Ministerial Spouses Association
Fresh Strength Newsletter
My husband and I have been married for 13 years, and we have been in the ministry for the past eight years. We went to the seminary as a family, but have had serious economical issues since my husband decided to leave his profession and enter the ministry.
My husband gets angry very easily and loses his temper frequently. He blames me for our financial struggles and thinks I should go to work. However, I believe in being home to raise our three children and available to offer the support they need as they grow.
He doesn’t talk to me much any more, and rarely shares what’s in his mind. He spends most of his time "doing ministry" and away from home. What can I do to get "into my husband's skin" to know what is going on with him, and somehow connect emotionally to him? —A Desperate Wife
It sounds like your husband is overwhelmed with the demands your family is facing at this time. Anger and losing one's temper are often an indication of several negative experiences in a man’s life such as stress and frustration, or even fear about one or several areas of his life. Some men express their fear through anger, which is often unconsciously perceived to be a “more manly” emotion in the male emotional world. He may also be dealing with a sense of personal failure (failure to provide for financial needs of his growing family) or professional failure (any variety of ministry issues), which can be impacting his ministry, personal, spiritual and/or family life. In any case, whether the financial issue is a core dilemma or is just a valid but superficial issue he is using to vent some steam and frustration, he needs to open up and talk to you, and congruently and transparently share what is going on in his personal and/or ministry life.
We suggest you might want to begin by setting up the conditions conducive to good marital conversation. Prepare a his favorite meal; Queen Esther successfully softened her husband’s heart with her two special dinners before hitting him with her concerns and request. Send the children to their bedrooms early one evening, and ask him if there is something you can do to make him feel more relaxed and comfortable. Then, open the conversation by telling him how much you appreciate him as a husband and a father, and all his hard work and concerns for the family. Tell him you are aware and concerned about the current financial struggle, and that you are committed to working with a budget or a professional financial advisor to seek the appropriate solutions. Let him know you feel concerned for his health and that, based on what you have been observing, he seems stressed, anxious and perhaps depressed. By the way, the higher the levels of stress, the easier it is to react with angry outbursts, bickering, silent treatments and/or depression. Remind him you are not the enemy, that you are his life partner and friend, and that you want to love and care for him but that he needs to communicate with you so you know how to help him.
Our minister-husbands need “a minister” sometimes also, and who better to minister to the deepest needs of our spouse than us. Tell him you want to be a better wife and mother, but you need the appropriate input. Ask him if there is something you are doing or saying to make matters worse, and tell him you don’t mean to make his life more miserable.
One last intervention we would like to recommend is to write him a letter saying all those things we suggested above. Good, old-fashioned letters (as opposed to emails) can be read and re-read, saved and re-read again and again. Sometimes when our stressed-out spouse is unable to “hear” our words, it is more effective for him or her to read our words without all the non-verbal distractions that often derail the conversation.
After you strategically create a “safe” emotional environment, he may be ready, by God's grace, to begin sharing his concerns and feelings with you. If he does, you have just found the way to your man’s heart. If he doesn’t, don’t give up; repeat the suggestions above and continue to pray that the Spirit of God will bring the healing and restoration your family needs.
If, after a while, things don’t change, seek professional or pastoral counseling. Designating resources for a Christian counselor is the best investment we know of to strengthen your effectiveness as spouses, parents and ministry leaders. Stressed out, disconnected ministry marriages make for less than effective ministry; this ought to be an excellent motivation to your husband to want to move the relationship to a safer, happier ground. —Carolann and César De León