FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Desiring His Love

with Shaunti Feldhahn | May 6, 2008
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Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Shaunti Feldhahn, author of the book For Women Only, about a man's ongoing need for intimacy with his wife.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Shaunti Feldhahn, author of the book For Women Only, about a man's ongoing need for intimacy with his wife.

  • 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.

Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Shaunti Feldhahn, author of the book For Women Only, about a man’s ongoing need for intimacy with his wife.

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Desiring His Love

With Shaunti Feldhahn
May 06, 2008
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Shaunti: When we have an emotional equivalent of it, I don't know why we tend to think our men don't, that it's just a physical need – they just want some sex.  One guy that I interviewed, he said, very interestingly, he said, "You know, a man, because it's about being wanted, a man would really rather go out and clip hedges in the freezing rain than make love to a wife who seemed to be responding out of duty."

This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, May 6th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Ladies, there are some things we have learned about your husband.  Stay tuned as we talk about the secret lives of men.

[musical transition "Secret Lives"]

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. 

Dennis: Are you feeling secure today, Bob?

Bob: I am feeling …

Dennis: Feeling respected?

Bob: I'm feeling manly – I'm feeling manly.  You use the term "bowed up," isn't that the term you like?

Dennis: That's what I …

Bob: That's how I'm feeling – I'm feeling bowed up.

Dennis: That's how Barbara makes me feel

Bob: That's right.

Dennis: And she joins us on FamilyLife Today – back by popular demand.  In fact, you and I were voted off the broadcast by our listeners.  Forget you two, let Barbara just come on in and take over.

Bob: Barbara, welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Barbara: Thank you, Bob, I'm glad to be here.

Bob: And we also have a guest who is with us, who is going to help us take a look inside the private lives of American men – probably not just American men – all men, right?

Shaunti: All men.

Bob: Did you do your research worldwide?

Shaunti: It was actually only in America, but we got a pretty good cross-section including people who were not originally from here – Philippine islanders and all over the place.

Dennis: One thousand men, right?

Shaunti: The survey wasn't of 1,000 men, but over 1,000 men provided input for the book.

Dennis: Yes, and if you'd been anywhere near where Shaunti Feldhahn had walked out of a grocery store – I got the feeling by the time I finished your book, you talked to pretty much every man you ran into.

Shaunti: I did.  I'd go up to the guys behind the counter at Starbuck's and say, "Now, what would you feel in this situation?"  And pretty soon – I was kind of worried that the men in neighborhood would see me coming and run.


Dennis: Start to hide a little bit – well, she and her husband Jeff live in Atlanta.  They lead a home group in their own local church and minister to married couples.  She has written a book called "For Women Only," and already this week we have talked about how women can understand their husband's need – not for love, although they do have a need for love – but their need to be respected.  And today we want to talk about a second need that – well, was it a surprise to you that men had needs to be intimate with their wives?

Shaunti: Here is what is not the surprise.  I don't think it's a surprise to any woman on the planet that their husbands want more sexual intimacy.  But what was the surprise, like many of these things, was going down below the surface and trying to understand why.  Because that's really, I think, a lot of us, we women, just don't get that.

Dennis: What do you mean why?


Shaunti: Do you think it's so obvious?

Dennis: Bob and I looking at each other, like, "What do you mean why?"

Shaunti: Well, and here is really the statement that we women don't get – we think of physical intimacy in marriage as simply, really, a physical need.  That's sort of what we equate it to in our heads.  And as I tell some women, you know, I've got preschool children, and when you've been pulled on by little hands all day, sleep seems like a physical need as well.  And when you, as a woman, compare the physical need of sex with the physical need of sleep, sometimes sleep is going to win.  And unfortunately, that's just the way it is.

And what I discovered in the research in talking to all these men that I interviewed and surveyed around the country was that, for men, physical intimacy with their wives isn't just about getting some sex.  It's about feeling wanted and desired by their wives, and feeling wanted and desired, then, gives them this amazing sense of confidence and a sense of well being in the rest of their lives.  So suddenly you realize it's actually this enormous emotional need and suddenly it doesn't seem comparable to sleep.

Bob: Now, I'm presuming, as you say that, that it doesn't do the same thing for women.  They don't come away with a sense of confidence and well-being as a result of being with their husbands.

Barbara: I think we're wired differently.  I think our emotional makeup is so different, and for a man it's so tied up with who he is as a man, his masculinity and his identity as a male, and it's not as closely tied to our identity as a female.  We have other ways for expressing our femaleness, and for a man that's so central to who he is as a male.

Bob: So you're saying it does meet an emotional need for a wife

Barbara: I think it does.

Bob: But that need could be met in a variety of other ways, whereas for a man there aren't any other ways.

Shaunti: There's really no other way.

Barbara: There's really no other way, exactly.

Bob: You wrote about this subject in the book, "Rekindling the Romance."  You wrote to wives and said, "We've got to have a better understanding of this issue."

Barbara: Yes, and I said that, for women, we have many avenues for fulfilling who we are, as women.  Our essential femaleness can be expressed through having children and nurturing them, nursing them as babies, raising them, that whole process for a woman is very fulfilling.  It affirms me as a female.  It's what God made me to do.  And I can experience what God made me to do by having children.

Now, God also made me to be intimate with my husband, but it's not the only thing He made me to do as a female.  And so I have this other avenue where I can nurture children, and even nurture other people, that is gratifying to me as a woman that meets that emotional need that I have as a female, and it's different for a man.

Dennis: And it's why, for a woman, she can say, "I just need you to hug me.  That will meet my emotional need."  I don't know that I've ever asked Barbara in 32 years of marriage, "Sweetheart, I have an emotional need.  Would you just hug me?"


Barbara: I can affirm that you've not asked for that.

Bob: Couldn't we just cuddle tonight– you haven't heard that?

Barbara: No, I've not heard that.  No, that's correct.


Dennis: But it points out the different needs that we have

Barbara: That's right.

Dennis: And it's affirming the very thing you're writing about, Shaunti, in your book.  You say something here – I want to read this, and then I want to play a clip from an interview we did with a few men that affirms your statement.  You say this – "Your sexual desire for your husband profoundly affects his sense of well being and confidence in all areas of his life."  Now listen to these comments by these men …

Man: What I need from her is for her to want me.  You know, we've talked about this, that sexually I want her to want me and, of course, most women don't feel that way.

Man: A lot of the satisfaction a man gets from sex is the pleasure that his wife gets from it, and if my wife is not enjoying it and not getting pleasure from it, I don't really enjoy it, either.

Man: I think it would be horrible for me to be intimate with Kathy without her sensing any kind of joy or satisfaction or involvement or personal involvement in it.  It's the basis of the relationship that makes sex so wonderful, and if sex is wonderful, it's because you're both participating, and you're both enjoying it.

Bob: I think what he was saying there is that he'd rather be out clipping hedges in the cold rain.

Shaunti:  Yes, absolutely.

Bob: I mean, that is, for a guy, it's almost a net negative if you are together with your wife, and she is unresponsive.  You may come away physically with some sense of satisfaction, but emotionally you walk away going, "I feel worse than I did back before this all got started."

Shaunti: One of the things that helps women get this when I give a talk, and several of them said the same thing that I did before I really understood what's behind this, which is "Well, I don't get it."  And I went to Jeff, and Jeff said, "Look, here is what this is.  If she is only responding because she has to, he is being rejected by his wife," and finally I recognized and, ladies out there, if you're listening to this, and you're thinking, "My husband wants more sex," cancel that thought out in your mind and substitute, "No, my husband wants to feel wanted by me."

Dennis: And there's nobody else out of 6 billion people …

Shaunti: … on the planet …

Barbara: … who can do that for him.

Shaunti: Well, let me tell you something else that's really – there was a fascinating revelation as I talked to men about this – this one thing, of feeling wanted, is one of the reasons why, believe it or not, pornography sometimes has such a pull for men.  We wonder, "What is it about that that has such a pull?"  One guy said, "I'll tell you what it is – every single one of those pictures in those magazines, every single picture on the Internet, they all convey one message, just one – 'I want you.'"  And this guy was saying, "That is what I want to feel from my wife."

Barbara: I read, one time, an article where some men were interviewed, and they said exactly the same thing, but the word they used was, in describing the lure of pornography, the word they used was the word "welcome" – "I feel welcome and received," and I never forgot that – that word "welcome" – that a man wants to feel welcomed by his wife, and it's the same thing.

Dennis: And it's what's warned about in the Proverbs when Solomon was talking to his son, and he was warning him about the woman of the streets.  Remember how she was described?  He said, "With a wink of her eyes and a twist of her necklace, she brazenly kissed him."  Well, what's behind all that?

Barbara: She was inviting him.

Dennis: That's right, and she was expressing, "I want you."  And I think what Solomon was warning his son about was getting your needs met in an immoral fashion.

Bob: And as a result of this, I think women need to understand every time a man initiates, he is taking a huge risk, because you are either going to respond, or you're not.  And if you're not, the message is loud and clear.

Barbara: Rejection.

Shaunti: Rejection.

Bob: "I don't want you," and it could be, "I'm tired," it could be all kinds of things, but the message is still …

Shaunti: "You're not desirable."

Bob: Yes, there are a lot of things that are more desirable right now than you.

Shaunti: When we women don't understand this, one of the things that a guy told me, which I thought was such a powerful quote, is he said, "I can be doing badly at work or worried about my job, the house can be a wreck, the kids can be disobedient, I could be having problems in my industry, but if I know that my wife desires me, and she affirms me in bed, I can conquer the rest of the world, no problem. 

But, conversely, if I get that same message that sometimes I feel out in the world – 'You don't measure up,' coming from my wife, that will devastate me far worse than anything that could happen in my career." 

And when we women don't get that, it is too easy for us to not recognize how fragile a man really feels when he's initiating and saying, "This is what I need from you," and if we hold it over his head or use it as a tit-for-tat kind of thing, all that is, again, it's not about the sex, it's about feeling wanted, and we're sending an enormous message loud and clear – "You aren't wanted."

Dennis: There is quote in your book, I assume, from a man that you interviewed.  He said, "'No' is not a no to sex, as she might feel, it's a 'no' to me as I am."  I wonder how many wives really understand the profound simplicity of that, and yet try to justify it and say, "You know what?  I'm really not rejecting you.  It's not about rejecting you.  I'm just not interested."

Barbara: And she may really not be rejecting him in her mind.

Shaunti: Exactly, exactly.  We're just tired or whatever.

Barbara: Tired or just want to wait until tomorrow night or whatever, and she's thinking, "I'm really not rejecting you," but from the way a man thinks, it does feel like rejection.

Bob: Which is one of the reasons, as I've talked with couples on this subject, I've said, "If a wife, for whatever reason, goes 'I'm preoccupied, I know that emotionally I can't go there,' whatever – for her to say, "Could we make plans to do this another time?" is completely different than "I'm not interested right now.'"

Barbara: Than just saying no, absolutely.

Shaunti: The guy can, too.

Bob: A guy can go, you know, "I understand that.  Sure, I can deal with that."  But if you just say, "I'm not interested," it leaves it all up to us, and we come back, and our male ego says, "Well, that is about me.  That's why you're not interested."

Shaunti: I've actually had a number of women in conferences when I've done speaking, they'll come up to me, and they'll say, "You know, my husband is just sort of depressed these days, and he's just feeling beaten down," maybe he lost his job or maybe he's having trouble at work, "and he's just going throughout his day with this lethargy.  What do I do?" 

And I always ask, "Well, can I ask the hard question?  Are you affirming him in bed?  Do you guys have a good love life?  Does he know you desire him?"  And the answer always is, "Well, no, we haven't done that in months," or whatever.

And one man compared this sort of lack of well being to the same pain that you, as a woman, would feel; that I, as a woman, would feel – if your husband just stopped talkig to you.  Sort of that same emotional pain.

Let me read this quote – this one man said, "We've been married for a long time.  I deeply regret and resent the lack of intimacy of nearly any kind for the duration of our marriage.  I feel rejected, ineligible, insignificant, lonely, isolated, and abandoned as a result.  Not having the interaction I anticipated prior to marriage is like a treasure lost and irretrievable.  It causes deep resentment and hurt women me.  This, in turn, fosters anger and feelings of alienation."

And when I've read that quote to a couple of men when they've read this in some of the copies of my book before it was published, I've actually seen mean tear up reading that – their eyes getting red at just how devastating that it to them as a man.

Bob: Well, then, let me ask both of you ladies, if you're going to counsel a young wife who has little kids at home, who is exhausted, who feels pawed on all day, whose got all kinds of priorities, who may not have a whole lot of respect for her husband because maybe he's not a godly man.  Maybe he doesn't inspire her in this way.  She's lost some of that admiration, she's not feeling drawn toward him – are you getting the picture? 

Shaunti: Yes.

Bob: And so here she is, and she's hearing this and going, "Okay, so I'm now supposed to warm up and be somebody special to him in intimacy?  How does that work?"

Shaunti: Well, honestly, what I always say is it's a paradox, and you've got to start somewhere.

Barbara: Somebody has to start.

Shaunti: Yes.

Barbara: She can't sit and wait for him to be the kind of man that she respects first.  That would be nice, but somebody has to make the first move, and she has a responsibility in the marriage, and he has a responsibility, too, but she can't do anything about his responsibility.  She has no authority over him to make him change.  She can't make him grow up to fit her image and then respond to him.  She has a responsibility, before God, in that marriage, and she needs to take care of her responsibility and love her husband.

Dennis: I think when we get to heaven, I think there are going to be some wives who are going to be honored by God with unspeakable adoration for what they had to endure and how much pain they had to suffer by being God's woman in a marriage to an unreasonable, maybe even an evil man.  And I would not encourage any woman to allow a man to use evil to exploit her, but I do think there are a lot of women in secret who are being faithful to fulfill their assignment before God, and I think they're going to be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  I think they're going to be women who were full of faith and perseverance and didn't quit, instead of being women who do quit and toss in the towel in their marriage.

Bob: And we've got to acknowledge with that, that even as both of you answered the question, you answered it with a soft, compassionate tone of voice, because you're calling on women to do something that is supernatural.

Shaunti: Well, and if I could also point out – and this is the other thing that I think many of us women really need to understand – it is supernatural, and it really does work as a paradox in that if we will respond to our husbands in that way, it's the same thing as showing respect, even if we think he hasn't earned it that day.  If we will show our husbands this and help him to feel like he is the most desirable man in the world, his confidence, his sense of well being is going to be lifted, his attitude is going to be lifted, he is going to want to shower love on this woman who is showing him and giving him what he needs. 

So it's not – also, I think it's really important for us to recognize that we do this without hope of it ever changing, is that I think many of us will find that as we take this step, that it absolutely changes everything, and it helps build the loving home that we most want.

Bob: And the wife who would say, "I hear you, and I tried that for a while, and it didn't change him," would you say maybe the depth of his woundedness – and I'm not trying to let him off the hook or get into some psychobabble, but maybe the depth of the hurt that he's feeling is so profound that you're just going to have to stay after it for a while.

Shaunti: Yes, I do actually, and I've seen many examples.  We counsel married couples in our home group and try to love on them, and I've seen that there is an awful lot of woundedness in the men out there, and that this is one way we can overcome that.  But sometimes it requires a little perseverance.

Barbara: The other thing I just wanted to add, too, is that we talked about this in our book, but it's exactly what you were saying – that women – that wives – with their husbands, have power, and this is the essence of what that power is – that we have the power to change his life by meeting his most important needs, and when women understand that we have that power, and it's a healthy power that God has given us, that God can use us to change a man's life, to change our husband's life by meeting that need, then that is so much more motivating, and it just makes all the difference in your perspective as a wife.

Bob: It, again, goes back to the difference between how we're made and understanding that and choosing to honor and respect and love one another, not according to our own terms, our own standards, but according to how we can best minister to our mate.

Dennis: Yes, and God is not a divine, cosmic, killjoy in creating men and women so differently from one another that He's pulling a trick on us.  I believe He designed us so we both learn to deny ourselves and to meet the other person in a way that speaks to their needs specifically.  And the question is, will you fulfill Philippians, chapter 2, verse 4 – not merely looking out for your own interests but also for the interest of others and specifically the interest of your spouse.

Bob: And if you don't fully understand the interests of your spouse, and you're a woman …

Dennis: … we have some help for you.

Bob: We do – you can contact us to get a copy of Shaunti's book called "For Women Only."  You can go to our website,, and on the right side of the home page you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast," and if you click where it says "Learn More," it will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about the book, "For Women Only," by Shaunti Feldhahn.  You can order online, if you'd like, or you can call us to order at 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-368-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.

By the way, Shaunti has also written the foreword to a brand-new book by Dr. Robert Lewis called "The New Eve," and if any of our listeners are interested in getting both of those books together, we'll send along at no additional cost the two CDs that have the audio of our conversation this week.  You can get all the details, again, on our website at or by calling 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-358, 6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  When you get in touch with us someone on our team will let you know how you can get the resources you need sent to you.

You know, this month at FamilyLife, we are facing a big goal.  It's actually a great opportunity, but it's also a real challenge for us here.  We've had some friends of the ministry who have agreed that during the month of May they are going to match every donation we receive on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to a total of $635,000.  That means we were going to take full advantage of that matching gift opportunity, we would need $63,000 people to make a $10 donation so it could be matched dollar-for-dollar.  Or it could be 6,300 people who make $100 donation.  I'm just trying to do some simple math here.  But you get the point.  We need to hear from a lot of FamilyLife Today listeners who can be as generous as possible so that we can take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity.

Again, every donation we receive over the next several weeks is going to be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis, so can we ask you to go online at or to call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation to FamilyLife so that we can take full advantage of this special matching gift opportunity.

Again, it expires May 31st, so let us here from you today.  Either call us a 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation over the phone or donate online at  Let me say thanks in advance for your financial support of this ministry.

Now, tomorrow we want to talk about what we mean when we say a guy tends to be oriented visually?  Well, what is that really all about?  We'll talk about tomorrow with our guest, Shaunti Feldhahn.  I hope you can be back with us as well.

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'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow. 


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