Kimberly Wagner: We were committed to living our lives out in ministry. We even, before we married, we determined we would not marry unless we could bring God greater glory together than in our singleness, and that was not happening.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Well that heartfelt emotion is from Kimberly Wagner. She spoke very candidly last time, about the struggles she and her husband, LeRoy, faced in their marriage. They’re back with us again today, on Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: Last time, we heard about how Kim’s domineering approach to their marriage nearly destroyed it until God intervened and got her attention in a way only He can do. If you’re feeling like you are struggling in this area as well, I want to encourage you to lean in and listen today. This is for you. And if you missed the program yesterday, give us a call or head to our website to get a CD or download of it. It is worth it to invest in your marriage.
John: Yeah, and you can also get the mobile app so you can listen on the go. These resources at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Kim is a speaker and author, and wrote a book called, Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior. And she and LeRoy have two adult children and have been married for over 30 years.
Jim: LeRoy, last time you were setting the stage for us, painting a picture of where you were at emotionally. And Kim you did that so very well. What happened at a particular intersection, which really became a metaphor for the intersection of your marriage?
LeRoy Wagner: Absolutely, Jim, it did. I looked over at my wife and in a rare moment of wanting to bare my soul and just be honest with where I was, um, I said, “I don’t think that I love you anymore.” And my heart was so cold and I’d made such walls of defense to protect myself from what was going on in our marriage, that it had – what I thought at that time had completely just snuffed out the feeling of love. And of course, I was a young man and know that love means more than just what you feel, but at that point, that’s – it was a low point; that’s where I was and I wanted her to know that.
Jim: What year were you in your marriage?
LeRoy: Fifth year, fifth year into the marriage.
Jim: So, five years in, you turn. Kim, I mean, for a woman to hear that, what went through your mind?
Kimberly: I was devastated and I looked over at our newborn daughter in the car with us and I thought, “So where do we go from here?” We are five years into our marriage and my husband is finally admitting that he doesn’t love me, which I had felt those feelings for a while, but now he’s admitting it.
Jim: Oh, what happened? What was said next? Anything?
Kimberly: Silence, a long period of silence and actually, that’s kind of descriptive of the next seven to eight years.
Jim: Just living in it. Oh, my goodness. Kim, you have in your book, Fierce Women, you have an acronym built on emasculation, which is…
Jim: …you know, what the topic of your book is about, is how does a woman really deconstruct her man…
Jim: …in a negative way. Talk about that acronym, because I think some women will identify with some of the behavior, destructive fierce woman behavior you were showing. Describe it for us.
Kimberly: And Jim, it’s not necessarily that we realize we’re doing this, but this is what’s happening when we’re emasculating our husbands. E – ego deflating treatment. M – manipulation. A – aggression. S – selfishness, which is so much at the heart of this. C – controlling. U – unrestrained words, verbally just tearing them down, because we want to or because we want to punish them or because we think this will finally get a rise out of them and we’ll have some kind of conversation.
Jim: Well, and so many of us men, we’re little boys in our hearts.
Kimberly: You are.
Jim: And when you speak that way to us, the little boy wants to take his glove and go away.
Kimberly: Yes. And that’s why what you just said about – I believe within every man is a young boy…
Jim: Yeah, little boy.
Kimberly: …that is waiting to be affirmed, waiting to be appreciated, waiting to be cheered on. And that’s what God created us to be as fierce women, to be that role in his life.
Jim: And the issue is for us as men, there’s nobody more intimate that can deliver the value of that statement…
Jim: …than our wives.
Jim: We may not let you know that…
Jim: …but it’s true.
Jim: Our guy friends can say, “Oh, that was a great drive you just hit,” or you know, “What a great throw” or it’s always on performance. But it’s our wives that matter most and we may not even admit that.
Kimberly: Yeah, you want to hear it from your wife.
Jim: You do.
Kimberly: And I think that’s what a lot of women don’t realize. I am so grateful for a friend who said to me in the midst of our darkness, “I think you intimidate your husband.” And that was unbelievable for me…
Jim: You didn’t realize it?
Kimberly: …to think. No, I thought, “He doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need me to affirm him. He’s got it all together.” And yet, she could see I was intimidating him.
LeRoy: And on the outside, looking at me, Jim, people would’ve said, “He’s a strong leader. He deals with very tough decisions.”
Jim: Christ-like behavior.
LeRoy: “It – he models that. He can deal with very difficult situations and conflict. He can do it with confidence and strength.” And even the successes that I might’ve had on the outside or that people would’ve seen, none of those matter when you go home and things are not right at home. And what you said about needing to be affirmed and that if your wife says, “I am proud of you. You did a great job. I am so thankful for you,” there’s nothing in the world that compares to that simple sincere statement from your wife.
Jim: Let’s keep moving through the acronym.
Kimberly: L – leaving your husband hungry for attention.
Jim: What does that mean? I mean, all of us hear that and think something perhaps different. But what – what do you mean by that?
Kimberly: I think it means what Leroy was just talking about, that the man does want to be affirmed by his wife more than anyone else. And yet, if you are living, like we were, almost like roommates, and we’re not carrying on conversation unless we have to, and in that conversation there’s that underlying tone of resentment, then you’re not going to be able to give your husband the loving attention that he needs. And he will be open to receive it from someone else.
Jim: Well, and that’s – you know, again, that’s one of the great dangers here, because all the other, well, physical intimacy. I mean, that’s…
Jim: …part, I think, of what you’re saying.
Jim: But in that stress-filled environment where you have kind of bunkered each other into different corners, it’s hard to say, “Okay, well, let’s have some physical intimacy.”
Jim: Nobody wants to participate.
Jim: It doesn’t feel right. It’s almost – it feels like you’re cheating…
Jim: …because this isn’t coming from my heart.
Jim: The emotions aren’t attached.
Kimberly: Right, right.
Jim: Well what do you do? How do you begin to heal that aspect of their relationship? How does a wife take the initiative? It sounds odd, but this is where we show up really as little boys…
Jim: …’cause we don’t know what to do, because we don’t want rejection.
Jim: We’ve asked three times…
Jim: …always rejected.
Jim: How do we – how do we get the courage to say, one more time, “Are you interested?”
Kimberly: Yeah and often I would take the initiative, but the funny thing is he was not desiring that, because his heart was not there.
Jim: Well, and I think the honesty of that, and that’s an integrated human being, I think, ‘cause to me, if that’s not connected, if you don’t have a struggle there, you’re not connected emotionally…
Jim: …physically and spiritually, it should be aligned. If it’s not healthy, uh, that desire should be lagging in my opinion.
Jim: I mean, we would want it to be all moving forward in a good way and that’s a healthy marriage. But that’s an honest heart in my opinion.
Kimberly: Mmhmm, yeah.
Jim: Um, let’s continue through that, so take us through the last of the emasculation acronym.
Kimberly: A – anything you can do, I can do better.
Jim: (Laughing) Oh, man. Okay, ouch!
Jim: We all know that as men. That’s what our wives are telling us.
LeRoy: And it’s absolutely true.
Jim: You know what? Didn’t I give you a list to get – how did you forget that? You know, am I talking from experience here?
Jim: And the point is, when it comes to details, our wives are typically better than…
LeRoy: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: …we are. It’s true. Is that kinda what you’re thinkin’?
Kimberly: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: What you’re talkin’ about?
Kimberly: I think – I thought the helper role was you help your husband improve. You know, and so, those details, I can help him with that.
Jim: That’s a job a lot of wives want to sign up for.
Kimberly: Yeah, yeah.
LeRoy: But what tends to happen and what happened in my case, Jim, was she was much more of a detailed, organized person. And so, as we went further down this dark hole in our marriage. Well, she would press more and more for me to be that way, but I had less and less interest to try to improve in those ways, because I didn’t see it changing the way she was treating me, so I kind of just gave up on improving in any of those ways.
And I think a lot of men are there and they might find, you know, their interests in other places, but in being a husband that God would call them to be, I think that a lot of men – and I did this – just tended to say, “What’s the use? I’m not gonna put forth any effort at all. It’s not gonna make…”
Jim: We’re done.
LeRoy: “…any difference. We’re done here.”
Jim: But we’ll live together.
LeRoy: Yeah, “We’ll live together, because we’re Christians.”
Kimberly: Well, and I heard him say so often, “No matter how hard I try, I can never measure up, no matter how hard I try.” And so, that tends to cause you to want to give up. I’ve tried. I’ve tried to do right and I can’t please you.
Jim: It is logical, ‘cause you’re not gonna keep trying if you keep failing. I mean, there’s very few areas in our life where that exists. If you fail, fail, fail, you move on – in a job that doesn’t work, whatever it might be. I do want to ask you. That creates a vacuum and I think your next comment there in the acronym, taking charge. So when men back up because of this situation…
Kimberly: There’s a leadership vacuum, so…
Jim: …and somebody’s gotta…
Kimberly: …the woman…
Jim: …step up.
Kimberly: Yeah, gotta step in and take charge. You won’t take care of paying that bill, you won’t take care of whatever – making this plan for the vacation, okay, I’ll take charge. I’ll do it.
Jim: And that’s a destructive…
Kimberly: It is.
Jim: …fierce woman?
Kimberly: It is better for us to operate together where he is taking the lead. He’s giving input. I’m giving input. We are coming together as one and able to discuss it in a way that is beneficial to accomplishing the plan.
Jim: Let’s finish the I-O-N of the acronym. Go…
Jim: …through those.
Kimberly: I – independent living, and that’s what I was mentioning, kind of as roommates and doing your own thing, as you said, in the last broadcast, developing friendships with – in separate spheres – women with women, men doing their own thing or men checking out – independent living. O – obnoxiously opinionated.
Jim: Now I’m not touchin’ that. Are you touchin’ that LeRoy?
LeRoy: Jim, I’m not touchin’ it at all.
Kimberly: Now I would not have said I was obnoxiously opinionated at all, but looking back now, yes, I was. I was very determined to get my point across and for you – to convince you, this is the way you need to see things. And God has been so gracious, so gracious to humble me…
Kimberly: …and teach me that I don’t know it all. And part of that was immaturity, but a spiritual immaturity for sure and no margins and that is a real danger for all marriages today. We are so filled up with activity, with a workload that is stressful, with church activity. There is no margin in your life. There’s no time just to sit still and reflect together and be still together.
Jim: To paint that picture a little further with no margin, when there’s no relationship, it’s easy to put that at the end of your priority list…
Jim: …whether that’s spending time together talking or intimacy or whatever it might be – ‘cause I’ve got a lot to do and it’s – you know, in a woman’s mind I think, it’s justifiable to her. I’ve got a whole list of things I gotta take care of; you’re kind of at the end of my list. And that communicates something huge to her husband.
Kimberly: Well, the truth is, you don’t want to be with that other person.
Kimberly: So, of course, they’re gonna be at the bottom of the list. I don’t like hanging out with you. I resent you and you resent me and so, we’ll find other things to do.
Jim: Now someone, a woman listening to this is thinking and I understand it, because we have been hard on that aspect of the relationship, partly because that’s the title of your book, Fierce Women. We’re not talkin’ about wimpy men. If that were the title, we’d be – you know, we do a fair amount of talking about the man’s problems here at Focus, but today we are concentrating on women and where they’re at in their marriages. If they’re not happy, this may be an area that you want to look at. And that’s why we’re talking in the way we’re talking. I also want to say we’re not talking about abuse and…
Jim: …those kinds of things. These are cold marriages or certainly, cooling marriages. Men can react a lot of different ways when they are cornered.
Jim: Talk about that for a minute so we’re clear.
Kimberly: Jim, I’m so glad you brought that up, because there may be a woman listening today who, she is caught in a relationship where the husband is being abusive, you know. Usually men react in one of two extremes to a situation like this. LeRoy went to the passive extreme, but there may be women who are married to men who are at the other extreme where…
Jim: They become aggressive?
Kimberly: …they’re aggressive. They may be physically abusive. They may be emotionally abusive. And so, to those women, we do have recourse. I’m thankful for the Scripture in Galatians 6:1 and 2 that says, we’re to come alongside our brother when we see them caught in sin. And your husband is your brother. He – your husband is the one you need to come alongside and that’s very difficult to do though if you’re under an abusive situation. At the back of the…
Jim: Right, get help, your pastor.
Kimberly: …yeah, at the back…
Kimberly: …of the book I have guidelines on when confrontation is necessary. And in those guidelines is included you involving your church leadership. It may even require you involving civil authorities if your husband is involved – maybe you know your husband is involved and has a pornography addiction, a drug or alcohol addiction. We do have recourse as women to come alongside and help our husbands, because we love them and we desire for them to be in a right relationship with God first.
Jim: And what you’re describing there and what we’ve been talking about are, again coping mechanisms to – they’re symptomatic to the core problem. That’s what I love about your book, Fierce Women, ‘cause you’re actually addressing some of the core issues, why the relationship is in the poor state of health that it’s in and that’s what I so appreciate about it.
LeRoy, we gotta turn the corner here a bit. So you’ve stepped down as the pastor – we talked a bit about that last time and a bit at the opening here – what’s taking place spiritually for you at this moment? You’re around year 12, 13 of your marriage. The last seven, eight years have been mostly living like roommates. After year five, you basically said, “I don’t love you.” That’s the sense I have of your relationship. You went seven or eight more years of just being kind of stuck in the mud. What did the Lord begin to do that was palpable, that you said, “Okay, it’s changing?” What began to change for the two of you?
LeRoy: Well, I entered into a crisis of faith that I didn’t know how it was gonna change. I prayed. I didn’t know what I should do. I just knew that it couldn’t go on the way that we were going. But the Lord had actually begun a work in Kim’s heart that precipitated the work that He had done in my heart.
Kimberly: I went away for a weekend to write a Bible study on 1 Peter. If you know what 1 Peter 3 says, that’s kind of a critical component, when it addresses wives and their treatment of their husbands. And while I was away, there was a little booklet that was tucked away in my Bible that I didn’t even know that I had. And it was Nancy Lee DeMoss’ “Portrait of Biblical Womanhood.” Now, I went away to write this Bible study, but really, Jim, my heart was, “I am out of here. I am so tired of dealing with our marital issue. I just need to go and get alone with God. I – He has…”
Jim: I mean, let’s put emphasis on that. Here you are. You’re going away for a day…
Jim: …or two to a…
Jim: …cabin or wherever you decided to go.
Kimberly: It was a cabin.
Jim: And you’re gonna write a Bible study…
Jim: …and your marriage is dying.
Jim: I mean, that is an amazing contrast. I mean…
Kimberly: …is that not so ironic? Because as most women I think do, we tend to do, I was pointing my finger at him. He has all the problems.
LeRoy: And I was doing the same thing. I’m called to preach. I love God’s Word and love to preach, but I can’t do that because of this conflict within our marriage, because really at the heart of marriage is the Gospel. And so, I could not bring forth the Gospel with sincerity as I knew that it must be in honoring the Word, because our marriage was not right and I saw no way out, no hope. I didn’t know what to do. So God at that point began to come and intervene.
Jim: So you…
Kimberly: …graciously started answering our prayers, even though we weren’t recognizing that’s what was happening at first. I start working my way through this little booklet that is just a booklet of diagnostic questions with Scripture. And I start looking up the Scriptures and when I get to Titus 2, verses 3 through 5, there’s kind of this list here for women, what we’re to do – love our husbands, love our children, you know, be pure. And at the end of that list, do you know what that phrase says? We’re to do all of these things so that – and the King James is very strong – so that the Word of God will not be blasphemed.
Kimberly: Now the version I use now says, “So that the Word of God will not be reviled.” And what the Holy Spirit graciously did was He showed me, I love Jesus. I love the Word of God. I want people to come to know Him. But how could they see a living God at work in my life when I couldn’t even love my husband well? My whole heart and life was dedicated to glorifying God, but how could I glorify God if I’m not living the Word in relationship with my husband?
Jim: Where did that send you, LeRoy? Did you…?
LeRoy: Well, she came home, Jim, and she – just broken and humbled. I had never seen her like this and it was obvious that God had done a work. And she pulled the kids and myself together in the living room and she just poured out her heart and said, “I have to ask you to forgive me.” And she was very open and transparent that she had been wrong toward me in the way that she treated me. And she did that before the children and that was wrong to do to them, to not treat their father the way that she should. And that she explained the work that God had done in her heart.
My heart was so cold though, Jim, I was reluctant to respond in any way. I listened. I was impressed and I was cautiously optimistic that maybe God was at work, but I wanted to watch and see how this would play out. And so, I was so far in the cave of my own making that I didn’t dare step out at that point, but I was watching.
Jim: So, you saw a little candlelight at the end of your cave? What were the next days and weeks and months like? How did that thaw begin to occur and how did you once again love each other?
Kimberly: God began taking me through a process and I encourage women to look at Colossians 3, verses 12 through 17, 18 maybe. It’s really a template for, you know, putting on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility. And I began asking Him to teach me how to do that in relationship to my husband. Now I continued down that road. It was a measurable change that God did in my heart, but LeRoy was watching me for about two years.
Kimberly: And there was not real change. And at different points, I would call truth-speaking friends. Now these are truth-speaking friends; not friends who’ll say, “Just move on with your life,” but truth-speaking friends that would encourage me, take me back to the Scripture, tell me to trust the sovereignty of God, tell me that no matter what my husband does, I’m to obey God and His Word.
And so, after – it was about two years, he came to me after he had been away alone and God dealt with his heart about his fear of me. And he confessed to me his fear of me and how wrong and how sinful that was. And that began really a building process with us. I want women and men who are listening, couples who are listening and you’re in a very, very dark place in your marriage, I want you to know, there is hope, because we serve a transforming, redeeming God. And we have lived now for almost 15 years, 15-plus years in such a one-hearted, one-souled, united, loving relationship. I would rather hang out with him than anyone in the world. And used to, I didn’t want to be in the same room with him.
Jim: That’s powerful. That’s powerful. That’s proof that God has worked a miracle in your marriage right there.
Kimberly: His Word is true. He is the living God.
Jim: The tough question I think is, even though you’ve moved through that time and you know, you improved, were there moments where old habits came up, where you reverted for a moment? And…
Kimberly: Early on…
Jim: …how did you begin to create mechanisms where you could help each other say, uh-oh, that’s the old carnal me?
Kimberly: Early on and I think the most important factor and mechanism that God put in place was when God convicted LeRoy about his fear of me. Rather than retreating when the old Kim would show up, he would reach over to me, put his hand on my hand. It took courage for this, because I was one destructive, fierce woman. And he would say, “Babe, how about if we just pray about this for a minute?” And he began the process of having a commitment toward me of prayer that was so integrated into our lives. I don’t care where I am in the country, where he is, we pray daily. If he can’t get ahold of me on the phone before he has to go to bed, there is a voicemail on my phone where he has prayed over me and I mean, specific details. He knows my spiritual needs, my emotional needs. He knows what’s going on in my life and he prays over those things faithfully.
Jim: Let me ask this and men, listen up. Kim, how does that make you feel?
Kimberly: That is the component that was missing from our marriage. I am protected spiritually, emotionally, yes. That affirms me and that fills me with joy and I feel loved. But spiritually, there is a component there. He is taking that role of headship, where God has placed him and I feel protected spiritually.
John: What a moving story that we’ve heard from Kimberly and LeRoy Wagner today. And I so appreciate the transparency that they shared. Their hearts came out, and they also were very clear about how God’s light shines into their circumstances and through them now.
Jim: Their story is a wonderful testimony to what God can do to restore marriage. It wasn’t easy. Both Kim and LeRoy had to change and learn to trust all over again, but in the end, God brought them through it. And now, He’s using them in such a powerful way by sharing what they went through. What we call a testimony in the Christian community. And I’d like to ask you to keep LeRoy and Kim in your prayers. LeRoy has been going through a tough time with a neurological condition. And true to their character, they both continue to praise God and trust Him through this very trying time.
Every day here at Focus on the Family, we receive letters, emails, and phone calls from people who are hurting and their marriages are in crisis. And with the Lord’s help, together we’re able to provide them with trusted advice and hope for their needs.
John: And one of those great resources that God has allowed us to cultivate and devleop and then offer to people is our counseling team. And then, of course, Jim, Hope Restored, the marriage intensives that do so much good work.
Jim: And if you need to talk to someone, give us a call. We’re here for you, and we want to help. That’s our mission. And if Focus on the Family has helped you in the past, I hope you’ll consider giving back to the ministry. The only way we can continue to do what we do is through prayer and financial support from friends like you.
John: Yeah. Your contribution to Focus allows us to come alongside hurting families by providing biblically based teaching through this broadcast, one, and other programs, of course, online resources, counseling, books, that Hope Restored marriage intensive and so much more.
Jim: And basically, when we can count on your monthly support, we’re able to plan to meet the needs of families just like yours. In fact, when you donate today and make a monthly pledge, we’ll send you a copy of Kimberly’s book, Fierce Women, as our way of saying thank you. And if you can’t commit to a monthly gift, a one-time gift will work as well. We just simply need to do this together.
John: Yeah and we certainly understand that some folks can’t do that monthly gift, but it is so vital to us. Donate today and get your copy of Fierce Women. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Of course you can donate and get the book online at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Well, on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. Tomorrow, we’ll have a special conversation with the United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.