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Weekend Reading: For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn

November 4, 2011

The Book: Today I am beginning a three post series of reviews. Today’s review covers For Women Only (2004, Multnomah Books) by Shaunti Feldhahn. Next week I will discuss the follow-up, For Men Only (2006, Multnomah Books) by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn. The third in the series is For Parents Only (2007, Multnomah Books) by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice. All three books share many similarities, but I will try to keep the reviews separated.

The target audience for For Women Only is exactly who the title says: women. The subtitle makes a tall promise: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men. The inner lives of men? I really didn’t think it was that complicated. Respect and sex. Or sex and respect. Whichever. Apparently, we are more complicated than I thought.

The research that went into the book was pretty extensive. There was a professionally conducted survey of men. There was a follow-up survey of more men, specifically church-goers. There were numerous focus groups. There were scores of individual interviews. There were easily well over a thousand men who participated in the research for the book.

Feldhahn does a good job of letting the research guide the book instead of the other way around. It would be easy to start with her own preconceived notions and let that form the basis of the findings, but she avoids this.

The Point: One of the first things the author does is lay out the ground rules for the work. I appreciate this. The reader knows from the beginning why she addresses some things and leaves others alone. The ground rules could be summarized as:

  1. No man-bashing. None. The purpose is not to provide proof of the evils of the male of the species. It is to help women understand and appreciate the differences between men and women.

  2. It is not an equal treatment of male-female differences. The book is about the inner lives of men. The focus is how women relate to men, not the other way around.

  3. When she says “most men” what she means is just that—most, not all. There are always exceptions to every rule.

  4. She is addressing what is normal inside men, not necessarily what is right or wrong in their outward behavior.

  5. Some of the discoveries and insight may be distressing to some women. She resisted the temptation to exclude possibly difficult things. Instead she followed the data and wrote about her findings.

  6. The book is not just about learning fascinating new secrets about men. It is about women understanding the men in their lives so as to better support and love them. The purpose of learning about men is to change and improve women. (List summarized from pages 16-20.)

In the course of her research, Feldhahn discovered seven insights. She then used the research to move beyond a surface understanding to what they mean in practice. After listing these in the first chapter, she writes a chapter for each of her findings to further unpack the meaning and application of the truth.

Surface Understanding

What That Means in Practice

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 make 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.

(Information in table taken from page 15.)

The Result: This is not the first time I have read and reviewed a book written for women. (What’s He Really Thinking?) Given that the book was not written for me, I should not be surprised that I did not find it particularly helpful at a personal level. That does not mean I did not learn anything or that it was unhelpful. While I suspect Feldhahn’s research findings are generally true, they are not a totally true reflection of me. I will not go into any detail about that; it is a little too personal. I’m sure you understand. As a preacher and teacher, and doing a little pastoral counseling in the process, the research is helpful in further understanding the differences between men and women.

The author maintains a website related to the book (forwomenonlybook.com). There are also a number of associated products such as a Bible study, a Bible study leaders kit, and discussion guides.

I would generally recommend For Women Only for women who are married or in relationships that are leading toward marriage. I would also recommend it for individuals who, like me, are preachers and teachers who might do a little pastoral counseling.

Thoughts?

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