FamilyLife Today® Podcast

“Don’t Take It Personally, but Not Tonig

with Jeff Feldhahn, Shaunti Feldhahn | April 21, 2006
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Do you know the #1 reason women say they want less sex? Popular surveys indicate that tiredness is usually the culprit. On today's broadcast, attorney and entrepreneur Jeff Feldhahn joins his wife and best-selling author, Shaunti, to talk about what it means when a woman says "no" in the bedroom.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Do you know the #1 reason women say they want less sex? Popular surveys indicate that tiredness is usually the culprit. On today's broadcast, attorney and entrepreneur Jeff Feldhahn joins his wife and best-selling author, Shaunti, to talk about what it means when a woman says "no" in the bedroom.

  • 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.

Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn talk about what it means when a woman says “no” in the bedroom.

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“Don’t Take It Personally, but Not Tonig

With Jeff Feldhahn, Shaunti Feldh...more
April 21, 2006
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Bob: Men, have you ever wondered why the thoughts that come to your mind at bedtime aren't always the same as the thoughts that come to your wife's mind at bedtime?  Here is author Shaunti Feldhahn.

Shaunti: I'm like a cruise ship headed into port, you know, at night port is that place where the house is quiet and all the chores are done, and the kids are in bed, and my husband, he's like a speedboat.  He can be ready to go just the minute he thinks of it, but I can't turn on a dime like he does.

[musical transition]

 So when he rolls over and says, "Hey, whatcha doin' over there?"  Then she's thinking, "Oh, it's going to take me some time for this cruise ship that's already in sight of port to turn," and instead to realize, you know what, guys, you can get an entirely different result if you just start flirting with her a little bit earlier in the evening.

[musical transition] 

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 21st.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine, and we'll see if we can unpack some of the mysteries that exist between men and women, husbands and wives, on today's program.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  You know, we have gone all week talking about how men and women think differently about a variety of things.  But do you know what we haven't hit on yet?  Is that one thing that guys are going, "When are you going to get to the big one?  When are you going to get to the subject where there's a real disparity between us?"

Dennis: Not that there hasn't been earlier.

Bob: That's true, it's true, I mean, we have touched on a few of those.  But the one the guys are wanting to know – they can't figure out why women are different than them on this one, and that is the whole area of romance and intimacy in marriage.  We think awfully differently on that subject, don't we?

Dennis: And all this week we've been talking to Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn who have helped us understand how men and women think differently.  Jeff, Shaunti, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for the great job you guys have done on your book, "For Men Only," helping men understand the heart and mind of a woman.  And as we start today's broadcast around the subject Bob's talking about, Shaunti, you'll find this interesting, because a number of months ago you were interviewed here on FamilyLife Today on your book, "For Women Only," where you were helping women understand the mind of a man.  And to get to our subject today that we want to talk about, which is helping a man understand his wife's heart and mind around sexual intimacy, I thought we would let a listener, who wrote me, describe her problem –

 "The premise of your conversation about "For Women Only" is that if you affirm him physically" …

Woman: … and give him respect, he will have the confidence and desire to shower you with love, and you have the power to change your husband's life by meeting his needs.  What I've found after 25 years of marriage and trying to do both of these things, is that my husband is not as selfish as he was when we were newlyweds, but not much has changed.  It seems he always accepts the respect and physical intimacy as his due but gives nothing back.  Well, I don't know what else I can do to communicate a desire for a closer relationship with him, while I'm kept at an arm's length.  He has never really let me into his heart.  Twenty-five years of trying to nurture a marriage and being kept on the back burner, well, it's taken its toll.  There are times I have retreated to motherhood just to get something into my emotional tank.

Dennis: You know, listening to that e-mail again points out the differences when it comes to this subject of sexual intimacy.  You guys researched this subject and found that women approach it totally differently as she wrote about.  Shaunti, comment on what she said.

Shaunti: You know, one of the things that it shouldn't be a surprise, but we have found, over and over, that it really is – is that the way that men and women approach the subject comes from such a different perspective.  A woman really needs to feel totally close to her husband outside the bedroom, whereas, for a man, that's one of the ways they build that sense of closeness.  So you've got a huge dichotomy there, and the thing, actually, that we thought was encouraging to men, and I think Jeff will back me up on this one is you guys view everything around sexual intimacy as "Am I desirable or not desirable?"  "Am I desired or not desired?"  And the thing is, for women, that actually has very little to do with it, almost nothing to do with it.  It's all about the sense of, you know, are we close?  Are we feeling closeness?  Is there support for me throughout the day?

Jeff: And one of the things, I think, that a lot of guys struggle with that hopefully our chapter on research here helps them with is the fact that we think that if we are enough of a man, or enough of a stud, that it will be spontaneous; that she just can't restrain herself.  "I am so desirable that she just needs me."  And, for women, that's not the case, but we can do a lot of things that can hopefully bridge these different gaps.

Shaunti: You know, one of the things that's the most helpful for the guys, I think, to hear is some of the physiological differences between how men and women are wired since – okay, this e-mail is a sad case, and it's sort of a tough story, but it's not even the biggest reason.  The biggest reason why men and women are different on this is they're just wired differently.  And, actually, we found in doing our clinical research on this, there's actually two completely different types of desire, and there's one called "assertive desire," which is tied to testosterone and the male-type hormones, and that gives whoever has this type of desire, the desire to pursue it and initiate it, go for it, whereas there's …

Bob: We know what you're talking about.

Shaunti: Whereas, there's actually a second type of desire, which is called "receptive" desire, and it's tied to estrogen, and it is willing, available, interested, would enjoy it just as much, be just as into it once it's happening but without the sort of desire to pursue it or initiate.  And so guys see that lack of desire to initiate as meaning, "Oh, there's something wrong with me.  I'm just not enough of a stud."  But, instead, it's actually just a physical difference.  She's got estrogen, and it really means that, in most cases, this could actually be solved by a couple of really simple things like, for example, giving her time to anticipate it, giving her time to start thinking about it and anticipating it, and that will bridge that gap.  That's just one thing that a guy can do.

 You know, and there are other things, you know, like this woman mentioned, that you can also build closeness, but that a whole 'nother piece of it.

Dennis: We should say at this point that there are a number of women who perhaps for the very reason you described, have more desire sexually than their husbands.  Now, in your research, did you run across these women?

Shaunti: Absolutely.  We actually – in the survey we asked, you know, "Where are you on this scale of do you want more, less or equal than your husband?"  And we found that 25 percent of women said that they tend to be the one wanting more, and that's a relatively large minority.

Dennis: They should not feel abnormal for that.

Shaunti: Absolutely not.  It's very normal, it's just not the majority.

Bob: And when they hear us talk about the majority position over and over again, and the stereotypes that go along with it, it can be very frustrating.  It feels to them like something is really out of whack in their marriage, and, you know, Dennis, because we get letters routinely from women who say, "I hear what you're describing.  That's not my situation.  What is wrong with me or what's wrong with my husband?"  And I think what we hear you saying is it may not be that there is something wrong.  Now, there may be symptoms of problems related there, but it may just be that that's the way things are put together for you guys, and you've got to figure out a way to come together in the midst of that reality.

Dennis: If I'm understanding what you're saying, though, from a general perspective, you've done all this research, you've come back, and in this area, the way a man can understand his wife when it comes to sexual intimacy, and there are differences, a woman's "no," when she says "no" doesn't mean you.  It doesn't mean you're a no, it just means that right now having sexual intimacy is a no.

Jeff: And it's good news, in a way, especially for the man's ego, which a friend of mine once said that perhaps the most vulnerable that he feels or exposed that feels is when he makes …

Bob: … initiates …

Jeff: … initiates something with his wife, and if she says no, he says, you know, the next day I realized that I have to fight back certain feelings where I may be doing something that I'm being less kind with my wife as a result of that feeling that I had the night before.

Dennis: Because he's feeling like he personally was rejected.

Jeff: Absolutely.

Dennis: At a very high point of risk.

Shaunti: And, you know, the thing is for – since we're focusing in this book entirely on things that guys tend not to understand about their wives, we're actually hoping that, in a weird sort of way, it's an encouragement to hear that this is, in most cases, purely a physiological difference between you and her, and, on the physiological gap, you can bridge that so easily by just doing things in a way she needs them to be done, not necessarily the way you automatically think.

 You know, for example, we had one woman who wrote in an absolutely terrific quote, where she said, "I'm like a cruise ship headed into port, you know, at night.  Port is that place where the house is quiet and all the chores are done, and the kids are in bed, and I'm focused, man, I think my pillow is …

Bob: … the pillow is soft, yeah …

Shaunti: Yeah, exactly.  And she said, "And my husband, he's like a speedboat.  You know, he can be ready to go just the minute he thinks of it, but I can't turn on a dime like he does.  So when" – and I love this – "when he rolls over and says, 'Hey, whatcha doin' over there?'"  Then she's thinking, "Oh, it's going to take me some time for this cruise ship that's already inside of port to turn and instead to realize, you know what, guys, you can get an entirely different result if you just start flirting with her a little bit earlier in the evening.

 As one guy said, you know, "I sent my wife an e-mail saying, 'Saw you getting dressed this morning.  Can't wait 'til tonight.'"  And one of the things that a woman said that put it perfectly was, "Any woman who feels sexy to her husband outside the bedroom will never have an excuse when it comes to that time."

Bob: I've heard Dennis say here on FamilyLife Today that for most women intimacy with their husband comes right behind sorting hangers on their list of things that they'd most like to do.

Dennis: Actually, what I was quoting was research that was done, and it came right after – I think it was between reading a novel and sewing for pleasure.

Bob: There you go.  Now, when you hear something like that, what you're saying in your book is it's not exactly that way.

Shaunti: You know, what we're saying, honestly, is that it is purely, in most cases, because there is this physiological difference, and you really can come together, and she really will enjoy it just as much, you just have to set her up in the way that she needs with this idea of anticipation time, okay?  That gets her thinking about it so she can still be a cruise ship, but she's heading towards you, okay?  That's what she's anticipating.

 But the other thing, honestly, is realize, like this e-mail that Dennis started out with, that there are some percentage of women who are just feeling neglected and not feeling close, and a guy really will move toward his wife in this way because he wants to build closeness and not realize that for her that doesn't build closeness.  She needs to feel close first.

Bob: Jeff, how has this research – I almost feel embarrassed asking you this, but how … you know, here we are.  Has this had any impact in your own life, Jeff?

Jeff: A resounding yes.  I send more e-mails.  It's one of those things – when you know that it's not just about you, and I – it actually has created a great deal of much more liberty for me in that I'm able to take my ego out of it and feel less vulnerable, and I know things now to do that Shaunti needs.  We've talked about it, and that's really the key to all of this – being able to talk about what you need to get to where you need to go.

Bob: What kinds of things – again, I don't want to get too personal here, but can you share one or two of those things that she needs?

Jeff: She really does – I mean – for her, the anticipation time.  She needs to hear that something might be on my mind or on my schedule.

Bob: A little preparation, all right.

Jeff: Exactly right.

Bob: Okay.

Dennis: A few hours in advance or a few days in advance?

Shaunti: Hours.

Jeff: It's hours, fortunately.

Shaunti: Hours.  But that's the thing for guys to realize is that – you know, it's not like this is not important to your wife, of course, it is; of course, this is an important part of marriage.  It's just to understand that you, as a guy, view everything through the grid of "Am I desired or not desired."  And for your wife that's usually not an issue.  It's like we married you, of course, you're desirable, of course, you're attractive, that's not an issue.  We need to feel close and, most of all, on the physical differences, we just need – we need that anticipation time, we need you to flirt with us a little bit.

Bob: You did find some wives who said, frankly, the lack of desire here has to do with the fact that either the emotional closeness isn't there, or "My husband has let himself go physically.  He's put on weight, or he doesn't care for himself the way he ought to."  These are things that are significant for many women, aren't they?

Shaunti: It's a minority, but, yes, absolutely.  There were a significant number, at least, of women who said, you know, people would e-mail me and say, "You will tell him to brush his teeth, won't you?"  You know, little things can make a difference.

Bob: But there are guys who will hear that, and they'll think, "Okay, so what?  I've got to lose 50 pounds before I can expect any response from my wife?"

Shaunti: No, absolutely not.  Put it this way – yes, there are going to be some guys who have really let themselves go, but in most cases, you know, we love you, we find you attractive, we find you desirable, it's just a matter of we want you to be able to make a little effort to show that you want this to be a pleasant experience for us.

Dennis: You give a list at the end of this chapter of just different things that a man can do that shows he better understands his wife and rather than make it specific to Shaunti, Jeff, share with the men and just go through the list.  Because I think some of them deserve a comment, some of them don't.  I think men could use the reminders just from a practical standpoint.

Jeff: Sure.  One of them is pay attention to her; it's the little things.

Dennis: Like?

Jeff: The e-mail, the phone call, the taking her hand in the parking lot – doing little things that she can certainly see that "He does love me.  He likes to be around me.  He thinks I'm pretty good."  Another one is what we call is "give chase."  A woman loves to feel pursued.  It's not surprising to us.  We used to do that.

Bob: That's right.

Jeff: We used to do it when we were dating.  We did all sorts of little things that we don't do now once we've caught her.  Dust those off, go back, remember what you did.  It wasn't rocket science.  You can do it again.  Anticipation time – warm her up.  You know, give her a little idea of what's on the schedule or what's on your mind, and that will help a lot.

Dennis: And I might add, if you do say those things to her, then when it comes time for bedtime with children, help put the kids to bed, help clean the kitchen, run the vacuum cleaner because our wives may be thinking, "What I’m facing tomorrow morning when the feet hit the street in our home," and, again, as we talked about earlier, in your book you talk about how a woman has windows that are open, and one of those windows is her home.  And if the kitchen is a mess, for many women that window remains open as she goes to bed that evening.

Jeff: That's right.  Another is sometimes hug her just to hug her.  A lot of times we guys use physical intimacy as kind of a reminder to be …

Shaunti: Affectionate.

Jeff: Affectionate to your wife.  Sometimes women, most times women can see through that, unfortunately.

Dennis: You think?

Jeff: Oh, yeah.

Shaunti: Well, and also if I can interject there, really what that means is that you guys have sort of trained us to only expect that when you approach us with a hug, "Oh, I know what that means," because the only time you do it is when you've got that on your mind.  So you basically trained us to think that.  So untrain that, you know, sometimes hug us just to hug us.

Jeff: Another one is try not to take "not tonight" personally.  I know that's hard, but there may be other reasons why she isn't able to meet with you that night, and you just have to use it as a learning experience.  What can I do tomorrow to hopefully provide her with either closure for an open window or provide her with better anticipation time – all of those sorts of things – use it as a learning experience.

 Clean up your act, as Shaunti was saying.  You know, personal hygiene is important.  And when all of these, perhaps, don't seem to be working, ask her.  When in doubt, talk about it. 

Dennis: When you say ask her, you say, "What do I need to do differently to communicate love and affection and not just around the sexual dimension of the marriage relationship?"  And as we talk about that, you know, there is another finding that you came up with out of all your research of women that was kind of the – well, it was a twist in the plot.  You know, Shaunti, you've written a couple of novels, and you always want to have a surprise, you know, at the end of the book.

Bob: And there's one in this book, too.  You're right, there is a plot twist, although this isn't a work of fiction.  Sometimes it feels like it, as a man, but there is a surprise at the end of this for the guys who are reading the book, and there are two ways that you can find out what the surprise is.  You can either go to our website at, click the button in the middle of the screen that says, "Go," and that will take you right to a page where you can get information about how to order the book, "For Men Only," and then when you get it, you can either read through it or go ahead and turn straight to the last chapter and read the surprise.  Or you can stick around for a few more minutes, and we'll see if we can convince Jeff and Shaunti to go ahead and spill the beans for us.

 Again, our website is  If you're interested in a copy of the book, "For Men Only," and I want to encourage you to get a copy.  It's a great book, and I think guys are going to find it very helpful as they read through it.  Go to our website,  In fact, you'll find information there about several books that are available for husbands and wives to help promote better understanding between us including a couple of books that FamilyLife has published called "Simply Romantic Tips to Romance Your Wife," and "Simply Romantic Tips to Romance Your Husband."  And if you are interested in getting those books, along with Jeff and Shaunti's book "For Men Only," we'll send at no additional cost the CD audio of this week's conversations with the Feldhahns. 

 Again, our website is  Click that red "Go" button in the middle of the screen or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  Someone on our team can let you know how you can have these resources sent out to you.  Dennis.

Dennis: You know, Bob, as we've been talking this week about understanding our wives …

Bob: You've got it now, don't you?

Dennis: Oh, I've nailed it.  Barbara's going to see a new man.  And I just wanted Jeff and Shaunti to know I really do appreciate your work here.  You just wrote it about 33 years too late.  Barbara and I could have really used this in our first year of marriage.  You would have saved us a lot of pain.

Bob: But you know what?  Mary Ann said the same thing about "For Women Only."  She got done reading your first book, and she said what you've heard a lot of women say – "I wish I had had this a lot earlier in my marriage."

Dennis: Right, right.

Bob: And I think guys are going to feel the same way about this book.

Dennis: You don't have to learn it the hard way, but there was a surprise, a surprise ending in your research of one "Aha!" that you need to share with our listeners.  What was it?

Shaunti: You know, this is something every single woman will resonate with, and every guy, I think, will be a little surprised, which is at the end of the survey we did the same thing that I did at the end of "For Women Only" survey, and I gave the women a blank space, and I said, "Okay, we've talked about all these subjects.  What's the one most important thing you think your husband doesn't really understand?"  And when we got the spreadsheets, Jeff and I were blown away, because, by far, the top response, instead of something like, "Well, he doesn't do this," or "He doesn't do that" or "He doesn't understand this."  The top thing they said was, "He's my hero.  He is the man that I'd hoped he would be when we got married."  And over and over these women said things like how much I appreciate him, how much I respect him as a person, I would trust him with my life, my husband means more to me than words can say, he is the essence of what I dreamed a husband would be when I was a little girl. 

By far, my favorite quote – this one woman said, "My husband smiles at me when he comes home from work and discovers that the kids have drawn monsters on my legs with markers.  He appreciates egg sandwiches and Spaghetti-os more than a gourmet meal.  He believes that I am a better mother, more talented, and a more virtuous person than I actually am.  His eternal optimism changes me every so slightly day after day into something much more beautiful than I would otherwise be.  He is imperfect, puerile and sloppy yet strong, wise, and loving.  The fact that I get to live with him over the course of my lifetime is one of the biggest scams I've pulled off.  I keep waiting for him to wake up, jump over the mount of unwashed clothes and bolt out the door, but he sees even my imperfections as endearing.  Over the past 10 years, we have both changed, but the one thing that remains constant is my utter and unashamed need of him."

Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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