As a full-time comedian, Kenn Kington works hard to see the funny side of life. Whether he’s traveling by plane or by car, situations arise that can produce frustration or laughter, and Kenn tries to choose joy whenever possible.
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John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family you’ll hear a story about a marriage that seemed impossibly broken. But through a long separation there was finally healing and restoration. And you’ll hear how God brought this couple back together. I’m John Fuller, and your host is Focus president Jim Daly, and thanks for joining us today.
Jim Daly: Uh, you know, I am positive that what you’re about to hear will capture your attention and your hearts today. And I’m also certain that for many couples listening this will be exactly what God wants to talk to your heart about. And you might be in a marriage that’s difficult. You might even be thinking about divorce or separation. Today’s program is going to be for you, and I want to remind you right from the beginning that we have an outreach for couples in that situation called Hope Restored, one of the best things we’re doing here at Focus, and we’re doing a lot of good things. We have several locations for couples who can benefit from this intensive counseling effort, who, yes, may be on the brink of divorce. Uh, Hope Restored has better than an 81% post-two-year success rate. So, if you’re struggling, allow us to help you with resources and tools to help your marriage improve.
John: And our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY if you just wanna call right now. Uh, let’s go ahead and hear a great conversation with two guests, Bill and Vicki Rose, who know from experience how God can change a heart. And we spoke with them a while back, and it’s quite a story. Let’s get started on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.
Jim: Welcome to Focus on the Family.
Vicki Rose: Thank you so much for the-
Bill Rose: Thanks for having us here.
Jim: Um, now, it is amazing, and we’re gonna unpack this story, but you two have been married almost 40 years, and that says a lot right there. But there was turmoil. And, uh, I guess, Vicki, I wanna turn to you and say, uh, what did that turmoil look like? Give us a little taste of what the difficulty was, and then we’ll build the story from there.
Vicki: Well, the difficulty leading up to separating, we had two young children, aged one and a half and four at that point, and I was terrified. How would I live alone? How would I raise two children by myself? How would I afford to do anything? How would I raise two children going back to work? Which I did. Uh, it just involved a lot of fear.
Jim: And now, you both grew up in New York, right? In Manhattan?
Jim: Uh, Bill, tell me about your background. What was it like growing up there? And you’re from a Jewish family. Uh, both of you are from Jewish families. Talk about your environment. What did you know about marriage? How committed were you to the process, and to the, uh, life-long commitment?
Bill: Well, I s- I saw, and my parents had a really good marriage. But my mom basically did everything to appease my- my dad. They were 25 years difference in age. Uh, my dad never got married until he was fifty-si- five and had me when he was 56.
Bill: Um, so clearly, I was never spoiled. Um-
Jim: Yeah, right (laughs).
Bill: … clearly.
Bill: A- and, um, but I had a great childhood growing up. And my parents were culturally Jewish. There was no, we never went to Temple. As a matter of fact, the only time that I ever went to Temple was my dad wanted to take me to a World Series game, which back then occurred during the High Holy days, and my mother said, “The only way he’s missing school is you’re taking him to Temple in the morning.” So, I went to Temple with dad, and we went to see the Yankees play the Cardinals.
Jim: So, yeah (laughs).
Jim: And what was the highlight of your day that day? (laughs)
Vicki: Uh, baseball.
Bill: Uh, Mantle hit a, Mantle hit a home run-
Jim: Oh, there you go.
Bill: … off- off Barney Schultz at extra innings to win the game.
John: Oh, man.
Jim: Now, you are a baseball fanatic. You played. And that is great. That’s part of your story.
Jim: Um, Vicki, let me from you in terms of your childhood, and how you were growing up in Manhattan. You kinda hit your stride, and you were in the fashion industry, right?
Vicki: I did. Uh, I, well, I always loved clothes. And so, as I went to college I thought, how- how can I turn that into something I can do for a living? And so, I ended up working at Sacks 5th Avenue. Uh, I was there for eight years, starting in the very, you know, starting as a salesgirl, and working way up to buyer.
Jim: Which is the goal in that environment, isn’t it?
Jim: You both described yourselves as type-A people. Uh, what does that look like, as we get to know you better? What does type-A for Vicki look like? What was your day?
Vicki: Live life to the max, make every hour count, and I’m always right.
Jim: That’s what type-A means.
Jim: I get it.
Jim: A- and Bill, how’d you feel about that? (laughs)
Bill: Well, first of all, she was never right (laughs).
Jim: Oh, I don’t know about that.
Bill: Okay? Well, that was my type-A.
Bill: And, um, um, I just, uh, I guess, I like to be in control, and I think Vicki liked to be in control.
Bill: So, we had, we had two control people in the same environment.
Jim: When you got married, um, did you ever talk in your pre-marital days about this? Um, what attracted you to each other? Uh, did you see something that made you think, we could have something really special in this world with each other?
Bill: Uh, we had none of that. We- we had no marriage counseling.
Vicki: We got married back in the dark ages.
Vicki: We were married in 1977, so it was a long time ago. And we didn’t talk about any of that. I was afraid. I mean, I didn’t even know about any of that. And we just thought dating was fun and life was fun, and we hung out with all these famous people, and went to baseball games and sat in the owner’s box, and that seemed like a great life.
Jim: And that was your kinda goal, wasn’t it?
Vicki: Well, I thought if I got married all these old childhood hurts and emptiness that had built up in my life would just go away.
Jim: And talk-
Vicki: I thought marriage would solve that.
Jim: Talk about that. Wh- what were you coming into adulthood and marriage with? What was that, what many call baggage? But what-
Vicki: Yeah, it was definitely baggage. I had grown up in a very strict environment in my home. My mother, um, was a perfectionist, had anger issues. And then when I was 18, a week before high school graduation, she died. Suddenly I- I felt free in some ways.
Vicki: And, um, but there was an emptiness that started to build, and I didn’t know what that was. I… We- we didn’t… In my family we didn’t know or talk about grieving. And so back in 1971 there was no cancer care or support groups, at least that we knew about. So that, you know, was just pushed aside, and we went on life as usual.
Vicki: And, um, so that was a heavy thing. And I went into marriage thinking everything will be fine once I get married. I’ll, so I’ll have somebody who’s gonna love me, take care of me, and, um, that was really all I thought about.
Jim: In fact, in your book Every Reason to Leave you talked about your mom having you get on a scale-
Jim: … and weighing.
Vicki: Yeah. It was part of the New York scene, I think. My mother came from a very small town in upstate New York. Elmira. She used to say, it was a better pl- place to come from than to go to.
Vicki: And she, I think she had a great insecurity, now, as I look back, about being in New York in somewhat of a social scene. And so outward appearance was everything. And so, she wanted me to look perfect, and be thin, and dress… I wasn’t allowed out of the house in blue jeans growing up.
Jim: Wow. So, it just created a lot of pressure for you.
Vicki: Lot of pressure, and a lot of, if the outside’s fine it doesn’t what the inside is feeling. ‘Cause w- you know, we weren’t allowed to have feelings or cry, or be unhappy.
Jim: Yeah. Uh, Bill, you’re coming from this really strong (laughs), over-indulged household, it sounds like. Yankee fans all the way.
Bill: All the way.
Jim: All the way. And, uh, but talk about how you met. And you got these two type-A personalities coming together. What was the scene like in which you met as young Bill and young Vicki?
Bill: Well, I was with, walking with a friend of mine. Actually, his name was John. Uh, I didn’t forget. And I knew him when, from the high school I went to in New York. And I saw this girl walk out of my parents building, and I said to him, “She’s pretty cute. I wonder who she is.” And he said, “I think her name is Vicki Gage.” I said, “How do you know that?” And he said, “‘Cause, you know, I went to BU. She was, she was at Pine Manor,” and they had run into each other.
Bill: So, the last name sounded familiar, so I asked my mom to find out if she was related to Sue Gage, who was a friend of my mom’s. And it turned out to be her niece.
Bill: And, uh, she said, “But don’t bother calling. She’s going out with this, like, hippy guy from the Village. And”-
Bill: … “and so forget the whole thing.” So I did. And then a year later Sue Gage called back and said, “They broke up, have him call.”
Bill: So, and-
Jim: That’s tight.That’s information traveling quickly.
Bill: Right. And that’s- that’s what happened.
Jim: And then you went out, and did you fall in love then? Or did it take time? Or what happened?
Bill: No, it was pretty quick. Um, our first date… Where’d we go our first date?
Vicki: Our first date w- Billy took me to this very fancy place in New York called Le Club.
Bill: Oh, yeah.
Jim: Le Club, yeah.
Vicki: And it was… Yeah.
Bill: It was a pri- private d- dinner- dinner/dancing place. Um, and it’s actually where I first met George Steinbrenner-
Bill: … was- was in Le Club. And then, um, for our second date I took her to a Ranger hockey game, and then to the 21 Club for dinner. Um-
Jim: So you’re pretty impressed. With what your needs were-
Vicki: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
Bill: I was, I was, I was a good date.
Vicki: And I… He was a great date, and I had been dating, uh, an artist, starving artist, and we didn’t go on dates like that. So this was very-
John: Yeah, right (laughs).
Jim: So that was impressing you at the time?
Vicki: It was very impressive.
Jim: And then finally you popped the question. Uh, George Steinbrenner, the owner of the Yankees, was at your wedding. Is that right?
Bill: He was.
Jim: It was a small wedding too.
Bill: It was.
Jim: Uh, what happened?
Vicki: It was a small wedding, partly because, well, when I was 10, even though my family was Jewish, we joined a church. So my dream had always been to get married in the church. And I remember sitting with Billy and his family, having a conversation about, uh, where our wedding would take place, right after we had become engaged. And his parents said, “There is no way you two are getting married in a church. Everyone, Vicki, knows you’re Jewish, and it would just be a total farce. So no, we will not hear of it.” And so, um, we ended up having a small wedding in my father’s living room.
Jim: Um, now, how soon-
Vicki: And Billy wore his Yankee tie.
Jim: Which must-
Vicki: At our…
Jim: … have impressed you.
Jim: (laughs) Not really, huh? Uh, but where did it start getting rough? What happened? Uh, was it a year into it? Or quickly? Days? How did you realize, okay, we might be in- in a bit of trouble relationally?
Vicki: I would say within the first year. Um, my emptiness, and my unhappiness, and our differences. We are so different. I love to go out and do things, and Billy loves to watch sports a lot on TV. And so as- as that s- you know, as we started having week, you know, we’d both work all week, and then we’d get to weekends, and I’d wanna go do something, and Billy was really happy watching sports on TV.
Jim: Just vegging.
Vicki: And so, and also realizing that this wasn’t the answer.
Jim: Well, let’s talk about that. Because you- you mentioned that in your book. There’s just this need to, uh, have certain needs met, and it wasn’t there for you.
Vicki: Right. And-
Jim: And that was driving you to a conclusion that maybe he’s the wrong guy, or what?
Vicki: It was driving me to the conclusion that I was really unhappy, and maybe it was Billy, maybe it was I wasn’t sure. But it was co- becoming clear to me that this thing that I thought would solve everything hadn’t.
Jim: Uh, Vicki, so many… And I- I would say men and women. But so many women are resonating with what you’re saying, ’cause they’re expecting more in the relationship. And guys, we tend to get away with not doing what we should do, ’cause we are all pretty comfortable watching sports on the weekend. Um, not everybody. I know not everybody watches sports. But talk about that, Vicki. What- what was in your heart? What was really missing at that time, and all the needs that you had, that you’re expecting Bill to- to meet?
Vicki: Right. What I have come to learn now, many, many, many years later, and we have been married almost 40 years, is that my husband, and anyone else’s husband, was not created to meet all my needs, and, uh, and fill all my longings. Only Jesus Christ can do that. And so, putting my husband, and putting any husband in the position of being savior is not gonna work. And he’s gonna, I’m always gonna be disappointed if that’s who I think he’s supposed to be.
Jim: How did that manifest itself? My… It had to be more than just, we’re not spending time on the weekends together. What were some other things where Bill was not meeting that expectation? Sorry to do this to you, Bill (laughs).
Bill: That- that’s okay. It’s in the book.
Jim: You’re s- you’re kinda speaking be- for all guys at this point. But Vicki, what, I think men struggle to understand, hey, I can’t be all that to you, I’m not your girlfriend.
Vicki: Right. And we didn’t understand any of that then, that we now understand a little better. Um, the, our communication was not great. We didn’t know how to have a good fight, and we didn’t how to fight fair. We just… You know, I blamed him, he blamed me. We just clammed up, and, you know, walked out. We h- we didn’t have any tools. We had no tools whatsoever, um, into how to have a good marriage.
Jim: Yeah, and of course-
Vicki: And a good marriage doesn’t mean there’s no disagree- And we also had misconceptions. A good marriage doesn’t mean there’s no disagreement. A good marriage doesn’t mean we agree about everything, because we still don’t a lot of the time. A good marriage means that we respect one another, that we respect our differences, we work through our issues. And we’re still doing that-
Vicki: … at 40 year, almost 40 years. We don’t have it all figured out. But one thing I- I do know is that Billy’s not meant to be everything for me.
Jim: And that’s a real eye-opener.
Jim: And a lot of newlyweds need to understand that.
Jim: And certainly pre-married couples. Uh, the sooner they understand that the healthier their relationship is going to be. Now, the additional challenge you had, as a young, 20-something couple, was you didn’t know the Lord, you’re not in a Christian context at this point.
Jim: You’re in a very, what sounds like a very worldly context. You’re living the high life. You’re going out to all the clubs, and all of that. Um, could you see why the marriage wasn’t working? And what did you do?
Vicki: Well, um, we separated in June of 1986.
Vicki: We separated.
Jim: That was about five years after you were married?
Vicki: It was nine, nine and a half years after we married.
Vicki: We separated in 1986.
Bill: We were actually separated for a very short time prior to that.
Bill: And got back together. Um-
Vicki: Not because we’d had any counseling or anything, but just because one romantic night we got back together. Nothing had really changed. But we lo- you know, one thing that has always been constant is our love for each other, my love for you (laughs).
Jim: So that’s always been there?
Jim: But you separated for a short time, came back together.
Vicki: Right. Then-
Jim: Still God was not in the picture at this point.
Vicki: Not in the picture. Then we went on to have ch-
Jim: Then you separated.
Vicki: Then we went on to have children, and when our children were one and a half and four, we separated. Billy had a terrible addiction to cocaine and other things, and I couldn’t live with that any longer. And the emptiness and the no relationship, and it just, it was just a mess. It was chaos.
Bill: Uh, I owned a- a restaurant called the Sporting Club, which was one of the top places in the country rated by USA Today and New York Times. And you would go there, you’d be, you’d be afraid not to go there because of who you might miss seeing.
Bill: I mean, we had every athlete that, you know, you could think of would come in, especially when they were visiting from out of town. And because of the hours that I was spending there… I’d get there around noontime, and I’d probably get home around 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning.
Bill: And, um, a lot of it was there were drugs, and there were women there, and, um, it was very easy to sink to, succumb to both.
Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John: And Bill, it sounds like the emptiness Vicki was describing earlier was certainly, uh, uh, felt in your life, and you were trying to find some fulfillment in- in things that didn’t provide that.
Bill: It- it was, and I, but I didn’t know that at the time. I thought that these things were fulfilling. And it took me a good, uh, three and a half years of doing this before, um, I started to realize there was, there’s had to be more out there.
John: Well, as you listen along to Vicki and Bill Rose on Focus on the Family today, it may be that- that emptiness they’re describing is- is acutely felt in your life. Uh, maybe you’ve got a strong marriage and you know somebody that’s really having a hard go of it. Um, let us know here at Focus, and, um, we’d be happy to send Vicki’s book Every Reason to Leave, uh, the subtitle is Why We Chose to Stay Together, and, uh, we’ll get this out to you for your gift of any amount to Focus on the Family today when you call 800-A-FAMILY.
Jim: You know, really, our hope today is to inspire people who are living in a similar place. It’s not gonna be the exact same place as Bill and Vicki.
Jim: But they may be in a similar place, where they’re not, um, really up to their potential in their marriage, and they know it. And we wanna be able to provide that hope for you, to inspire you to live each day better. And that’s what we live and breathe to do here at Focus on the Family. So, if you need help, call us, and, uh, we wanna be there for you. Um, I wanna pick up, Bill, where you left off there. Because we talked to Vicki about what those needs were for her as a young, um, newly married wife, and what she was expecting from you. So, you’ve got this thriving restaurant business in New York City. Um, it’s taking all of your time. What were your needs, and were you running from something?
Bill: Wow. Um, uh, I’m, I don’t know that I was running from something. Um, it was a real power trip, this restaurant, and I was caught up in the whole glamor of the athletes and the women and the drugs. So, I guess it was something… I, what I did was I put that before Vicki and before the marriage. Um, and I just thought this would make me happier. And as the years went on, I realized that was just not the truth.
Jim: Yeah. Boy, so many people could fill in the blank with whatever they’re doing, particular men. Whether it’s that title, whatever vocationally they’re doing. They’re not coming home at night because it’s easier to be at the office. It’s easier to earn the money and to justify the time spent there. Uh, Vicki, at this time you’re a single mom. What did that jungle look like for you? You’re trying to sort out, where do I go. Um, I mean, what was your life like?
Vicki: My life was completely, uh, around the kids, uh, and I also went back to work a year after we separated, uh, at Macy’s, um, R.H. Macy & Company, as a corporate buyer. So, the chaos increased, because then there was a nanny, and, you know, we had a dog, and I was running off to work every day, and two very young children. And so, life was very chaotic. And I didn’t have any idea how to fix that.
Vicki: I just kept running, in a sense, kept running…to do the next thing.
John: And during the season, Vicki, was- was Bill in your life at all? Or was- was the separation, um, such that- that you just lived your life, and he was, he was out there and not part of any of it?
Vicki: A little of both. Um, Billy would come once. One night a week he’d bring McDonald’s for the kids. And on that night was the night that I would be attending a 12-step meeting or have dinner with a friend. And so, we didn’t have very much connection, except we’d, when we needed to talk something about the children. My life was so much about the kids, but also who, what, who am I, what am I supposed to be doing now with my life. My husband’s gone. We’re separated. We’re not divorced.
Vicki: Um, my parents sat me down. My father and stepmother sat me down one a- one evening and said, uh, “We saw Billy at a restaurant with another girl, and he’s gonna have an easy time finding someone. But you’re not, ’cause you’re a woman. You have two children.” And so that really blew me away. It didn’t feel very much like parental support. Um, and I- I didn’t know what I was gonna do with myself. I didn’t, I was, just my brain was circling around and around and around all the time. What am I gonna do? Am I gonna find another husband, somebody to help me raise these kids? How am I gonna do this? Because I really didn’t know how to raise the children.
Jim: And in that context what did you turn to for support?
Vicki: And so, a couple of friends decided they’d set me up with a date. And, um, so I went out, and actually my mother-in-law encouraged me to have an affair. She said that would make everything better. So, I did, and it definitely didn’t. And, um, I realized at that point that that was definitely not the answer. Uh, one of these other dates that someone fixed me up with had lines of cocaine. And this was, uh, back in the late ’80s, where people still thought that was a fun thing to do. And so, I started doing that too.
Jim: Uh, Vicki, where did the Lord begin to enter into this? I mean, Bill’s not living with you. You got two young kids. Did you all of a sudden wake up and say, “We need more God in our life”?
Vicki: No. Um, the day after we separated, I started attending a 12-step program. And, uh, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but through this-
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Vicki: … through the process of the steps it talks about prayer and meditation, and, uh, having a higher power. And so, I started to pray. And I had grown up in the church, so I started to go back to the church, even though it wasn’t a bible-teaching church. And, um, a year and a half into our separation I was invited to a dinner party by Mrs. Arthur S. DeMoss.
Vicki: Nancy Lee DeMoss’s mom.
Jim: There in New York?
Vicki: In New York City.
Jim: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Vicki: It was at the Waldorf Astoria. Uh, it was a beautiful gold-inscribed invitation that arrived. It said, “Mrs. Arthur S. DeMoss invites you to meet and hear Secretary of the Interior and his wife,” uh, “Donald and Barbara Hodel, and hear about Christianity in the world today.” And in the lower corner of the invitation it said, “Black tie.” And I, here I am, a single mom with not much to do, and a friend who worked for Mrs. DeMoss had sent me this invitation. And so, I accepted, I said I’m going –
Vicki: …’cause I can get dressed up and go out and have a fun night. And, uh, in fact, I had an amazing night, because I heard the gospel presentation that night, and God had prepared my heart through working through these 12 steps and prayer, and I heard that God loved me and had a plan for my life, but that I was separated from God by what the Bible calls sin. And I thought, well, I haven’t killed anyone, including my husband, who I would’ve liked to have. But it was explained to me that sin was anything like worry or gossip or fear or envy, and I knew I qualified. And, so that God loved me, that I was separated from him, but that Jesus Christ was God’s only provision for man’s sin, including mine, that his shed blood provided the atonement, the forgiveness for all my sins, and that s- simply we, it was offered that we could just receive him. They told us that it says in the Bible, to those who receive him, he gives the right to become children of God. And so that night at that dinner party, with 900 people in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, I prayed and asked Jesus Christ to take over my life, to make me the person he created me to be.
Jim: That’s exciting, because of the backstory on that. Of course, Don-
Jim: … served here on the board-
Vicki: That’s right.
Jim: … of Focus on the Family years after this.
Jim: And eventually was the interim president after Dr. Dobson stepped down from that roll, and before I was appointed into that role. So, Don and his late wife Barbara-
Jim: … have been terrific friends of Focus on the Family.
Vicki: And- and of ours.
Jim: But that’s how God weaves it together.
Vicki: Yeah. And to us.
Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Vicki: Um, we got to meet with them two or three or four times after that dinner, and we visited them, um, a couple times.
Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Vicki: So, they’ve been so dear to us, because what they spoke that night, and their story, had things in it that matched my story.
Jim: You know, this is really intriguing, and, uh, we’ve gotten to that point where we’re talking about how the Lord has tapped you on the shoulder, Vicki. You still got Bill, who’s doing cocaine and other things, and the restaurant. And you’re not clean in this either.
Jim: Um, you know, you’ve got-
Jim: … your issues that you’ve been dealing with. And this where people connect, because, if could be so bold, your guys’ lives were a mess.
Vicki: A mess.
Jim: Spiritually speaking.
Jim: And I wanna come back and talk about that, and how the Lord began to, in essence, clean your heart and clean your house.
Vicki: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jim: Um, and I think people will really benefit from that. Can we come back and talk about that?
John: What a conversation with Bill and Vicki Rose on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. And I’m sure that you’ve connected with them at some level, as you’ve heard them sharing their story. Now, that’s captured in Vicki Rose’s book Every Reason to Leave, and Why We Choose to Stay Together. It’s an excellent book. Inspiring, and their true story, as written from Vicki’s perspective. It offers a lot of the scriptures that helped carry her through the tough times. Please, request that book when you get in touch with us.
Jim: And we’ll send that to you for a gift of any amount to Focus on the Family. We encourage you to support the ministry monthly, if you can do that. If you’re inspired by what God is doing through the ministry to help save marriages, and many other things, I hope you’ll be a part of it. And if you’re only able to make a one-time gift right now, uh, we still will send you the book as our way of saying thank you. Also, when you call, if you need help in your marriage, you can request a consultation with one of our counselors. It’s absolutely free. Take advantage of that. Or find out more about Hope Restored, the intensive marriage program that we mentioned at the top of the program.
John: Donate and get help by calling our number 800-232-6459, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time as we continue the conversation with Bill and Vicki, and once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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