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For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men
by Shaunti Feldhahn
Learn More | Meet Shaunti Feldhahn
How I Woke Up to What I Didn’t Know About Men
As newlyweds, my husband and I lived in Manhattan, and like all New Yorkers we walked everywhere. But I quickly noticed something strange. Quite often we’d be strolling hand in hand and Jeff would abruptly jerk his head up and away. We’d be watching in-line skaters in Central Park or waiting to cross the street in a crowd, and he would suddenly stare at the sky. I started to wonder, Is something going on at the tops of these buildings?
Turns out, something was going on, but it wasn’t up in the buildings.
Have you ever been totally confused by something the man in your life has said or done? Have you ever wondered, looking at his rapidly departing back, Why did that make him so angry? Have you ever been perplexed by your husband’s defensiveness when you ask him to stop working so much? Yeah? Me too.
But now, after conducting spoken and written interviews with more than one thousand men, I can tell you that the answers to those and dozens of other common perplexities are all related to what is going on in your man’s inner life. Most are things he wishes you knew but doesn’t know how to tell you. In some cases, they’re things he has no idea you don’t know. This book will share those interviews and those answers. But be careful, ladies. You might be slapping your forehead a lot!
HOW IT ALL STARTED…
Let me tell you how I got here. It all started with the research for my second novel, The Lights of Tenth Street. One of the main characters was a man, a devoted, godly husband and father. Because I wanted this character’s thought life to closely resemble what real men deal with, I interviewed my husband, Jeff, and many other male friends to try to get inside their heads. It took me a while to figure out how to handle what I found.
You see, in the novel my character had a secret struggle: He loved his wife and kids and was a devoted follower of Christ, but he liked looking at women and had a constant battle with his thought life. A constant day-by-day, even minute-byminute battle with the temptations that beckoned from every corner of our culture, from the secret traps of the Internet to the overt appeal of the miniskirt walking down the street. In short....and this is what was such a surprise to me.... instead of being unusual, my character was like almost every man on the planet. Including the devoted Christian husbands I was interviewing.
That revelation led to others, on a half-dozen other subjects, and following those trails led to the hundreds of personal and written interviews with men....including a professional survey....that form the core of this book. I interviewed close friends over dinner and strangers in the grocery store, married fathers at church and the single student sitting next to me on the airplane. I talked to CEOs, attorneys, pastors, technology geeks, business managers, the security guard at Costco, and the guys behind the counter at Starbucks. I even interviewed a professional opera singer and a former NFL offensive tackle with a Super Bowl ring.
No one was safe.
It turned out that these men shared some surprisingly common inner wiring. At their secret inner core, many had similar fears and concerns, feelings and needs.
I discovered that there were many things I thought I understood about men....but really didn’t. In several areas, my understanding was purely surface-level. Once I got below the surface and into specifics, everything changed. I felt like a cartoon character who suddenly had a lightbulb over my head.
Even better, it turned out that those revelations were mostly about things that my own husband always wished I knew but couldn’t figure out how to explain. And that was a common refrain from most of the men I talked to. Although I still make many mistakes in my relationship with my husband....and will continue to!....finally grasping these things has hopefully helped me to better appreciate and support him in the way that he needs.
I want that lightbulb to go on for you as well.
Why was this surprising?
In a way, I was surprised to be so…surprised. We women think we know many things about a man’s inner life. We all know, for example, that “men are visual,” but, well…what exactly does that mean?
It turns out that what that means in practice is the key thing....the specific insight that will help you be a better wife, girlfriend, or mother. Using the “visual” example, the difference is vast between having the vague notion that men are visual and knowing that the sexy commercial he just watched has become a mental time bomb that will rise up and assault him the next day. The difference is vast between helplessly wondering what is going on in his head and having the insight of hundreds of men to help you understand not only what is going on, but also how to support him.
Actually, there was a kind of double surprise in this research. When I interviewed men and drew some conclusions, they would often say, “But women already know that…surely they know that.” All too frequently, I found myself replying, “Well, I didn’t know that.” I began to realize that there’s so much about men that we don’t understand.... and that men don’t even know we don’t know. And that sort of misunderstanding is the stuff that gives birth to a lot of conflict.
So here are the revelations this book is going to cover.... seven translations from “surface level” to “in practice” that you, like me, may not have realized before.
As with all of us, the inner life of a man is a package, with these elements melded and wrapped up inside. Whether you are relating to a husband, boyfriend, or son, it is impossible to understand one part of his inner life in isolation. Every area affects every other area, and I’m only covering those few areas that I thought were the most important or helpful.
Thankfully, these revelations are also backed up by evidence.... a groundbreaking professional survey of hundreds of men.
Since I found no survey data like this on the market, two sets of experts, Chuck Cowan at Analytic Focus, the former chief of survey design at the U.S. Census Bureau, and Cindy Ford and the survey team at Decision Analyst, came together to help me conduct this survey. The survey was blind, done at random, and meticulously planned and executed. Four hundred anonymous men across the country, ranging in age from twenty-one to seventy-five, answered two dozen questions about their lives and about how they think, what they feel, and what they need. The survey stressed that we weren’t dealing with outward behavior as much as with the inner thoughts and emotions that led to their behavior.
- “Men need respect” Men would rather feel unloved than inadequate and disrespected.
- “Men are insecure” Despite their “in control” exterior, men often feel like impostors and are insecure that their inadequacies will be discovered.
- “Men are providers” Even if you personally made enough income to support the family’s lifestyle, it would make no difference to the mental burden he feels to provide.
- “Men want more sex” Your sexual desire for your husband profoundly affects his sense of well-being and confidence in all areas of his life.
- “Men are visual” Even happily married men struggle with being pulled toward live and recollected images of other women.
- “Men are unromantic clods” Actually, most men enjoy romance (sometimes in different ways) and want to be romantic....but hesitate because they doubt they can succeed.
- “Men care about appearance” You don’t need to be a size 3, but your man does need to see you making the effort to take care of yourself....and he will take on significant cost or inconvenience in order to support you.
After all the surveying, the results of my personal interviews were confirmed. Not only had I heard the same things over and over....quotes that I will include in the following pages....but those anecdotal results were now backed up by statistically valid evidence. I hadn’t just happened to interview the hundred weirdest men on the planet! (Since I am an analyst and not a psychologist, and since my grad- school statistics professor might politely question the statistical skills of someone who needed a whole semester to learn regression analysis, I was quite relieved that professional statisticians confirmed my findings!)
In the end, the men I spoke with and surveyed appear to have been extremely transparent and honest about some very personal subjects. So, men....whoever you are....I thank you.
BEFORE WE START: GROUND RULES
You’re probably rarin’ to turn the page, but before you get to look inside the inner lives of men, here are some ground rules:
- First, if you are looking for male-bashing or proof that your husband is indeed a cad, you won’t find it here. I honor the men who shared their hearts with me, and I hope that by sharing their insight, more women might come to understand and appreciate the wonderful differences between us.
- Second, this is not an equal treatment of male female differences, nor do I deal at all with how your man can or should relate to you. Yes, we women obviously also have needs, and many of the truths discussed in these pages apply to us too. But since the theme is the inner lives of men and my space is limited, I’m focusing entirely on how we relate to men, not the other way around. (That is also why the survey did not poll gay men.)
- Third, recognize that there are always exceptions to every rule. When I say that “most men” appear to think a certain way, realize that “most” means exactly that....most, not all. I’m making generalizations out of necessity, and inevitably there will be exceptions. One reason I did the professional survey was to determine what was an exception and what was normal.
- Fourth, I’m addressing what is normal inside men, not necessarily what is right in their outward behavior. And since these pages are not the place for a lengthy exploration of any one issue, you can always go to www.4-womenonly.com to explore more resources, including the entire survey.
- Fifth, I need to warn you that some of the enclosed insight may be distressing because it affects our view of the men in our lives and our view of ourselves. It was tempting to exclude certain things, but I realized that I was hearing things men often weren’t willing or able to say directly to their spouses or girlfriends. So it was critical to include these comments. But please realize that in most cases, these comments have little to do with us.... they are just the way men are wired. And we should celebrate that fact. After all, it is because he is wired as a man that you love him.
- Finally, and most important, I hope that this book is not just about learning fascinating new secrets. The more we understand the men in our lives, the better we can support and love them in the way they need to be loved. In other words, this revelation is supposed to change and improve us.