FamilyLife Today®

Understanding Her Need for Security

with Jeff Feldhahn, Shaunti Feldhahn | April 19, 2006
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What does it mean when a woman says she needs to feel secure? It might surprise you, according to Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn, authors of the book For Men Only. On today's broadcast, hear why meeting or exceeding family financial needs may not be assuring for the missus of the household.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Guest

  • What does it mean when a woman says she needs to feel secure? It might surprise you, according to Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn, authors of the book For Men Only. On today's broadcast, hear why meeting or exceeding family financial needs may not be assuring for the missus of the household.

Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn tell why meeting or exceeding family financial needs may not be assuring to your wife.

Understanding Her Need for Security

With Jeff Feldhahn, Shaunti Feldh...more
April 19, 2006
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Bob: As husbands, we understand that our wives want to feel safe and secure, right?  Just exactly what does that mean? 

Man: I think the first thing that comes to my mind is financial security, money.  She needs to know that the bills are going to be paid; that she doesn't have to worry about that.

Man: You know, for my wife, it's not how much money.  It all really came to a head when I gave up self-employment and just went out and got a real job.

Man: The paycheck is going to be there, and it goes back to security.

Man: But she's wanting security not just for herself but also for our family.  That's the thing with my wife.  I mean, she wants to know are our kids going to be able to go to college someday.

Man: She gets wrapped around the axe about the fact I want to play a little bit of golf, and I just don't understand that.  Just because I buy a new golf club doesn't mean we don't have any money, or I'm using up the college fund.

Man: She doesn't think about that when she wants to go to the mall.

Man: It's never enough, that's the problem.

Man: It's never enough, because she's, like, "Well, you can't do that like you did last year, because I don't know if there's enough money in the budget."  And I'm thinking, "What do you mean?  We've got all kinds of money.

Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition, Wednesday, April 19th.

Dennis: What comes to your mind when you think about what creates security in a woman?

Bob: I'll tell you, I was listening to those guys, and I was thinking about the fact that after Mary Ann and I had dated for about three years, I really had the sense that this was the woman God wanted me to marry.  But I had planned after undergraduate school that I was going to go to law school.  So what I couldn't figure out what exactly when we could get married because, in my mind …

Dennis: You couldn't afford it.

Bob: I couldn't ask her to marry me if I didn't have a job and wasn't going to be able to provide for the financial security of my wife.  She had already graduated.  She was a nurse.  She was making a lot of money.  We could have lived on her income, but I couldn't go there emotionally.  So I could relate to those guys.  There was something in me saying, "That's a part of what I need to be doing as a husband is providing that kind of financial security for my wife.

Dennis: And so you actually held off in terms of popping the question to Mary Ann and getting married because of that situation.

Bob: We waited, much to our chagrin.  I mean, she was anxious and ready, and we waited until I had the job, and then I could move forward with it.

Dennis: I think that is the way most men think, and if you don't believe that, you will by the end of today's broadcast.  We have a couple of guests with us who have done a lot of research around how men and women think and how they think differently.  Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn join us again on FamilyLife Today.  Jeff, Shaunti, welcome back.

Jeff: Thank you.

Shaunti: Good to be with you.

Bob: They've written a book called "For Men Only," and, really, Jeff and Shaunti, you both kind of made an interesting ministry out of slicing and dicing how men and women think differently and how they approach problems, and you did some research around men and found out how they thought – about 1,500 men, and then you turned around and did the same thing for women – over 3,000 women, and you put that in a book that really is – well, it's a straightforward guide to helping men understand their wives, and that really is what the Apostle Peter talked about in 1 Peter 3:7.

 But back to this subject of security here – what did you find about the subject of security?  Did you find that men understood their wives' need for security, Jeff?

Jeff: They thought they did.  When I would ask men, it was much like the earlier interviews, and that was it was all about providing, making sure that the mortgage was paid, making sure that there was food on the table – all good things, and we really thought that was the highest need for our wives. 

Dennis: What about you?

Jeff: Absolutely.  When we were brainstorming what this book would contain, one of the subjects that Shaunti raised was security.  And I said, "Well, any guy would have to have lived under a rock for the past 30 years to have not heard that women need security."  And then she said, "What does that mean to you?"  I said, "Well, it means that the mortgage is paid, that the kids are provided for, all of those same things."  She said, "Not so."  In fact …

Shaunti: Actually, when he said that, I said, "Well, yeah, that's important but you know it's not the most important thing, right?"  And he's, like, "What?"  And I said, "Yeah, I mean, the most important thing is emotional security.  The most important thing is knowing that you're always going to be there for me no matter what, and that we're close, and that really – that type of security is so much more important," and Jeff said, "Naaa."  He had such a hard time believing that this was true.

Jeff: And unfortunately even though the research has born out what Shaunti has just said, it's still my hardest thing to believe – and for guys, in general, the hardest part to believe of the content that we have here.

Bob: Now, let me dissect this a little bit – are you saying that if a couple is dealing with financial challenges, I mean, at the level where somebody is calling and saying the credit cards, we're going to have to turn off the electricity, that kind of thing, as long as the wife knows that she's got the emotional security from her husband, she can weather that stuff.  She's okay with that?

Shaunti: Well, actually, believe or not, what we found, and statistically what we found, is it's not that you'll be okay with it, it's not that you enjoy financial struggles, but, honestly, most women would prefer – if they had to – they would prefer to endure them if it meant they could have more closeness with their husband.  Now, obviously …

Dennis: Now, wait a second …

Shaunti: … yes …

Dennis: You're saying – and this is showing my male species at this point – you're saying that the women would actually choose financial hardship if they had a secure relationship with their husband.

Shaunti: If it meant that they could get that, yes.  Now, what that means, often, in real life, is it actually means that you've got a guy who is busting his tail to try to provide financial security for his wife, and he's, as a result, never home.  Or he travels a lot or whatever, and the woman, in most cases, and our survey bore this out – most women would say, "Take the job that's more family friendly, even it meant we have to downsize, even if it meant we had to drive old cars and even if it meant some downsizing in our lifestyle, I would far rather have that if I could have more of you."

Bob: "I'd rather live in an apartment with you and the kids and have you home in the evenings than live in the three-bedroom house out in the suburbs and have you having to work every night."

Shaunti: "And never see you."  It is so hard for guys to believe that it's true, but statistically, according to our survey, the vast majority of women said, "Yeah, okay, it's not that I would enjoy enduring financial struggles, but I would choose them if it meant getting more of you."

Bob: You guys had some personal experience with this.  As the research began to bear it out, you began to realize, "Okay, we've lived through some of this ourselves," right?

Jeff: We did.  When we first got married, we lived in Manhattan in New York – a rather pricey place, but I lived there first, before we got married, because I took a job at a large law firm.

Bob: You are a graduate of Harvard Law, so here you've got a job at a nice Manhattan law firm, making decent money, right?  But it costs decent money to live in New York.

Jeff: It does.

Bob: So you and your new bride …

Dennis: … decent money?

Bob: Well, I'm trying to be kind here.  It costs an arm and a leg and, fortunately, you were getting okay money.

Jeff: I was getting compensated enough for that.

Bob: That's right.  And so how did the security issue come up for you?

Jeff: Well, one of the things, as we were scouting different apartments to live in, one place that Shaunti said, "This looks nice."  It's in Manhattan, and it happened to be a nice building, and it had a doorman on it, and that was one of the prerequisites for Shaunti because, as an attorney working at a big law firm in New York, I was going to be working lots and lots of hours.

Dennis: It had a doorman.

Jeff: It did.

Dennis: I've been by those places.

Jeff: Well, actually, they're much more frequent in New York than what you would think.

Bob: But here, you're thinking, if it's got a doorman then there's an extra level of security, and if I'm gone in the evening, Shaunti can relax …

Jeff: … that's right …

Bob: … knowing that the bills are paid, and that if there's trouble, there's a doorman who is just phone call away.

Jeff: And I've just provided her highest need.

Dennis: Security.

Jeff: Absolutely.

Dennis: That's the way a man thinks.

Jeff: Absolutely.

Bob: Okay, so …

Dennis: But it's wrong.

Shaunti: And, unfortunately, he was working 80 to 100 hours a week every week for years and years.  This is how we started our marriage.  And so I would never see him, and I would say, "You know, honey, don't you care about me?"  And he's tearing his hair out thinking "I'm working so much because I care about you and because you wanted to live in this doorman building, which is a slightly higher price," and I keep saying, "It doesn't matter.  Let's downsize.  Let's move to a different job.  Take a different job that will let us see more of each other."  And he just didn't believe that I meant it.  That, you know, "Okay, I know she says that, but" …

Dennis: Jeff, she just said the word "years."  It took you a while to get this message.

Jeff: And a few gray hairs.

Shaunti: [giggles] Yeah.

Dennis: How long did it take you to understand your wife's need for security?

Jeff: Four years in New York, and then it's an ongoing process.

Dennis: Well, I understand that.  I mean, that's true for all of us, but …

Jeff: Four years.

Dennis: Yeah, and the thing I would want a young man to hear, Bob, because I appreciate Jeff's honesty at that point – what man hasn't taken a long time to begin to understand what his wife really wants is not things, not stuff, but she wants a relationship with him?  I would say, quite honestly, I spent the better part of a decade beginning to understand, in the midst of while raising a family and starting a family together, that my wife really wants to be a partner with me.  She doesn't want to be an appendage or a place just to go home to, she wants to be a part of my life and experience it with me.

Shaunti: You know, actually, a lot of the women that we talked to – we heard an analogy several times where a woman said, "You know what?  We started out as partners.  You know, it's like we started out as general partners and somewhere along the way I became a sole proprietor.  I never see him."

 And it's so interesting.  Really, what helped Jeff, I think, understand that this could possibly be true was when a woman in a focus group said, "If we're emotionally close and tight and have a great relationship, I can endure any struggles financially.  But if we're not close but have a lot of money, all that money doesn't really mean much."  And that's really one of the things that Jeff said helped him start to believe that maybe this could possibly be true.

Jeff: I think another thing and, quite frankly, I lay the blame on me and perhaps on guys, in general, on this one.  We're wired to want to provide for our family, which is a great thing.  I mean, that's a God-ordained, inspired desire that we feel.  To be able to provide a sense of emotional closeness, we don't really know how to measure that.  I can measure, I can quantify a salary, I can quantify …

Bob: … there are numbers on that check, aren't there?

Jeff: Absolutely right, in stuff.  And there is also that other thing that us guys, we tend to be competitive and maybe in competition with other guys in being able to provide better than the other guy, and yet we're not necessarily providing the thing that she needs most.

Bob: And sometimes we like stuff, too, and so it's not just providing for her, but then we get to buy our toys, and, given the option of being home in the evening or having the toy, we go, "I'd rather work a few extra hours and get the toy."

Dennis: I want Jeff to do something, because he's a trained attorney, all right?  I want to get to a question of how does a man help his wife feel secure then?  But before we do that, what's your best argument as an attorney, to a man from a man, about understanding this need in his wife?  The reason I'm asking you to do this is because you just said at the beginning, "Most men do not believe this."  And I have to believe that after 12 minutes of a broadcast …

Jeff: … they're still not going to believe it.

Dennis: They're still not going to believe it.


Jeff: Quite frankly, what it has to come down to is he simply needs to talk to her about it.  He needs to ask her, and one thing is that we don't know what we don't know.  We have certain assumptions that we've built up over the years throughout our culture, and my assumption was that she liked the stuff; that she needed the stuff; and that she wanted the stuff perhaps more than me.  At least – I know that sounds terrible, but perhaps more than my individual happiness at that particularly moment.

Shaunti: And the thing is, honestly, that is so, I think, encouraging to guys, once they actually can get this through their heads and actually leave some of the statistics that prove it is, hopefully, encouraging to say, "Wow, she really does want me to be happy.  She wants me to have a job that fulfills me but doesn't kill me.  Maybe I have been misunderstanding that she really did want the big house and the big car and all that stuff instead of me," and I hope it's encouraging to guys [inaudible].

Bob: All right, hang on here for just a sec.  Let's say it's a typical Saturday afternoon, and you don't have much planned, and the wife says to her husband, "Hey, we've got a free afternoon, why don't we do something that I like to do.  Let's go shopping."  And what is the wife doing while she's shopping, Shaunti?  She's looking at different things, and she's going, "Well, this is nice.  Do you like this?  This is pretty?  Right?  Three or four hours of that shopping experience, the guy is going home, what's he thinking? 

Shaunti: She cares about the stuff.

Bob: He's thinking happiness equals stuff, I better go get some money so that I can get her her stuff, right?

Shaunti: And, probably, for her, and for most women, we don't realize that's the equation that you're making.  We just like hanging out with you.  We really, truly do want more of you.  You know, in all honesty, one of the things that I think also helped convinced Jeff and the other guys is that Jeff would always say, "Well, okay, you're saying this now, but if we were to go through these financial hardship, you'd change your tune."  You know, women would change their tune.  And you know what?  On the survey, the women who described themselves as struggling financially agreed with this even more.

Bob: And you can see that – if they're going through the emotional hardship as a team, and if they know that their husband really is motivated to try to help solve this issue, that does take a lot of the sting out of whatever is going on around them, right?

Jeff: Absolutely.  There is a threshold level that, as a man, and providing for your family, there is a threshold level that does need to be met.  Unfortunately, in this culture and in our day and age, we tend to raise that threshold perhaps higher than what it really needs to be.

Bob: I heard a 30-year-old woman talking on a radio program recently, and she said, "Not long ago, my husband and I were sitting on our living room floor going through our stack of CDs trying to figure out which ones we could sell to get cash.  We were three days from the next paycheck, and we had no groceries in the house."  And yet you could hear in her voice that because they were sitting on the floor together, going through the CDs together, solving it together, it was less of a struggle than if he was off delivering pizzas for Domino's, and she never saw him.

Dennis: Yeah, I agree, Bob, and yet there are some men at this point who have bought into our logic, and let's just say for theory, they finally have said, "Okay, you got me."  How do I do that?  Shaunti, help a man know how to begin to meet this need in his wife – her need for security.

Shaunti: Well, the first thing, as Jeff said earlier, the first thing is probably just actually say, "Is this true of you, honey?  Are you thinking that I'm working too much?  Do you think that this is something where I’m not available to you and the kids?"  Probably, I think most guys who are in that position have heard that before and just haven't necessarily believed that she really meant, "Yeah, we can downsize."

 And this providing of emotional security, as we said in an earlier broadcast, can be so simple.  These little, simple things that aren't rocket science that make a woman feel so secure in the relationship that he loves me, he's not going anywhere.  I mean, okay, silly example – we were in one focus group with a group of women, and I was telling them that just the day before Jeff and I had gone out for lunch, just to a sub shop, and as we left, guiding me through the parked cars, he put is hand on the small of my back to guide me through the cars, and every woman in the focus group went, "Ahhhhh."  Jeff and the other guy that was there sort of looked at each other in shock.

Jeff: And if I can tell you why – as I put my hand on her back that day before, I was thinking, "I hope she doesn't think I'm trying to tell her what to do," because that's what I would have thought had she done that to me.

Shaunti: And instead, for me, as a woman, it conveyed the sense of love and "you're mine."  And that one thing is such a simple little thing, but doing that stuff day to day really creates a sense of security in a woman, and, frankly, some of these other things like just being part of – taking part in the life of the household creates a sense of emotional security for a woman.  And even, honestly, even your efforts to provide even create emotional security.  But the thing is, it's really about that your wife sees you making an effort; that you care about that, whereas you guys tend to focus on the amount of money you're bringing in, and that, to a woman, can be cut down a lot sometimes if it means we get more of you.

Dennis: Shaunti, I want you to comment on these words and how these words create security in you when they come from Jeff – protection – how does protection create security in you?

Shaunti: I feel like he is willing to fight off the bear, you know, that it means that he is willing to do what he needs to do to protect me and the family, and that makes me feel very loved and secure.

Dennis: And what do you need to be protected from?

Shaunti: Actually, one of the most important things, honestly, is the sense that something is coming between us in our relationship; that there's – it can't be anything that is allowed to breach the relationship and create a crack between us.

Dennis: A couple more – problem solving.

Shaunti: You know what?  Can I be real honest about it?  That's good, but, in all honesty, I think a lot of times – and I know we'll talk about this a little bit later – I sort of feel like wanting to solve the problems actually means that he's not actually listening to me.  So in some cases it doesn't create the sense of security that I think guys think it does.

Dennis: Okay.  This last one is not a word, it's a concept – how does it create security in you when Jeff is thinking about you and helping you develop your gifts and your horizons?

Shaunti: Oh, boy, that's a big one.  You know, one of the women in the focus group – we couldn't fit it into the book.  We wanted to keep the book small because it was for guys, you know, it's important.  But one of the women in the focus group said "You know what?  Women – we, especially as they get a little older, maybe they're not as focused on the kids being around all the time, and we want to expand our horizons, we want to" – this woman was really interested in learning how to paint, you know, doing art – and she said, "I almost feel like, in a weird way, I need my husband's permission, in a way, almost to take my focus off of him and the household and fly out into new horizons and new things, and I need the support and to know that my husband is encouraging of that rather than that he resents that."

 For a woman, I think it's really true that it really helps to know that you've got somebody who is totally supportive of you as you pursue new things.

Dennis: Okay, here is the assignment for the male listeners of FamilyLife Today.  Take Jeff's argument that he gave you a while ago where he said, "Here is how you can really communicate with your wife around this issue of security – ask her."  Ask her if she really wants a relationship with you more than stuff, money, prestige, what you're driving, what you're wearing, where you live, and then listen carefully to her answer.  I think you may be surprised.

Bob: And, you know, I think there are probably some guys who hear you say that and say, "Well, of course, she's going to say, 'Yeah, I'd rather have a relationship with you,' because that's the right answer, that's the textbook answer, but you can press her a little bit and say, "No, really.  If it came down to it, if it meant that we had to give this up or we had to give that up or we had to even move to a different location or we had to go to one car, but I'd be here more, I'd be able to be home more," what choice would she make?  Talk about that together and, I agree with you, I think there are a lot of guys who would be surprised, and then they have to weigh out, "Am I really working to make her feel secure, or am I working because I like the stuff or because I get strokes on the job, and I'm the one who doesn't want to give up the extra hours."

 I would also encourage that same husband to get a copy of the book that Jeff and Shaunti have written called "For Men Only."  I think this book helps to unlock a lot of things for a lot of guys that maybe we've heard before but we haven't even really understood exactly what that meant.  The book is called "For Men Only."  It's in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  I should also mention that Shaunti's book, "For Women Only," which does the same thing for women is also in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and we've had hundreds of our listeners who have contacted us to get copies of that book, and my wife has said it's one of those books that she recommends to other wives just because it was helpful for her to read through it.

 Go online at, and you'll see a button in the middle of the page that says, "Go."  You click on that button, it will take you right to the page where you can get more information about the book "For Men Only," the book "For Women Only."  There are other resources we've got there that you can review including the "Simply Romantic Tips" books – one for husbands and one for wives designed to help us express our love for one another in ways that just help us connect with each other.

 Again, our website is, click the red "Go" button in the middle of the screen, and if you're interested in getting Shaunti and Jeff's book, "For Men Only" and the "Simply Romantic Tips" books, we'll be happy to send along at no additional cost the CD audio of the conversation we've been having this week with Jeff and Shaunti.  Again, the website is, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, and someone on our team can let you know how you can have any of these resources sent out to you.  The phone number again – 1-800-358-6329; that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, or online at

 Well, tomorrow Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn are going to be back with us, and we want to talk about those times when a husband is thinking, "Can you just land the plane, get to the point, and kind of leave the emotion aside here so that we can solve this problem?"  It may be that, as husbands, we're missing the real issue when we do that, and we'll talk about that tomorrow.  I hope you can be 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 back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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


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Episodes in this Series

Husbands Day
“Don’t Take It Personally, but Not Tonig
with Jeff Feldhahn, Shaunti Feldhahn April 21, 2006
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Husbands Day 4
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with Jeff Feldhahn, Shaunti Feldhahn April 20, 2006
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Husbands Day 2
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with Jeff Feldhahn, Shaunti Feldhahn April 18, 2006
Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn discuss a woman's uncanny ability to multi-task.
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