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Chronicles of a Preacher's Wife - I

A particularly sticky energy accompanies me sometimes in my role as companion to a preacher. The proverbial preacher’s wife… It is a sticky energy that invites me to ask (when I’m willing and conscious): Why is this showing up for me here, now? What in me attracts such situations, for my own freedom? When I'm not willing, of course, this energy sticks, even hurts.

The sensation is one of being trapped in an emotionally-charged situation not of my own making…nor one in which I have much, if any, direct agency to resolve. Preacher’s wives have no direct relationships with those in in their husband’s church, by which I mean: I am never there as who I am, but always who I am in relation to him. Over the years, I have learned to make lemonade out of this lemon. I will ham it up and poke publicly at his authority, if gently. Congregations love a bit of irreverence in their projections of the Sacred onto him.

I can easily get triggered here, because I’m more conscious of how triangulation has shaped me, AND because being a preacher’s wife is triangulation on steroids. Triangulation reigned supreme between the generations in my family, with a persistent field of competition to achieve for attention, favor, being seen. Or anticipating what one parent needed and providing it, so to create ‘that special bond’ with one amongst the other family members. (I’ve since learned this is not unusual in white Protestant families; that's for another day). When I feel sticky or threatened by a church matter, it’s easy for me to relapse into unhealthy triangulation patterns. That ultimately prevent precisely the intimacy with Brian I desire.

All this makes me an easy target for innocent and detrimental triangulation alike. “Tell your husband my colonoscopy is Wednesday morning.” (innocent, but why are you telling me this when I don’t even know your name?) “It’s insane that I have to be on good terms with your wife in order to go out for a social coffee with you.” (detrimental, as it signals an unhealthy attachment with utter disregard of a necessary boundary healthy male pastors learn to set with young women parishioners & sometime colleagues. If they’re wise). For myself, there is very little that will trigger me faster than a presumption of relationship without consideration of me as who I am. Over the years, however, I’ve had to…learned to…? sit with the sticky energy. Impotent, for the most part, to resolve or redress it.

That’s FUN, right?

Given the increased isolation and fragmentation in our communal webs these days, I think this tension—and stickiness—has gotten worse. Congregational members with histories of abandoning themselves and their dreams, for the sacred sacrifices for church or family, play out their woundedness on pastors, church leadership. You can see folks attempting to create ‘a special bond with the pastor,’ which they think will insure against their own self-abandonment, loneliness or isolation. News Brief: It won't.

So…today I honor that I have welcomed some sticky energy this week. Thankfully, I can also celebrate a most recent pitcher of lemonade. Part Deux, tomorrow.

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