Pastors are revered in their communities. People expect them to live up to a higher moral standard than anyone else.
One thing we tend to forget is that pastors, just like the rest of us, are human beings. Before choosing a spouse, they enter into dating relationships that may or may not work out. One difference between the dating lives of pastors and those of the general community is that pastors tend to keep their relationships out of the spotlight until marriage.
So, if you are dating a pastor or just thinking about it, here are some definite dos and don’ts.
1). Keep It a Secret
You’re excited that he asked you out, so you want to shout it from the mountaintop. But that’s not a good idea. Of course, you may tell a few close family and friends, but posting it as your social media status is a big no-no.
However, if the relationship progresses, introducing him to your family is acceptable, but don’t make it a surprise. Discuss it with him, and if he feels comfortable, then it’s OK. However, if he’s hesitant, you should respect that.
2). Don’t Change Your Image
You might want to appear a certain way when dating a pastor. However, cleaning up your act and changing your act altogether are two different things.
For instance, before dating him, you used to hang out every weekend with your friends, drinking and socializing.
Now that you are together, you’ve stopped calling your friends for fear they may not be a good look for you. You’ve stopped drinking because you don’t like judgment. Who does? But don’t cut out activities you enjoy because of fear. Stop doing those things because you want to, not because someone else doesn’t like it.
Also, you are not the spouse of a pastor. You’re only dating, so stop pretending. Don’t feel like you should sit with the other wives at the church. It’s one thing if he feels comfortable with the idea, but if he doesn’t respect his wishes.
3). He Doesn’t Have to Acknowledge You
Some pastors don’t acknowledge who they are dating right away because they prefer to keep their lives private. But again, respect that decision. A high moral standard is expected from a pastor, so they have a reputation to uphold, and that may mean they will not introduce you as their partner until further along in the relationship.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you understand they don’t always work. Sometimes people, especially pastors, don’t want a revolving door of partners coming in and out. So how would it look if the pastor introduced a new relationship every four to six months?
4). Don’t Take It Personal
He’s not introducing you to his church family, his personal family, or even his acquaintances, and you’re upset. Don’t be. Just because they want to keep the relationship out of the spotlight doesn’t mean they don’t value it. They are waiting for the proper time to make formal introductions.
The worst thing you can do is complain and nag when they ignore your presence. Remember, you are only dating. You’re not their spouse yet.
In addition, many church members frown upon the boyfriend or girlfriend label. So again, be patient and allow the relationship to unfold organically.
Ways to Stop Taking Things Personally
It’s easy to get wrapped up in our emotions, thinking that your partner is intentionally sabotaging the relationship. Or, you may be upset that they don’t have time for you. Whatever the issue is, you’re taking it personally.
We’re all human, so taking issues to heart can happen. However, doing so does not help your relationship. Here are methods to help you understand it’s not always about you.
- Look at the situation from another perspective. This was the third time he couldn’t make it home for dinner. You think he’s doing this on purpose but look at the situation from a different angle.
Instead of thinking it’s all about you, see how he comes home from work exhausted, and the last thing he wants to do is argue with you again. Seeing things from the other side can put the situation in a different light.
- Recognize the stumbling blocks that cause you to take it personally. You may understand that looking at the situation differently helps, but it’s still difficult to stop taking it personally. Try recognizing some of the reasons why you might do it. Did you grow up with overly critical parents who made you expect criticism from others, even when there’s none?
- Acknowledge the benefits when you stop taking it personal. Constantly worrying about what others think about you is exhausting. Feeling like they blame you for every teenie thing that goes wrong takes up too much emotional energy and limits your life. There’s a sense of freedom and ease once you no longer care what anyone thinks. Eventually, your life begins developing in ways you never thought possible.
- Other ways to stop taking things personally you can do right now
- Get busy
- Start questioning your thinking
- Decide to become more confident
- Recognize the power you have
- Shrug it off when you begin taking it personally
- Quit assuming
- Ask for clarification
- Eliminate confusion by being direct
5). Don’t Date Them Because of Status
Dating a pastor comes with many church benefits, like being respected by the members. But dating a pastor because of the perks is just plain wrong. They are still human beings, even if in an anointed position. Being popular doesn’t necessarily make them a suitable choice for you.
As with anyone else, you base your decision to date because they are a respectful person who is good to you. His title may be something that attracted you in the first place, but get to know the person on the inside. What are their likes and dislikes? What made them choose to be a pastor? Look at them on a personal level instead of what’s on the surface.
6). Manage Your Expectations
Just because you’re dating a pastor doesn’t mean the result will be holy matrimony. So, if you have such expectations, you should reconsider them. You should be aware before starting the relationship that you’ll be dealing with some unique challenges of dating a pastor.
Challenges of Dating a Pastor
While dating a pastor or minister can be an absolute pleasure for someone seeking stability and a solid moral backbone in a partner, it can also come with a unique set of challenges. A pastor is a leader of their community, and that comes with a variety of responsibilities and pressures that dating someone in a more anonymous role lacks.
Here are a few challenges dating a pastor may entail:
- Less Privacy – Given the public nature of a pastor’s life, congregants are always going to be all in your business. The flock is always paying attention to ensure their shepherd is living the lessons they preach.
- High Expectations – With that added scrutiny comes high expectations. What may have been a fun night out partying before might raise eyebrows today. You better behave yourself on social media or out in public.
- Financial Stress – Unless you’re dating one of those sketchy pastors that use his position to get wealthy somehow, your partner will likely live a fairly modest life. It’s a career path chosen by people who want to be of service to others, not to generate the most income possible.
- Differences in Beliefs – You may not share the same doctrinal beliefs as your significant other if you date a pastor, especially if you didn’t meet in the church. Depending on how rigidly they practice their faith, this could be a massive hurdle to overcome.
- Time Commitments – One of the most significant challenges of dating a pastor is how busy they always are tending to their congregation. They’re who everybody comes to when they’re in crisis or need moral guidance. They might not have as much time and attention for you as you’d like.
Of course, there are pros and cons that come with dating anyone of any profession. The challenges related to dating a minister are mostly related to their intense time commitment and role as a leader in the community. If you can’t stand back in a support role and help shoulder that load without needing to be the center of their world at all times, it may not be for you.
7). Don’t Make the Church Your Personal Space
Just because he felt comfortable introducing you as his partner doesn’t mean you have carte blanche throughout the entire church.
A church is still a business, and the pastoral office is not the place to conduct your personal affairs. If you have private issues to discuss, save that for home because the church is not the right place.
8.) And Speaking of Arguments
Couples argue, and because your partner is a pastor doesn’t mean they’re immune to heated discussion. However, please only address an issue after they give the sermon.
Being a pastor is like being a spiritual counselor to a crowd of people, so they should be in the right frame of mind before speaking to a congregation. So, if you have an issue to deal with, have the respect to do it when you get home.
9). Just Say No to Social Media
As mentioned earlier, social media is not the place to “out” your relationship with your pastor. Unfortunately, the new social media craze pushes people to post, like, and share every aspect of their personal life. But now is not the time.
Posting about dating your pastor can be detrimental to your relationship, so don’t do it. It’s one thing to post about what you had for lunch. It’s a completely different scenario posting about where your pastor took you on your first date.
10). Don’t Expect Full Attendance from Them
Pastors have a busy schedule, so they may not be able to attend every birthday party and barbecue you have. Many believe pastors show up on Sunday, preach for a couple of hours and then go home until the following Sunday. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
According to indeed.com, a pastor has many duties outside of giving the Sunday morning sermon. They have a full-time job with other responsibilities every day of the week, including Sunday.
- Helping the church ministry with many administrative functions
- Researching for the Sunday morning sermon
- Bible lessons for Sunday school
- Officiating special occasions for the congregation (weddings, baptisms, funerals)
- Wednesday prayer meeting
- Counseling those in need
- Organizing outreach programs
- Traveling to other churches to guest speak
11). Don’t Act Jealous
Pastors minister to men and women, so you have no right to prevent them from speaking to any group of people. Don’t be jealous when a woman needs to talk to him privately. A pastor is a counselor, and as such, he needs to keep the confidentiality of those confiding in him.
A wife cannot prevent other women from privately speaking to him, so as his girlfriend, how can you?
12). Don’t Introduce Him as Your Spouse
I understand you may have been dating him for a while, but that does not give you the right to introduce him to your family and friends as your spouse. You may believe you know him better than anyone else, but that doesn’t matter. It’s about respect.
13). Allow Them to Do Their Job
When they’re in the pulpit or praying over a congregation member, you do not have the right to stand at the altar, stretch your hands and pray over the member, too.
First, you are not the pastor’s wife. Second, it’s disrespectful to assume that you have the right to do something so intimate, like giving a member of the congregation prayer.
14). Be Encouraging
A pastor takes on the woes of the world, so every so often, they may need downtime from hearing about everyone else’s issues. So, as their partner, give a few words of encouragement, reassuring them that they’re doing a great job.
A pastor wears many hats, so offer to help with administrative duties. The church may already have a secretary, but offering assistance demonstrates you support them and want to see them succeed.
15). Understand You Will Be Lonely
As previously stated, a pastor has many duties, and his heavy workload makes him busy. In addition, he sometimes has to travel, so you’d better prepare yourself to be alone.
Tips on How to Overcome LonelinessTips on How to Overcome Loneliness
Does it feel like everyone has someone in their life except you? While others spend time with a special someone, you are home feeling lonely. Maybe your partner travels, and your friends live out of town. To combat loneliness, here are a few strategies.
- Make new connections: Join a group or class based on your interests. If you can’t attend in person, participate in online groups.
- Open up more: Sometimes, people are all around us, but we don’t connect with them. Next time you meet someone, try sharing your experiences. Doing so helps you become more connected, especially if they have something in common with you.
- Volunteer: If you can, volunteer at a local charity or event. It’s a great way to meet new people. Bonus: helping others can improve your mental health.
- Talk to a therapist: Sometimes, what we need to overcome loneliness is more than just visiting a few friends. Speak to a local therapist in your area.
- Physical activity: Exercise does wonders for mental well-being. Keeping your body moving tires out your body and mind, so you’re less likely to dwell on being lonely.
- Get a pet: Studies show that a pet keeps you in a better mental space. So if you can’t get a cat or dog, try a goldfish or a hamster.
16). You Will Be Scrutinized
It’s unfortunate to say, but yes, the congregations and others will expect you to be perfect. They hold the pastor to a certain standard, so you will also be scrutinized.
During this time is when it is essential not to take things personally. As someone dating the pastor, you must appear confident and maintain a good image. Unfortunately, society can be unforgiven of flaws but don’t allow their judgment to ruin your relationship.
Dating a pastor isn’t always easy. People expect certain things from you because you’re supposed to act a certain way. People, not just the congregation, will scrutinize and judge you for your attire, speech, and demeanor. Don’t take it personally. Do your best and enjoy your relationship.