FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Roving Toward Romance

with Shaunti Feldhahn | May 9, 2008
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Are men really as romantic as women? Today, Dennis Rainey talks with Shaunti Feldhahn, author of the book For Women Only, about a man's penchant for romance.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Are men really as romantic as women? Today, Dennis Rainey talks with Shaunti Feldhahn, author of the book For Women Only, about a man's penchant for romance.

  • 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 men really as romantic as women?

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Roving Toward Romance

With Shaunti Feldhahn
May 09, 2008
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Bob: This is FamilyLife Today.  I'm Bob Lepine along with the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey.  Pass me that box of tissues from over there, will you?

Cowboy: [horse neighing] Oh, Paula, you know I've always loved you, and I always will love you.

Bob: Wait a sec, wait a sec, stop the movie clip.  I've heard you describe yourself as Mr. Romance, as the Michael Jordan of romance.

Dennis: Did I say that?

Bob: And I thought to myself …

Dennis: … you asked me earlier if I was a poser …

Bob: No, I didn't ask you, I just …

Dennis: You said I was a poser.

Bob: I announced to the listening audience that you're a poser.

Dennis: Today you're saying I declared myself "The Michael Jordan of Romance?"

Bob: "Mr. Romance," that's right, and so I was …

Dennis: Let's not ask Barbara if I'm the Michael Jordan of romance.

Bob: I thought, "Could that be Dennis?  It sounds so romantic, so passionate," but you didn't record that movie, did you?

Dennis: I did not.

Bob: No.  Barbara is with us on FamilyLife Today.  How about it?  Is he a pretty romantic guy?

Barbara: I knew you were going to say that.

Dennis: I'm just glad you didn't ask her if I was the Michael Jordan of romance.

Barbara: Yea, no, I'm glad he didn't ask me, either.  And so your question is – sir?

Bob: The question is, is Dennis a pretty romantic fellow?

Barbara: Yes, he is.

Bob: That was a pretty clinical answer.

Barbara: It was a confident answer, not clinical.

Bob: It was confident.

Dennis: Why did you say it was clinical?

Barbara: Yeah.

Bob: Could you elaborate a little bit more?

Barbara: I think Dennis is romantic because his personality is more spontaneous than mine, and his spontaneity allows him to stop at the store, and he'll buy flowers.  So he'll do some of those kinds of things off the cuff that are very throughtuf.

Bob: And do you like that when he does it?

Barbara: I do.

Bob: What's your love language?

Barbara: Words of affirmation, really, but gifts are pretty nice.

Dennis: Especially if they sparkle.

Bob: She likes those – well, we're going to try and help women understand their men when it comes to romance today, right?

Dennis: And how their husbands are romantically challenged.

Bob: Not like you, the Michael Jordan of romance.  Mr. Romance.

Barbara: No, he's not the Michael Jordan of romance.

Dennis: It's been our privilege all this week to have Shaunti Feldhahn with us.  Shaunti, we're thrilled that you have spent these moments with us.  She's written a book called "For Women Only," and it's really the results of surveying more than 1,000 men on a number of core issues and core needs that men have and that are certainly important when it comes to marriage.  We've talk about a man's need for respect, his need for knowing that his wife wants him from an intimacy standpoint.  Third, he needs his wife to be visually attractive to him, because he has a mental rolodex that he keeps and that flashes across his brain.

Bob: He is wired, visually, right?

Dennis: That's right, and then we've also talked about how a man is secretly insecure and how he also has a drive, a hard-wiring as well, to provide for his wife and family.  This all came out of your book, "For Women Only," where you did all this research, and when I asked you what the hot topics were that women resonated with with their husbands, you mentioned that romance and how men are challenged romantically was one of them.  Was that a surprise to you when you found that out?

Shaunti: Well, here is really what the surprise was, is that we kind of – I hate to say it, but assume that men are "challenged romantically" is probably not even they way we would put it.  We just sort of say that they're not interested.

Bob: Let me tell you how you'd put it, okay?  I'll tell you how you'd put it.  Here is the title to your chapter.

Dennis: Bob is feeling spunky this week.

Bob: "Chocolate, Flowers, Bait Fishing – Why the Reluctant Clod You Know Really Does Want Romance."

Dennis: Now, generally, Bob, this has been a very favorable book about men, but she completely fell of the wagon.

Bob: "The Reluctant Clod?"

Shaunti: Well, here is why I put it that way – that is what we women think, but it's not true.  We think that the guy in our life really doesn't want romance the same way that we do.  And, instead, what I found in the survey, when I asked men all over the country these questions, I was just absolutely shocked.  They want romance with us as much as we do with them.  When I tell women this, the automatic response is, "Well, why don't they do anything about it?"  And, really, there's a couple of answers to that, and that's really what I cover in here.

Bob: Well, what are the answers?  Why don't they do it?

Shaunti: Well, there are two reasons, actually.  One is simply that they feel – one guy put it – "I just feel left-handed romantically.  You know, I could write with my left hand if I had to, but I feel really clumsy.  I can do things that my wife finds romantic, but I feel clumsy, and that makes me uncomfortable.  So better to aim low sometimes."

The second reason is that men tend to find different things romantic than women do.  They want to go out and play with their wives, and they find that incredibly romantic.

Dennis: Like play what?

Shaunti: Well, just go out and play, whether that means play a sport, like, go out and play golf together, or like one guy said, "You know, I say to my wife, 'Hey, honey, you want to go to Home Depot with me?'  And I'm thinking that this would be kind of a fun, intimate outing," and when my wife says, "Well, no, thanks, I kind of need to vacuum the carpet," to me, it's the same thing as if I would have said, "Hey, you want to have a candlelight dinner, honey?"  And she says, "No, thanks, I'd rather vacuum the carpet."

Bob: So he's thinking Home Depot is …

Barbara: … romantic, huh?

Shaunti: It's going out and getting together and being together.

Bob: You don't think that, do you?

Dennis: I don't.  I've never thought about taking Barbara to Home Depot.  I do know this – men are challenged when it comes to romance.

Bob: In fact, we took one of your survey questions, it was the question – you mentioned it earlier this week – the question that if you had a special occasion coming, could you pull off a romantic event for your wife?  And we decided to go around and ask some guys that question and see what kind of response we got, and here is what the guys said.

Man: Well, I'd like to say that I'm confident that I could, but, in reality, I'd probably be nervous all the way up to the point of when it takes place, just because it's not something that I'm very good at.  It's actually something that I'd work at but, yeah, it takes a lot of energy for me.

Man: You're asking the wrong man – I am a helpless romantic.  I'm not very romantic at all.  Maybe it's just that I don't try hard enough, because I've got to admit, when I was dating Kathy I was much more creative than I am now, it seems like.  My problem is, like most men, is we think we need to spend a lot of money or go on a fancy trip or do something really huge for my wife to consider that worthwhile or romantic, and it's not true.

Man: I could do it, but, for me, it gets me way out of the box.  I have to think kind of long and hard before I put something like that together.  It doesn't come natural.

Man: It's very challenging.  It takes a lot of focus and mental energy to do something like that for me naturally.  Usually, if I'm going to do something like that, I'll start looking at the tried-and-true, looking around to see what ideas to spur my thoughts, you know, to spur my heart and my emotions.  But once you start doing it, it's really enjoyable, it's really fun, and it's really exciting once you put something together that you know that she is going to enjoy, there is that joy on the other side of that.

Man: Yes, I think that I could do it.  It would take some planning, because I've noticed that my wife responds to things in a more positive fashion when there's some planning involved.  You know, going out the night before to get a gift for her birthday that's the next day doesn't work, but going out a couple of weeks before to find that perfect gift that's just for her – that works.

Bob: Now, I hear that guy, and I wonder – do all wives want deliberate activity that took planning or are there some wives who go, "I really like it when he's spontaneous and just comes off-the-cuff with it?  What do you think?

Shaunti: You know what?  I think that probably women are all over the map.  The thing that I really hope that women get from this in hearing those clips, especially, is couldn't you tell, Barbara, especially – the guys wanted to do romantic things with their wives.  They enjoy this.  We've got to give them a lot more credit for that.

Barbara: Yes, but they did sound hesitant.

Shaunti: Yes, that sort of left-handed feeling.

Barbara: That was very clear, that they were hesitant.

Dennis: They sounded very insecure.

Shaunti: Well, it's that thing that I've heard from some so many men that we've talked about many times this week – men are just very performance-oriented, and when they feel like they can't quite do a really good job, that feeling, some men have described as just humiliating.  So one guy said, and this is, to me, very telling, he said, "You know what?  I am willing to try and to make a fool of myself for you, to do something that you would find that would be fun and romantic.  But if you tease me about not quite getting that candlelight dinner right, it will be five years before I try that again."

Bob: As I listened to those guys, I was thinking a lot of them could benefit from reading the book that the two of you wrote, "Rekindling the Romance," because, Dennis, in your half of the book, you help men understand how a woman is wired, what is romantic to her, and how to connect relationally. 

And, Shaunti, that is at the bottom line of this from a woman's perspective, isn't it?  She wants a relational connection, and whether that happens in the context of a trip to Home Depot or the candlelight dinner, as long as they're having an opportunity to connect soul-to-soul, heart-to-heart, she's in love with that.

Shaunti: And that's the thing that I wish women would understand from this, too, is that a guy loves that, too.  He wants that connection just as much as she does, and when we can kind of open our eyes to recognize that, what a neat opportunity to view a whole other piece of the world of going out and playing together and having fun together as romantic.  I actually had one man tell me a great story about how he was golfing one day with some golfing buddies on a Saturday morning, and the four of them saw, in front of them, there was a twosome – a husband and a wife – playing golf together.  And he said all of us were jealous, because we all wished that we were out playing golf with our wives and thought how fun and romantic that looked.

Barbara: Interesting.

Bob: Have you ever done that?  Have you played golf with Dennis?

Barbara: You know, we've talked about that, and I have to confess that I've not played golf with him, and I think he would like for me to, but it's been very hard for me to think about taking a whole afternoon to play golf.

Shaunti: Well, use that as a long –


Barbara: I know, I know.

Bob: If he said, "Let's go antiquing this afternoon," and it was going to take the whole afternoon, would you have a problem with that?

Barbara: Not as much, of course.  And part of it is I don't know how to play the game, either.

Bob: The time is not the issue there.

Barbara: You're right, you're right, I'm guilty.

Dennis: Shaunti, one of the questions, now, this is a hard one that I want to give you here, but I am now tying into an earlier broadcast when we talked with you about one of the other core needs that you found in men, and that was their need for their wives to want to be with them sexually.  I wonder if a big part of why men are reticent to be creative romantically is they've tried, in baby steps, or even maybe some big ideas, and they've been shut down by their wives?  Could it be that that has quenched the romantic fires?

Shaunti: Oh, boy, I've heard that over and over.  I have heard from men and, ladies, let's just be realistic about this – that many men have said, "I really want to be romantic with my wife.  I want to go out and do these things together or set up this big candlelight dinner, but I've got a very specific endpoint in mind for that evening.  I know what I want at the end of that evening, and if I get the message at the end of that evening that, again, it's not about the sex, it's about being wanted, that after all of that you still don't measure up," oh, that does more than anything else to shut the man down.

Dennis: You're saying that at the end of the evening when the wife says, "I don't want to be with you," that communicates to a man, "You don't measure up."

Shaunti: Yes, including all that wonderful romantic stuff that he just did.

Bob: I just tried my hardest to woo you, to win you, to love you, to express that I care about you.  We went dancing, because I know you like dancing, we went to your favorite froo-froo restaurant, but when all of that effort goes into that, and the woman says, you know, …

Barbara: … I'm too tired.

Bob: That's like saying to the man, "You just tried your hardest, and" …

Shaunti: … "you still don't measure up."

Bob: You put up a brick, and there are no points for that one.

Shaunti: Yes, and it really is because we women don't get it.  We think it's about the sex and not about being wanted, and once we realize it's about the guy feeling wanted and like he measures up, then we realize that's exactly the message that we're sending.  After all of that, you're still not there, buddy.

Dennis: And you and your husband Jeff now have been married how many years?

Shaunti: Ten years.

Dennis: Ten years, and you say when it comes to romance, though, setting the table and creating the mood and the atmosphere, you say Jeff refers to this as "feast or famine."

Shaunti: He does, and the poor guy, part of it is, again, me not realizing how performance-oriented he was.  He set up this incredible romantic thing for me for Valentine's Day, where he ended up doing this big event and giving me ice-skating lessons with JoJo Starbuck at Rockefeller Center.  It was this enormous, huge thing.

Dennis: You're kidding?

Shaunti: No.

Bob: You got ice-skating lessons with JoJo Starbuck at Rockefeller Center?

Shaunti: We were living in New York.  He went to all this trouble, put together this huge romantic present for me for Valentine's Day, and then I didn't, like, get any real presents for, like, the next three years.  I didn't get a birthday present or much of a Christmas present, and finally he explained that he had just – was sure that he would never be able to top the reaction that he got from me or be able to top that gift.  And so he felt like he just had to shut down because, again, guys are so performance-oriented, and it wasn't until he sort of realized, you know what?  It's okay if I don't have to top myself every time.

Bob: So a pair of slippers on your birthday …

Shaunti: … is fine.  But that's the way a lot of guys feel – is they feel like, again, performance-oriented, they've got to top it.

Dennis: Well, we heard from some of the men that we interviewed, they equated romance after marriage with big bucks – but it's not necessarily that kind of romance that grabs your wife's heart, right?

Shaunti: No, and that's the thing.  I think probably Barbara would agree, is that for we women, we really just want that emotional connection with our men and this is, again, it's all about that affirmation and our men feeling safe.  We've talked about that before in other contexts – this is one of them.  It's that, "You know what, honey?  Anything you do is going to make me feel special."  But you know what, ladies, that comes along with the responsibility for making sure we do affirm those efforts rather than making him feel like he didn't quite measure up.

Dennis: What can a wife do, then, knowing that her husband may feel left-handed when it comes to romance, that he doesn't have a lot of confidence other than getting your book, reading this through and understanding his core need, and then maybe reading our book, "Rekindling the Romance," and getting some practical tips, and there are five different date nights that husbands can do with their wives that practically lay out the whole plan, that gives them some confidence to play the game right-handed.  But how else can a wife really help her husband in this area?

Shaunti: It's all about appreciation and admiration, that's really what it is. 

Barbara:  I agree.

Shaunti: Guys, over and over again, all throughout all these subjects, what I heard from men is that they just respond so well to being admired by their wife, and that's really what they strive for.

Bob: We are not really that sophisticated.  It's not that hard to figure out.  If a wife says to her husband, "That was really neat, that made me feel special," we are likely to try it again sometime.

Shaunti: Exactly, positive reinforcement.

Bob: I'm telling you, there is something about the male ego that all it takes is a little bit of affirmation for it, and we'll go, "I'll do that again.  I'll try it tomorrow."

Dennis: Yes, but here is where Barbara's equation – this is where Barbara's equation really bites a guy.

Bob: Yes, it does, because Barbara's equation, Shaunti, you're not familiar with this, but …

Shaunti: … I don't think I am.

Barbara: No, you're not.

Bob: Barbara's equation is that …

Dennis: … when it comes to romance …

Bob: … if a guy thinks "A+B+C will always equal D," then the next time he goes to try A+B+C, and the wife goes, "That didn't get it for me.  There's no 'D' in me today."  The guy goes, "What happened here?  I thought that's how it worked," and Barbara says that women change the formula every time.

Shaunti: You know what?  I think we tend to.  That's a really good point, and it confuses our men to no end.


Bob: Yeah!

Dennis: Do you think?


Dennis: I think sometimes ladies actually chase the alphabet.  It's not just A+B.

Bob: No, they go to Greek alphabet – it's Alpha+Beta=Gamma this time.

Dennis: And we're going to let you guess.

Shaunti: But here is where, I think, again, part of it is recognizing and appreciating so much about how our men feel about us and wanting to be with us and recognizing that this is a huge, wonderful gift to us and how much better, honestly, everything in our marriage, everything in our life would be if we learned to understand what's really going on inside of you so that we don't constantly change that equation on you.  I mean, honestly, I think a part of it is just simple cluelessness on our part.

Bob: You know, recently, we had a friend, a young couple, that we knew in our church who were getting married, and Mary Ann went to the wedding shower for this young woman, and she said before she went, she said, "Do you think I ought to give the bride-to-be a copy of Shaunti's book?  And I said, "Absolutely."  I said, "Any woman who could start off marriage with this kind of insight into the man she is about to spend the rest of her life with, it would benefit her, it would benefit him, it's going to benefit their covenant." 

I don't know if you wrote this book or did this research thinking this is going to be marital help.  Was that in the back of your mind?

Shaunti: You know, honestly, I have to answer it didn't start out that way because really, honestly, it started out with me just realizing there was a bunch of stuff I was clueless about, and as I kept going and kept doing this and then we started seeing some of these examples in the couples in our home group, and I realized that, for us women, it really is about our eyes being opened to things we just didn't see before.  And you know what?  For marriages, when your eyes are opened, you can't go back to being blind again.  And that one thing, of having your eyes opened, I have found, now, that it is an enormous help to marriages.

Bob:  Yes, of course, that presumes that once your eyes are opened you care that you're going to what God would have you do in your marriage relationship, and that's going to involve some sacrificial love not just for a wife to a husband but for a husband to a wife as well.

But you really do help women understand how they can do a better job of what we presume they want to do, which is to love their husbands well, and we've got copies of your book in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and I know you've got another question you want to ask Shaunti, but let me give our listeners the information on how they can get her book. 

Go to our website,, and click on the right side of the screen where it says "Today's Broadcast," and that will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about the book, "For Women Only," by Shaunti Feldhahn.  There is also information about Dr. Robert Lewis's new book for women called "The New Eve," and Shaunti wrote the foreword for that book.

If you're interested in getting both of those books together, we'll send them along with the CD audio of this week's FamilyLife Today programs.  So, again, all the information is on our website at, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329.  When you call, someone on our team will make the arrangements necessary to have the resources you need sent to you.

You know, I have mentioned, over the last several weeks, the matching gift opportunity that has been made available to us here at FamilyLife.  We've had some friends of the ministry who have agreed to match every donation we receive during the month of May on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $635,000, and we've already started hearing from some of our listeners.  We appreciate those of you who have gotten in touch with us.

I just want to remind you that at FamilyLife, we believe that your first priority in giving should be to your local church, and even with this matching gift opportunity, we don't want to do anything that would take away from the giving you ought to be doing in your local church setting, but if you are able to help us with a donation above and beyond what you're giving at your local church, it would be a great encouragement to us.  We're hoping to take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity, and if we're going to do that, we need to hear from as many listeners as possible.

You can donate online at or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, and, again, let me say thanks in advance for your support of this ministry, and we really appreciate hearing from you.  Dennis?

Dennis:  Well, it's been fun this week to have Barbara with us on FamilyLife Today.  Thanks, sweetheart, back by popular demand of our listening audience.

Barbara: You're welcome, I enjoyed it.

Dennis: And, Shaunti Feldhahn, thank you for being with us as well.  When you completed your research on 1,000 men, you had one big surprise that you just frankly couldn't believe, but it really was true about a core need men had that women need to know.

Shaunti: Yes.  I did, at the very end of the survey, I gave the men a blank space, and I asked them this question – I said, "What is the one most important thing you wish your wife knew but feel you can't explain to her or tell her?"  And I really felt like it was going to be an opportunity for the men to vent, you know, talk about anything. 

And I was absolutely shocked when I got the results back and found that when they could say anything that they wanted, overwhelmingly, the largest number of men, by far, answered that the one most important thing they wish their wife knew was "How much I love her."  And that was absolutely astonishing to me, to feel like there are so many men out there, that when they could talk about anything that they felt was wrong or a challenge, instead they really desperately wanted to get across to their wives how much they cared about them. 

One man, he said that the one most important thing he wished his wife knew was "How important some things are to me that I am not going to mention, because she is more important to me than all those other things."  And I realized how much our men really do wish that they could get this across to us and how much more credit so many of us need to give our husbands in how much they care about us rather than always assuming, which I think our minds tend to go to – "Oh, maybe he really doesn't love me."  No – overwhelmingly, these men said they love us, and they really want to live up to our expectations.

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


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