Why Men Need a New Map of the Female Universe
Most guys think of a woman a little like a swamp: you can't see where you're stepping, and sooner or later you just know you're going to get stuck in quicksand. And the more you struggle to get free, the deeper you get sucked in. If you're nodding your head in agreement right now, this post is for you. In a recent landmark field study, over 6,000 respondents participated in revealing what women really want. The findings, published in For Men Only: A straightforward guide to the inner lives of women explains things about women that might've left both of you feeling helpless, confused, or just plain angry. Along with each insight are doable solutions for helping the relationship. My man and I have poured over the findings and here are 5 of our favorite insights.
The Deal Is Never Closed
According to the findings, triggers for feelings that make her wonder where the relationship stands include:
"If a woman doesn't feel loved, it's the same for her as if she isn't loved."
- husband/partner's withdrawal
- a depleted emotional bank account
- husband/partner is absent a lot, and
- unresolved relationship issues.
How to make it better:
- Reassure her
- Continue to pursue her
- If she's upset, she doesn't need space--she needs a hug. Lean in.
- Listen without becoming defensive
"Pursuit prevents a lot of her insecurity," conclude the researchers. "Several women compared the need to feel pursued by their husbands with the need that a man has to feel sexually desired by his wife. Ask yourself, What did I do when we were dating that made me so pickin' irresistible? and start doing those things you both loved again".
One thing you should know about the fabulous female brain is that women can have several open loops active in their brain at any given moment. Their brain is far more multi-task aware than the male brain, which naturally focuses on just one thing at a time. In addition, women deal with multiple thoughts and emotions from their past and present all the time, at the same time--and these can't be easily dismissed. "They are like busy computers with multiple windows open and running all at once, unwanted pop-ups intruding all the time, and little ability to close out or ignore any of that mental or emotional activity until a more convenient time," report the authors of the study. About half of all female respondents said they have stored thoughts or feelings from the past that regularly pop up into active mode whether they want them to or not. And 8 of 10 women seem consistently unable to close these windows as easily as men can. One female respondent said, "There's never a time that there's nothing going on in my head. If I answer 'nothing,' it's because I'm mad at him!" The Feldhahns added, "She may not be holding onto a grudge, but actually trying to process through it so she can let it go and close that window for good."
Your Real Job Is Closer to Home
"Seven out of ten married women said that if they had to, they would rather endure financial struggles than distance in the relationship."
In fact, since what she wants is your time and attention…, if you appear to give more time and attention to work, it appears that you are making work your priority. To her, that means that she's not your priority. Instead, that choice leaves her feeling distanced and unloved by you. "Creating a sense of closeness between the two of you is more important than anything else--to a woman, it is almost a synonym for emotional security. Even small little gestures convey love and build closeness in a way I never would have thought," says the authors. "The little things are the difference. She feels secure when you make time together a priority." One woman put it this way, "I need to know that he will be there for me, no matter what. We have a good relationship, but I still need to know that he's not going anywhere--physically or emotionally."
Listening Is The Solution
When a woman is sharing an emotional problem, her feelings and her desire to be heard are much more important than the problem itself. This is a huge insight for men! "Apparently, what I thought was listening and caring, wasn't," reported one man about learning the difference. Smart listening tells a woman louder than almost anything else that she is known, cared for, and loved. She doesn't want you to fix it. She wants you to focus on her feelings, not the problem. "We men have trained ourselves to cut through the clutter of emotion in order to focus on the 'real' issue. For our wife, her negative feelings about a problem are the real issue," says Jeff. "If it's an area of emotional concern, apply listening skills. If it's not, then apply fixing skills." Give her your full attention. It's an active practice of identifying her feelings, considering what's she's really saying, and listening for 'the story behind the story'. Acknowledge and affirm her feelings about the problem. It's the person who listens well who holds enormous power.
The Girl In the Mirror
Inside your smart, secure wife lives a little girl who deeply needs to know that you find her beautiful--and that you only have eyes for her... no matter what her age.
"However independant and capable women are, they need to be reassured often that they are beautiful and they are loved". This isn't really about a woman's looks so much. It's about what a woman feels about herself. One winning husband explained, "In our house, there's really only one mirror. And that mirror is me." The research shows that a lot of women are desperate for specific, honest compliments. Sure, they'll keep on keepin' on without them, but they absolutely thrive when you shower them with sincere praise. "When she asks how she looks, we think she's wondering if she looks presentable", explains Jeff. "But what she wants to know is if she's still rocking our world…." In her earlier work, Shaunti Feldhahn discovered that even very faithful committed married men tend to be visually stimulated and naturally aware of other beautiful women in the vicinity. They even have unwelcome visual pop-ups interrupt their thoughts totally uninvited. Which means that it requires a focused diligence for him to "only having eyes for her". "This is an area where there really has to be zero tolerance," says Feldhahn. "Obviously that applies to pornography. But it also applies to lingering glances and lustful thoughts. We injure our wife when we look elsewhere for a thrill that we vowed to look for only in her. We shatter our ability to reflect her beauty back to her. And we break her trust."
A Protector and Hero In Action
In the mid-'90s, Sports Illustrated did a cover feature, entitled, Trials of David and the Seven Deadly Sins, on David Robinson, the MVP center for the San Antonio Spurs. One segment described how Robinson handled himself, as a professing Christian, husband, and father, in the midst of the NBA's intense temptations. For example, during television breaks, he would sit on the bench and stare studiously at the floor in order to avoid looking at the gyrating cheerleaders out on the court. The article also mentioned that like all NBA players, Robinson was constantly approached by attractive women who wanted to talk to him…and were maybe offering more than just witty conversation. Apparently, he would brush them off without acknowledgment. When asked to comment on that seemingly 'rude' practice, he said something like this: 'If any woman is going to get her feelings hurt, it's not going to be my wife." That kind of "tacking into the wind" makes a man his wifes protector and hero in action. Jeff Feldhahn says, "Each day your wife and mine, hold out to us their intense, god given, little girl desire and right to be treasured. Each day she's surrounded on all sides by an offensive and abusive world. And each day, with kind words, and faithful eyes, we too can be our wife's protector and hero."
The Wrap UpSo there you have it. 5 Keys to Navigating the Female Universe. Old habits die hard my friends, and awareness is always the first step to lasting change. So, begin practicing one or more of these keys and you'll begin to see the dividends return to you. The way the math works in any relationship is..."The change in two begins with one." Even simple changes can have a huge impact. A happy wife or girlfriend, and more peace in your home and your heart, will be the result.
Background on the study
Shaunti Feldhahn is an author, columnist, and public policy analyst. She and her husband Jeff Feldhahn conducted hundreds of personal interviews, gathered huge amounts of anecdotal information from dozens of women's groups, and conducted a national survey of 400 women. Well over 6,000 women gave their input to the research making this the largest study of its kind. Their findings are published in the book "For Men Only" to help men see things from a woman's perspective. This is a companion study to the Shaunti's earlier research on men, published in the book, For Women Only: What You Need To Know About The Inner Lives Of Men. My man and I have really benefited from reading both books to each other and talking about the findings.