I’ve heard it hundreds of times from every pastor who has ever mentored me:
“Don’t unload on your wife.”
On the surface, it sounds like prudent advice. Pastors’ wives already bear enough burdens without knowing everything that goes on behind the doors of the church. When a pastor complains about his job to his wife, he fails to protect her from the not-yet-perfected underbelly of the Bride of Christ. My mentors have always tried to protect my wife and I from the many dangers associated with being “called” to serve the church. They fervently believe and teach that a pastor unloading on his wife is unwise.
These men all have the experience and wisdom afforded to them by age, so I hesitate to disagree with them so confidently. But I do disagree for two reasons. First, after ten years of full-time vocational ministry, I’ve found the exact opposite advice to ring true. Unloading on my wife has been a huge blessing to both of us individually, and our marriage together. Second, and far more importantly, I believe this advice is out of alignment with the biblical teaching of the created order for husbands and wives.
Eve was created as a helpmate, suitable for Adam. Their marital relationship was to be one of equal value and reciprocal benefit to each other. After the fall, our ability to maintain such a healthy relationship is severely marred, but the standard ideal did not change. Wives have enormous capacity to encourage and support their husbands, and husbands would be unwise to exclude them from that role.
So, here are four reasons why I think pastors should unload on their wives.
1. You need to be present with her
If you’re stressing out and you don’t tell her what’s bugging you, you’re not present with her. You are robbing her of intimacy. She will probably tie herself into knots thinking it’s her fault unless you give her a reason to believe otherwise. You don’t have to break confidences, but part of properly going home after work is answering the question: “How was your day?” If your day sucked, don’t lie to her. Tell her the truth and don’t make her guess.
2. Your wife will know how to fix you
She knows what helps you unwind, and she can do it better than anyone else. Yes, I’m implying sex, but I mean all sorts of other things too. Your wife shares a history with you and can remind you of the best times in your life together. She can make you a nice meal, play board games, tell stories, walk ‘n talk, Netflix and chill. She was made to help you. Let her help.
3. Your wife will know how to rebuke you
You don’t have the integrity to live without accountability. And the best way to get accountability is to be transparent with a person who is in a mutual covenantal relationship with you. You need someone from whom you can expect both truth and love, and that’s her. That dynamic combination of truth and love gives her the capacity to rebuke without breaking you.
4. Unless you married a child, your wife is a big girl.
Overprotecting your wife dishonors her by assuming she cannot handle being fully married to someone who has stress in their life. What goes under the name of chivalry is often just a lame excuse for narcissistic counter-dependency. Treat her with dignity by sharing your struggle with her.
For these reasons, I think husbands should unload on their wives after a stressful day. But I say so with one caveat: Wisdom is necessary for the exact wording and timing. Deciding to unload on your wife regularly does not mean you shouldn’t be judicious about exactly how to do it. If you can’t unload without the committing sins of the tongue, bite your tongue. Bite it off if you have to. Better to go through life without a tongue than to dishonor God with your words.
Turn it around. If you were in her position, would you want your wife to “protect” you all the time? Or would you want her to share her life with you so you can exhort, admonish, and encourage her?