Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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What Do Men Need?

Leslie Basham: When husbands and wives don’t connect, who’s to blame? Here’s author and speaker Shaunti Feldhahn.

Shaunti Feldhahn: For some reason, we’ve developed this inner, subtle feeling that we women are really the ones who are good at relationships, and we women are really the ones who have the interpersonal skills. So if there’s a problem, it’s probably his fault, and he’s just got to learn to relate better. And when we unpack that, what that’s actually saying is he’s got to learn to relate the same way we do.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, July 1.

In 2005, Revive Our Hearts listeners first heard the series “For Women Only.” The response to that series and the book by the same title was huge.  

Recently Shaunti Feldhahn re-released the book. This time including some new insights she’s gotten over the last decade or so. Later this week she’ll join us to talk about some of what she’s learned since writingher book, For Women Only.  

Today, we’ll revisit that original series with Shaunti Feldhahn that made such a big difference in the lives of so many of our listeners. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Do you ever find yourself wondering what in the world makes my husband tick? In fact, what makes men in general tick?

Our guest today has written a book called For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men. Shaunti Feldhahn, welcome to Revive Our Hearts.

Shaunti: It’s great to be with you.

Nancy: Also joining us today is my longtime friend, Barbara Rainey. Barbara, thank you for joining us at a last-minute notice. I asked you yesterday if would you be willing to come and join this conversation. Thanks for doing that.

Barbara Rainey: Yes, well, it was last minute, but I’m honored to be here.

Nancy: Barbara and I have known each other for a number of years. Barbara is the wife of Dennis Rainey. 

Now, let me just say to Shaunti, when your book first came out and one of my staff picked it up, she showed me the book like this: “Shaunti Feldhahn, it says at the top, For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men.” One of my staff women laughed, and she said, “Why in the world is a woman writing a book about the inner lives of men?” And one might ask that question.

We’re not claiming by any means, as a trio of women, to be experts on men. But you did some fascinating research that gave you some insights that I think are going to be very helpful to women about how men think. How did you stumble onto this project?

Shaunti: “Stumbling” is probably the right word, Nancy, in all honesty. I actually realized how little I understood about how men really think and feel when I had to write my last novel. I had to create a male character as one of my main characters. I suddenly was trying to write this guy’s thoughts and realizing that I had no idea what a guy would be thinking in this situation.

So I’d sit down and talk to my husband Jeff about it. And anytime we’d go out to dinner with another couple, I’d go to the guy and say, “Can I interview you?” And, “Here’s my scene. What would you be thinking in this situation?”

As the man would explain what he would be thinking, my mouth started dropping open, and his wife’s mouth would be dropping open. And we’d be saying, “That’s what you’re thinking?” It was this enormous surprise.

I started doing more and more and more of these discussions, and pretty soon I was going up to the guys behind the counter at Starbucks going, “What would you be thinking in this situation?” I realized that there was so much that I didn’t realize about what’s going on in the minds and hearts of our men.

I ended up hiring a professional survey company to do a national survey of men, just to see if everything I was finding was borne out, and it was. And that’s why we created this book.

Nancy: So you ended up conducting spoken or written interviews with over a thousand men—some of them believers, some of them not believers.

Shaunti: Yes. All over the map.

Nancy: And you discovered that there were some things that they had in common—some of their feelings, fears, ways of thinking, concerns—and you summarized them into seven of what you call revelations about how men think. It sounds like it was kind of a light bulb going off in your head.

Shaunti: It really was. I tell people all the time that this book is really only about things we women just don’t get about men and things that, most of the time, our husbands really desperately wish we knew.

Nancy: And wish they could explain to us.

Shaunti: Yes, and wish they could explain.

Nancy: And it’s so true that, from the beginning, God created men and women very different—needing each other, interdependent on each other, but very different. Sometimes we gripe about how different men are from women, but would we really want them to be just like us?

Shaunti: I don’t think so.

Barbara: I don’t think so either! No.

Nancy: No, probably not. One of the things that encourages me about this book is that you challenge women to cherish the differences rather than resenting the differences.

Shaunti: Well, one thing I say right up front, and I tell people this when I give talks, is to recognize that there are an awful lot of resources out there for marriage—something that FamilyLife has been doing for years so wonderfully—and so many things that talk about the back-and-forth and the give-and-take that we really all need in marriage.

And yet, after I learned what I learned about men, I feel like there’s an awful lot that we women need to grow up about. We need to be willing to step out into maturity a little bit and recognize that there are these things that—well, you know what, let’s just be one-sided for a little bit. Let’s set aside our rights, our needs, and just be willing to recognize and have our eyes opened to the unique things that our husbands need.

Barbara: I couldn’t agree more. I think in our culture, we’ve had such a focus on women—from the last generation actually, because of the women’s lib movement and all of the focus on women’s rights—and I think it has done a disservice to marriages. The focus on women has caused us to be selfish, to be self-focused, to think about what we need, and to not think about what our husbands need.

Shaunti: For some reason we’ve developed this inner, subtle feeling that we women are really the ones who are good at relationships, and we women are really the ones who have the interpersonal skills. So if there’s a problem, it’s probably his fault, and he’s just got to learn to relate better. When we unpack that, what that’s actually saying is he’s got to learn to relate the same way we do.

Instead, what I found is this is just the way these men are built. They have very unique needs. Just as we want them to love and support us the way we need, why on earth should we not learn to love and support them the way they need? It’s really a wonderful opportunity for us.

Barbara: It really is, and it leads to an arrogance that we are prey to. We’ve been taught that the way we relate is right and that men don’t know how to relate; therefore, I think we subtly begin to think that they’re wrong.

Nancy: And that they are the ones who need to change.

Barbara: Yes, and that there’s a problem with them, that they need to fix it, and that we don’t have any responsibility.

Nancy: We’re not saying that men don’t have problems or that men don’t need to change. But God didn’t call us to change the men.

Barbara: And to make them like us.

Nancy: Right—or to make them like us. And what I love, Shaunti, about this book, and about these revelations about men, is that they call us as women to be willing to make some adjustments.

Shaunti: Yes. I often talk to people who make the classic assumption that many of us have: “Well, if I can just get hold of these revelations and understand him better, I can change him.” And at the very beginning of the book, I say these are intended to change us. Period.

One of the wonderful things about that, as I have found in my own marriage, is that once we start realizing that we can reach out to our husbands and love them the way that they need, it builds them up to be the men that God created them to be. Suddenly, they start becoming the men that God created them to be, which includes being a wonderful husband, even if they already were. They want to then love us more sacrificially. It’s a win-win for all concerned.

Nancy: I hope our listeners will stay tuned through this whole series. I think it’s going to bring a lot of hope to women.

We get a lot of desperate emails from women who are in desperate marriages. Learning some of the insights that you show in this book—and, Barbara, that you have learned through a lot of years of marriage—this brings hope.

This says that a wife can have an influence on her husband if she will become the godly woman God wants her to be. The impact on her husband will be significant—and not just on her husband, but on men in general.

So let’s jump in to the first of those revelations that I think is so foundational and is one of the key biblical teachings to women about relating to men. It starts with this revelation which we think we know, but we really don’t fully understand, and that is that men need respect.

Shaunti: Yes. I started actually learning this a little bit when I was right out of college. I was a brand new believer, and I was on a retreat with a bunch of singles. The theme of the retreat was “Relationships,” which, as you can imagine, was of great interest to a bunch of singles.

The retreat speaker looked at this group of seventy people, and he divided us in half. He put the men on one side and the women on the other side of the room. Then he said, “I’m going to ask you a question. I’m going to ask you to choose between these two bad feelings. If you had to choose, would you rather feel alone and unloved in the world, or would you rather feel inadequate and disrespected?”

Nancy: I really don’t want either!

Shaunti: No, I don’t want either, but if you had to choose, which would you rather? And he turned to the men, and he said, “Okay, men, who here would rather feel alone and unloved?” And every man raised his hand, and you heard a giant gasp from the women’s side of the room.

Nancy: They would rather feel alone and unloved than . . .?

Shaunti: . . . than to feel inadequate and disrespected.

Nancy: Wow.

Shaunti: As woman, we most want to feel loved and cherished, so this was like foreign land to us. We had no idea how they could choose this. He turned to the women’s side of the room, and he said, “Okay, women, who here would rather feel alone and unloved?” I think only three or four women raised their hands, and you heard the giant gasp from the men’s side of the room. And he said, “Women, who here would rather feel inadequate and disrespected?” Almost every woman raised her hand.

This retreat speaker said the same thing that I said in the book and asked the men on the survey—which is to recognize that, for women, the highest need in general is to feel loved and cherished. But the highest need for a man is to feel his wife’s respect and trust and admiration and honor.

So as women we can go overboard trying to show how much we love them, but if we don’t also show that we respect them—and maybe criticize them in public or question their decisions all the time—they’re going to feel disrespected, and then they won’t feel loved.

Nancy: And that’s a little different way of thinking in a culture that is so love dominated.

Shaunti: Absolutely. It’s interesting. I was speaking with a gentleman who has a ministry called Love and Respect, a marriage ministry that deals with exactly this. He pointed out that we have come to believe in our culture that love is to be unconditional but respect must be earned.

In fact, when you look at the Scripture, that’s actually a completely unbiblical idea in marriage. But I think, for many of us, that’s really the assumption we’ve made: that respect needs to be earned, and we’ll respect our husbands when they deserve it. Really, what God is saying is that that would be the same thing as your husband saying, “Well, I’ll love you when you’re loveable.” It’s absolutely imperative that we learn what the Scripture says about that.

Nancy: I think a lot of times women do respect the men in their lives—they feel that respect, and sometimes may not realize how their words or their actions can convey the opposite.

Barbara: Yes, I really agree, Nancy. I think, as a culture of women, we’ve become critical. I think our culture has invited that critical spirit in us by telling us we need to think about our own needs and our own wants.

So without even maybe realizing it, we’ve become critical of our husbands and the men in our lives that we work with or that we’re around on a regular basis. And we may not even say anything, but we may just have a critical attitude toward them and sort of a condescending spirit. That’s not healthy in relationships. It’s not biblical. It’s not what God called us to do.

Shaunti: The other thing that I discovered—and again, this was a revelation for me, too; I want to make sure I state that right up front—is that I’d been making this mistake far too many times with my husband Jeff. It’s not even just that we are critical to them, it’s that we are critical to them when what they most need is for us to be uncritical.

It would be the same thing as if our husbands spent their day never talking to us or never showing any signs at all of love—and, in fact, showing us things that we felt were constantly unloving. That’s the way they often feel as they go through their day, because, again, their highest need is to feel that we respect and trust them.

And frankly, one of the things that I hear all the time from women is, “Well, what do you do? How do you show respect?” or “Why should I show respect, or why should I respect him, if he’s really not respectable?” I say, it’s that paradox. It’s that same way that, when we weren’t worthy of it, Christ came and died for us, and that makes us want to be worthy of it. It makes us want to live a godly life.

It’s the same thing with our men. If we will show them and choose—it’s a choice, really—to demonstrate that respect and to demonstrate that trust, even if we felt he hasn’t really earned it, he will want to be worthy of that.

Nancy: And that takes faith that God really will come through. You have to launch out into the deep and say, “Lord, I’m going to obey You and Your Word, regardless of how I feel, regardless of how my husband may have wounded my spirit. I’m going to trust You enough to obey You and let You deal with my husband.”

Shaunti: Right. The neat thing about that is—because this is the way that God created men and women—when we actually step out in faith and do that, sometimes the results are immediate. I mean, it’s wonderful.

It’s wonderful the way that God designed us to have these little encouragements along the way. For example, stopping ourselves from teasing them in public or talking bad about them behind their backs. You know what that does? It affirms deep in our hearts that they are disrespectable. When we talk about them behind their backs, we may think we’re not affecting them at all, but we are, because we’re creating that sensation within ourselves.

Barbara: Well, it’s a matter of focus, too. If we’re focusing on what we don’t like, what we think is not worthy of respect, then that’s what consumes us.

One of the interesting things that I learned early in our marriage, I think it was within the first year of our marriage . . . I remember thinking the spiritual thing to do as a new wife was to pray about the things I saw in my husband’s life that I felt needed to be fixed or changed or where he needed to grow up.

Nancy: You mean there were some things that you thought needed to be changed in Dennis Rainey?

Barbara: They surprised me, because when I married him, we had a pretty short courtship and engagement. So I did discover some things in that first year that surprised me. I thought, He’s not as mature as I thought he was. So I began to think, Well, now, how do I do this? How do I handle this as a Christian wife? And I thought, Well, the Christian thing to do would be to pray about these things. So I began to make a list in my prayer notebook of things that I felt like God needed to work on in his life.

The thing that was so interesting about that is that after a few weeks I realized that by praying on those things every day, I was focusing on them every day. I had that list memorized, and at the end of only three weeks, or maybe a month, I realized I was consumed with everything that I thought needed to be changed in his life.

I went to the Lord, and I said, “Lord, this isn’t working. I don’t like how I feel about him by focusing on what’s wrong—or what I think is wrong.” God may not even think it’s wrong, but I had come to the conclusion that it was wrong. And I said, “God, I’m going to give him to You. I’m going to tear this list up, and I’m not ever going to pray about things that need to be changed in his life again. If You want to change his life, it’s Your business, not mine. I’m going to instead focus on the things that are good.”

It’s a real practical way that we as wives can show respect to our husbands—by focusing on the things that are good, the things that he does do right. Thank him for those, praise him for those, encourage him for those things. And as Shaunti just said, watch him light up when we do give him respect for what is good and what is honorable and what is respectable in his life.

Nancy: I think it’s time for us to reissue a challenge that we have given several times before onRevive Our Hearts, and it’s always been received so positively. We’ve received so many emails telling how this was life-changing. So if you haven’t heard this before—or even if you have, but you’ve never done it; or maybe you’ve done it and you need to do it again—here’s the 30-day challenge: For thirty days, you can’t say anything negative about your husband—to him, or to anyone else about him.

Barbara: That’s an excellent challenge.

Nancy: Now, when I’ve given that challenge at conferences, I watch some people look like they’re going to fall off their chairs and say, “I don’t think I can do that.” Listen, if that’s a problem for you, then you’ve probably developed some bad habits, and you’re seeing your husband through negative eyes.

That’s the one side of the challenge. You can’t say anything negative about him for 30 days.

Here’s the positive side: Every day, for the next thirty days, find something that you appreciate or admire about your husband. Say it to him, and say it to someone else about him. And I’ve said to women, “If you can’t think of thirty things that you appreciate about your husband, then think of one thing and say it every day for the next thirty days.” And then I want you to write us and tell us, as many women have in the past, what happened in your marriage.

I’ve told women, I can’t guarantee that this will change your husband, though he may wake up one morning wondering if he’s married to a different woman, but I can tell you that it will change you. It will change your perspective, and you will begin to see your husband through new eyes.

So write and tell us about it, as one woman did. She said, “It’s only day one, and I can’t believe how my husband has already responded to me today in a situation, a relationship, that was strained and I thought was hopeless. He’s already warmed up and is communicating back as I’m showing respect to him, just after day one.”

Shaunti: It’s because our husbands are so starved for this. They’re like dry sponges, and it will just soak into their spirits, because, again, this is the most important thing to them. He needs the sense of, “I am appreciated.”

Nancy: We’re going to pick up again on this theme of respect tomorrow because I think it’s so important. We’re going to talk more about what communicates respect to men, and also what communicates disrespect, but let me just read from Ephesians chapter 5—a verse that most of us are familiar with, but I’m going to read it in the Amplified version, which says it in such a powerful way.

Ephesians chapter 5, verse 33, the second part of that verse: “Let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband”—and then it expands on those terms, and here’s what it says: “that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.”

Leslie: We’ve been listening to a challenging conversation between Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Shaunti Feldhahn, and Barbara Rainey.

We first aired that interview on Revive Our Hearts in 2005. It had a huge effect on our listeners. Here’s Nancy with an example.

Nancy: When that conversation first aired on Revive Our Hearts several years ago, many of our listeners began re-thinking their approach to men. And they began taking the 30-day challenge that you just heard me describe. And I’ll just tell you—hardly a week goes by without us hearing from listeners whose marriages have been deeply impacted by this challenge.

For instance, we made contact with a listener named Erin. She and her husband had been through a lot of conflict about how to raise their daughter. She admits that these discussions were marked by . . . 

Erin: . . . my quick temper, very impatient, talking down to him a lot, talking disrespectfully.

"How could you do that that way?" Just acting like I knew what was best.

Nancy: After just four years of marriage, Erin and her husband found themselved poles apart.

Erin: We had really lost any emotional connection. Our marriage was in disarray.  

Nancy: Then Erin heard about the 30-Day Husband Encouragement 
 from a friend. It’s the challenge I mentioned a few minutes ago.

Erin accepted this challenge and she really appreciated the practical suggestions our team made. One of those suggestions was to tell a family member what you appreciate about your husband. So Erin wrote an email to her parents and to her husband’s parents. She described the new responsibilities her husband had taken on at work.

Erin: Just praising him to them. I never intended for him to see this email, because it was part of the challenge. But my dad decided to respond to it and copied him on the email, so he did end up seeing it. And he just seemed so elated that I would speak of him to someone else, especially his family, like that. I think that was the highlight of the whole challenge.

Nancy: This kind of encouragement not only left Erin’s husband elated. It also affected her attitude toward him.

Erin: It made me realize that he really is a great guy. I think I knew that before, but I was looking for the negative. I was seeking the negative out even though there were so many positive things about him.

Nancy: If you're a wife, we want you to discover the transforming power of encouraging your husband. Our team has put together a booklet called 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband.

Each day you’ll get a practical suggestion on ways you can build him up. For instance, on day five, you’ll be encouraged to esteem him to others as Erin did.

With the help of this booklet, you won’t run out of ideas. You’ll be able to encourage your husband in a variety of ways.

When you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts this week, we want to send you that booklet, 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband. And we will also include the powerful book from our guest, Shaunti Feldhahn. It’s called For Women Only. I want to say that over the next thirty days, God could revolutionize the way you think about and speak to your husband. I think you'll find these resources to be a powerful tool in that process.

Leslie: And that version of For Women Only is a newly-released tenth anniversary edition. It includes new research and new insights Shaunti Feldhahn has discovered since first releasing the book ten years ago. Later on this week she’ll join us and tell you about some of that new material.

Ask for 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband and the anniversary edition of For Women Only when you call with your donation. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or donate online at

Tomorrow, does your husband show you enough love? If not, maybe you need to show him more respect. Shaunti, Barbara, and Nancy will be discussing the value of cheering on your husband. Nancy?

Nancy: So let me ask you women: If we were to ask your husband, would he say that you are his number one cheerleader? Would he say that you’re in his corner with him?

If you’ll let God make you into that kind of an encourager, you will find that God will do the job. God will do the work of turning that man’s heart. You’ll find that he’ll blossom under the encouragement—just as you would, but it’s even more important to him.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the Amplified Bible.


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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.