What’s going on in a man’s mind? (Yeah, yeah, I know. If you’re a woman, you may be thinking “not much.”) This question was on Shaunti Feldhahn’s mind, so she surveyed a bunch of men, in all kinds of settings and occupations, and was surprised by what she found. She thought other women might be too, so she wrote a book called For Women Only.
As I read the book (yes, I know I wasn’t supposed to because I am not a woman, but I was curious), I found myself agreeing with most of what the men she interviewed said.
Here is a brief summary.
One of her survey questions was, “think about what these two negative experiences would be like: to feel alone and unloved in the world or to feel inadequate and disrespected by everyone. If you were forced to choose one, which would you prefer?”
Seventy five percent of the men said they would rather be alone and unloved than disrespected, and a lot of men had problems with the question, because they didn’t think the choices were different.
In other words, if a man feels disrespected, he also feels unloved.
There is a joke about a man saying, “why do I have to tell my wife I love her? I told her that when we got married.” (Some men still don’t see it as a joke.) The joke told on a woman would have “respect” in place of “love.”
The men Feldhahn surveyed needed to feel their partner’s respect in four ways:
- Respect his judgment – The men in the survey were pretty touchy about this, and I think most men are. It means that men don’t like to have their knowledge, opinions and decisions questioned all the time. Of course you don’t always agree, but maybe listen to him just a tad longer before showing him how he is wrong and you are right. Many men said they get
more respect at work, and almost everywhere else in their lives, than at home.
- Respect his abilities – You may have noticed that we men like to figure things out for ourselves. We get a sense of accomplishment from spending a long time figuring out how to run the new digital camera or DVD player. (But not setting the timer on the VCR; you need a teenager for that.) If a woman tries to help us without being asked, we take it to mean she doesn’t trust us to figure it out ourselves and we don’t like that.
It is true that men seldom ask for directions because we like to figure things out for ourselves. That can be frustrating for a woman, but he feels way better if you hold off on asking him to get help.
Of course there is a limit to this. Driving around for two hours in the same area is definitely too long. By then, he would probably have asked for directions on his own.
- Respect in communication – Men don’t want to be seen as inadequate, partly because way down deep we are kind of afraid we might be, and we need encouragement rather than reminding that we can’t do something.
Here is an example from Feldhahn’s survey: A man said, ” sometimes, if something breaks in the house, I want to try to take a crack at it before I call an expert. If my wife says, ‘well, you’re really not a fix-it-type person,’ I feel so insulted. She’s not rude about it or anything, but it’s like she doesn’t respect me enough to believe that I can figure it out if I put my mind to it, even if it takes me a while.”
Another man said he doesn’t like being reminded to do things because it means he has failed. He hates failing. Yes, it is reasonable to expect him to do whatever it was before a long time passes, but if it is not critical it be done right away, maybe hold off on reminding him.
- Respect in public – Feldhahn said this is one of the most important things of all. There is an epidemic of disrespect for men in the media. When was the last time you saw a smart, funny, attractive dad in a sitcom? Men always seem to be slow-witted bumblers. It’s bad enough on TV, but it really hurts when a fellow’s wife criticizes, or worse yet, belittles him in public. It would be the equivalent of him teasing you about putting on 10 pounds in the past month. He might think it was funny, but you wouldn’t, and vice versa.
There is a lot more stuff in the book, including the role sex plays in a man’s psyche (yes it is different than for women; it fills a powerful emotional need and it represents love), but I have run out of space. You’ll have to read the book.
Here’s one last thing to think about: A finding that showed up over and over is that men wanted their wives to know “how much I love her.”
They knew they weren’t always good at saying it, or even showing it in ways she would understand, but most men fervently hoped their wives understood just how much they loved and appreciated them.
Edmonton-based Noel McNaughton is a sponsored speaker with the Canadian Farm Business Management Council, which will pay his fee and expenses for speaking at meetings and conventions of agricultural organizations. To book him, call 780-432-5492, email: email@example.com or visit www.midlife-men.com.