It’s so utterly predictable. When the pressure goes up at church, the amount of conflict that happens in our marriage follows the same trajectory. And when the stress mounts on both fronts, we find ourselves less able to deal with any of it well. But conflict isn’t always bad. God often uses it to knock off my rough edges and make me (and my husband) more like our Jesus.  When we have a conflict, we both usually bear some of the responsibility. But sometimes, conflicts could be avoided if I just handled my own stuff. I remember Paul telling us “as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18).  And that “all men”  includes my own husband. 

In the upcoming months, we’re going to dig into some of the leading causes of conflict in ministry marriages and how we, as wives, can avoid the ones where we have responsibility. 

Woman holds up large, round clock - covering her face.One of the biggest areas of conflict in many ministry marriages (especially mine) is time. Endless Bible studies, meetings, discipleship opportunities, community involvement, counseling sessions, service opportunities, etc., can consume every minute of the day.  It can feel like the church is his top priority, making it easy to become jealous or resentful.  

Early on in ministry, I felt selfish for feeling that way. He is working for the Lord; how can I tell him to stop? So, I would suck it up and avoid admitting how I felt. After holding it in for far too long, I finally exploded in an unhelpful, accusatory way. The conversation dissolved into defensiveness, hurt feelings and misunderstandings.  I don’t recommend this approach. It did not go well. 

For the sake of our marriage, we had to devise a plan to avoid the constant conflict related to managing our time. First, that meant communicating what we both needed. Then, together, we created some boundaries. For us, this means keeping Friday nights as our sacred family night. We also try to have more nights at home together each week than out doing church stuff separately. This leaves three nights a week to be used for church stuff without him feeling guilty. 

Hands of family members holding a tiny, red alarm clockMy achiever husband (who will work until he drops) creatively schedules meetings during business hours, early mornings, or on someone else’s lunch break. This has provided a much more sustainable schedule for him and the security I need, knowing I will have him home for dinner most nights. When we’re home, we both let calls go to voicemail. Then, we listen to check whether it is an emergency or can wait until tomorrow morning. This also trains our congregation in how to have healthy boundaries. They learn that we are not “on call” 24/7 but are here for them, or will connect them with someone else,  if it is truly a crisis. 

As we all know, the ministry doesn’t always work in this perfect, scheduled way, even with the best laid-out plans. There are still busy seasons like Christmas and Easter,  hospital visits, emergency phone calls, and numerous other things that interrupt our plans. It’s during these times that I need to remember how many times Jesus was interrupted. Whenever he went anywhere, His ministry happened during those interruptions. So, sometimes I need to change my attitude towards those unexpected opportunities. And we must adjust our expectations during these busy times, show lots of grace, and continue to communicate how much we like each other. We try to find little ways to show we care, like showing up at each other’s work with a big Coke Zero. It’s important to remember, it is just a season. These seasons create a perfect time to trust God, appreciate your spouse,  and consider what a privilege it is to serve His people.


COUPLE’S HOMEWORK: Set aside some time this week to talk over these questions. 1. Do you have a tank that is feeling low? - Alone time - Couple time - Family time - Fun time - Work time 2. How can we work together to carve out some time (maybe start with 30 minutes) to put some gas back in that tank? 3. What weekly rhythm we are shooting for in our family? (for alone, couple, family, work and fun time)? 4. How does this week line up with that? Is it just a crazy week or do we need to make some changes? 5. How can we support each other in what God has called each of us to this week?