In a recent interview in Rolling Stone, Taylor Swift recounts a conversation with her brother about a man he’d seen walking around with a cat on his head. She was torn between wanting to respect the man’s privacy and wishing she had a photo. After all, she said, “That guy is asking for it – he’s got a cat on his head!”

So here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: Being a pastor’s wife is a little like having a cat on your head. Are we really asking for it? We have our private, everyday lives just like everyone else, yet we happen to be married to men whose jobs—whose ministries—are public.

And despite shifting notions of celebrity, the church tends to hold an unspoken expectation that pastors and their wives live in a special category of Christian.

It used to be that certain people – film stars, politicians, clergy – were innately revered. Those hierarchies are different today; social media gives us enough access to stars that we feel as close as BFFs, while the news reports enough details to ensure we have no delusions of politicians being saints. But in the church, the old-school pedestal often remains.

When pastors’ wives walk up, the conversation goes quiet. Our remarks are often met with flattering-but-awkward deference. Our relationships still have a degree of distance.

It is the pastor’s wife effect.

Sometimes these chasms are self-inflicted, the result of having been hurt in the past and keeping ourselves safely aloof. Sometimes they are the result of an unhealthy church culture that puts our husbands and families on pedestals. But sometimes they are the result of congregants not making peace with the fact ...

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