FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Decoding Male Behavior

with Shaunti Feldhahn | April 23, 2013
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Are you having difficulty “reading” your man? Then put on your thinking cap and join us as Shaunti Feldhahn walks us through the A-B-C’s of understanding men.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Are you having difficulty “reading” your man? Then put on your thinking cap and join us as Shaunti Feldhahn walks us through the A-B-C’s of understanding men.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Are you having difficulty “reading” your man?

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Decoding Male Behavior

With Shaunti Feldhahn
April 23, 2013
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: There’s a difference between a man’s brain and a woman’s brain; and there are at least two people who can speak to that. One is Shaunti Feldhahn; the other is Jerry Seinfeld.

Jerry: Women want to know what men are thinking. I know women are looking at me right now, and you’re wondering, “I wonder what goes on in that little brain of his.”

Shaunti: There is a fascinating state of being that exists in the male brain that does not exist in the female brain.

Jerry: I could tell you the truth if you would like to know what men are really thinking. Would you like to know?

Audience: Yes.

Jerry: I will tell you, “Nothing.” (Laughter)

Shaunti: There’s no computing going on. It’s just thinking about nothing.

Jerry: We’re not thinking anything. We’re just walking around, looking around.

Shaunti: Which for us, as women, we’ve never experienced that in our lives; but it’s good to know that it’s just the way God made them.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, April 23rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We are different as men and women; and today, we’ll get help from Shaunti Feldhahn—not Jerry Seinfeld—as we examine that subject.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I wish I could get Beth Moore to write, “What an important book,” on the front of my books, you know? That would help things out quite a bit, don’t you think?

Dennis: Well, this is a great book.

Bob: It is a great book.

Dennis: You and I have featured this in the past; but we’re back for another time on this because it is brand new and revised.

Bob: Revised and updated, absolutely.

Dennis: Shaunti Feldhahn joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Shaunti, welcome back.

Shaunti: Thank you.

Dennis: Shaunti is a wife with her husband, Jeff, since 1994. They have two children, and they’re about to move from the Golden Years into the—

Bob: —the Rapids. (Laughter)

Dennis: —into the Challenges.

Shaunti: Are you saying that because—

Dennis: It’s all golden—

Shaunti: —we’re about to go into the teenage years?

Dennis: It’s all golden right now; and by the way, Shaunti, I think you’ve got a daughter who is about to move into junior high, right?

Shaunti: She’s in junior high, yes.

Dennis: Alright. We’ve got a resource for you that’s a great resource for anywhere from 11, 12, 13—

Shaunti: Oh, yes.


Shaunti: Oh, yes.

Dennis: Have you done it?

Shaunti: No, but I am dying—yes, we’re probably about six months away from doing that together.

Bob: Well, we’ll fix you up with one of those before you leave here today.

Shaunti: Sweet.

Dennis: It’s a total revision.

Bob: It’s been revised and updated just like For Women Only.

Shaunti: Too? Awesome.

Dennis: Yes. Well, you have written a number of books; but these two books, For Women Only and For Men Only, have sold the most, right?

Shaunti: They have, yes, absolutely. They’re in 22 different languages which is amazing to me.

Dennis: And you decided to come back and take another pass at For Women Only and the other book as well. Tell us what prompted this. Did you do additional research at this point?

Shaunti: We did. We’ve actually had the research ongoing the whole time; and we kept learning so many new things and the brain science. We used to be able to say what men are thinking or what women are thinking but we couldn’t say why. And the advancements in brain science that have come out in the last few years—

Jeff and I actually were doing a marriage conference about a year and a half ago; and we walked off stage and we looked at each other and we were like, “You know a third of what we just said on stage isn’t even in the book.” We’ve learned so many new things.

Dennis: Right.

Shaunti: So it’s, “Okay, we’ve really got to update this with all the stuff we’ve learned since they first came out.”

Bob: So, you started off when you wrote For Women Only back in 2004—you talked about the fact that men need to be respected, that men are insecure, that provision is a huge issue for men, that they feel a need to be providers, that they are more visual, that they want sex more often than their wives do. You talked about the fact that they care about appearance—maybe not their own, but the appearance—I mean I’m just being honest here, right? Okay? And that men want romance to be a part of their relationship.

So, those were kind of the core findings, and I remember you saying one of the real “aha’s” for you was that men care more about respect than they do about love. What are some of the things you’ve found since the book was released that have been new “aha’s”?

Shaunti: New “aha’s”. Well, you know let’s stick with this whole subject of the respect issue, right? One of the things that I had not realized at all is there was another gamut of this where men and women, because we have these two different sets of insecurities, which I hadn’t really been able to articulate when the books were first out—that it gives rise to these two different sets of needs.

And the easiest way of explaining it is that women are most questioning, “Am I loveable? Am I special? Am I beautiful? Am I worthy of being loved for who I am on the inside?” That’s like the cry of a woman’s heart.

The guys were like, “That’s okay. It’s not like that’s bad;” but for them, their question is totally different. It’s this heart cry of “Am I able? Am I adequate? Am I any good at what I do?” So, for example, there is incredible power in appreciation and incredible power in saying, “Thank you.”

One of the surveys that I did—because we kept doing surveys and stuff—I think it was 97% of men said that something as simple as “Thank you for mowing the lawn even though it was so hot outside. You take such good care of our family.” For them, that’s like a dozen roses, you know? This is a huge deal, whereas I never knew this.

And so, if I would drive in and I would see Jeff mowing the lawn, I would think to myself, “Oh, that’s nice.” I would never think to say it; or—I hate to confess this out loud on national radio, but I’ll say it anyway—or I would drive in, I’d park the car, I’d go out to him, and I’d say, “Oh, thanks for mowing the lawn, but you missed a spot.”

Bob: Okay.

Shaunti: And I would have no idea that inside he was going, “Oh”—

Bob: Yes. Yes.

Shaunti: —because for—you know every woman listening to this is like, “What?”

Bob: “Why is that a problem?”

Shaunti: “Why is that a problem?” It is because, remember, his biggest question, his biggest insecurity, his biggest fear is “Am I any good at what I do? And does she think I’m any good at what I’m doing?” So, knowing you are—“Thank you so much. You are good at this,” is powerful; but finding the one thing that he did wrong makes him think like, “She just thinks I missed it,” which is why women start to hear words like, “I feel like nothing I do is ever good enough for you.” 

And we—and I’ll tell you, boys—you know we just—do you mind if I say, “Boys”? (Laughter)

Bob: You just did.

Dennis: We’re still here.

Shaunti: You guys looked at me. I was like, “Okay. Sorry.” (Laughter) See we’re all still girls and boys on the playground inside; so, but I’ll tell you men that seriously, it is a shocker for us how big of a deal that is to you all and just how much he wants to know, “He done good.”

Bob: I have to tell you two stories here. And I think I may have shared both of these, but they just are so vivid in my memory. There was a Saturday years ago when one of our kid’s bikes was—something was wrong with the bike. So, I decided I was going to go out and try to see what I could do about fixing what’s wrong with the bike.

Now I’m not mechanically inclined, and I’m not a bicycle repair guy. So, what was probably a 15 minute fix was something that took me a long time as I—

Dennis: I’ve seen evidence of this is in your garage.

Bob: Okay, so, I’m working to try to fix the bike, and I’d been out there for an hour and a half working on it. I’d just about—I think I had it finally fixed; and Mary Ann came to the back door, and she said, “Are you still working on the bike?” I said, “Yes.” I said, “I think I’ve got it fixed.” She said, “You did? How did you know what to do? How did you even know where to start?” And of course, my—I start to bow up a little bit like I’m—“Well, yes”—

Shaunti: “I’m hot stuff.”

Bob: —“This is not something that just any run of the mill guy could pull together.” Now, again, I’d probably taken three times as long as it needed; but as soon as she started to say, “How did you know,” and show some admiration, I was just—well, it affirmed me at the core.

Dennis: And then, the other story? After how many years of marriage, you’ve got these two stories?

Bob: This is the other story, and Dennis and I can both relate to this because both of us do speaking for a living. We’re in places where we speak, and we’ll both agree that when we’re done speaking the thing we most want to know is “How do you think I did?”—not “What does the crowd think,” not “What does”—

Shaunti: Yes.

Bob: —but “How do you think I did?” Mary Ann has very high standards when it comes to speaking; and more often than not when I say, “So, what did you think,” she’ll say, “Well, let me grab my notebook.”

Shaunti: Oh.

Bob: Yes. She’ll get out the notebook, and she’ll go, “I think here and there you could have maybe said this better, and I had a question about this. I mean maybe you went too long here.” Then, she’ll wrap it all up and say, “But it was good.” Okay. Now, I’ve lived with her long enough to know that she really does—

Shaunti: That she means that, yes. She does mean that, yes.

Bob: She does think it’s good; and I’ve lived with her long enough to know that that constructive criticism is helpful. It’s helped sharpen me, but I’ll tell you what: early on, that would have just—I’d have been in bed for the rest of the day. (Laughter)

Shaunti: Yes.

Bob: Just with the covers pulled up over my head.

Dennis: What Bob is illustrating here is something else that you’ve discovered in your new edition of this book; and that’s how men process disagreements, communication, how they hear things. And I really found this was fascinating how men can take up to seven hours to process what they are feeling, what they are thinking.

Shaunti: Yes.

Dennis: Interesting.

Shaunti: It used to be that when we’d be in conflict and we’d have hurt feelings—and I’m classic woman. I want to stick with it. I want to resolve it, and Jeff wants to go into the workshop and pound something. And I’d follow him around the house; and I’d say, “Well, what are you thinking about what I just said?” And he’d say, “I don’t know what I’m thinking.” And I’m thinking, “How can you not know what you are thinking?!” It’d be the same thing—“What are you feeling?” “I don’t know what I’m feeling.”

As a woman, my brain—literally, the way God wired the female brain—our brains are wired to do this kind of instantaneous very shallow levels, zip processing; and it sort of goes in circles. So, I’ll process a little bit of information on a very broad level. Then, I’ll go deeper across all these different issues; and then, go deeper and deeper.

Men’s brains, the way God wired your brain, you’re designed, you’re wired to need to process each thought deeply and go very deep into that one thought, that one question, “What am I thinking? What am I feeling?” Then, once you’re done with that, you go on to the next.

And what I realized is that I wasn’t getting good results, and he was feeling like I was out arguing him; and if I was forcing him to stick in it with me and to have this discussion, basically, I’m making it impossible for him to have any semblance of success at communication.

Dennis: You actually had a woman, a friend, call you from another city while you were working on this book and give you an illustration that clicked for you that Jeff had done the same thing her husband had done.

Shaunti: Yes.

Dennis: Explain that.

Shaunti: Well, see, we women, we tend to think, “He doesn’t love me. He wants to run away. He doesn’t want to engage.” And that’s unfortunately the route that men have. So, this friend called me in tears because they had an argument and he’d run out the door and gotten into a car and driven away and wouldn’t engage with her. She’s like, “He just wants to check out. He doesn’t care about me.”

And I said, “Were emotions running high at the time?” which is another thing I had learned—that the brain science makes it even harder for guys to think clearly when emotions are running high. They have to shut those emotions out a bit and process for a while. “Yes, the emotions were really high.”

And we talked it through, and I’m like, “I feel like a traitor to all woman-kind to tell you this”—to my friend—“but I think he completely cares about you; and the reason he felt like he had to get distance was that he cares about you. He didn’t want to risk saying something that would hurt you worse, and his thoughts were all in turmoil. He didn’t know how to do this.”

“So, he was pulling away in order to be able to process and come back and have a much better result later—not pulling away because he doesn’t care. He was pulling away because he cares.”

Now, obviously, we all know that there are some men who just don’t care—just like there are some women who don’t.

Bob: Sure.

Shaunti: And I’m sure there are people for whom that is not true; but according to the surveys, most men, if they are pulling away, it is because—not because they don’t care, not because they don’t want to engage; but they have to get some time to think and process, work things through, so they can come back and talk about it well.

Bob: And the woman who would say, “Well, they just need to grow up a little bit. I mean this is just emotional immaturity, and if they would just grow up, we could deal with this”—

Shaunti: And that would be easy to think except for the fact that I’ve seen the pictures of the male and female brains, and it’s fascinating. The MRI’s that have been done, literally--in between the left and right hemispheres of the brain there’s sort of a super highway called the corpus callosum.

And in a woman, it’s all gray matter and white matter kind of computing power and networking cables like all mixed up together and processing this and that and the other thing all at once including thoughts and emotions and talking about it—all at once.

The male corpus callosum is actually formed of isolated chunks of gray matter, like isolated super computers, that really aren’t connected to each other by all these network cables—all this white matter.

So, it’s like a thought goes deep into one computer, and it has to process this one thought. Then, once that processing is done, then, he can move onto the next and, then, process that thought or process that feeling very deeply and know what he’s thinking, know what he’s feeling—think it through. Then, it moves onto the next.

Literally, the structure is different. So for a woman to say, “He just needs to grow up and do it my way,” you’re basically forcing him to communicate in a way that is going to feel really uncomfortable to him and, frankly, almost impossible for him to have any sense of explaining himself. But if you give him a little bit of time, you get that much better deeper, richer conversation which in the end is what we want, right?

Dennis: And here is where your research was fascinating to me. You asked men, “Why don’t you want to talk about it? Just check all the reasons why you don’t want to talk about it at the moment.” In first place, 71% of the men indicated “Because I don’t want to say something in the heat of the moment that I’ll regret later.” Ah! So this guy has got some wisdom. He’s learned that his words can cause a deeper problem.

But then, the second reason he said he didn’t want to talk about it right now, “Because talking about our argument right now won’t lead to a solution.”  Now here is a guy who wants to fix it; and he’s figured out that what he’s about to say or what he’s about to share is not going to fix it. In fact, more than likely, it’s going to add a log or two to the fire, and that creates additional problems.

But here’s the last one—

Shaunti: In other words, he’s protecting his wife—

Dennis: Oh, yes.

Shaunti: —by wanting to disengage a little bit.

Dennis: Oh, yes. And then, here’s another one: 48% said, “Because I’m not clear about what I’m thinking, and I can’t articulate it yet. I’m trying to sort it out.” I get that. I mean really.

Shaunti: Well, and see, that’s the thing. For every woman listening, they are like, “What?!” Again, that’s why this is not an “Oh, he just needs to grow up.” It’s—no—our brains are different.

For me as a woman, because of the way God wired my brain, I haven’t necessarily gone real deep into what I’m thinking; but I know exactly what I’m thinking and feeling and can talk about it instantly because that is the way my brain is wired. And there is a purpose behind my wiring; and there is a purpose behind your wiring.

Bob: There’s another story you tell in the book that relates to some of the new findings that you have in this new edition of For Women Only. It has to do with a time when you were away. You were speaking at a women’s retreat, and Jeff was home taking care of the kids; and he said something to you that kind of freaked you out.

Shaunti: Yes. He described how—and our little guy was five or whatever at the time—and he said, “And oh, by the way, I let him sleep without his pajama top.” And you know it’s the middle of winter. I’m like, “What are you thinking?” Now, here’s the thing—this is another thing I cover in the new update to the book. We women, we often will say to ourselves—or even say out loud—“What were you thinking”—

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: That sounds like you’ve come to the conclusion that he’s a real idiot at this point.

Shaunti: Well, that’s it. We don’t realize the translation of that is he wasn’t thinking, right? That’s what that means. And I realized, in doing this research about the brain science that I was just sharing, guys think about everything. They just do it differently than we do. They do that. They go underground. They go real deep. They think it all through before they can talk about it. So, therefore, what it means is when I most want to say, “What was he thinking,” there is actually a reason; I just don’t know what it is.

And so, I stop myself; and I said, “Okay. So, help me understand, honey, I’m—it’s the middle of winter.” And he said, “Oh, yes.” And I guess I said, “Isn’t he going to get cold?” And he said, “Oh, yes, absolutely. He’s been asking to do this the last three nights that you were gone; and I kept saying, ‘No, buddy, you’re going to be too cold.’ So, I told him ‘Okay, fine. You can sleep without a pajama top, but you’re going to get cold.’ He said, ‘I still want to do it.’”

He said, “So, I figured I’d keep the pajama top with me and have him sleep in our bed; so that when he woke up in the middle of the night and realized he was freezing and that this was a terrible idea, I’d have it ready to put on him and he’d realize this was a bad idea for himself.” And I thought, “Oh, my goodness! This was like a really good parenting move”—

Dennis: Yes.

Shaunti: —“and I just about completely ran over him for it.” And I never would have heard that reasoning if I hadn’t stopped myself.

Bob: Now, here’s what I think is interesting. Why do you think your five- or six-year-old son wanted to sleep without pajama tops on?

Shaunti: It’s an adventure, and that’s a guy—a guy wants the adventure.

Dennis: Sure.

Shaunti: You know?

Dennis: He’s a boy. He wants to—

Shaunti: He’s a boy.

Dennis: He wants to try it. I want you to comment on one last thing here. You talk about some of the findings that you had about how men think. You made four points. I want you to comment on the fourth point—not on the first three. The first thing you said was “Men often have to think something through before they can talk it through.” Secondly, “Men need time to do this.” That’s right. Third, “Men think through everything.” We’re constantly thinking.

Here’s the one I want you to comment on. “After all that thinking and talking, men need to think about nothing.” (Laughter) I call that vegetating.

Shaunti: Yes. Okay, so here is the funny thing. We’d be sitting in our apartment in New York—you know newlyweds. And I turn to Jeff and I would say, “What are you thinking about right now?” “Nothing.” And I’m like, “Oh, he doesn’t want to let me into his life.” (Laughter) Come to find out—

Bob: He was thinking about nothing.

Shaunti: —he was actually thinking nothing. And for women listening to this, they are like, “What?” Okay, back to the brain science—it turns out there is a fascinating state of being that exists in the male brain that does not exist in the female brain—literally, doesn’t exist. It’s called a neural rest state, which for us as women, we have no idea what that feels like. We’ve never experienced that in our lives; but it’s good to know that it’s not—he’s not withholding things from you. It’s just the way God made him.

Dennis: You know what you’ve done in your book is—I think it’s kind of a modern day Proverbs 31. Proverbs 31 talks about how a godly woman looks to the future and she smiles, has strength and dignity about her life that provides covering for her and protects her. And it’s a wise woman who understands her man, so she can smile at the future; and you equip women to better do that, Shaunti.

Personally, I would commend this to any wife, whether you have been married a week, a month, a year—10, 20, 30, 40—whatever. This is going to uncover some points of understanding that will make you a better wife and put some wind beneath your husband’s wings.

Bob: I’m sorry. I was going to say something here, but I was just in neural rest phase and was thinking about—

Dennis: There are going to be some guys order.

Bob: —thinking about nothing. (Laughter)

Dennis: They are going to call our 800 number, Bob, or go online and—

Bob: “Give me the neural rest book.”

Dennis: —“I want the neural—give me that thing.”

Shaunti: Neural rest state.

Bob: That’s right.

Shaunti: There you go. Write it down.

Bob: This is all part of what is in the new version of Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, For Women Only, where you’ve done some new research. You’ve found out some new things about the differences between men and women. And many of our listeners are familiar with the book. I’ve mentioned that I’ve given this away over the years to a lot of couples who are engaged and have gotten great response from them.

So if you’d like the latest, the new updated copy of the book, For Women Only, or the new updated For Men Only, go to for information on either book; and you can order from us online. Again, the website,; or order by phone at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.

This past weekend I was speaking at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® in Indianapolis, Indiana—had a great weekend. Hundreds of couples from all across the region were there in downtown Indianapolis. We really enjoyed our time up there.

And it’s always fun to talk to FamilyLife Today listeners and had a lot of them come up at the Weekend to Remember and express their appreciation for this radio program—even had some of our Legacy Partners who came up and said, “We support the ministry on a monthly basis,” and we appreciate all of you who listen and all of you who help pay the bills because we are listener-supported.

The cost for producing and syndicating this program is covered by folks who donate to FamilyLife Today. It’s not covered by the books we sell or the conferences we host. Without listeners going online to make an online donation or calling 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone, we could not continue this ministry. So we appreciate those of you who do support FamilyLife Today.

This week, if you are able to help with a donation to support the ministry, we’d love to send you as a thank you gift a CD on the subject of addictions. We had a conversation not long ago with Ed Welch who wrote the book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave; and with the movie that has just come out this weekend in theaters called Home Run that’s all about substance abuse and addiction to alcohol, we thought this CD might be something that you’d want to have or to pass along to a friend.

So, go to, click the button that says, “I CARE,” to make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, make a donation over the phone, request the CD on addictions when you get in touch with us. Again, we appreciate your support of the ministry. We’re always happy to hear from you.

And we hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. We’re going to talk more with Shaunti Feldhahn about the differences between men and women. We’ll talk about women tomorrow and some of the new research that she’s done into those differences between the sexes. I hope you can be here for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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