The Successful Spouse
Plays the piano.
Great with children.
An eye for decorating and good in the kitchen.
Grew up around ministry (pastor’s kid), thus knows the ropes.
Even keeps a clean house, can sing if needed, and married to a preacher.
All the qualifications are there for a terrific pastor’s wife. There is just one problem.
He is my husband. In addition to all these great qualities, he’s got others: he’s got big muscles, he can build/fix most anything, he is male, and most importantly, he is his own person.
Fortunately, our congregation is supportive of Nate for being Nate, and they do not pressure him to be any certain way or fill any certain roles as the pastor’s spouse. Unlike some churches, I’m pretty certain they would have hired me even if Nate couldn’t play the piano or lead VBS.
The pastor’s spouse is a tough gig, I think. It isn’t their calling, their vocation, their paycheck—not really. But the expectations are often huge. Nate cannot even experience what it is like, not really, to participate in church voluntarily. He has to participate (more or less) because he married me, and service to the church is part of the package when you marry a minister.
But it’s not just the minister-spouse thing I worry about most. It is his identity, his dreams, his gifts I fear will be swallowed in my shadow. So far, he’s been following my success across the country (well, the state of Texas, at least, which can feel like a country). When we married, he moved so I could finish seminary. When I took a job as a resident chaplain in a college dorm, he followed me and made his home among a hall of college women. When I came to San Antonio to take on my new job as pastor, Nate came with me, joined the church, and jumped right in. Granted, we made all these decisions jointly, and I have never expected him to follow me blindly. But still, I can’t help but notice the imbalance. Thus far, all the doors that have opened, have opened for me. The success has been mine. The opportunities have been mine. Attention, awards, and adventure—mostly all mine.
Nate is an amazing spouse, but Nate is also an incredible person in his own right. What about his life, his talent, his future? We never meant to put him on the back burner. It is just that I am nearly always the one who knows what she wants in life. He’s been more uncertain. I’ve followed my dreams. He is still dreaming up his own. I’ve been noticed. He’s been in the background, encouraging me when I went unnoticed, holding me when I cried, believing in me when I doubted myself.
When does Nate get his turn and what will that look like? Or what if my life continues to be a success story and what if the spotlight always faces towards me and away from him?
I appreciate his many sacrifices for me, but I do not want to become the god of his altar. He was created to serve something bigger than me, to have a bigger purpose than being my faithful pal. But finding that purpose isn’t always easy.
Anyone else out there have a similar struggle? What about men whose wives have sacrificed to support your job—do you have these same worries about overshadowing her identity with yours? What about women who have followed your men—how have you found your own niche? And what about couples like us, who are doing things in reverse of the common trend (successful wives, or stay-at-home dads, or women with bigger incomes, or men who are struggling to find a vocational identity, etc)—how have you “broken the mold” and what have you discovered along the way?