Respecting the Man in Your Life

with Shaunti Feldhahn | May 5, 2008

On today's broadcast, best-selling author and newspaper columnist, Shaunti Feldhahn, talks with Dennis Rainey about a man's core need for respect.

On today's broadcast, best-selling author and newspaper columnist, Shaunti Feldhahn, talks with Dennis Rainey about a man's core need for respect.

Respecting the Man in Your Life

With Shaunti Feldhahn
|
May 05, 2008
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: What is it that every husband longs for from his wife?  The answer, according to author and researcher Shaunti Feldhahn, may surprise you.

Shaunti: For men, their highest need is not to feel loved and cherished, as it is ours.  It's to feel respected by us and trusted by us and, in fact, we can spend so much time trying to show our husbands that we love them, saying, "I love you," and doing all these things to show love, but if we tease them in public or make them think we don't respect their decisions or don't trust when they make a choice, they will feel disrespected, and they won't feel loved.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, May 5th.  I'm Bob Lepine along with the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey.  We'll hear today about a recent survey of more than 1,000 men, and some of the results may surprise you.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  Have you ever wondered what is it that guys – what makes them tick?  Have you ever wondered that?

Dennis: Yeah – yeah, I have.

Bob: You say that kind of slowly.  Have you figured it out yet?

Dennis: Uh, no.  Yeah, I think, I mean, you know, it's usually said men can't understand women, I frankly think sometimes we, as men, are pretty difficult to understand as well.

Bob: Why is that?

Dennis: Well, I'm not sure.  I think God created us to be different.  I do know that a little bit of the hint of the differences between men and women is found in one of the least-quoted verses in a very famous passage in Ephesians, chapter 5.  It's a passage that the Apostle Paul exhorts husbands to love their wives and wives to submit to their husbands, but the last verse, verse 33 – I want to read this to you because it has something to do with what we're going to talk about today.

Paul writes, "Nevertheless, let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife" – now, notice what the wife is commanded here – "and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband."

Now, there's really no command in Scripture, I don't think, for a wife to love her husband.  There is a command for the husband to love the wife, but the wife is commanded to respect her husband.  Why is that?  Well, I think, as we're going to find out on today's broadcast, men have a unique need to be respected, and we have a lady here who has done a great deal of research.  In fact, she's talked to over 1,000 men …

Bob: Not personally, I assume, is that right?  You didn't call them all?

Shaunti: No, not personally – a lot of them personally but not all of them.

Dennis: Well, you did describe it as crawling into their minds and trying to better understand them, is that right?

Shaunti: That's exactly what it felt like – sort of a foreign world, in some ways.

Dennis: Well, Shaunti Feldhahn joins us on FamilyLife Today.  She has written a book called "For Women Only."  She is a bestselling author, a newspaper columnist out of Atlanta for The Atlanta Journal Constitution.  You have a weekly column on women's and popular culture issues.  What kind of things would you write about?

Shaunti: Really, anything and everything – anything related to politics, the hot-button issues of the day, current issues, family stuff, sort of, anything I think that really impacts the culture.  I feel like there are very few evangelical Christians that have an opportunity to speak into the culture in that way.

Dennis: I want to find out more of what motivated you to crawl into the minds of men – 1,000 men – to better understand what they're thinking and how they're wired?

Shaunti: You know, actually, it's interesting, Dennis, it actually started because I was writing my last novel, and one of my main characters was a guy, and he was a good, Christian husband and father, and you really realize, as a woman, how little you really understand about how men are thinking when you actually have to write their thoughts.  You can't just describe their actions.  You have to actually say what this male character is thinking.  I had no idea.

Dennis: Well, in preparation, Shaunti, for this interview and the time in the studio, we went to some men and asked them how they felt when their wives showed disrespect to them.

Bob: Mm-hm, did a little research of our own.  In fact, let's hear what these guys had to say.

Man: When you feel disrespected, again, you're thinking about times, "Well, if she respected me, she would behave differently, or she would not have submarined me in my decision with the kids.

Man: My normal reaction when I do have conflict with her is not feeling respected.  Now, that may not be true, you know, it may be that I just heard it wrong or she communicated it a little bit too roughly and, really, the motivation behind what was going on had nothing to do with disrespect, but maybe it's a feeling of insecurity in that area, but I really need to know that Kathy respects me.  And so when she may say or do something where I feel that's been violated in some way, it really hurts me deeply.

Man: In parenting issues, where maybe I would have done something differently than the way she did and not being willing to allow me to at least follow through, and so I felt disrespected – not being able to carry out what I thought was right in a situation.

Dennis: Bob, you know, what's interesting as you listen to that is I can identify with some of those statements; I'm wondering if you can, too.  Which statement did you most identify with?

Shaunti: Danger, danger.

Dennis: Yeah, because I'm going to tell you mine.

Bob: Okay, well, before I tell you, honey, just go ahead and turn the radio off now, if you would, and get busy doing something else.

Dennis: We're not bad-mouthing our wives here.  We're just talking about how we feel when this occurs, and if you're going to have two people who live in close proximity in marriage, there are going to be moments when you feel disrespected.

Bob: I think, for me, the sense of disrespect comes when you – and it's not anything that Mary Ann will say or do.  It's just you have this sense that she's thinking, "Your ideas are wrong."  There's a certainty that she has about the way she thinks things ought to go, and you feel like, "Well, then, you're just wrong, and I can't even imagine why you would think that way."

Dennis: And, at that point, what I feel is what that one man said – I don't feel trusted.

Shaunti: This is one of the things that women find absolutely flabbergasting, in all honesty.  We simply don't get this, because it is, in many cases, in most cases, not the way that we are wired.  And what we tend not to realize is that where our highest need is to feel loved and cherished by the men in our life, in our husband's case, if we're married, it is the highest need is to feel respected.  I did this in the survey because, frankly, when I was right out of college, I went on a retreat where the speaker demonstrated this so powerfully, and let me tell you the story really briefly.

He basically took 70 people on a singles retreat about relationships.  He put us on two different sides of the room.  He put all the men on one side of the room and all the women on the other side of the room, and he said, "Let me ask you this question.  I'm going to ask you to choose between two bad feelings and ask you to choose which you would – if you had to – which you would prefer. 

Would you rather feel alone and unloved in the world or would you rather feel inadequate and disrespected?  Okay, both bad feelings – which is the least bad?  He turned to the men's side of the room and said, "Men, who here would rather feel alone and unloved?"  And every hand went up, and you could hear this giant gasp from the women's side of the room.  And he turned to the women and said, "Women, who here would rather feel alone and unloved," and very few women raised their hands.  And when he said, "Who here would rather feel inadequate and disrespected, and almost all the women raised their hands, you heard the gasp from the men's side of the room.

And what this retreat speaker was demonstrating is the same thing I found when I asked that question on the survey, which is that, for men, their highest need is not to feel loved and cherished as it is ours.  It's to feel respected by us and trusted by us like some of the men in those quotes said.  In fact, we can spend so much time trying to show our husbands that we love them, saying, "I love you," and doing all these things to show love, but if we tease them in public or make them think we don't respect their decisions or don't trust when they make a choice, they will feel disrespected, and they won't feel loved.  It is absolutely imperative for us women to get this.

Dennis: Yes, and it can happen in such small ways.  The other night we were in a grocery store, and I started to pick up something.  I don't even remember what it was – Barbara said, "You're not going to get that, are you?"

Shaunti: Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I was.

Bob: You were getting some kind of chips.

Dennis: I really was.  I said, "No, that's a terrible idea.  Who would want, in all their lifetimes, to buy one of those?"  And I walked away, and I remember thinking at the time, I remember thinking, "I really feel a little disrespected in that" – that my choice of what I wanted to get in the grocery store was either a stupid choice or not a wise choice, you know?

Shaunti: And this is the thing that our husbands have a really hard time understanding, and I'll say this to all the men out there who are listening.  Most of us women, we really, truly do respect the men in our lives, and we have no idea that all day, every day, we're sending these signals to the contrary. 

My husband, God bless him, he's had to put up with so much from me because I've been sending those signals for years without realizing it, and I bet many of the women out there would be absolutely flabbergasted to know that that is what their husbands often think of them – that they're sending.

Dennis: Now, you're a graduate of Harvard.  You've got a degree.

Shaunti: Believe it or not, yes.

Dennis: A master's degree – you were headed toward a political career, all right?  Do you think all that education and all that knowledge puts you in a – well, throws you into a situation with your husband where you could be tempted to maybe display disrespect for your husband a little more frequently than maybe the average woman?

Shaunti: You know, perhaps, very likely, and the other thing that I think many of us women out there, you know, no matter what our level of education is, is we just don't realize that sometimes it's not even what we say, it's how we say it.  And whether you're coming at him rapid-fire with all the reasons why he shouldn't do such-and-such, or whether it's just taking a tone that he interprets as being harsh. 

Let me give you an example, actually, that I found absolutely – again, flabbergasting.  This was a common word that I used in doing this research – I was trying to design the survey.  I did a national survey of men, hired a professional survey company, and one of the questions I was designing with a guy who is a professional survey designer, and here is the question I was asking – it was on the subject of romance and whether a man wants to be romantic, and the question I asked was "Do you know how to put together a romantic event that your wife would enjoy?" 

Okay, to me, that's just a neutral question.  The survey designer, this guy, says, "You can't say that because you're starting out in attack mode," and I go, "Huh?  Attack mode?"  And he said, "Yes, you're starting off implying the man is inept."  And I'm thinking to myself, "Implying the man is inept, what are you talking about?"

And he suggested just adding a little softening phrase up front – "Suppose you had to plan an anniversary event for your wife" – but when I just started off as "Do you know how" – he said every man is going to interpret that as sort of the implication that you're inept.  I realized, "Oh, my goodness, I do this over and over and over with my husband," and most of us women are completely clueless about this.

Dennis: I'm going to stop you there, because there will be some women right now who are listening who would say, "Yes, they're just insecure, they need to get over it.  They just need to put their pants on one leg at a time and" …

Bob: It doesn't sound very manly to me, you know, for a guy who would get all bent out of shape because I asked "Why did you do that?"  I mean, that's a simple question.  Why is a guy going to – he's just a wimp.

Shaunti: Well, you know, if I can say one of the other things that was such a surprise, because, by the way, really, everything I put in this book is only about things we women don't get about men, and one of the things we really don't get is that a man can walk around looking very confident all day long, but most men are secretly very insecure and, really, what I found from the men that I interviewed is they go through life basically feeling like "I'm really not sure what on earth I'm doing, and somebody is going to find out."

And that feeling, as one man said, it does not stop when I walk through the door at home.  In fact, it's almost a little easier at work because at work at least I have some idea of whether I'm doing a good job, you know, I'm getting raises or promotions or good comments from my boss.  How do I know whether I'm doing a good job of being a good husband or a good dad?  Well, it's the happiness of my wife, it's the happiness of my family.  So if my wife is critical all the time or implies that she doesn't trust me regularly or teases me in front of our friends, then all it does is it basically reaffirms the secret feeling I already had about myself, which is I have no idea what I'm doing.

Bob: In fact, if my wife says, "You know, this isn't about you, I'm just having a bad day."  That doesn't wash with me because if I'm a good husband …

Shaunti: She won't have a bad day.

Bob: I should be able to overcome bad days.  I mean, that's a part of what a guy …

Dennis: Her bad days.

Bob: Yes.  If she's having a bad day, I should be able to come in and make that magically go away.

Dennis: Rescue her.

Bob: That's right, fix things for her.  You know, if Calgon can make your troubles go away, certainly a husband ought to be able to do that, right?

Shaunti: And, you know, that's one of the things, honestly, Bob, that we women have to recognize, and this is one of the things over and over again, as I was interviewing these men, I kept realizing we are just not giving the men in our lives enough credit for the fact that they go through their day with this enormous sense of responsibility and desire to make us happy.  So, as somebody said, "I would run through a brick wall for my wife, I just want to know that I'm doing a good job as a husband and as a dad."

I was talking to a man who has a marriage ministry actually called "Love and Respect," and it deals with exactly this issue, and he pointed out something that I heard over and over from men but couldn't quite put my finger on.  He said, "You know, we have become such a love-dominated culture that we've come to believe that where love is to be unconditional, respect must be earned."  And I realized, "Yes, okay, I'd agree with that."  And as I was reading Ephesians 5 and looking at this great passage on marriage, you realize that is a completely unbiblical idea in marriage and that God commands over and over for the husband – love the wife, love your wife, love your wife unconditionally as Christ loved the church.  What does it say over and over to us women – respect your husband, follow his leadership, show him that respect.

Just the same way, when we demonstrate, you know what?  I'm going to choose to respect you.  I'm going to choose to trust that decision and not complain about it or question it.  It builds him up to want to be the man that God created him to be.  It's absolutely a wonderful paradox. 

Bob: How have your findings from the book that you've written here – how has it changed you, as a woman?

Shaunti: Oh, man, Bob, I wish my husband were in the studio.  It has absolutely transformed so many things in my life.

Dennis: Well, hold it, hold it, hold it.  He's got a cell phone, doesn't he?

Shaunti: Yes, he does.

Bob:  Let's find out, let's get his number.

Dennis: Let's call him right now, and let's – we'll just see if the proof is in the pudding right here.

Bob: See what he thinks.

Shaunti: Oh, no.

Dennis: Have we got him?  I just want you to know, Jeff, this was all her idea.

Jeff: Yes, I'm sure it is.

Dennis: No, it was not her idea at all, Jeff, but we do have this lady in our studio who wrote a book called "For Women Only."

Jeff: I've heard a little bit about it.

Bob: I'll bet you have.

Dennis: And I'm going to ask Bob to re-ask a question of you that he just asked Shaunti.

Jeff: Oh,boy.

Bob: So, Jeff, has the research that Shaunti has done on this book, has it changed her, as a woman?

Jeff: Absolutely, it has.

Dennis: Whew, man, we're relieved here in the studio.

Jeff: The coolest thing is – she is a student, and if she doesn't understand something, she isn't just content, as most guys are, to nod their head when they hear something and go, "Hm, all right, yeah, I understand," and then have no idea what was going on.  She actually tries to figure it out, and it can be a little daunting at times when she's trying to figure out what's inside of me. 

Dennis: Okay, okay, so how has she shown you more respect as her husband?

Jeff: Oh, I can tell so many times – I've got a startup business that's been in startup mode for quite some time, and there's a number of times when I'm sure she would have some advice that she could offer.  While she offers it, but she offers it in ways that I just don't feel threatened by.

Bob: Does she offer it differently than the way the old Shaunti used to offer ideas?

Jeff: Sure, absolutely. 

Bob: Like how would the old Shaunti have done it, Jeff?

Shaunti: Oh, no.

Jeff: She'd say something like, "Well, why don't you do this?" 

Bob: And that's where you could add the "You bonehead" at the end, right?

Jeff: Yes, and it would just get my hackles up and all that sort of stuff, and I would come up with being excited with an idea, and then she would say, "Well, why don't you do it this way?"  And I would think that was just like a bucket of cold water slapped right on top of me.

Bob: So what does the new Shaunti do?

Jeff: She'll go, "That's interesting, that's a good thought, that's a good thought, maybe we can talk about it, if you want, and maybe I can offer you any kind of thoughts."  Where, at that point, it seems very non-threatening to me.  It seems like it's more collaborative than her telling me the best way to do it.

Dennis: You know, it makes it easier to go to Shaunti's School of Business when she's softened it like that, doesn't it?

Jeff: Absolutely right.  I'm willing to listen at that point.

Dennis: And so you, as a man, feel bowed up, you feel respected, your chest is out, you feel like you could lead, right?

Jeff: Totally, absolutely.

Dennis: Anything respectful you'd like to say to Jeff, Shaunti?

Shaunti: Oh, I'll tell him the same thing that I always tell wives to tell their husbands, which is, "I'm really proud of you, honey."

Bob: There we go, huh?

Dennis: Way to answer the questions, Jeff.

Jeff: Okay.

Bob: Thanks for being with us.

Shaunti: Thanks, buddy.

Dennis: You're a good sport.

Bob: Well, I'd say you passed the test on that one, huh?  You did all right.

Shaunti: Red-faced.

Dennis: It really is cool that he authenticated the message of your book, though.  And that's really what you're saying to wives – if they'll understand what's going on in their husband's head and heart, and that it's okay for a man to need to be respected and that a wife can, with her attitude, with her actions, and with her words, affirm her husband and say to him, "I'm proud of you."

Shaunti: It's a totally legitimate need.  You know what we were talking about before we came into the studio, which I think is really important for us to recognize is I personally think that although there has been a lot of good that's come out of the women's movement, it's given us women this very subtle sense that – you know, we women are really the ones with the interpersonal skills, and so therefore if there is a problem in the relationship, it's probably him and therefore he just needs to learn how to relate better. 

And what we're really saying is he needs to relate our way as opposed to recognizing what I heard from all these men, which is, in most cases, the way that a guy is wired to relate is totally legitimate.  And just the way we want him to move in our direction, to learn how to support and love us the way we need to be loved – we need to suddenly realize, "Wait a minute, why should I not move in his direction to support and love him the way he needs to be loved?"

Bob: You know, there have been plenty of books we've talked about on FamilyLife Today where wives have called us and said, "I need to get this for my husband."  This is one of those books where I think we've got some men listening who are going, "I think I may need to call and get that book and pass it on to my wife."

Dennis: You think?

Bob: Because I think maybe you understand what I think and how I've been feeling and have never been able to express to my wife.  And we've got copies of Shaunti's book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  It's called "For Women Only." You can go to our website at FamilyLife.com, 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 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.

By the way, Shaunti has just written the foreword for Dr. Robert Lewis's enw book for women called "The New Eve," and we have that book in our FamilyLife Resource Center as well, and if our listeners are interested in getting both books together, we'll send along at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation this week.

You can, gain, order online at FamilyLife.com or, if it's easier, just call us at 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll make arrangements to have the resources you need sent out to you.

And we want to ask you to consider something when you get in touch with us this week.  Some of you may know that FamilyLife Today has received a very generous challenge from some of our friends.  These folks wanted to see more FamilyLife Today listeners join with us and make a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today so that we can continue to be heard on this station and on other stations all across the country.  So they agreed that they would match every donation that we receive here at FamilyLife during the month of May on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $635,000.

Now, that means that we need a lot of FamilyLife Today listeners who make $25 or $50 or $75 or $100 donations in order for those donations to be matched and for us to take full advantage of this $635,000 matching gift.  So we're coming to our listeners and saying, "Will you help us out?  Will you either go online and make a donation at FamilyLife.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone?"  When you do, your donation will be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis, and you'll be helping us head into the summer months when donations are generally a little slower with some money that will help get us through the summer months.

So, again, if you can donate online at FamilyLife.com or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY, we would appreciate hearing from you.  Any donation matters during this matching gift opportunity, and we hope to hear from you with a donation of any amount.

Now, tomorrow we want to talk about the longing and desire in the heart of a husband for intimacy, and some of what we're going to talk about tomorrow may surprise you.  I hope you can be back with us 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'll see you next time 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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