It's often a conversation killer. I'm at some social gathering of acquaintances or thrust into a social milieu of some sort in which I know few people, if any. We are making small talk. It's the usual: What do you do?, Do you have children? How old are they? Where are you from? Are you married? What does you spouse do?
When I utter the words, "My husband is a pastor," there is a moment of silence, then a quick "oh really?" as a comment. Often I see the person scanning back through everything he or she said. I know what they are doing. They are trying to determine if they said something offensive, told an off-color joke, or uttered some sort of profanity. It happens about eight times out of ten, that someone begins to apologize to me for something that he/she said before it was known that my husband is a pastor. As if it should really make a difference. When the apologies start, my standard line is usually, "You know, I'm not the Holy Spirit."
While I am not a particular fan of vulgar jokes ( I sure was in 8th grade though!) or profanity, what I really hate is when people change who they are because of who I am married to. I am still the same person I was before you found out I was married to a pastor. I know it's shocking! After all, I am not wearing a jumper, I do wear make-up, and I am an educated, professional woman. I just blew your stereotype. And for the record, this pastor guy, with whom I share a house, a life, and a bed, is a pretty darn non-stereotypical human himself. He runs marathons, loves zombie movies, and one of his favorite songs of all times is Roxanne by The Police--about a prostitute. We're regular folk. He and I still have disagreements, we both get in bad moods, we have forgotten to pay a bill or two on time. He leaves the toilet seat up and I leave my shoes lying around. We think ill of others sometimes and simply find some people annoying and disagreeable. So don't feel like you have to be perfect around us, because the Lord knows (really) that we certainly aren't. I would much rather have someone be genuine around me than to pretend to be someone they are not because they think it makes them look better. I'm not an idiot--I can usually see right through the veneer of perfection and pseudo-piety.
This past summer, I was with a group of fellow professors and we were all at the "still getting to know each other stage" when the inevitable came up. One thing I love about professors is that they generally don't bat an eye at such things and everyone just carried on as usual. That's beautiful. There was one though who said, "I'll bet you really know how to cook," to which I replied, "I like to think that I do, but I certainly don't know what that has to do with me being married to a pastor. I cook because I enjoy it and I do it for my family."
I just found out a couple of weeks ago that there were concerns about me starting my job at the university where I work. Many of our offices are in pods. We all have our own individual offices, but they may open into a separate outer office, hence the pod. So my "podmate" told me that he just found out that two of our other colleagues were worried about us sharing a pod. They were concerned that he would be too crass for me. We both had a good laugh about that because we make great podmates. We actually have very similar theoretical views on a lot of professional and academic issues and have presented together a few times at our national convention because of it. We talk shop frequently throughout the day and also discuss many, many non-work related issues as well. Ironically, he and my husband have developed a friendship because of their mutual interest in zombies, music, and fixing up cars. Yeah, he drops a few four-letter words here and there, but it doesn't really phase me and I am thankful that he doesn't edit himself to be something he's not.
Conversely, when I was working on my doctorate, one of my professors called me in to go over a paper I had written. After we talked about my paper, he started asking me why I was going to school part-time instead of full-time. I explained that I carried the health insurance for my family, so I needed to keep working my part-time job. He started going on and on about how my husband needed to "be a man" and work extra hard so that I could attend school full-time. He was ranting on and on and then took a breath to pause and ask what my husband did. When I told him that Robert was a youth minister (at that time), he flushed and stammered and began to say things like, "Oh, that is such a noble profession. He is doing such fine work. I totally understand why you are going to school part-time and it sounds like that is a good idea...." ad nauseum. He was backpedaling so hard it was all I could do not to fall on the floor laughing.
Moral of the story? It doesn't really matter what my husband's job is. You wouldn't act differently is he was a physician or plumber or librarian or chef, so don't act differently because he's a pastor. You are still you and I am still me. We need to be authentic with one another to form real relationships. And I'm not judging, nor do I have a super-special relationship with God that's different than what you or anyone else can have, if you choose to do so. Let's just be real...together.