Understanding the Differences
About the Guest
There’s no denying that men and women are different. But do you realize HOW different? Author Shaunti Feldhahn talks to Dennis Rainey about some of the biggest revelations she discovered while doing research for her books, “For Men Only,” and “For Women Only.”
Shaunti FeldhahnShaunti received her graduate degree from Harvard University and was an analyst on Wall Street before unexpectedly becoming a social researcher, best-selling author and popular speaker. Today, she applies her analytical skills to investigating eye-opening, life-changing truths about relationships, both at home and in the workplace. Her groundbreaking research-based books, such as For Women Only, have sold more than 3 million copies in 25 languages and are widely read in homes, counseling centers...more
There’s no denying that men and women are different. But do you realize HOW different?
Understanding the Differences
Bob: A decade ago, when author and researcher Shaunti Feldhahn was looking at the differences between men and women, there was one piece of data that she found really startling, one way in which men are very different than women.
Shaunti: Three out of four men said if they had to make a choice - which they wouldn’t want to have to make, but if they had to – they would actually choose to give up feeling that their wife loved them if they could just feel that she respected them and that she believed in them and trusted them and admired them and appreciated them. All those things are more important, it turns out, to the average man, even than feeling that his wife loves him.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 22nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll spend some time today with Shaunti Feldhahn reviewing the research she did almost a decade ago about the differences between men and women.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. You know, you would think after 20 years of marriage, you’d have most of the big stuff figured out, wouldn’t you?
Dennis: No! (Laughter)
Bob: Well, I thought so.
Dennis: Did you have it figured out?
Bob: I thought that we had a lot of it figured out.
Dennis: Why haven’t you said this before on national radio?
Bob: When we came . . . The day I came home to Mary Ann – and this was almost a decade ago – I came home and I said . . .
Dennis: From your honeymoon?
Bob: No, this was after we’d been married for 20 plus years at the time.
Dennis: That’s when you think you know it all is when you come home from . . .
Bob: We thought we had it all figured out, but I handed her a copy of the book For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn.
Bob: I said, “We just interviewed Shaunti Feldhahn. You might be interested in this book.” I remember her buying copies of the book to give to our daughters and others and saying, “I think I knew it, but I understand you better now.” I thought, “Really?” We’d lived together for 20 plus years, and a book helped her understand me better? But it did help her understand me better.
Dennis: Well, it helped Shaunti. I’m going to welcome her back to the broadcast. Welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Shaunti: It’s always great to be with you.
Dennis: You’re coming up on 20 years here.
Shaunti: Yes. We’re coming up on 19 pretty soon.
Dennis: You and Jeff have been married since 1994 and have two children. You’ve authored a number of books. You’re featured in FamilyLife’s LifeReady Woman® that has touched over 1,000 women’s groups across the country and over 12,000 people have participated in that. You have made another run at this book, For Women Only and For Men Only.
What Bob and I wanted to do was just kind of take you back to the genesis of that research project you did.
Bob: Back when you had your marriage figured out. You remember.
Shaunti: Yes, right! Absolutely – one of those days. (Laughter)
Dennis: That’s where I was going with this. I was going to ask you, “So, at the time you’d been married a little over a decade. Did this help you a bunch?”
Shaunti: It helped me so much, partly because this was all stuff that I didn’t know that I didn’t know about men. I was shocked once I stumbled over this stuff. I started asking Jeff, “Is this true?” He was getting this look on his face like, “You mean you didn’t know this before about me as a guy?” It’s life-changing!
Dennis: In your book, For Women Only, you said this research helped you discover seven revelations. Now, this is not on par with the revelations of Scripture.
Shaunti: No. (Laughter)
Dennis: But it was an “aha moment” for you; these seven revelations.
Shaunti: Yes, there basically were these things that I identified. I had started to do all of this research, which I can explain in a minute if you want me to, and realizing it really came down to the fact that there were these seven things that were these kind of narrow, simple, little things, but I just didn’t know them.
They had a really big impact. So, a big impact for negative if you don’t know them and you’re stumbling over these things every day and hurting your husband’s feelings and you have no idea; or, once you’re aware of these things and you get that light bulb moment, it can change so much about your relationship. It doesn’t have to be rocket science.
Bob: Before you recap the seven . . .
Bob: Where did the idea come from – do you remember - to even dig into this in the first place?
Shaunti: Yes, I actually stumbled over it because I was writing a novel. I actually had the opportunity after I left my time as a Wall Street analyst for a number of years. When I moved down to Atlanta, I had the chance to write a couple of novels. One of the main characters in this novel I was writing was a man. He was this good, decent husband and father; that’s the way I painted this character.
You realize as a woman how little you know about how you men think when you have to put thoughts in a guy’s head. I had to put thoughts in this male character’s head and I had no idea what a guy would be thinking. So this whole thing started because I would talk to Jeff or I would talk to a male colleague or friends and say, “Okay, here’s this scene in the book. I have to say what my main male character would be thinking. I have no idea. What would you be thinking if this was you?”
And I started hearing these things and I said, “Really?!” (Laughter)
Bob: You’d think like that?
Shaunti: That’s what you’re thinking? And I realized somewhere along the way, as I started to record more of these interviews, that what I was hearing wasn’t just really surprising. It was very surprising, but what was more important, I realized, was that it was really foundational stuff.
The stuff that I was hearing weren’t things that the guys said that they sort of thought off in a corner; or that once every three months it kind of came up. These thoughts that the men were describing were things that they thought and they felt every day, and multiple times a day.
At that point I had probably been married close to ten years and I thought, “Why didn’t I know this before!?”
Bob: I think that’s what Mary Ann was saying when she read the book and she said, “I guess I kind of knew this, but I didn’t realize just how core it is.”
Bob: I remember her getting the book and saying she had highlighted a part. She said, “Is this real?” And I said, “Well, yes; that pretty much captures it.” She said, “Regularly you think this way and feel this way?!” I said, “Yes.” It was transformative for her because she just realized how central it was.
Dennis: I think we make a big deal out of – or at least we have here on FamilyLife Today – how men do not understand how a woman thinks. It really is a novel thought that you brought to the party here. . .
Shaunti: The other way around.
Dennis: . . . that maybe women don’t fully understand the way a man thinks. I appreciate your honesty about that. I’ll just take you back for a second. You’ve spoken to hundreds of women’s groups all around the country. On a one to ten point scale, average it out. The average wife knows how her husband thinks – “10,” which would be “she’s all over it; she understands; she’s got it” all the way down to “1,” she’s clueless. Where would you generally put women today?
Shaunti: Oh, you’re going to get me in trouble here, Dennis. Goodness.
You know, honestly, about the stuff that doesn’t matter as much, I think probably most women are very perceptive and good at gauging relationships, you know? So, probably for the stuff that doesn’t matter, it would probably be a seven or an eight.
Some of this stuff that matters a ton, the inner stuff that he doesn’t know how to articulate, probably a three.
Shaunti: That’s why it’s so powerful once your eyes are opened to just a few little things you didn’t know before. These are little things, but they have a pretty big impact.
Dennis: So which one of the seven was the biggest “aha” for you?
Shaunti: Oh, without a question, it was the fact that men aren’t as confident as they look; that there is so much vulnerability inside my husband, and I had no idea. That he was questioning with this sort of sense of, “Do I measure up? Am I any good as a husband? I want to be a great husband. I want to be a great dad. I want to be a great businessman, but I’m really not sure I know exactly what I’m doing. Am I making her happy? Am I not? Am I any good at this?”
It’s like a raw nerve and we, as women, can hit that nerve without realizing that’s what we’re doing. Oh my goodness! I did that all the time.
Dennis: I remember feeling that, first of all, as a husband, when I got married. I just thought I would make it up with intensity, you know? Just try harder.
Bob: Talk louder.
Dennis: Yes, really. That didn’t work. What I had to do was become a student of men who were ahead of me in the race of life. And then we had a baby; we had Ashley after a couple of years, which changed the dynamics tremendously. When they handed us Ashley, they didn’t hand instructions to me as a man, husband, and father about this new transition. Boy, that was a big adjustment, too.
Bob: Here was what was interesting for me – and this came out of the conversation we first had on the book For Women Only – I realized that as a man, all men want to play games where they can win. Okay?
Shaunti: Yes, yes.
Bob: If I go out to play golf regularly and I’m just no good at golf, I’m going to quit playing golf, right? The same is true in the skills of life. If I don’t feel like I’m winning, I’ll just quit that game. So for Mary Ann and me, we had to realize that if she is constantly saying, “You’re not winning here; you’re not winning here,” that doesn’t spur me to do better; that just spurs me to shut down and get out of that game. Why am I going to keep playing if I keep losing?
Shaunti: And here’s the thing for us women; and this is why I say that in some of these we have a three out of ten in cluelessness level. Mary Ann, just like me, I’m sure had no intention of sending you that message and didn’t feel that way, but had no idea that we do this and we hit the nerve and we send that message that, “No, you don’t measure up as a matter of fact,” when we would never intend to.
Some of the simplest little things like--and this is going to be silly--one guy said, “Any time a woman starts a sentence with, ‘Why did you . . .?’” – you know, “Why did you do this?!” The man said in the man’s mind just add onto the end of the sentence a comma, “you dodo!”
Shaunti: You know, just “Why did you do this, you dodo?” And that’s not what we’re saying, but because he’s dealing with this question of “Do I know what I’m doing?” that’s what he’s hearing.
Dennis: Here’s the issue: marriages go through different stages or seasons in the journey. I talked about how I was insecure early on as I started out as a husband and a father. There are new seasons that bring on new insecurities. So it’s not that a wife arrives in understanding her man. These insecurities can pop up.
As you empty the nest, too, it’s a fascinating time. You’re not there, Shaunti, but your seven are very applicable to a wife better loving her man in that time when the children are gone.
Bob: Beyond insecurity, what were the other major findings in the first edition of the book For Women Only?
Shaunti: Well, the most important one to me that comes out of that insecurity is how important respect is to a guy. I was really surprised, on my survey, when three out of four men said if they had to make a choice - which they wouldn’t want to have to make, but if they had to – they would actually choose to give up feeling that their wife loved them if they could just feel that she respected them and that she believed in them and trusted them and admired them and appreciated them.
All those things are more important, it turns out, to the average man, even than feeling that his wife loves him. That was a huge shocker to me, but it makes sense. If you’re dealing with this sense of “Do I measure up? Do I know what I’m doing?” then you’re going to be so touched by the feeling that this person respects you. I was shocked to find out that the most painful feeling for a guy is feeling inadequate.
Anything that hits that – “I think you are inadequate” – oh! For a guy, that’s his version of feeling unloved.
Bob: So, is it different? I presume it’s different – a woman would say, three out of four times, “I’d rather be loved than respected”?
Shaunti: Yes, it’s usually flipped. Actually, the numbers are higher usually on the woman’s side. Nobody wants either of these feelings.
Shaunti: Obviously. But, if you had to, most women would say, “You know what? I will feel inadequate; just don’t make me feel unloved.” That, to them, is what they would give up.
Dennis: We don’t need to do research to confirm what the Scripture teaches, but it is interesting, in Ephesians, chapter five – the last verse on a very famous passage that Paul wrote to husbands and wives about their relationship. He says, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself”--there’s the love piece—“and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
You know, it’s interesting. You did research to really bring us back to the Scripture that is trying to teach women that respect really is the greatest need of a man. If she undercuts him, doesn’t believe in him, is unhappy with him, critical of what he does, then it’s going to affect his confidence level in who he is as a man.
Shaunti: Well, the men told me – and this was one of the most powerful things – there was this feeling that they couldn’t really be that strong, respectable, trustworthy man they wanted to be without the sense that the most important person in his life is choosing to believe the best of him, even when he makes mistakes.
There’s no “out” clause in that passage of Scripture that says “if he does everything right.” No, you need to demonstrate respect for him. That’s because God knows that’s what men most need. That will build them up to be the man that they want to be.
Bob: So how have you counseled women over the years who have said, “But my husband!" There’s just so little there that I can affirm. He’s making mistakes right and left.”
Shaunti: Well, actually it’s interesting. Really one of the main people is a friend of yours who gave me some great counsel on this. Nancy Leigh DeMoss and I were sitting in the recording studio down the hall from here doing a show on this a number of years ago. She said, “We have so many of these women who call into me. I’m going to issue what I’ll call ‘The 30-day Challenge’.”
When I saw the results of this, I called her and said, “Nancy, I just have to steal this. I’m sorry, because this is so impactful.” So here’s what she said and what I have seen now to be so vital: She said, “You know, for the next 30 days, if you’re concerned about the fact that you really can’t find . . . you know, he’s making all of these mistakes. For the next 30 days, don’t sayanything negative about your husband, either to him or about him to somebody else; nothing negative – not to your girlfriend or your mom or anybody.”
“And, for the next 30 days, find one thing, even if it’s just one thing that you can affirm about him, that you can appreciate, and tell him; tell your girlfriend and your mom. Every day; do these things for the next 30 days.”
What happens is that it’s Philippians four. It’s suddenly, instead of sitting in a prison . . . You know, Paul was in a prison chained to a wall and he’s saying, “Rejoice!” How do you do that? Well, think on whatever is lovely. Think on whatever is excellent and true and worthy of praise. Suddenly, you do this with your man and your feelings start changing. Suddenly, instead of saying, “Well, there’s nothing I can affirm,” well actually, yes, there is.
Suddenly, you see all of these things that are praiseworthy. Suddenly, all of the stuff that used to bother you just doesn’t bother you as much anymore. Even if there are some very legitimate issues, you see all of these great things and the man is built up to be the man he wants to be for you.
Dennis: And I would add to this, ask your husband in the process, “What communicates respect to you?” Because it may not be that your words are the most powerful things that communicate respect to him. There may be attitudes, actions, things you do for him. We’re all individual people; it’s not one size fits all but, as you take these thirty days find out what communicates to him that you respect him.
Now let’s talk about what you found out in your other book, For Men Only, where you did some research on women and shared that with the guys. You found some things that the guys needed to know as well.
Shaunti: Yes, Jeff and I did the research on this a couple of years later to identify, “What are the things that guys just don’t get about their wives?” Now, most guys say, “Everything.” You know, it’s sort of a joke amongst men. (Laughter)
Shaunti: But we actually have found a few things that, to me, are very simple and very high leverage. And when I say “high leverage”--sorry, I’m using a Wall Street term--it’s that you have a few little changes and it can have some really big impacts. Of course, everybody likes that, especially guys.
Shaunti: You know, “Give me the keys.” One of them is back to this whole respect and love thing. You see, guys know that a woman wants to feel loved. What most husbands don’t know is how easy it is for his wife to not feel loved and that there’s a difference that we discovered. Men, when you get married and you see her walk down the aisle and say, “I do,” it doesn’t come up in your mind again after that; “Does she love me?”
Dennis: The deal is done; the prize is won, right?
Shaunti: Exactly. It’s this big surprise for men to find out that that’s not the case for women at all. There’s no switch in a woman’s brain that gets flipped to this “Oh, now I feel permanently loved” position. Instead, what we’ve actually found is the reverse of that: that running underneath the surface is this question, this latent insecurity, which says, “Does he really love me? Am I loveable? Would he choose me all over again?”
That’s kind of how it comes out. In a great relationship, a confident woman, it doesn’t come up except when it’s triggered when you guys have a conflict and you hurt each other’s feelings over breakfast. It kind of rises up in her; rises up and she thinks, “Are we okay?” You go off to work and it’s like, “Click.” You’re not thinking about it.
For her, that’s been triggered. It’s in her mind and it’s like this feeling that nothing is right with the world until that’s resolved. So there’s an enormous need for guys to know that she’s wondering, “Are we okay?” It’s so cool for guys once they see that if they just reassure their wives, “We’re going to be okay,” it makes a big difference in making her feel loved.
Dennis: I love one of the others that you had; I just had to smile. You said the survey revealed that women have multiple windows open on the computer of their mind at the same time.
In other words, their radar is up in all kinds of directions. They’re cooking dinner, they’re solving spats between the kids, they’re thinking about what the husband is doing as he comes in the front door. They’re able to multi-task, when we as men are pretty singular. Yet, the more a man gets this and understands this about his wife, the more he can appreciate her gifts and her abilities and esteem her as the one he loves.
Shaunti: Well, one great thing for guys to realize is that, for you as a man, you tend to give this advice that to you makes perfect sense. If she is bothered because her best friend didn’t call her back and she’s worried “Are we having an argument?” he gives this fantastic advice: “Honey, just don’t think about it; just don’t let it bother you.”
For me as a woman it’s like, “What does that mean?”
Bob: How do you do that?
Dennis: How do you shut the windows down?
Dennis: And that really hits on another one that you had, which is listening is the solution.
Dennis: A lot of men don’t appreciate how important listening is to his wife. They’ve got to be attentive to this.
Dennis: Well I’m really glad you’re taking another pass at this book because both of these books have sold over three million copies and they’re going to encourage a lot of our listeners. I just want to conclude by rereading what Paul said, again, in Ephesians, chapter five: “However, let each of you love his wife as himself” – that would solve a lot of problems – “and let the wife see that she respect her husband.”
Find out how you can love and respect and do the dance of marriage together, following the Scriptures.
Bob: You talked about Shaunti taking another pass at this. These books first came out back in 2004 (For Women Only) and in 2006 (For Men Only). Since that time, there’s been some new learning. So what has just recently been released. . .
Dennis: I think Shaunti has had some new learning. (Laughter)
Bob: We all have. Since that time, what’s happened is that there’s a revised and an updated version of both books and this week we’re going to spend some time talking about some of the new stuff that you’ve learned about men and that you’ve learned about women. Our listeners may want to get the updated versions of For Men Only and For Women Only.
Of course, we’ve got them in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online to get a copy of either or both of these books. I’ll just mention we have given these books to a lot of couples who are engaged to help them understand the different ways men and women think and act so that they can be ready for that and so that they can love each other well through those differences.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and look for copies of the book For Women Only or For Men Only, the revised, updated versions of those books. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com or you can call toll-free to order copies of either book, or you can order both books together if you’d like. Again, our toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY; that’s 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”
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Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says “I CARE” to make an online donation, or call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation over the phone. When you get in touch with us, ask for the CD on addictions. We’ll be happy to send it out to you.
Again, we’re very grateful for your partnership with us here in the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We always enjoy hearing from you.
We hope you can join us back tomorrow when we’re going to look at men; why men think and act the way we do, and some of the new findings that are part of Shaunti Feldhahn’s revised edition of the book, For Women Only. That comes up tomorrow; I hope you can be here.
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 will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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