New Year, New Books #20: For Men Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn
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After reading my last book review, you probably knew that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read the male companion guide and boy am I glad I did! I wondered to myself if any other women had checked this book out from our library or if I was going to be the oddball walking around with a book clearly labelled “For Men Only”. Turns out ONLY women have checked out this book. Now I have no doubt that most were wives hoping to clue their hubbies in but I found that to be very telling. Also, the opening page of the book is addressed to the women who are choosing to read and reminding us that men will not process nor react to the information in the same way and we need to be patient. It truly says something about the way we handle relationships when most men are forced into reading the relationship book by their significant other and most women read their version as well as the one they are so desperately hoping he will read.
Going into this read my first thought was that even as a single woman I could probably name the top issues that confuse most men with little effort and I was basically right. What I couldn’t have ever guessed is why they were confused or their thought process about that confusion! Like the women’s version, this book is structured with the use of surveys and personal interviews of thousands of women from a diverse set of backgrounds. As curious as I was about the inner thoughts of men I was also curious if I had similar thoughts to most “normal” women. It turns out that, just like with men, there is typically a clear majority of opinion with women. However, unlike men, age seemed to play a greater role in diversifying those opinions and as telling as the information was, I found the presentation to be just as fascinating. You see, while this book is co-authored by Shaunti and Jeff, it is predominantly “written” by Jeff for his fellow men. In fact, there is a brief warning about this for the women choosing to read. It really is an inner look at the male dialogue and wow...It is not what I thought!
Chapter one is literal Jeff laying out a new way to “map” the female mind. Apparently, they thought our minds were kind of like a swamp. Full of all kinds of stuff but you weren’t sure where and you may get trapped at any time. No wonder they think of us as the great mystery of the universe!
This chapter delves into our insecurities, as women, and especially how that applies to relationships. This is one that got me. Apparently, men view marriage or a serious relationship as a “done deal”. Like, why do you ask if I still love you when I’m sitting here eating Cheetos next to you on the couch. Jeff explains that this is why men stop pursuing and dating their wives because the marriage license said they were official. He was at a complete loss that women don’t view it that way and that his beautiful, confident wife would need reassuring of something he thought was so obviously clear. He then gives the strong suggestion, quite rightly so, that men should keep doing what they did when they were dating because it obviously worked and made her feel special. So, if your man has stopped bringing you flowers or has become as unromantic as Pepto-Bismol, It could be because he doesn’t realize how you view romance or how insecure you may be feeling because he feels great about your relationship.
In this section, Jeff goes back to how the mind of a woman works. He says he’s learned that we aren’t a confusing, unknown swamp but rather we are like the internet with fifteen tabs open, one’s playing music and there are pop ups every five seconds. Well, duh! What I found most shocking about this topic is that when you ask a man what he’s thinking and he says, “Nothing” he really isn’t thinking about anything, which I can’t even process! How? How are you thinking about nothing? Even better, they seem to have the superhero ability to push things out of their minds. Like, if they don’t want to think about something or have other concerns at the moment they choose to just not think about it until later. HOW?!?!
This insanity rolls into chapter four and the issues men have with women’s reactions. Apparently, our reactions seem real unreasonable to most men because they are backed with emotions. Once again, men have the magical ability to take the emotions out of a situation and are able to handle other situations without letting other issues filter over. Thus, once again, is how your man seems to get over your morning fight so quickly and kiss you goodbye as he heads off to work seemingly unbothered. In reality, he is using his superpower to just not deal with the fight right now because he needs to get ready for work. Crazy!
This chapter also struck me with how men and women get their wires crossed. We all know men want to be providers. If you read my previous book review you know that not only do men want to be providers, they NEED to be providers. It is hardwired into their DNA. The confusion seems to be rooted in what security actually means. It seems that most men believe that when a woman wants security she wants to feel financial security. She wants a nice house, pretty cars, fun vacations and all the shoes her heart desires. I, like the majority of women surveyed, do not even view security and finances as being part of the same concept. We view security as being an emotional concept. Most women would rather have a happy home where they know they are loved and cherished by their husband than a big house that feels very empty and where they are lonely. Men just don’t see it that way so when he is out chasing the big bucks it really is because he loves you and is trying to show you.
Have you ever tried to have a heart to heart with a man only to have him try to quickly offer a solution and move on? Why can’t they listen? Turns out they think they are listening. Also, them trying to offer a solution isn’t a quick and easy way for them to get out of a conversation with you but rather part of their need to fix things. I’ve always known men are fixers but I didn’t realize how subconscious that urge is for men until I read chapter six. Believe it or not, he really thinks he’s offering a plausible solution to your problem and he doesn’t realize that you have already thought of several solutions and that the actual problem isn’t the problem but your emotions that are attached to the problem. You can see why they’re a little confused.
Of course, no book about relationships would be complete without a chapter on sex and chapter seven is just that. We know how men really feel about sex based on that section in “For Women Only” but what this version so clearly reinforces is how sex is tied to a man’s self-confidence. Jeff does his best to reassure his fellow men that if their woman says, “Not tonight” or “I’m tired”, it doesn’t mean not ever again or “You’re no longer desirable to me” but rather that she’s really just tired. My new understanding of how men truly view sex made this chapter far more useful.
Chapter eight was really confusing and yet gives me hope and it’s about the little girl we all have inside of us. Jeff opens with the story of his daughter putting on a princess dress and spinning in front of him asking, “Daddy, am I pretty?”. Does that sound familiar? Regardless, of your relationship with your father we all have a deep rooted need to know we are “pretty”...read that as loved and desired. Those feelings don’t change as we mature they just expand. I’m a grown woman and I still love my daddy telling me I’m pretty or look nice because there’s a part of my soul that yearns for this.
Now here’s the confusing bit...men don’t seem to truly understand that we need to be told that they think we are beautiful. It seems they think it a lot but may go ages without saying it because it doesn’t occur to them. They also seem to miss how much work we put into looking good for them specifically so that’s another confusion point. This concept seems so strange to me because women are often reflectors of what we want thus why you get a group of women together on a Sunday morning and they are complimenting hair, hose and handbags! I’ve told many a man that they look nice in that suit or how great their hair looks when they change the style or some other small remark in the hopes of boosting their confidence because I know how that would make me feel and yet rarely if ever do they return the favor. I’d like to think I don’t walk around looking like dog biscuits but it’d be nice to hear every now and again. Here’s the part that I find hope in...Just because they aren’t saying it doesn’t mean they don’t believe it.
I vividly remember my first prom experience. I had my hair and makeup professionally done. I was wearing the most expensive dressed I’d ever owned and I truly felt like Cinderella heading off to the ball. No longer a shabby, awkward teenager but a princess in waiting. Like Jeff’s daughter I DID spin in my dress, after all is was an a-line ball gown and my daddy DID tell me I was pretty. My date not so much… I was SOOOO disappointed! I had put all this time and effort into looking perfect and it seemed to be pointless but here’s what teenage Bailey (and modern Bailey) can take comfort in… He probably did think it. Actually, it seems that some men don’t realize they need to tell you you were beautiful if they know that you know you look good which once again makes no sense to me! Knowing I’m put together and knowing he thinks I’m beautiful are not the same thing.
I think I heard it best put by another author when he said it used to confuse him when his wife would ask if she looked nice because his first thought was that there is a mirror in the bathroom and bedroom. What he said he finally came to understand is that he is the only mirror that mattered…
Just like in “For Women Only”, this book ends by asking women what one thing they would want their husbands to know but unlike the other book the answer doesn’t surprise me at all! Women want their men to know that they are their heroes or some similar token of love. She is happy, thankful, in love and so very proud of her man and would do anything to help him see that! In spite of fights, miscommunications, dirty laundry and leaking roofs, she really wouldn’t want to “do life” with anyone else… and she still thinks he’s sexy!
If the Lord ever sees fit to send me a mate I hope to be better attuned to his desires, needs and hopes because of the new awareness I have discovered in the last few weeks. I also hope I will be better able to express MY desires, needs and hopes in light of understanding where miscommunication and confusion most often arise and that I can be intentional and flexible in my approach because I have a clearer understanding of the male/female dance. So to wrap up, I found this book to be just as fascinating and beneficial as the book geared towards women and I’m so glad I stumbled upon both of them.