New Year, New Books #19: For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn
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Wow! That’s the recurring thought I had throughout this read. I am well aware that men and women don’t think alike and I knew that I was slightly clueless when it came to navigating the inner workings of a man but let me tell you...I didn’t realize I was THIS clueless. Good news is that is why the author wrote this book. She, like me, didn’t realize how much she didn’t understand and what men truly want us to know about their lives.
This all started when she was writing a fiction book and was doing a little male research to help develop one of the characters. What she realized during the process was that the stereotypical male characterization was not portraying men in the way they were internally processing themselves and not only were women clueless about this men were clueless that women were truly clueless. Or worse yet many men felt they couldn’t directly share these intimate thoughts with their significant others (which is why they were so honest in this anonymous survey). This led her to investigate her confusion further for her own sake but also for the sake of men and women everywhere. She began a truly scientific research process done through a legitimate and professional analyst company that surveyed thousands of men from every background imaginable to determine what we as women don’t know and what they really wished they could tell us.
In her survey, Mrs. Feldhahn ask men multiple choice questions on a variety of topics that men and women seem to have clashing opinions about and allowed them to further expound upon if necessary. She also took some of her confusing findings to men she trusted to better understand exactly what was meant by the numbers.
What I found most amazing about her research is that I was not shocked by the topics men and women seem to view in differing lights but rather I realized I had just enough information on the male viewpoint to be dangerous!
So, here are her topics, in my words.
Men need your respect more than your love…
I thought love and respect were the same thing. If you love someone you respect them, right? But apparently that is not exactly how men view it. In fact, it’s less about whether you respect him and more about how you show (or don’t show) him respect which I think in the end is how they feel loved but that’s a whole different issue she tackles.
Your man feels the need to be “THE Man” and he often feels like an imposter in the process...
I thought all men walked around being confident, manly men with thick skin because that is how they were built internally. In fact, I have always viewed men as being quite laid back when it comes to their “image” but apparently the way they present themselves is actually thought out and they often feel judged based on a plethora of things a woman would never consider judging a man over and for the most part she is unaware they are judging other men and themselves by these qualities.
Trust me, I have questioned why the handsome man at church chose those shoes with that shirt but I have never considered what details reflect his manhood. He’s a man’s man, right? How is he being judged based on jeans and a v-neck? It seems his job, car, suit, high school football accolades, the coffee he orders at Starbucks and yes, his woman, feed into his self image and confidence. Apparently, EVERYTHING, in a man’s world can be a potential judgement on who he is as a MAN. For a woman, this interaction is most important in how we comment, praise and critique a man on basically anything because his ego, spirit and heart is far more fragile than I would have ever thought. I think we take for granted that our big, burly protectors often need us to be their cheerleaders, champions and safe havens.
The heaviest burden a man carries is being the provider…
I knew men wanted to be providers but I didn’t realize WHAT a burden it is to their souls and how much of their decisions go into this need to provide. You are unhappy that your husband is always out of town with work but he sees it as a personal sacrifice he is making for you and the rest of the family. His priorities are different due to this need to be the best provider possible and even if he is a superstar in his career he still fears that one day he may not be as successful. Once again, our men, are far more fragile in spirit than we realize. Side note: The fact that you can provide for the family without his contribution is irrelevant to the burden. It’s not about having enough. It’s about him providing for those he loves.
The next two topics are separate chapters but are related in my mind (though not necessarily related in theirs?) Those topics include sex and how a man’s visual nature can impact his thinking and more…
We all know men want sex but I don’t think many women truly grasp what is tied up in that statement. Men are often portrayed as neanderthals who are just looking for a quick fix to a primal urge but according to the huge numbers of men Mrs. Feldhahn interviewed it is far more emotional, tied to their confidence and often nurtures their soul. This is how a majority of men feel loved and desired which is directly tied to their personal confidence. (i.e. Knowing their woman desires them, physically and otherwise, allows them to metaphorically carry their lady’s favor into battle...the battle of the boardroom or the grocery store or even the little league baseball field. They really do want to be knights in shining armor.)
The second chapter in this topic deals with the visual nature of men and how they try to “combat” it and what men want their women to understand about said visual nature. This is one of the few chapters when the Christian men had alternate responses to their secular counterparts. Not that they didn’t struggle in identical ways but it seemed that a larger percentage of men rooted in faith wanted to honor their wives by fighting the temptation of their minds. Like you, I knew men were visual. What I didn’t understand is what that actually means in a day to day context. The author describes it as men having a Rolodex of images that can pop up or be retrieved at any moment in time and they can go back decades. I also didn’t realize how ever present those images are to most men or how temptation truly works for them. What I view as being tempting to a man is apparently way past what actually tempts them. It was interesting to see not only how these men described their temptations but also what they desperately wanted their significant others to understand.
Men want romance… but their type of romance might include fish bait…
If asked to generalize the male opinion I would have guessed that most men either didn’t care about romance or only attempted romance as a means to an end. Turns out your man has been attempting to be romantic for years he just has a different definition than you. A majority of the men interviewed had some view of romance being less about candlelight and chocolate and more about time spent together...fishing, at a ball game, playing a round of golf...the works! This never occurred to me as a romantic attempt but when viewed as a man wanting to just spend time with you it truly is a sweet and loving thing.
Something that also surprised me was how many men didn’t try to do typical romantic things out of fear of being shot down or not impressing their woman. Once again, we are back to a man not being as thick skinned as I once thought. They often want to do the little things that make your heart melt but often try and it falls flat or you don’t notice and they lose their confidence. This has definitely made me more mindful of the kind and thoughtful attempts of the men around me, romantic or not.
The way you look matters but not in the way you think…
This chapter came with a request to first pray and ask the Lord to guide your heart through the message presented because it is a tough subject to broach with anyone and is especially sensitive to women. Here’s the gist of what men think about your looks...They don’t care if you are a size two, have perfect skin or dress like a Kardasian. However, they do care if you put forth effort because it seems to reflect to them that you love them because you care about yourself. I know this is not exactly how the female mind works which is why the subject is a prickly one. I want the men in my life to be healthy because I want them to have a full, productive and long lives. In a roundabout way men want the same but they view it in a different way. Your looks matter because it reflects you taking care of yourself thus why you don’t need to look like a model or be a size 2 but why you do need to put effort into your appearance. Also, many men made the connection to looking at a man with a well kept wife, not skinny or gorgeous, and thinking, “He did well” which I can totally understand. Women don’t view it as being directly connected to our value as a person but we do look at the husbands of others and think, “She’s so lucky” or “What a great catch”. If I’m honest this topic makes me very nervous but I also feel better now that I understand where the men are coming from in the first place.
Finally, the last chapter to me was by far the most surprising because the author allowed the men to freely tell women one thing they desperately wanted them to know. And what precisely do men want their wives to know?
“How much I love her.” She gave men the freedom to write any secret, any topic, any thought and overwhelmingly this was the top response (or some version of this response). Their main sentiment seemed to be that while they may not always be able to effectively verbalize how much they love their significant other they really hope that message is getting through in some form. I find this confession to be so beyond what I expected of most men and so tender hearted that I was truly moved by reading the heart confessions of these men. I think this is the foundation of truly understanding everything else in the book and truthfully, understanding all areas where the sexes don’t see eye to eye.
Overall, this book was truly eye opening and while I’m incredibly single right now I hope the knowledge gained will allow me to approach my next relationship with an awareness of how to better meet his needs. Now, if you are concerned that this book seems to be only concerned with serving the demands of men let me put your mind at ease. Shaunti and her husband, Jeff, co-authored a partner book for men called “For Men Only” (obviously). The point she makes repeatedly in both books is that the goal isn’t to change your partner but rather for both partners to better understand each other’s thought process and how they interact with each other which is truly love in action if you ask me!
(On the off chance that you are curious what the Feldhahn's told men they needed to understand about us, just wait...)