For Women Only: Part 1

12 07 2005

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Today I’m starting my review of Shaunti Feldhahn’s For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men. Click the title to purchase a copy.

This week I’ll be covering three chapters of the book – one and two today and chapter three tomorrow.

Chapter 1: Lightbulb On! How I Woke Up to What I Didn’t Know About Men

Chapter 2: Your Love is NOT Enough Why Your Respect Means More to Him than Even Your Affections

Chapter 3: The Performance of a Lifetime – Why You Mr. Smooth Looks So Impressive but Feels Like an Imposter.

Feldhahn also has a website with further information and the study used to write this book. (Note: To view the survey information, you must become a “member” – but, membership is free. It just requires registration with the website.)

Chapter 1: Lightbulb On! How I Woke Up to What I Didn’t Know About Men

Chapter 1 introduces the material and provides background on how this little book came to be. Feldhahn shares a personal story of trying to figure out her own husband, puzzled on why some comments or actions provoked anger or silence. It didn’t make sense to her. But when an opportunity to research and interview other men on their thought processes, she began to truly see the differences between men and women. Not only that, but the lack of understanding of these differences (on both sides) leads to anguish and conflict in relationships.

While Feldhahn was researching her second novel, The Lights of Tenths Street, she wanted to make sure that the thoughts of one of the male main character truly represented those of men. As the character battled with impure thoughts which were revealed through the text, she wanted to be sure that what she wrote accurately reflected the real struggle men face on this issue. What she found as she interviewed men brought revelation. The lightbulb, so to speak, then came on.

It turned out that these men shared some surprisingly common inner wiring. At their secret inner core, many similar fears and concerns, feelings and needs.

Feldhahn discoveries astounded her. She felt herself to be “well versed” on the thoughts of men. As she found similar threads through all of the men she spoke with, she felt led to pursue the topic further in hopes of helping couples resolve issues resulting from this lack of understanding.

Further investigation meant creating customized surveys to delve into the minds of men.

Survey 1: Four hundred anonymous men across the country ranging in age from 21 to 75, answered two dozen questions about their lives and about how they think, what they feel, and what they need. The survey stressed that we weren’t dealing with outward behavior as much as with the inner thoughts and emotions that led to their behavior.

Questions arising from the first survey led to yet another.

Survey 2…a more informal follow-up survey of another four hundred anonymous men – this time, specifically churchgoers – to ask a few additional questions (and some of the same ones.) Amazingly, there were few differences.

Surveys confirmed what Feldhahn and formulated through her initial face-to-face interviews. She came up with a list of seven revelations on the thinking of men. Each is summed up in a chapter of this book. She explores not only what we (when I say we, I mean women…) know from surface understandings, but also the deep meaning behind it. She follows up the descriptions with ideas for how women can more effectively deal with the men in their lives knowing what they now know about his thought process.

Feldhahn sets some basic groundrules for the book at the end of this first chapter. This is the quick (paraphrased), down and dirty version of them:

  1. This books is not about men-bashing.
  2. It does not explore equally the differences between men and women.
  3. There are exceptions to every rule.
  4. This is about the inside of men, not the outside.
  5. Some of the insights might be distressing.

Remember, there’s always more information at the website.

Chapter 2: Your Love is NOT Enough Why Your Respect Means More to Him than Even Your Affections

Men are different from women. No matter how society tries to paint “equality” in all things – men and women ARE different. This first revelation is a big one, one that has resonated through my own marriage.

Men would rather feel alone and unloved than inadequate and disrespected.

Wow! What a difference between that statement and what I think (and most women.) In the actual survey, 74% said that they would rather be alone and unloved vs. disrespected. Additionally, many men had trouble answering the question because they equated the two answers as the same thing. Respect a man, and you’ll find the way to his heart.

If you want to love your man in the way he needs to be loved, then you need to ensure that he feels your respect most of all.

How do we know if we’re crossing that line? What clues do we have to recognize that there is a problem? Anger. Numbers from the survey confirm this. Eighty-one percent of men answered that they felt disrespect in the midst of conflict (rather than feeling unloved.)

Feldhahn notes Ephesians 5 – where men are called to love their wives and women are told to respect their husbands. God put these commands in the Bible, because He made us. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of each sex. I’m not commanded to love my husband, because I already know how to “love”, instead I need to work at respecting him because it doesn’t come naturally to me.

Women often tend to want to control things, which unfortunately men tend to interpret as disrespect and distrust (which if we’re honest with ourselves, it sometimes is).

It’s a hard choice to make at times. For men, it isn’t enough to say that we respect them. Our actions will speak louder than these words. Feldhahn points out five ways to do this.

  1. Respect his Judgement. When he makes the call, even if you don’t 100% agree with it, let it go. Don’t challenge everything that he says, but make him feel valued. It’s hard to do sometimes, especially if your husband is a “hands on” kind of guy.
  2. Respect his abilities. If our husband thinks he can do it, then let him. Let him try and don’t help him. Be confident in his ability to succeed in whatever he’s doing.
  3. I learned this one a few years ago. Gil (my dh) is a mechanic by trade – not auto (although he can fix cars), but just about anything that is mechanical. We had gotten a new mountain bike, and were talking about doing a few things to one of our old ones to upgrade it a little. I kept saying, “Well, we’ll take it to the bike shop, because bikes really aren’t your area.” He kept getting mad, and I couldn’t understand why – he even said he hadn’t worked on bikes before. Finally he blew up at me and said, “Don’t you know I can do that, too!!!” I now believe he can fix, install, build anything. Prove me wrong Gil. I will never get into trouble that way again.

  4. Respect in Communication – Even though your words or deeds may not be disrespectful in nature, your husband might be taking it that way. If we express disappointment or he feels we’re attacking him, then he feels disrespect. It’s like reminding him to do things – he doesn’t like it because to him it indicates that we don’t trust him to remember. I get in so much trouble with this one. My husband has a horrible memory, and he wants me to remind him sometimes. It’s all in what I’m reminding and the presentation.
  5. Respect in Public – This is huge for men.

    The male ego is the most fragile thing on the planet.

    Take it seriously, men do not like to be teased or mocked in front of others (well, not really when you’re alone.) Even when he’s not around, we should show him respect and honor. I like to think of it as “not gossiping” about my husband. We have been through some incredible trials in the last year. While talking with others, I recognize that he has issues, I don’t go into the specifics and believe God for the rest! Even on my blog, I back off from criticizing Gil because nothing good can come from it – even though he has yet to read one entry on my blog.

  6. Respect in our assumptions – I like to call this one, pretending to know what the other one thinks.

    Do you remember the episode of Gilligan’s Island where the castaways had found a bush that produced seeds allowing them to read each others’ minds? They got into horrible trouble from responding to thoughts rather than actions and words.

    We can’t control our husbands’ thoughts. We have to respond to what they do and say. It doesn’t work to do something as a result of what you think he’s thinking. This has gotten us into some big fights – especially embarrassing when you are wrong on the thinking. But again, it comes off as “not trusting” him, which is another form of disrespect.

So What Can We Do
This so reminds me of some of the things I have talked about in other book reviews. We wives have the power to make or break our men and our marriage. If we build him up and show him respect, he will soar.

There is something unique in how a man appraoches the world that makes his inner, home-fired feelings of personal adequacy absolutely foundational to everything else.

In other words, if we don’t get this part right, we’ll always flounder with him.

For years my husband had told me that I didn’t trust him and how much it bothered him. I told him that was nonsense, of course I trusted him. We have worked through that only by a change in my heart to build him up (that didn’t come from reading this.) I am encouraged by Feldhahn’s chapter though, because it gives greater form to how I can best continue to work on this. Yes, I am a control freak who’s still grappling with submission. But seeing that this is how most men think, shows me that Gil is not broken. He’s normal.

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