Breaking Out of the Fierce Women/Fearful Men Cycle

The Fierce Women/Fearful Men relationship cycle is common and destructive. In this cycle, a wife’s strengths can intimidate her husband. A Fierce Woman can be a living inspiration but her ferocity can also morph into her husband’s worst nightmare. He may respond to her fierceness by shutting down, running, responding in harsh anger or passively retreating to his own silent world. Rather than experiencing joy and companionship, the couple caught in this miserable cycle relate to one another more like alienated roommates than passionate lovers and friends.

The cycle works like this:

Wife has strong desires and “exerts her fierceness” in order to obtain those desires . . .

Husband retreats in fear . . . OR

Husband ignores wife and picks up the nearest brain-numbing object available (media remote, newspaper, lap-top) . . . OR

Husband fears disappointing wife and goes to any length to make sure she gets what she wants . . . OR

Husband feels intimidated and lashes back in anger resulting in verbal or physical injury.

And the cycle repeats itself with the wife exerting her fierceness to obtain her desires.

Early in our marriage, I often found myself questioning, “Where is the man I married?” I often hear women ask the same thing and complain about their husband’s passivity and lack of leadership, followed by the question of why this happens. We leave the wedding altar, and some pitiful dead-beat-loser-guy invades the body of our robust champion. And this scenario isn’t one or two isolated cases—it’s happening in droves! It seems we’re watching the extinction of real men.

What’s up with this??
I think the FW/FM Cycle has created a generation of passive men.

Surely you’ve seen him trudging behind his wife in the mall. His eyes are glazed over and downcast. He seems to be in an almost comatose state. He’s the “neutered man.” At one time he may have seen himself as a man’s man, a leader, flexing his skills and strengths, willing to take risks to achieve and explore; to conquer new territory and hurdle obstacles. That was before his body was invaded by Mr. Passive. Now, he no longer tries. He’s lost his zeal for living and his confidence as a man and leader. His “risk taking” is limited to the occasional feeble suggestion he offers his domineering wife.

I want to challenge you to break out of the cycle. Don’t use your fierce strengths to intimidate or pressure your husband. Be his greatest source of affirmation and encouragement. Next week I’m going to share some practical ways you can do this.

Until then, what is one thing you can do to inspire your husband to manhood today?


  • Chris

    This is exactly how my marriage died – him passive and me domineering – by the time he walked out he was actually afraid of me and was suffering my anxiety and depression and wanted to die. When we married, I was young and didn’t know any other way to be. I am 36 now and although it is too late for me and my husband (he left 4 years ago), I would like to know how not to repeat the cycle in my next relationship. Thank you for addressing this delicate topic. Blessings.

  • Rachel

    I am definitely the more aggressive one in our relationship. I feel like I stifle who I am and what I feel all the time so that I don’t overwhelm him. It is a tiring and confusing thing. I feel passionately about a lot of things, he never has had many goals or anything. I feel that this has been something that has “helped” me into depression lately. I’m tired of caring about everything and him not caring about much. I give up on stuff for a while, but it eats away at me inside. He is a very loving man, don’t get me wrong. I’m just not sure how to help our marriage thrive with us like we are.

  • Beca

    I kind of have the opposite problem. I am not married yet, but often my supervisors who are usually women yell at me and treat me badly. I don’t know why they treat me like this? What am I doing wrong?

  • Kimberly Wagner


    I hope you’ll check out the book, Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior. It will be released next month but you can pre-order it now for a reduced price. Check out the links below the book on the sidebar. I hope you’ll read the book and find it helpful.

    Thank you for your comment!

  • Kimberly Wagner


    I am so sorry to hear about your marriage. Sadly, I’ve found that this is an extremely common cycle in marriages.In the book, Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior, I go into more detail on this topic and how to break this destructive cycle.

    If your husband hasn’t remarried, it isn’t too late to initiate a process of reconciliation, seeking his forgiveness first.

    I’m lifting you up in prayer as I send this.

  • Kimberly Wagner


    It sounds as though you and your husband may be having conflicts over the different ways you approach life. Some people spontaneously react while others are detailed planners and goal-setters. I’m definitely in the latter category and my husband (as it sounds yours may be) is in the first.

    When the wife is more aggressive than the husband this tends to stifle his willingness to dream, but some men are just naturally less apt to look ahead and apply themselves to a new challenge. Your husband will be more apt to look ahead and venture into goal setting mode if you are affirming him for what small ways he demonstrates taking leadership steps and fulfilling his responsibilities. I go into this in more detail in the book, Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior.

    You are blessed to have a loving man . . . that is worth a LOT. He may never become a true goal-setter, but affirming him in his good qualities can provide a good foundation for you to talk with him in a loving way about your desire for him to work on developing that attribute.

    Please believe me, your marriage can thrive. And be encouraged knowing that the God of the universe cares more about that occurring than even you do!

    My prayer for you is that your marriage will experience the same beautiful transformation that God has accomplished in ours as we’re living in the reality of this verse:

    “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21)

  • Kimberly Wagner


    I’m so sorry to hear about your difficult work situation. I can’t really answer why they treat you that way or whether you’re doing anything wrong. A great resource for reconciling conflict is: The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. (I have it listed here on the blog under Categories: Kim Recommends on the sidebar.)It is a very helpful book for dealing with conflict in a variety of relationships.

    You might consider going to your supervisor and discussing this situation with her. Be gracious and demonstrate your desire to improve your job performance by asking specific ways you can improve and then apply yourself to that. After this discussion(and your implementation of any specifics she may give you), if she continues to “yell” appeal to her to communicate with you in a professional manner.

    And above all, commit this to prayer. Without reflecting negatively on your supervisor, ask others to pray for you to have wisdom in how to approach your job situation.

  • Beca

    Thank you for your advice!!!! It has beautiful and refreshing wisdom in it. I have been asking family about it but they often don’t know what advice to give me. Thank you again!!!!