Realities pastors’ girlfriends face and how to handle them
Shortly after this photo (above) was taken six years ago, I began a romantic relationship with the handsome young man on my left who is now my husband. It’s been a walk in the park, no hassles, no challenges, just a fairy tale romance, because after all, he is a pastor. Hahaha. Na so. You won’t believe how much I had to control myself to type that with a straight face! I mean don’t get me wrong, I’d pick the same guy a million times if I had the chance…but I think that there could be some peculiar challenges you face when you’re dating a pastor and that’s the purpose of this post. I’m sure this will help your relationship though, whether or not your special someone is a pastor. So here goes:
Meet the guy first
When people ask me what it’s like being married to a pastor, I always respond the same way: ‘I married someone I liked.’ This is important; you’re marrying a man, not a position. I’ve met ladies who I know who ordinarily would not date a guy if he had some behavioural flaws, but overlook those flaws simply because he’s a pastor. That is a big mistake. Make sure that whoever you choose has the qualities you desire in a man. Don’t pick someone with a horrible temper and make excuses for him because he is a pastor. Don’t date someone who assumes that sex before marriage is alright since he is a man of God. Know the man, study the man and find out whether you’re compatible with the man first and foremost. Be friends with him.
He’s human too
It might shock you, but you’ll realize pretty soon that your pastor-boyfriend is human too. He can make mistakes. He can get angry. And because you’re the closest person to him, you’re more likely to see his flaws more clearly than anyone else. However, you must never compromise on genuine Faith in Jesus and love for the body of Christ. You must also never settle for someone who doesn’t care about you simply because he is a pastor. That said, forgiveness and empathy are needed on your part.
By God’s grace, the hubby and I were able to wait until the wedding night for ‘you know what.’ So no, not everybody is ‘doing it’ and yes, it is possible to wait. But it wasn’t easy. I’ve realised that dating relationships with one or both parties as pastors usually have less accountability than normal Christian couples do. I guess it’s because a lot of people assume that you’re so spiritual, sexual temptations should not even be an issue. News flash! Pastors get tempted as well. Dear church member, please note that this is not an excuse for you to get all up in your pastor’s business, policing him to find out how far he has gone with his girlfriend. But if you’re dating a pastor, you must make sure that you keep the right boundaries in place. The Holy Spirit can enable you to live above sin, but you must both be willing to be led by the spirit and put your flesh under.
Between secrecy and public opinion
Especially if you both attend the same church, it could be really weird if everyone knows you’re dating the pastor. That’s why many pastors like to keep their relationship secret. However, the more secret your relationship, the less likely you are to be accountable to anyone and the more trouble you’ll be in. My suggestion? Make sure the lead pastor and other leaders in the ministry are aware of the relationship. You can also request for discretion.
Ours was a very interesting situation. I was already a pastor in our ministry and the hubby was the lead pastor before we started dating. I remember one scenario on mother’s day years ago, we were still dating then. The pastor(then boyfriend, now husband) asked all mothers to stand up. My fellow pastors kept nodding at me to stand up as ‘mother of the church’ and so I did. You needed to see the look pastor gave me, as if to say: Abeg don’t put me in trouble o! And so I calmly sat back down. Well not so calmly, I’m still laughing at myself as I remember that incident. My advice to you is to limit your roles in the church to the things you were doing before the relationship started. Being a pastor’s girlfriend doesn’t automatically make you responsible for more stuff around the church. Simply be yourself and serve the Lord. And for Christ’s sake, except in rare cases where the woman is the leader in the ministry, let him lead!
The line between mentor and lover
If you just started dating someone who has mentored you over the years, you’d realise that they are two different relationships. Both very sensitive, both to be maintained, but both very different. Even if you’re dating a pastor, you must know God for yourself. If your relationship with God is simply dependent on his relationship with God, you will be disappointed. Being the closest person to a pastor, you more than anyone else would know how awesome a person he is. However, you would also be more aware of his weaknesses than anyone else. You must learn to be able to differentiate between the grace on the office and the weaknesses of the man. You must honour him as a pastor if he will be a blessing to you and as a man if the relationship must work. Learn to walk the thin line between the romantic relationship and the pastoral relationship. Don’t let lovers’ quarrels affect the work of the ministry.
7. Merging assignments?
It’s a big step marrying a pastor, and dating one is a step in the marriage direction. I usually get questions from people who feel that their purpose and that of their beloved don’t align. So, let me start explaining what purpose is. It is that one thing for which you were created and at which you must succeed, if not, nothing else you succeed at would count. It is not determined by you, but by the One who made you. And it is an obvious, generic theme we see throughout the bible. The purpose of your life is Christ. Not marriage, career or even ‘ministry’ as it were.
It is Christ. 2 Cor 5:15 says:
and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
1Ti 2:4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
When you see God on the last day, it’s not going to be about what career path you chose, but how you lived for him and caused others to do the same.
As a believer, you and the person you’re dating must have the same purpose-Christ. There must be a Christ-centredness about both your lives.
Secondly, not every pastor’s wife is called to be a pastor. But even then, I believe that every pastor’s wife is called into ministry.
There are times when you would need to hold the fort on the family end because your husband has to travel for the work. If you’re a core career person, that may not be possible for you. What if he gets transferred often? Can you handle that? If your skills are needed in the ministry full time, can you handle that? These are things to think about. For all you know, he could just have a worldwide ministry that could require your skills, challenge you and even pay you much more than you could get in the corporate world. But there is a possibility that it might not happen as well.
I was already a pastor in our ministry before my husband and I started dating, so we knew we were heading in the same direction. It helped a lot. I am not saying that it is not possible if your case is different. But I am saying that there are a lot of questions you must ask yourself and answer honestly before making a decision.
Contrary to popular opinion, being married to a pastor doesn’t automatically mean riches. So if you’re the kind of girl that must marry a rich man, you might need to reconsider. Someone who should date a pastor is one who realises that there is more to life than money. There might be some lean years. Even though God provides, you must be willing to abound and abase. If you’re in the missionary field especially, it won’t be all glitz and glamour. Whatever the case might be, be willing to work if need be and learn contentment.
9. Time constraints
Quite a number of people called my husband on our wedding night. They were actually expecting him to pick. He is a pastor after all. Lol. If there is one thing pastors’ and their wives argue about, it would have to be time. On one hand, you must understand that God’s call upon your man’s life is a time demanding one. The spiritual lives of people are actually dependent on him. On the other hand however, relationships that succeed need time to flourish. So, you both must come to a compromise. Don’t nag about it. Talk to him calmly and both of you figure out a solution.
10. Who can I talk to?
Romantic relationships and ministry are two very sensitive things. So you can imagine what happens when you merge them. I’m not an advocate for telling everyone what is going on in your relationship, but there are times when you might need to talk to someone. You must bear this in mind from the very beginning. Don’t date someone who is not submitted to anyone, even if he is a pastor. If there is no one you can go to and that he will listen to when there is a problem, then that is a red flag. Sometimes, you might not even need them to talk to him, but just someone to listen to and give you advice. Talk to a spiritual leader who is wise and can be discrete.
11. Doctrinal differences
Especially if you both attend different churches, this could be an issue. Calm down. Before getting married, be sure that you both agree on the basics. What is his understanding of the gospel? What is his take on the charismatic ministry of the Holy Spirit? What is his theology about money?
12. His expectations
There is no rule book about the list of things a pastor’s wife should be doing. The roles of pastors’ wives differ, but it is important that you love the Lord, love your family and love the people. Every other thing would be dependent on whether or not you have a call to pastoral ministry, your personal gifts and the expectations of your husband-to-be. Talk about it. Leave nothing to assumptions. What do you believe God is leading you to do? Does it tally with the direction your man is going? What areas can your assignments be merged? What should be kept separate? Prayerfully consider it before taking the next big step.
13. Know the Lord
I mentioned this before but it is so important I must mention it again. Know the Lord. Dating a pastor doesn’t naturally mean that you will grow spiritually. You must spend time in prayer and in the study of the word for your personal spiritual growth. Your relationship with God must come first. This is also important because many times, you will need to remind your man of the word. Pastors get discouraged too, and sometimes only the women who love them can see it. You’d need to encourage him about stuff that he may have preached.
I must also say this: ‘You don’t have to marry him because everyone already knows you’re dating. Everyone will not come and live with you in that marriage. Find out who not to marry on my post: Don’t marry him if…
Also, when it comes to relationships, the rules are the same. Find out what they are:
Dating a pastor? Please share your experience in the comments section. We would love to learn from you. And if you have any questions, I would love to hear from you. Please email me here.