the feeling of loneliness to live fully the role and purpose God has for pastor wives:

1.) Seek God and build a personal relationship with God. Use the Bible and other resources to help get the Word of God in your heart. Through these resources learn how to live a life of joy in spite of the fact that your life is different from the ordinary woman.

2.) Look for friends outside of the ministry by following your own passion - whether paid or volunteer - and develop friendships. When you have other places to go, you will be surprised how many friends you can meet.

3.) Establish your own identity separate from the church and or husband. Know that you have your own gifts and value.

Pastor’s wives must know that they like most other women are wonderful human beings made in the image of God. They have their own identity with gifts and purpose to serve God. When you seek God and build that relationship with God, loneliness, depression, low self-esteem, low social skills, difficult relationships, or any negative emotion that keeps you from having real joy will be eradicated.

Dr. Joyce Scott Thomas is the Associate Director of the Academy of Preaching and Celebration.

The Academy of Preaching and Celebration at CTS seeks to generate excellence in preaching and worship. To request permission to repost this content, please contact awalker@cts.edu.

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