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Is anyone married to/going out with a priest?

(15 Posts)
AsphyxiaXIX Wed 20-Feb-13 00:45:46

... Or are one themselves?!

My partner is training for ordination in the C of E. We've been together almost a year and it's going very well and we both view it as a stable and long-term thing, although have not talked about getting married yet. I was just wondering if anyone could give me some insight on what it's like being in a relationship with a priest or married to one. He does not yet know exactly where he will be doing his curacy but it is likely to be in the diocese we are now in so hopefully there will not be the question of moving miles. I have heard clergy wives say it can be difficult because you feel like your family is 'on show', people expect you to be perfect and they are always trying to get more of your husband's time! I've also heard people say that 'Rev' is pretty accurate! People also make lots of jokes about how I will have to do lots of flower-arranging and Sunday school stuff...

I was just wondering how people found it and also how it works when one member of a couple is a priest and the other has a 'normal' job in terms of logistics and whether it is difficult or just like any couple where both work full time. I do know a few clergy wives but as they are all married to friends of DP's and are not my friends as such I don't want to ask them this stuff as I guess it's a bit personal.

MadHairDay Wed 20-Feb-13 09:58:48

Hello! Yes, I am married to a CofE vicar. He's actually a pioneer minister now, so our situation is quite different from the usual vicarage set up, but he did a 'normal' 3 year curacy before this. I was also brought up in a clergy household so it's been fairly normal to me most of my life.

The first thing I would say about being with a priest is that it's an amazing life. We get to live in different places, meet lots of different people and get to see people's lives transformed by ministry. I really wouldn't have it any other way. People may see the downsides - dragging the dc from school to school, for eg - but our dc say that it's helped them settle anywhere and make friends quickly, and they've now got friends all over the country.

wrt expectations - being on show, flower arranging etc, it really depends on the church you end up in. There are some churches where this will be the case (it's worth reading a book by Celia Bowring called 'in this together' or something like that) - I've heard of people having ridiculous expectation on the clergy spouse - like they have to do Sunday School, coffee rota, Mother's Union etc etc - in which case, your foot has to be firmly put down and help them to realise this isn't naturally the case grin I was lucky in our curacy church - people were laid back and didn't expect much of me, told me just to relax and not to jump right in - in fact this was the best advice I heard, to take at least 6 months and not to anything at all in that time, to observe, to support dh but not to get sucked in.

I can't comment on the work thing as I am unable to work, but have plenty of friends where the other half works full time, and it is absolutely fine, again just a case of being assertive with any member of the congregation who thinks they can take your life over wink

And yes, Rev can be fairly accurate at times!

It's a fantastic, aggravating, exciting, frustrating and fulfilling life.

There are a few of us here, so I'm sure some others will be around with different perspectives.

Hopeforever Wed 20-Feb-13 10:02:54

Just rushing out to do half term stuff with the kids. My DH is a vicar

Will be back later to try and answer your questions.

AsphyxiaXIX Wed 20-Feb-13 13:18:35

Thanks MadHairDay! I was not brought up in a clergy household (have noticed quite a few clergy wives were) so am slightly clueless! I work full time in a job that often has long hours so will have to be v firm if demanded to do flowers etc. I have no problem helping a bit when I have time but don't think I will have much! I don't have a problem with being assertive though, so hopefully that will just be accepted. I know DP doesn't have any expectations of me re that.

Hope forever, looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

DandyDan Wed 20-Feb-13 13:35:04

I'm married for almost 25 years to a vicar. We married at the end of his training.
I would echo MHD's comments that it is a fabulous life - a very full life but one usually integrated at every level with faith and church and everything. I can't comment on the work thing either - but I have known many clergy wives who work full-time and that's been fine in the parish. Where people have had expectations, you just gently but firmly state what you wish to offer (or can offer, dependent on your work circumstances etc). I also agree with the "if you are planning to offer to 'do' things, nethertheless don't do anything for six months" and get settled in first.

Also, try to protect your day off.
And yes, Rev contains a lot that is accurate - some of the frustrations and things that happen, but overwhelming amounts of the things that are wonderful about it.

I would chat with the clergy spouses you know - they might have a wealth of reflections on how it is for them, that may help.

I guess "being on show" is an element that doesn't alter, esp. if you are in a smallish community. How the vicar's spouse looks/acts/vocalises stuff etc does have an effect on how people might view the vicar - in that sense, you do have to work as a team to some extent, and just accept that you might, to some people, semi-represent your OH whenever you are out and about.

AsphyxiaXIX Wed 20-Feb-13 15:47:16

Thanks Dandy - I already feel a bit on show. People seem quite interested to find out who DP is going out with, what I'm like etc. Apparently people are happy to give him their opinions of me! (He only tells me the positive ones). I'm a bit unsure about asking the wives I know as we are not engaged or anything so I don't want to start off a load of rumours....

MarianneM Wed 20-Feb-13 20:55:12

What a timely thread, my DH has just been through the discernment process and has been accepted - will start training in September.

Would be interested in hearing about other clergy wives/their experiences.

I am really looking forward to being one!

AsphyxiaXIX Thu 21-Feb-13 14:30:28

What did/does your husband do before deciding to go forward for ordination, Marianne? I didn't know my bf before he started his training. Was it a surprise that he wanted to do it? Are you both very active in your local church?

aig Thu 21-Feb-13 16:19:22

I am training to be a priest (due to be ordained in June). Training itself can be tough on your relationship; I do the weekly boarder thing as my children are grown up (well over 18 anyway). Where is your DH training?

MarianneM Thu 21-Feb-13 18:48:28

OP - my DH used to work in higher education, then as a teacher/nursery nurse and lately has been a SAHP to our two little girls.

I wasn't surprised - both I and other people have often thought/said that he would probably make a good priest.

We have been going to the church that put him forward for a few years.

Is your partner in residential training? How long has he got left? Has he got a curacy sorted yet?

opera Mon 13-May-13 20:01:32

Not sure I'm the best person to be very positive about it, as I came on here looking for a clergy wife thread as I'm feeling fairly stressed! It's a mix of ups and downs, and a lot depends on the job and location. We've moved a lot and lived in a variety of places, but always cities before now, and are now living in a small town. It's the first time I've had to cope with real difficulty in finding new friends who won't know in advance that I'm a minister's wife.

I am Christian but I've found that being "the wife" has stifled rather than enabled my own connection to the church in general. I'm fairly unconventional and creative, and before I was able to find my own place in churches, with people taking me as they found me. Now I'm at pains to try and be helpful while not "taking over" or at the other end of the scale getting bogged down in lots of rotas. It's hard to get involved in the official decision making (i.e. being on the church council is probably inappropriate), but you're definitely a big source of support and ideas bouncing behind the scenes - so it can be a thankless task (funnily enough you're welcomed with open arms if you want to be on a cleaning/flower/sunday school rota - deffo Martha rather than Marys wanted on the whole).

Relocation can be hard, although to some extent you are in control of geographical location in the Anglican church, especially post curacy. It can also be very hard to see your DH worked to the bone, only getting one day off a week with rare holidays, and still beating himself up emotionally about not doing enough. Even down time together after a long day of work can be hard to find when the office is just down the corridor and he can just nip in there and do a bit more sermon prep/responding to that flipping phone ringing yet again etc etc. It's so important to get some couple/family time that is sacred(!) The lack of a "weekend" off is a hard thing to cope with when pretty much every other worker in the country gets two days off together on a regular basis even if working shifts.

Tied housing can also be a BIG pain (current source of stress) - but then again he's not paid enough to get a mortgage and so whatever we're given just has to do. Of course some housing is lovely and is a big plus, but as most churches have less and less money they are tending to cut corners in my experience.

I'll stop now - sorry - there are many blessings too (honest!) Just be wise about the pitfalls, be realistic, protect your space and family time, keep your friends outside your congregation and keep your sense of humour! x

opera Mon 13-May-13 20:05:27

Just to answer the question about working, I'm now self employed but I did work full time in the past in an office. It was in many ways a good thing to have a totally separate world to exist in, but I because it was full time I never had a day off with DH. I found I couldn't cope with that situation but other people do.

AMumInScotland Tue 14-May-13 11:14:50

My DH left the ministry, so my perspective is one of looking back at clergy life from a bit of a distance. It's great in that you are immediately a recognisable part of the church family. It's bad for the same reason. It's great to feel your DH feels called to always help those in need. Ditto bad. Same for lots of other things - when it's going ok, and/or you really feel you and he are making a difference in people's lives, even in small ways, there is a wonderful feeling of doing what you are meant to be doing. But on the bad days, you wonder how many more people are going to want a piece of your time and attention, and why they don't seem to recognise that you might have needs of your own.

Tied housing is a pain, as you don't get much say in things that you could change in your own home. Being in "the vicarage" means that you can be found at any time of the day or night. This is a whole-time life, not a full-time job. And a lot of people will see you as an extension of him rather than a person in your own right - people used to moan to me, expecting me to pass on their complaints, rather than take it up with DH directly.

You need to be very clear about his day off - if you are working Mon-Fri then you can try to make his day off Saturday, but that gets tricky for weddings, church fetes, and lots of other events. Some people go out for the day or unplug the phone as a way of getting a bit of peace, but then they tend to feel guilty in case someone is really in need. Ideally, your DH would find some "polite but firm" way of making it clear what counts as an emergency, but there are always parishioners who think their slightest whim is more important. They are usually few, but noisy!

We found most people were lovely, and didn't have silly expectations. But a handful of people were a real PITA and seemed not to think of us as "real people" at all. Luckily for me the traiing incumbents wife worked fulltime so people had some understanding that we were not automatically available, and I had a baby pretty much at the start of the curacy so that gave me my own circle of activities that were not directly about the parish.

AsphyxiaXIX Tue 21-May-13 23:27:02

Ooh - more replies!

Marianne - yes, residential training but quite early on, so no curacy arrangements yet.

He's already aware that some people will just take and take and sometimes you've got to protect your own space/time/family life. I hope he keeps this in mind when he's actually in a parish! He's quite a strong personality (understatement...) and usually quite good at getting people to do what he wants them to do. I'm the exception smile

I am a bit nervous that we won't get enough time together as a couple, but I guess lots of clergy have happy marriages so fingers crossed...

You have to work at the marriage. Please take that bit on board now.

I'm the clergy half of the couple and you have, really have to put time in the diary to be together. Parish and life will get in the way otherwise and you find you haven't talked properly for weeks. We have diary planning meetings to work out who is where and when. Then we try and get to go and do stuff together - a walk at lunchtime, a meal in a pub or whatever. Other couples I know arrange days off together and get out of the parish to avoid the temptations of just one more email...

The one day off a week is rubbish. I was ill on mine this week so that is another evening we didn't get to see Star Trek. Humph....

The thing that threw me most was the socialising bit of the job. I'm the extovert and usually love being out and about but the church barn dance or the parish walk are still work. I am still on duty although in a social setting and that is confusing at first.

Friends who are not part of the parish are a lifesaver. It can be a bit of a goldfish bowl so a bit of perspective given with love and chocolate is what keeps us sane(ish.)

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