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Gaslit by a minister

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textingministry posted 1/20/2019 12:09 PM

My husband is a conservative evangelical minister. We've been married 14 1/2 years, two children, and growing on different paths for a long time. The first six years of our marriage he was involved with a very toxic religious organization that told him, within months of us inviting its leader to co-officiate with my father at our wedding, that I if I didn't accept the church's (very unconventional) teachings, he could divorce me. We met studying religion together ... I aced my courses, so it's not like I didn't know what I was talking about. It was bizarre and eventually the situation blew up, at which point he chose me and we moved forward.

Fast forward to today. He's everything I had hoped to have been married to when we first graduated school in terms of a minister, but my faith has been severely shaken and marred from multiple failed attempts at having another go at the church scene and it's definitely not what I want anymore. I keep trying to support him, though, and I get behind everything he's doing, but he keeps taking things to an extreme level, and I'm shutting down. He's feeling less and less able to talk to me about the thing he cares about the most ... his church ... which we support financially, and he works for (less than) minimum wage full time.

He carries a normal full-time job on top of the ministry to offset the lack of church income, which means he's out of the house 80+ hours a week. I've begged him to slow down, but when he doesn't, I pursue my masters degree, and counter his arguments that I'm not available with the idea that neither is he. We're a "power couple" in the community, or so it would seem on the outside.

DDay was 10/10/18 for me ... He's been texting multiple women within and without the church for years, and apparently the pattern of intimacy has been escalating. In his mind, it's counseling, but he's been slipping into patterns of talking to these women all hours of the day and beginning to have no problem telling them that he loves them. (I mean, it's gone from "Jesus loves you" to "Love ya, sis!" to "I love you" "I love you" "I love you")

In 2017, one girl (the main OW) he is close to (made her his unofficial secretary) has her hubby leave her for another women. I kid you not, he guilts me into allowing her to come move in with us. I'm just not ministry-minded enough if I say no! So she moves in and we have a heck of a time getting her back on her feet and out of the house. But in the meantime, she and I become fast friends. However, I keep pulling him aside to talk to him about his interactions with her. I keep catching him looking at her in a way he's only looked at me in the past and doing very intimate family things (playing games with the kids when I'm studying, cooking big breakfasts on the weekends before I get up). I keep telling me it makes me really uncomfortable. He says sorry, but doesn't change. She also says and does some really bizarre things while she's living with us and I make the running joke that people are going to mistake us for a "big love" type of family based on her behavior. How little did I know how right I really was. Apparently she was crushing on my hubby while she lived with us.

Finally she moves out, and I think thank goodness, it's over, but as I pull away from investing in her and focus on my studies and career, he keeps in touch with the OW. Later he'll tell me he was just trying to be a good minister and make sure she was okay, but he's meeting up with her and "forgetting" to tell me, and doing "counseling" sessions over lunch and dinner. Taking the kids to go see her and inviting her to softball games I'm not present for (kids are 4 and 11). She's texting him on weekends I'm out of town begging him to come over, and in general he's becoming her handyman and doing all sorts of household favors for her as she shifts gears to being single.

He begins telling her he loves her and to stay single for a while while she mends from her broken relationship with her husband. He's out with her either "ministering" or just doing personal, non-church stuff at least three days a week, and they are texting and having deep conversations every single day. I pulled the text and FB message log, and verified by phone logs. I knew she and I were close, but I HAD NO IDEA their intimacy level was so high. All I knew was that when I took breaks from school, my husband didn't come home to me, and when he was there, he was emotionally absent.

I actually cried to her at one point that I didn't want to be a pastor's wife anymore and wasn't sure we were going to make it; that I was constantly felt that there was another woman, but I couldn't figure out who it was. Stupid ... it was the two people I had come to trust most.

Anyway, I found their texts, and later, others with other women that I think helped build it up in his mind that this type of behavior was "okay." He had been flirting with her since his 40th birthday two years ago, long before he moved her in. They keep trying to steer the conversation back to being "kosher," but they both gush over each other constantly, tease playfully, and she calls him her "best friend." Meanwhile, he's constantly proclaiming his love for her and meeting up with her alone. I had a panic attack that day and had to take several days off of work because I couldn't function anymore (I work mainly from home). We live in a blooming parsonage. A parsonage!!!

For two months, he denied his behavior was wrong and called me crazy because I had to take an SRI after I found out, until I got professional help to have an intervention for him. I had also taken an SRI while she was living with us ... and I remind him of this timeline. After we went to marriage counseling, he's finally admitted to having no boundaries, but won't acknowledge responsibility other than inadvertently hurting me and not working hard enough on our marriage. Other than that, he's "just not attracted to anyone" and all these women, especially the main OW, are "just friends." He says technically, by his actions, you could say he had an emotional affair, but largely, he blows this whole thing off as something I just need to forgive him for and move forward from because his "intentions" were pure. That's also the advice he's getting from his family .. and mine. I've given him a lengthy discussion on the difference between intentions and actions ... you can intend to pay your bills, but that doesn't mean anything if your actions don't line up. I'm afraid the counselor let us go too early because I said I was happy with the initial results I was seeing ... but as soon as we got the sign off, he reverted to acting like he'd done nothing wrong.

We're leaving the church and moving. I've never been so happy, and I hate that it's a happy thing to have to leave. But I've spent three months alone and being gaslit ... felt like I was losing my mind ... I'm a professional with a great career and a lot of respect in my workplace, but this man has me so mixed up and vulnerable. The past three weeks I've no longer worked from home, and it's had a tremendous improvement on my well-being to be around normal, healthy people again. One person from the church knows, and they blame me. Awesome.

Part of me wants revenge, another part of me wants to wait and see if we can still truly work it out. I just don't know what's going to happen since he keeps minimizing his actions.

What happens when your closest link to God cheats on you then tells you you're the crazy one for calling it cheating?

[This message edited by textingministry at 12:23 PM, January 20th (Sunday)]

SimplyRed posted 1/20/2019 12:19 PM

You take your kids and walk away.

Find a lawyer first and get your ducks in a row. Read everything in the healing library and 180 HARD. If your therapist or counselor suggests you stay in this mess then fire them and find someone that will look out for you.

textingministry posted 1/20/2019 12:25 PM

Thank you. I will contact an attorney, even if we end up working things out. Something is still terribly wrong and I'm not going to live like this anymore.

Cooley2here posted 1/20/2019 12:38 PM

For crying out loud! Not another religious fanatic. Your husband is just a run-of-the-mill cheater. The fact that he uses his religion is what drives me crazy. Truly religious people are faithful, not only to their religion, but to the people they are supposed to love.

I agree. This is way too sick for you to deal with. You need to get out.

JpnHeartBreak posted 1/20/2019 12:44 PM

Wow. You indeed have been gaslit hard. I’m sorry you’re here, but you’re among a good group of people. Your WH has his head stuck so far up his butt that you’re going to have to use the “shock and awe” method to even attempt to get him to come back to reality. It grinds my gears hearing about the way he is abusing his position and using doing the work of the lord as a scapegoat when caught being inappropriate.

sisoon posted 1/20/2019 12:48 PM

You describe your H's very serious failure of boundaries. He can leave his 'ministry,' but he's not going to be much a an H if he doesn't build good boundaries.

And he won't change unless he sees good reasons to change. He won't change unless he realizes how much damage he did to his ows and his church. He won;t change if he thinks you're forcing him to leave the ministry.

What does your H think his next steps are? If he's not remorseful, he's a poor risk for R.

I suggest reading the thread called 'Beyond Regret and Remorse' -


I'm really sorry you're in this sitch. I know it's tremendously painful. I do want you to know that you can survive and thrive after being betrayed.

The1stWife posted 1/20/2019 12:53 PM

He has continued to use the “church” as his excuse orvshield.

He showed you some positive changes for a short period of time and then reverted back to cheating.

He has shown you he refuses to be monogamous in thought or action.

I think you need to prepare to separate from him.

pureheartkit posted 1/20/2019 13:01 PM

His ego is too big. Also, why does he become deaf to you and totally consumed?

You should mentally and financially support him and his work while he self absorbs even taking in destructive individuals?

Time for him to focus on his job and be there for his own family. You shouldn't have to support his hobby which involves EAs.

He sounds charismatic. If so, he needs a boundaries refresher. You have been telling him straight up for some time. He needs to hear it from someone else too.

[This message edited by pureheartkit at 1:03 PM, January 20th (Sunday)]

textingministry posted 1/20/2019 13:05 PM

We're very fortunate in that we are moving because I was offered a job opportunity in another city. That's actually how this all came to light ... he had taken me out on my birthday last year and talked about relocating to take a job in this same city (although he wanted to move to a mid-way point so he could stay in the ministry).

He didn't get that job, but when one came up for me in the fall, and he literally began hissing at me about how horrible I was to even think about asking him to walk away from something that meant so much to him (his church), I had enough and raided his cell phone.

So, yes, he blames me for leaving the church, but I've preserved his reputation by not talking about the women. He actually told the one person who knows. I have asked him to step down because of his actions. They're absolutely unsuitable for a minister and they damage the other women, too ... now they think this is normal and associate his actions with God. Disgusting, even if he swears it was all platonic. I keep turning it around for him and asking him if a male colleague acted the same way to me, what would he think? That gets him thinking, but he still has it in his mind that he's going to go back to the ministry after a few months. I've told him outright that I'll leave him if he does ... ugh.

Oh, and he called our marriage counselor a quack after the guy had the intervention. Tried to convince me to fire him. I laughed in his face and said no.

This sucks. I grew up with this guy. I really do love him. I think he's fooled himself, too. I don't know. I think I need to know I've done everything I possibly could to make this work before I give up. But ... I'm also not going to be held emotionally hostage in a relationship with no trust forever.

Thank you guys for bring the cold hard truth.

[This message edited by textingministry at 1:07 PM, January 20th (Sunday)]

HouseOfPlane posted 1/20/2019 13:32 PM

So, yes, he blames me for leaving the church, but I've preserved his reputation by not talking about the women.
I know your situation is not like what happened in the Catholic Church with their crisis of child abuse and the young victims...but in terms of the power dynamics at play your husband’s actions exactly mirror it. The sense of entitlement that comes with the position. The moving on to the next parish when things sour at the last. The inability to believe his own actions might be wrong. The sheer dishonesty and betrayal of trust to so many people permeating all of it.

Hard to see it ending well, and you may not want ride this one down, if and when karma comes due.

Sending strength!

textingministry posted 1/20/2019 13:45 PM

Thank you on the comparison with his abuse of power, I keep thinking that ... but I've also worried that maybe I am wrong and I am projecting something he's not onto him. Then I worry what would I have done to our family if I take everyone down with me?

Back into reality ... I am acutely aware that I am the "gatekeeper" at this point who could allow him to go back into the ministry, due to the "politics" of church and their desire to see that the family is in good order (and with good reason). I don't see that happening, at this point, for a long time. It's weird to me ... our counselor said he thinks WH could go back in after a lot of emotional work ... I don't see it. Maybe I'm too angry. But I think that it will be years of rebuilding trust and good character/judgement before I let him walk into another church without pouring everything out about what we're going through to its leader who wants to hire him. And if I ever do leave, the results will speak for themselves if he tries to go anywhere.

Our own church leadership has not responded to us since October when we called seeking help. Out there on my own.

heartbroken_kk posted 1/20/2019 13:50 PM

"Leaving the church" and "moving"? What does this mean? Is he going to stop being a minister?

I do not believe that people in positions of influence with people who are hurting are any more or less moral than anybody else. Your husband is giving his emotional energy to others outside your marriage, to the DETRIMENT of your marriage. That's being unfaithful and disrespectful of you.

This isn't something he is ever going to change. He thinks that he can put you second, and that it's OK and the right thing to do. He justifies his hurtful behavior.

Getting away from the church or residence you are in isn't going to get you any further away from his behavioral choices.

What is he doing to make himself a better partner for you?

Has he apologized?

textingministry posted 1/20/2019 14:58 PM

Oh wow ... I've been spending time this afternoon in the healing library per the recommendation. I really need this stuff. It's not okay, it's not all in my head ... and I shouldn't downplay it.

And I shouldn't doubt myself. Heartbroken, WH is going to keep his main job in the secular world and quit the ministry. We are moving because I took a new position. I found out about the A because he gave me so much grief for wanting to move when he had just asked me to do the same thing for him very recently, and I had a feeling something was very off.

He has apologized for hurting me, but I think he's more of the Type 1 spouse that just wants me to forget it and move on. It took a long time to get him to apologize, and I think he was more upset about the idea of losing his family and "failing" at the ministry than he actually was upset that he truly hurt me. I got the feeling that he's going through the motions of saying he's sorry, but he thinks I'm a bit ridiculous for taking it all so seriously. I do not feel respect, and he stated in counseling that he doesn't trust me because he thinks I prioritize my job too highly.

And again, after I showed the counselor the illicit texts, WH realized he couldn't fool our counselor anymore and tried to get me to fire him. The man, "beacon of God" as it were, got caught lying to me and our marriage counselor.

No worries, I'm reading up on what I need to know, and it's very helpful. Keep telling me I'm not the bad guy ... please ... I still feel crazy ....... but I'll make a VERY informed decision when I do. I just don't have to decide today. Right?

[This message edited by textingministry at 3:17 PM, January 20th (Sunday)]

BearlyBreathing posted 1/20/2019 15:15 PM


You are not to blame for ANY OF HIS ACTIONS. The affair is 100% on him. If he wants to say there were marital issues, then sure, you both share that. But those issues get solved through discussion, counseling, divorce — lots of options. Not cheating. Not lying. Not deceiving. Not emotional abusing you. You are not the bad guy.

Do you believe there was no physicality to his A’s at all? Have you considered a polygraph? Does your MC call it cheating? (A common definition is “if you have to hide it and it hurts the other person, then it is an A”.)

And you do NOT have to make any decisions today. DO protect yourself - he is not trustworthy and he is not who you thought he was, so make sure you are legally and financially protected.
Then sit back, use the 180 to give yourself some mental space to sort through all this, stay in IC, and WATCH. Words are easy. If he is a minister, I imagine he is pretty good at saying the right thing. But consistent actions are needed to see if he is a candidate for R. Some folks say 6 months.. but you’ll know when you know. Your gut was right before— continue to trust it.

PricklePatch posted 1/20/2019 15:33 PM

Your WH seems like he is expressing regret not remorse.

Until he recognizes the actual infidelity and takes complete responsibility for his actions, reconciliation is impossible.

Read not Just Friends by Dr. Shirley Glass. It is very good about boundaries.

I would suggest individual counseling for you both.

HouseOfPlane posted 1/20/2019 16:07 PM

I get the impression your H's reasoning is. "I am a good person, and good people don't do bad things, so therefore what I did was not bad."

Until he shifts his perspective to "We are our actions, and right now I am a bad person because I am doing bad things" he is a high risk untrustworthy partner to you.

And again, after I showed the counselor the illicit texts, WH realized he couldn't fool our counselor anymore and tried to get me to fire him. The man, "beacon of God" as it were, got caught lying to me and our marriage counselor.
When he finally goes to a counselor and unasked states honestly what he has done, then he will have taken the first step on the path to redemption and your healing. Until then, he is lying to you and to himself. The ones that lie to themselves are the worst, as they don't even know they are liars. None are so blind as choose not to see...

You, on the other hand, are perceptive and have a moral compass. It gives you your strength. Never give it up!

Sending strength!

alphakitte posted 1/20/2019 16:15 PM

He wants to do what he has been doing and chooses religion as the cloak to cover his misdeeds. Pretty hard to break through to someone so delusional.

You’ll have to be willing to lose your marriage in order to save it, IF it can be saved.

Right now you are the parent and enforcer of a petulant, delusional, and entitled partner. That’s no way to live and rarely changes your partner’s deviant behavior - just drives it further underground. At best, he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Frankly, based on the alone time he has spent with this OW, I’d be surprised if adultery hasn’t occurred. What is the SRI you refer to and why did you have to take it?

If he were in the medical, or mental, health field he’d be subject to losing his license, sanctions and possibly financial penalties and jail time for such behavior.

[This message edited by alphakitte at 4:35 PM, January 20th (Sunday)]

textingministry posted 1/20/2019 16:42 PM

I went on setraline for acute depression when the OP was living with us. She was in my house for four months and I sought help after two. Tapered off successfully with a clear bill of health from the IC, only to go back into therapy when I found their texts and realized it was a bizarre sort of affair, not just an intrusive person I couldn’t get out of my home.

The only reason I believe it wasn’t physical is because I think both their delusions are too strong that they did nothing wrong, if it had been sexual. She’s definitely lied to me, and I’ve caught him lying too, but there’s just something about how he talks about it that makes me think it never went that far, and that’s how he justifies the energy he put into it. Also, I think the text record indicates flirting and then drawing back.

[This message edited by textingministry at 4:44 PM, January 20th (Sunday)]

alphakitte posted 1/20/2019 17:01 PM

I went on setraline for acute depression when the OP was living with us.

Thanks for explaining SRI. The acute depression was your body screaming at you when you wouldn’t pay attention to what your common sense was telling you.

Here is what living long enough to be your mother has taught me, “People living righteously don’t need to cloak themselves in it.”

k8la posted 1/20/2019 17:04 PM

This wasn't just gaslighting or emotional abuse. This was abuse of your faith; using basic tenants of your beliefs against your intuition that there was infidelity going on.

I flat out told my husband I didn't want to be in heaven with him if it meant tolerating what he was doing as somehow legit with God. I'd be just fine departing from God and everything else because I was never going to be a lesser child of God.

To this day, what my husband did to my faith only strengthened my resolve that God was not in favor of His daughters being abused by unfaithful men who justify it with religion.

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