December 15, 2019

Recommendation and Review: For Men Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn

1590525728-small.jpgSeveral months ago, my wife asked me to read For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. It’s a book about the inner lives of men, a subject about which I figured I knew really well and no chick could educate me. I didn’t read it.

A few weeks ago, she purchased the companion volume, For Men Only (A Straightforward Guide To The Inner Lives of Women) by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn (I’d say mostly by Jeff), and asked me to read it. I didn’t read it either.

I should have, and this week, I did. I’m very glad. Guys, so should you. Put down that remote. Turn off that X-Box and go order this book.

The Feldhahn’s are evangelical Christians, Harvard graduates, writers and appreciators of research on relationships. In the context of their own marriage, and then as writers with a genuine desire to be helpful, they’ve written these books to help husbands and wives understand each other on levels we rarely explore or talk about, except in despair and frustration. (I’d not really recommend these books for gender relations in general, but for those in marriage or planning to be married someday.)

The books are easy to read, loaded with research and charts communicating the essentials, plenty of anecdotes and lots of plain, real-world explanations. The research interpretation is particularly impressive, because the Feldhahn’s back up what they are saying with substantial evidence gained from listening to focus groups, interviews and surveys. While the research isn’t “scholarly,” it’s careful and without grandiose surprises or claims.

The Feldhahn’s Christianity is rarely referenced in For Men Only, and these books are not expositions of scripture. In fact, some readers may find themselves wondering if they really need to know the inner thought processes of another person. Isn’t it enough to know scripture?

You can answer that yourself, and tell us how it’s working out for you. Or you can be honest and say you can use all the help you can get.

Here’s what I want to say about Feldhahn’s book on the inner lives of women: It tells men what they desperately need to know, but will generally deny, ignore and minimize, to the damage and detriment of the marriages. It’s the fact that we believe we know the answers, know what needs to be done and know what everyone needs to think and feel that is the problem. Without sticking your head too far under water to scare you, Jeff and Shaunti make it plain that all kinds of relationships are full of hurt and pain, but there can be a genuine and positive difference if some simple insights could be gained into how the other gender processes and thinks about life.

Much of Christian literature on male-female relationships is full of high sounding, well meaning rhetoric about loving a woman as Christ loved the church. The fact is that a lot of us don’t have a clue about how to do that on the level of simple daily interactions. And here’s the rub: All kinds of things that we do believing we are “loving” and “serving,” are quite likely making the woman feel that we don’t love her and we don’t think she matters.

What Jeff Feldhahn gently suggests is that the male ego- even in guys who really love their wives- is a bit of an ignorant bull in the China shop of marriage. We draw wrong conclusions, operate on erroneous assumptions, think we have some kind of guaranteed natural expertise and misunderstand things that really, really matter. And a lot of us are hurting our wives when it’s not necessary.

This isn’t a book about family devotions or gender roles. You can find that book if you need it. This is a book about listening. LISTENING. Understanding. Communicating. Knowing a human being in a way that helps them feel loved. It’s a book with insights you and I need and practical help that you would have to pay a fortune to get from a counselor. This is the kind of stuff that we should get from the really good marriages around us, but no one really knows how to talk about it.

If you are ready to admit that part of problem in your marriage, guys, is you, and that you simply talk too much, try to fix everyone and rarely think about the inner feelings of the person you promised to love and honor, then a few hours with this book could change your entire life. I recommend it without reservation. I’ll be getting several copies for the men I mentor and counsel.

And Denise, thank you for giving it to me. Now I get it, and I hope you will be able to tell the difference.

BTW…if you go to Amazon, be sure and read the reviews.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I usually shy away from the “Christian self-help” category with the exception of John Eldredge’s books. Tried to fit myself into too many wrong shapes if you know what I mean. Now to get my husband to read this…

  2. Michael,

    Thanks, this sounds good.

    Alex

  3. I read that book already, and I agree with you. What I took away from it is that most of the time we don’t need to try to fix anything or solve anything in our interactions with women; we just need to be there and to listen.

  4. In the 8th paragraph down in your review, right after men sticking their heads too far under water, you have a very strange sentence. I have re-read it several times and can’t figure out what it is trying to say. I thought you might want to take a look at it and correct it, unless I’m missing something. The book looks great. My son needs to read it!

  5. Thanks Barbara

  6. Thanks for the recommendation. I did go to Amazon.coma and I did read many of the reviews. When a book gets such overwhelmingly high ratings, I’m naturally more interested in the ones that are more critical (yet thoughtful). I only found one of these: S. Arnold’s review on 4 Jan. 2007. That is one that shouldn’t be missed.

    Is there any advice in this book about discernment about listening to women? While it’s true that the “bull in a china shop” is never helpful, with some women one has to draw the line somewhere. They have so much to say and they think it all so important and are hurt if we don’t want to listen to some of it. For them every experience is a story that must be replayed in “he said, she, said” detail in order for the conveyance to have any significance and it’s an insult for them to be asked to “get to the point”. I think that some of the more significant experiences need to be conveyed and listen to in great detail. But so many are not. Happy is the couple who understands the difference and can adjust their speaking and listening accordingly without feeling hurt or put upon.

  7. Mike Taylor says

    Very interesting reading the dissenting Amazon review. A while back, my wife read “Mean are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, and I read some parts of it. It is not exactly great literature and which could be boiled down about four pages, but which did nevertheless have some good things to say.

    The key one, which I’d not realised and which she’s also not been explicitly aware in such as way as to enable her to explain it to me, is that when women complain about something, the _first_ thing they want is validation, whereas the _first_ thing men tend to do is suggest solutions. (Yes, of course this is a gross generalisation.) When I realised this, I started making a very small concession: when something comes up, I spend thirty seconds or so sympathising _before_ I start offering solutions. That’s all — thirty seconds seems to be enough sympathy for her to feel that she’s been heard, and that I feel the significance of what’s happening. Then she’s ready to hear, and constructively discuss, all the suggestions.

    (Now you don’t need to read the book 🙂

    But I still feel the best book I’ve ever read on gender differences is Dave Barry’s Complete Guide To Guys.

  8. I’ve read “For Men Only” and found it to be useful, insightful and interesting.

  9. My girlfriend gave me this book months ago and I never read it. I will now, but I probably would have read it sooner if the cover didn’t look like it was another Chick Lit book.

  10. Mike,
    That 30 seconds is a great idea. I think I’m going to need 60 but it’s still a great investment. Thanks!

  11. Eh. Based on the Amazon stuff–I haven’t read the book–I think a better subtitle might be A Guide to the Inner Lives of Chicks.

    I mean, come on, do we really need more sap about how our feeelings are so important? How chick-ish do we want to appear? If I get the urge to wallow around in my hurt feelings and how my man doesn’t understaaaand me, all I need is to look at the life of a woman in, say, Sudan to get some perspective.

    Does my family have a nice home, ample clothing, food to eat, and, oh, yeah, no insurgents down the road coming to kill us for what we believe? Then I think I’m very, very blessed, even if my man, who knocks himself out taking care of us, doesn’t care to listen to me go on and on about my issues.

    Grow up and stop whining, ladies.

  12. You haven’t read the book. It’s not whining, I assure you.

  13. I’ll take your word for it. Like I said, I was just basing my comments on what I read on Amazon.

  14. I think the work of preserving marriages is a noble work. I also think it’s important we learn how to see our own sins (selfishness) in the light of the call to love others in community. The Feldhahns, without partaking of the self-help culture- do good research and observations (much like Proverb’s call to pay attention) and then suggest how the genders can listen, love, respect and encourage each other.

    If our approach is going to be, “Women in the Sudan manage to survive without much respect because they are fighting for life,” we’ve really just articulated Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, i.e. a person who needs bread isn’t worried about does my husband listen. That’s a good point. But the divorce rate in the church is largely a matter of marriages that can’t cope or repair themselves, not a matter of adultery, etc.

    I appreciate your point that Americans are a bit self-consumed, but ask any missionary agency why missionary families must come home, and marriage trouble will be high on the list.

    The issues in this book are simply human ones, and are worth our consideration.

  15. But the divorce rate in the church is largely a matter of marriages that can’t cope or repair themselves

    Okay, but how much of that not being able to cope comes from unrealistic expectations?

    The fact that our basic needs are met, and we don’t have to worry about, you know, survival, gives us too much time on our hands to drum up insignificant “he doesn’t validate me” problems.

    I am, again, not addressing the book but the comments.

  16. It would certainly be possible to say in all marriage or family problems, “Listen you fat Americans. You’re spoiled. Stop thinking of yourselves. Get over it.”

    Lots of men and women take that approach with their spouses and their kids.

    People like me get to work with the outcomes: Divorce, broken families, affairs, addictions.

    I’m not validating selfishness. I’m validating what God made us to be: relational creatures. Love. Respect. Listening. Value. These are parts of the imago dei. They aren’t to become so important that other things don’t matter, but I can tell you without a doubt that if I feel my wife doesn’t respect me, it’s a problem. A real problem and a problem that stops me in much that I am called to do.

    Love one another as I have loved you, Jesus said. Love your wife as I have loved you. These are relational and they are descriptive of what it means to be human, where feeling unloved is hell.

  17. Stop thinking of yourselves. Get over it.”

    Lots of men and women take that approach with their spouses and their kids.

    People like me get to work with the outcomes: Divorce, broken families, affairs, addictions.

    Oh, come on. You’re saying that divorces and addictions are caused by expecting folks to realize their blessings and not expecting their spouse to meet every need possible?

    Like I said, too much time on someone’s hands.

    What about when Christ says to serve? To sacrifice? Speaking relationally, how about the least being first?

    Screaming my needs, my needs does not seem to come into play there.

    I guess where I am coming from is that I work with all women, and the things they say about their husbands are ridiculous. The things they get angry and hurt about are trivial. There are a lot of women who feel the need to be insulted about pretty much anything.

    I feel sorry for these poor guys who are working hard to take care of their families and are made to be miserable over this stuff.

  18. I feel sorry for them too, but you are taking an extreme position. A caricature of legitimate problems that have nothing to do with “screaming MY NEEDS.”

    You’ve made an excellent point. Obviously this book isn’t for you.

  19. I’m probably coming across as more contentious than I mean to be. If so, I apologize.

    Everyone comes at things from a different perspective, and mine is definitely different than yours.

    Personally, if a woman who has a husband who is even willing to read this book? You’re most likely a lot better off than you realize.

  20. As I said, my wife asked me to read both books several months ago. I didn’t. I read the For Men Only book this week as an act of repentance, and it was very searching and helpful. It gave me much to pray about and revealed many sins.

  21. Thank you, thank you for bringing these books to my attention. I think if we had read them 16 years ago, most of our fights could have been avoided. We might have found other things to argue about, but at least would have been arguing with each other instead of past each other. After finishing both books we looked at each other and both said, “Whoa. I had no idea.”

    The past week has been one of the best of our marriage.

    For people who haven’t read the books, I highly recommend them. But please approach them with an open and humble heart, and be ready to confront some things that you’d rather not think about. And pray!