Trusting His Leadership
About the Guest
Author Robert Wolgemuth, along with his wife, Nancy, and blended family expert Ron Deal, talk to husbands about how to lead their wives as loving shepherds. Nancy, who had never married before she wed Robert, a widower, talks about her expectations, her faith, and the adjustments she faced as a newlywed. Robert also talks to men who feel the burden of being a good provider.
books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—...moremore
Robert Wolgemuth, along with his wife, Nancy, and Ron Deal, talk to husbands about how to lead their wives as loving shepherds.
Bob: Author and speaker Robert Wolgemuth says every husband has to make a decision about what kind of relationship he wants to have with his wife; and then, his actions need to support that decision. Does he want a relationship with conflict or one that is full of joy, where both are seeking the Lord?
Robert: I can’t / nobody can get a guy to want this kind of relationship. No book is going to get that / no conversation. He has to start before the Lord, saying: “You know, Lord, I don’t really want this; but I believe You do. So give me the ‘wanna’ / give me the desire to be the kind of husband my wife wants.” And then you can begin to put the stuff together that makes it work, but no book is going to talk you into something you don’t want.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 17th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine. So, what kind of relationship do you want to have with your wife?
Or maybe more importantly, what kind of relationship does God want you to have with your wife? We’ll talk about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. It’s a good coaching session we’re getting this week—a good reminder to those of us who have been husbands for a while and, probably, good training for the rookie husbands in the room.
Dennis: Yes; “Listen up!”
Dennis: Absolutely. Get your notepad out or your phone and take some notes; because Robert Wolgemuth is coaching husbands how to be like a shepherd in a loving, gracious way.
Robert, welcome back—
Robert: Thank you, Dennis.
Dennis: —joined with his wife, Nancy, all the way back to 2015—fun to have you here. And also joining us is Ron Deal, who actually helped Robert and Nancy start out their marriage together; because Father Bob stepped in [Laughter] to Nancy’s life at the point that Robert was pursuing her and said, “You guys need to get some counsel.”
Ron works, here, at FamilyLife® in the blended family arena and is a great counselor, as well—and provided several days of counseling over a period of weeks.
Bob: Yes; now, the one thing that didn’t happen with these guys is that they did not go to one of our Weekend to Remember®marriage getaways before they got married. I think the reason is because, by the time you guys got engaged, the special 50 percent offer that we’re making this week had already expired.
Let me just say to our listeners, here, before we dive into what we’re going to talk about—this week and next week we do have a special offer for listeners. If you’d like to attend one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways—whether you’re engaged, thinking about getting engaged, or you’ve been married for a decade or two or three or four—plan to join us at one of the 55 Weekend to Remember getaways we’ll be hosting this spring in cities all across the country.
If you register this week or next week, you’ll save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. Call us if you have any questions at 1-800-FL-TODAY; or check out things, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can register online if you’d like to; but again, the opportunity to save 50 percent off the regular registration is good this week or next week. Don’t hesitate—some of these getaways are going to be selling out here in the next week—so don’t hesitate. Plan to join us at an upcoming Weekend to Remember getaway; and again, you can register, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Nancy, we talked a lot during the courtship about the rhythms of life for somebody who’s been independent for 57 years. All of a sudden, it’s not, “What do I want to do today?” All of a sudden, it’s not, “Where do I think that should go?” You had fallen into a very comfortable routine of autonomy—
Nancy: —and never had a man in my room/in my bedroom. [Laughter]
I mean, I didn’t sleep for months, it seemed like, after we got married. This was all so different for me.
Bob: Yes; and now it’s not your bedroom—
Nancy: It’s our bedroom; that’s right.
Bob: —even though it’s been your bedroom and decorated the way you wanted it for a long time.
Nancy: Lots of flowers. [Laughter]
Bob: How did you shift gears and go from leading yourself to being led?
Nancy: You know, so much of this comes back to your relationship with Christ. I don’t mean to over-spiritualize this; because there were practical adjustments—lots of them. It wasn’t a month into our marriage that I’m lying in bed one night with a whole set of circumstances that had gone a little topsy-turvy. I’m thinking, as Robert is sleeping soundly and I can’t sleep, and I’m going, “What in the world have I done?” So there were those moments—kind of panic-stricken.
But, you know, from the time I was saved, as a child, I had been learning, over all those years, to realize that I’m not my own—I belong to Christ.
God can be trusted to write my story. I had tried to live my life—not always well / I haven’t always done this well—but I tried to live my life with open hands, just saying: “Lord, what do You want for me? Do You want me to be single?—I’ll be single.” And then, when it came to marriage—which I had never contemplated seriously / never thought this would be God’s plan for my life—I loved serving the Lord, as a single woman. And then this prospect of marriage came into my life; and that was a struggle, initially. But the struggle was: “Is this what God wants? And if it is,”—and I came to believe that it was—“then, I can trust God for these adjustments; and we’re making a covenant commitment to each other.” That means, before the Lord, we’re going to live this out.
So, yes—that terror-stricken night a month into our marriage—and I’m thinking, “How in the world are we ever going to do this?”—not because there was anything wrong with Robert—it was just such a huge adjustment for me.
But it wasn’t, “Will we make this work?”—it was: “God, just show us how to do this. I’m all in. I’m all in to bless this man. I’m not going to just spew out words in that—in the emotion of the moment would be easy to say. We’re going to try to commit our speech, and our actions, and our attitudes to You—live in a way that honors You. I’m going to love this man, who is so gracious, and humble, and loveable”; but there are moments when you just don’t feel that same connection to each other, and then you make a choice. You say: “God led me here; and by God’s grace, we’re going to do this. We’re going to do the loving thing.”
There were moments—Robert talked earlier about how, each morning, I send a text to him—says the same thing: “Good morning, my beloved. I love you, my precious shepherd friend,”—there’s a little thing I say each morning.
Well, there have been a few mornings when there was something that we were still wrestling through, where I didn’t feel like sending that loving text. But every morning, I make that choice: “I’m going to say this loving thing, even if, in that moment, I may not feel like that,” and then the feelings follow the choices and the actions.
Dennis: So, Nancy, you have a radio ministry. You get a lot of letters / a lot of emails—hear a lot of stories from people, who come up after they’ve been to one of your True Woman conferences; and they tell a different story. They’re not married to a Robert.
Nancy: Yes, yes; and I often acknowledge that.
Dennis: They’re not married to a saint—they’re married to a man that they battle to respect / to somehow find something that he’s doing right—and they’re not even relating to how you two are describing your relationship.
Nancy: I get that.
Dennis: I’d like both of you to make a pass at speaking to a wife, who’s in a marriage like that; and Ron, you can jump in here, too, especially if you’re in a blended family. What would you advise her to do?
What’s the attitude she should take?
Nancy: Well, you go back to Scripture. I know—I’ve talked with so many of these women, in very hard, very hurtful marriages. There are no simple answers; and there’s no promise that whatever she does is going to fix this, certainly not in the short-term. But you go back to the Scripture—and a wife, in a culture in the New Testament, where many of their husbands were not believers / they were not men who feared the Lord—but the wife was instructed to reverence / to respect her husband.
I saw a beautiful example of this on Instagram® the other day. A husband posted on Instagram a photo of a Post-It Note® his wife had left for him. The note says—from his wife: “I love you so. Thank you for our family. You are a magnificent man.” Then this husband comments—he said: “When my wife left for Chicago the other day, she left this behind. If a Christian wife is to respect her husband—Ephesians 5:33—then I feel so respected.
“In fact,”—here’s the key—“years ago, my wife decided that I wouldn’t have to keep earning her respect. She decided respect would be a gift she’d keep giving me in advance, which has inspired me to be a better man.” And then he said, “My wife has massive power over me. [Laughter] So grateful.”
Robert: My message to husbands is what my wrestling coach—I hated wrestling! Guys that are wrestlers: “That’s the tough one; right? I mean, no glory—nobody comes to a wrestling match—[Laughter]—that’s a tough sport.” But my junior high wrestling coach said: “You gotta wanna,” “You gotta wanna.” This is Philippians 2:13—God is at work within you, helping you to obey Him and then helping you do what He wants.
I can’t / nobody can get a guy to want this kind of relationship—
—no book is going to get that / no conversation. He has to start before the Lord, saying: “You know, Lord, I don’t really want this; but I believe You do. So give me the ‘wanna’ / give me the desire to be the kind of husband my wife wants.” And then you can begin to put the stuff together that makes it work; but no book is going to talk you into something you don’t want.
Bob: Ron, you’ve had the occasion—I’m just thinking of Robert and Nancy. Here are two godly, spiritually-surrendered people. I think folks can hear this and go, “As long as you’re really committed to the Lord and you love the Lord, sure you may have some bumps along the way, but your blended marriage isn’t going to have huge challenges.” You’ve talked to spiritually godly people, who were completely blind-sided by the issues of a blended family; and who thought, going in, “We have the tools to deal with this,” but they’d never seen these problems before.
Ron: Yes; and it’s easy to get stuck in a hurry.
Well-intending people / godly people, trying to do everything right, get blind-sided by the many dynamics around family living; around issues they didn’t see coming; around an ex-spouse, in some cases, that is just wreaking havoc in your life and constantly rippling stress into your home through the children or what have you. There are just a lot of things that go on there.
Of course, our message to people at FamilyLife Blended® is: “Learn as much as you can about all of that. The smarter you get about that, the better you’re able to manage it.” But at the end of the day, it is about the marriage; because when all that stuff is coming to you—whether it’s from the other household, or from children, or parents/stepparents, stepchild relationships that are just under stress and strain—if you don’t come together, as a couple, and say: “Wow; you’re my safe harbor,”—you know—“I don’t trust anything else going on in our world, but I trust you,” you really aren’t able to tackle any of that other stuff.
So, what we’re doing here today is so critical for all marriages, whether they’re in a blended family or not.
Dennis: I want to take us to some really very, very practical stuff. I know a young lady, who is married to a husband who just suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder. I mean, he just can’t let go of the phone; he’s constantly checking the screen; he is not looking her in the eye when he speaks to her. Robert, what would be the best coaching advice you would give that young man—or that older man; okay?—who’s really having something that is competing with his wife for his attention?
Robert: A long, long time ago, a man gave me great advice—he said, “Marriages that struggle or fail usually struggle or fail based on things that are not said, not things that are said.”
There are some exceptions—some guy flies off the handle and says some really unfortunate things to his wife and pays a price for that—but most of the time, we suck that stuff up. You know, we see our mate doing something or looking at the phone, and we act our disapproval. We don’t talk about it—we act it out, which is far worse than talking about it, you know—because if I’m acting it out, the scenario that she is reading into that is far worse than words that I would speak.
So, I say, “Can we talk about something?” Always, that’s a good idea—to preface a hard conversation by saying that rather than diving right into it—“Can we talk about something? Maybe it’s an hour from now; maybe it’s tonight.” And say, “This is troubling to me.” Now, what you’re doing is—you’re cashing in on your relationship / on the equity you have in your relationship; because if she doesn’t care how you feel, then that’s a problem.
Dennis: Or—or if she doesn’t feel safe in the relationship and feels like she’s going to be attacked.
Bob: Oh, yes.
Dennis: That’s not going to be an inviting question, either.
Robert: No; that’s right. So then you address that—whatever it is: “You know, all of us have this phone problem, and it’s not going to get any better; right? So, let’s talk about that—let’s talk about rules.” For example, at mealtime, unless there’s really something hot that’s coming across the wires—and Nancy needs to see it or I need to see it—we park our phones / we do not look at our phones.
Nancy: —or unless it’s the last inning of a Cubs game. [Laughter]
Bob: —not just the last inning—it’s the fifth, or sixth, or ninth.
Nancy: No; we park the phones. Robert’s much better at that than I am; so this is something he’s addressed in our marriage.
Dennis: Oh really! Nancy, you’re worse than him about this?
Nancy: Oh yes; oh yes.
Dennis: Why is that?
Nancy: The phone thing?—because I spent all those years living life with my phone, and working nonstop, and not needing to stop and pay attention for extended conversation.
Plus, in my family of origin, we didn’t talk things through. Robert came from a family that really just loved conversation—his parents modeled that—and so he has pressed, in tender and patient ways, “We’re going to talk about this.” He’s not unkind about it / he’s not harsh about it—he says to me, “You can feel free to say anything.” We know we’re going to assume the best of each other / we’re going to make allowances, but he’s not going to let this thing go unaddressed. That’s been a little harder for me, because I could have stuffed it more easily.
Nancy: He’s not going to let it get stuffed. We are going to talk about it, but not with the shouting and the ugliness.
Dennis: Right; right.
Bob: This attachment to the phone is often an attachment to career. As you described it, I was remembering my mom telling me, years ago, that my dad had said to her, when they were first married, “My work is going to take more than just the 40 hours a week.”
He said: “You just need to plan that, from Monday morning until Friday night, I need to stay focused on my work. Just leave me alone. I’ll be there on the weekends to kind of help pitch in; but if I’m going to provide the way I’m going to provide, I need to do this.” Now, both of them had come out of the Depression. They had been in situations where the family had scraped by. My dad, I think, was trying to be a good provider and saw that as a chief virtue.
Talk to a young man, who says, “I feel the burden of being a good provider; and sometimes, I feel like my wife is pulling me away from being able to do what I’m supposed to do for the family.”
Robert: Well, I would say: “Have some fun with that.” I had a job from 1979 to 1984, and I was way over my skis—I mean, I was way over my skis. There wasn’t a person who worked with me who was younger than me; they were all older than me, with lots of experience.
So Bobbie and I talked about that. We had weekly picnics at my office, because I was going to spend a late night at the office. But at dinnertime, she brought the girls—they were very small then—and a checkered tablecloth. On the floor of my office, she set up a picnic. We’d play hide-and-seek in the dark halls of this office; and if you talk to the girls now, they will remember that very well.
Instead of pushing against me and shaming me—making me feel guilty—Bobbie joined in the journey, and we had fun.
Bob: Let me give you one other scenario. I had a colleague, years ago, who—I watched this happen / I don’t know that I ever spoke to him about it—but during the course of the workday, his wife would call, sometimes, ten times a day with a question / with a thought. She was a very needy wife. Here’s a guy, who’s trying to focus on what he’s been hired to do; and he’s getting interrupted regularly by his wife.
How does a husband address that?
Robert: Talk about it / say it—see? He can act it out—he can be ticked off that she’s interrupting this meeting: “Yes; what?” when he answers the phone. Back in that day, probably, they didn’t have the cell phone, which is an enemy to this guy. So, what you do is—you say, “Sweetheart, I’m eager to talk to you; but there are times during the day I just can’t,” and maybe there is a situation where he can help her identify a word picture that she could identify with him.
But then, what I would say to him is: “Beat her to that punch,” and every once in a while, text, “I love you.” Don’t just wait for her to get to you; every once in a while, when you think about her—now, I had this fun Twitter® campaign when the book was released—and one of the tweets was: “A random ‘I love you’ text means a lot more to her than you can imagine. Just ask her.”
That was a tweet that I sent out. Or I said: “She’s looking for a shepherd, not a cowboy. Just ask her.” So I had some fun with that. But take some initiative—don’t just be the recipient of that. And talk to her about it—don’t act it out—talk to her about it.
Dennis: You’re actually hitting on the next question I had for you, which is about bringing happiness to your wife. What are the best three things—[Laughter]—the best three things you’ve done. And before you answer—Nancy, you tell us a couple that made you happy that Robert did for you.
Nancy: Well, we do laugh a lot together. We have great conversations, and we’re at a season of life where we don’t have little children underfoot. We have that luxury of being able to have, sometimes, quiet dinners and the ability to talk. We have enjoyed, seriously, following the Cubs. I didn’t know what a baseball was, hardly, before we got married—I was much more into football. But when I found out that Cubs were something that my husband enjoy, I set out to enjoy the Cubs too.
And I do! And we do it together—it’s something we share. So, we do fun things together.
Bob: Didn’t you buy tickets and surprise him one week?
Nancy: I did; I did before we were married.
Dennis: Oh, wow!
Nancy: Yes; but we have some games we play together. I mean, we both work hard—we work long hours; we have a lot of relationships we’re working to maintain; our lives are full—but we pause / we stop; we enjoy taking rides, seeing God’s creation. It’s been a—we have some beautiful seasons in Michigan, where we live, and we stop—Robert’s better at this than I am—stopping and smelling the flowers, so to speak, and noticing things. He draws me into that, and we enjoy doing that together.
That’s part of his shepherding me—is helping me to breathe; because I’ve lived a pretty margin-less life for a lot of years, where there was no day and night, no—just this crazy life of a single, who has a very demanding responsibility. Robert helps me stop, sit down to eat a meal, carry on a conversation.
These things have been good for my soul.
Dennis: So Robert, hold your three ideas really quickly—they have to be fast—but Bob, tell them how they can get a copy of Like the Shepherd, the book that Robert’s written about how men can love and lead their wives.
Bob: I will. We have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order your copy from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. Again, the website, FamilyLifeToday.com; our number is 1-800-FL-TODAY.
And by the way, on our website, or when you call, you can get information about the spring season of Weekend to Remember marriage getaways that we have going on. We’ll have more than 50 getaways happening in cities all across the country this spring. This is a great opportunity for husbands and wives to spend some concentrated time learning about God’s design for marriage and enjoying a nice getaway weekend at the same time.
If you sign up this week or next week for one of our getaways, you’ll save 50 percent off the regular registration fee—that’s the best offer we make all year long—and it’s available this week or next week. Find out more when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You can register online or call to register; or if you have any questions: 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Dennis: Well, it’s been our privilege this week to talk to a couple of friends—Ron Deal, as well, in the studio—joining Nancy and Robert Wolgemuth. I asked, a few moments ago, Robert, for you to share three of the best things you’ve done as the shepherd / as the shepherd who brought happiness to Nancy. Real quickly—
Robert: Alright; starting with: “Laugh at yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously.”
The time that we spend right before I go to sleep, because I usually go to sleep first—we’re cuddling, and Nancy’s head is in the crook of my shoulder. We’re reviewing the day, and we’re remembering funny things. The other night, we were howling, just tucked in like that—so: “Don’t take yourself too seriously. Find moments like that, where it’s uninterrupted.”
And then, have a little game that you can play—like, we have a word game called Quiddler. We’ll look at each other and say, “How about a game of Quiddler?”
And I would say, “Don’t watch TV,” because TV is an incredibly passive experience. You’re sitting there, looking at a screen, not at each other / it’s not interactive. Now, sometimes, it’s good to do that; but I would say I’d put TV-watching way down on the list.
So, those things: “Don’t take yourself too seriously,” “Find a place,” and “Have games that you play—literally, little board games or whatever.”
Bob: Do you play “Words with Friends” with Nancy?
Robert: I don’t, because she’s too good. [Laughter] She and your wife have a game that’s gone on for what?—six years? [Laughter]
Bob: That’s right; that’s right. I have screen shots of plays that Mary Ann’s made against Nancy, where she goes: “Look at what I did right there. That was 100 points! Yes!” [Laughter]
Nancy: I’m showing Robert my screen shots.
Robert: Yes; yes, she is.
Bob: Yes; yes, this deteriorated really quickly. Okay; we have to wrap up.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.
Join us back tomorrow. Steve and Misty Arterburn are going to be with us. We’re going to talk about how we move a marriage from bland to spicy; alright? Hope you can tune in for that. We’ll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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