#96 What Women Need in Marriage and Examining the Merits of Marriage with Shaunti Feldhahn
So, it's another approach to try and get at the real truth. The surveys used are actually designed by census experts, decision analysts, and companies. This is obviously something we haven't look at before and it's going to provide a new, pretty awesome perspective.
Today's guest is Shaunti Feldhahn. She's an ex-analyst from Wall Street and she's really got a background in economics and analysis, rather than the traditional things that we've had on the show, perhaps like psychology and so on. It's actually pretty similar to my background in management consulting. So a bit more of an analytical, rational look at this subject.
She has a number of best-selling books behind her. She has sold over 2 million copies of them in 21 different languages worldwide since 2004. So they are really successful. The one for men that looks at the inner lives of women is called For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women and was last revised in 2013.
Now the context she's coming from is really a context from strong family values and monogamous relationships. Another thing to mention about her is that she comes from a strong Christian background, and I know that we have a lot of Christian listeners out there. We haven't had any discussion about religion, or had anyone that comes from that kind of background, but I know that you guys are out there. And of course, a large percentage of the population of women are Christians. So the ones you're going to meet, they're going to be Christian also.
It is yet another important perspective that you should get and Shaunti helps to bring that perspective also in this interview.
Specifically, in this episode you'll learn about:
- How Shaunti's path changed from the economics and financial world into the relationship world: discovering the real thoughts of men (06:33)
- Shaunti's background and perspective in the relationship arena compared to other writers (10:46)
- Shaunti's approach and using surveys to determine communication statistics between men and women, and applying it to relationships (12:20)
- Developing surveys compared to other existing information (17:20)
- Survey-based data versus physiological-based data (19:30)
- The biggest concerns from women regarding relationships, and focusing on 'presence' and listening, while filtering out the problem (22:45)
- How easy is it for women to not feel loved? What a woman needs to know in a relationship (36:00)
- What your wife or girlfriend doesn't know about you, and you don't know about you either (39:15)
- Shaunti's highlights regarding her work in marriage, and addressing the divorce rate (46:55)
- How to connect with Shaunti to learn more about her and her work (51:50)
- Recommendations for high quality advice (52:09)
- Top recommendation for guys starting from scratch in relationships (52:09)
Items Mentioned in this Episode include:
- Sagelab: Associate Prof. Meredith Chiver's sexuality and gender laboratory at Queen's University. Angel referenced Meredith Chiver while discussing the comparison of survey-based data to physiological-based data.
- The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism (Olivia Fox Cabane): While discussing 'presence' in relationships, Angel asked Shaunti if she was familiar with Olivia's work.
- The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce: Shaunti noted her book regarding her work in marriage.
- Shaunti Feldhahn: The best way to contact Shaunti. Her website for men and women, offering research, insight, and hope in relationships. Shaunti recommended John Gottman for his research concerning men needing respect and addressing feelings of contempt. Some of Gottman's books include:
- The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships
- What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal
Books, Courses and Training from Shaunti Feldhahn
Full Text Transcript of the Interview
[Angel Donovan]: Hi Shaunti, thanks so much for joining us today.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: It's great to be with you.
[Angel Donovan]: First of all, I wanted to get a little bit of perspective on how you started all this and how you got into it. Was there some kind of event or something that led to you skip from the economics and financial world into the relationship world?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah, it was the funniest thing. I had been working on Wall Street. That's my background. I'm trained as an analyst and was working in that sort of financial sector. I moved down to Atlanta from New York which is where I live now, in Atlanta and I had this...
I was working as a consultant, again in the financial arena and had this chance to write a couple of novels for fun nights and weekends. One of my main characters in this novel that I was writing was a man and I didn't know to put thoughts in his head. I didn't know what a guy would be thinking and in some pretty personal situations but, I had to put thoughts into his head. He was one of my main characters.
So, this whole thing started initially because, I would just kind of ask some guy friends or my husband, "Here's the scene in this book, what would you be thinking if this was you?" And as they started telling me what they'd really be thinking, half the time I'm like, "Seriously?" Like I was really shocked by some of things I was hearing and because I have this analytical background, eventually as I did more of these interviews, I realized, "Ok, this can't just stop with this novel. I am learning way too much that was then really what I need to know."
[Angel Donovan]: Too interested.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yes, exactly.
[Angel Donovan]: So, you learned a lot about your husband?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yes, I did as a matter of fact. He jokes that he was Person X or whatever you call it when...
[Angel Donovan]: Cool.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: ...you have diseases spread. You know, Person-to-Patient Number One. He was the one who really helped me understand some of this stuff from the beginning. It's just stuff that normally women never think to ask and a lot of guys really don't necessarily know how to articulate.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, would you say your own relationship's better because of this? Have you seen any changes over time and how long have you guys been together?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Oh yeah, Jeff and I have been married for 20 years. We just celebrated number 20 which is crazy.
[Angel Donovan]: Congratulations.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Thanks.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: And it has dramatically changed our relationship. We used to have what I would call a pretty, pretty good marriage but, there were plenty of issues. I mean, fairly big issues, lots of big conflicts and lots of nights where one or the other of us would be sleeping in the guest room or on the coach because, we were so upset with the other person.
[Angel Donovan]: Right.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: And it was interesting, once we started learning this stuff, we realized that so much of this kind of...the hidden stuff that men feel but don't necessarily know how to say or that women feel, it's usually stuff that we kind of think the other person already knows. Half the time, when I started doing this research more officially and interviewing and surveying men and I'd come and I'd talk to Jeff and I'd say, "Guess what this guy told me," and he tells me later, he was sort of like, "What about that did you not get before?" Once you realize some of this stuff and you realize what the other person doesn't know, you start giving each other the benefit of the doubt and you start really being able to help yourself rather than kind of being confused half the time.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, I guess it's encouraged a clearer communication with you where you just got a larger area of communication then before. Were there areas where you kind of didn't know there were gap spaces where you didn't communicate with each other.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Here's the funny things about this and I think this is really one of the reasons that the books and the research has hit such a nerve, everybody knows that communication about things is important. Right? We don't...none of us want to have gaps and we don't necessarily realize there are gaps. Suddenly, once I started hearing, "Whoa, wait a minute. This is really what you think?" I knew more to ask and to talk about stuff I never even would have thought was a gap in communication and often, in communication...
One of things that I found over the years...you know, not being a psychologist, I was just an analyst on Wall Street, right? I didn't realize that so much of the issue is not what you say but how you say it that makes a huge difference for both men and women and they're just hot buttons that we didn't know existed before.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, yeah absolutely. So, what do you think it is that you do differently than other writers in the relationship's area? Is there anything you think...you know, you've got a kind of different niche or you know you take a different perspective on it?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah, it's actually very different because, what I do is truly not try to cover the same territory that these wonderful relationship experts have been covering for years. I mean, I'm not a counselor. I'm not a psychologist and there are many people out there who have been writing and speaking and thinking about this and counseling and doing marriage therapy of whatever for years and God bless them, right? I mean, I can't add anything to that.
But, what we do is basically, we're researchers and what we do is dig out those little things that you had no idea that you didn't know. It's all the stuff that you don't know that you don't know and it's all of those little things that once you know them have this enormous impact. Now, I'm not an expert on conflict-resolution, right? You need to go to a counselor for that but, what I can tell you is those inner needs and those inner fears and insecurities that are the hot buttons that cause the conflict to begin with. So, a lot of what we do is really, it's very preventative.
[Angel Donovan]: Right, yeah, yeah land-mines that people haven't thought of. Those are the things that kill you right? It's the land-mine you don't see.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Exactly, it's the land-mine that you step on you didn't know was there and it blows your legs off. Yeah exactly.
[Angel Donovan]: So, let's talk about the surveys a little bit and the source of information you've drawn on because, that's one of the unique aspects of it. How did you approach these surveys?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Well basically, what I needed to do was to test whether what I was finding in all these interviews was true or not. Like, if I had...eventually, what I did was interview and do focus with a few hundred men, for example, early on and I'm like, "Okay, I think I've heard out of 200 men, I think I've heard the same thing like 180 times." So, I'm forming this hypothesis that such and such is true.
I worked with a survey designer. He used to be the Chief of Survey Design at the US Census Bureau because, survey design is a whole another science and it's very easy to get wrong and we really needed the results to be nationally representative. We really needed them to be rigorous because, what I was digging out was surprising. So if it's true, you kind of need to prove it.
So, what I was doing was testing. "I think I'm hearing this. I wonder what percentage of men that applies to." So, we would do these big surveys that were nationally representative of men and it was basically a good representation of racial background, religious background, age, geographic background, a lot of stuff that you don't think about.
[Angel Donovan]: Right so, it's has to represent the whole of the population.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Exactly and what we found, in general is that on most of the subjects, it was kind of a 75/25% split. About 75 to 80% of men or eventually when we did the surveys of women would say one way and about 25% wouldn't and that's really important. When I do...I do a lot of workshops now. We do a lot of seminars and conferences in both personal world and kind of the corporate marketplace and it's really to say, "Look, by definition, if 75% said one way, 25% didn't."
Right? We're making generalizations. There's always going to be exceptions and the key though is to recognize, "Okay, if 75% of men think such and such, it's pretty likely that my partner, my husband, my boyfriend, my son is in that ball park and I can have my eyes opened to start looking for it and see is that true of him or not?" In most cases, we identified about seven things, eight things that women tend not to know about men, about a similar number that men tend not to know about women and in general, most people will see themselves in those things but, there's always going to be exceptions.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, yeah absolutely.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: And so, that's the key to the surveys is figuring out what we could make good generalizations about and frankly, there were on every project, on every single survey that we've ever done, I spend $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 on this huge nationally representative survey and I am convinced based on what my interviews are that somethings going to come out and in every survey we've ever done, there's been one or two things that didn't come out on the survey so, I can't include it.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, yeah, you don't win them all.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah, exactly.
[Angel Donovan]: So, I guess you've had some surprises as well. Some things that came back and you're like, "Wow."
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Oh no, all of them were.
[Angel Donovan]: Right.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: I mean, anything that made it into the books was something that either I didn't know as a woman and most women don't know or that men didn't know.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent so, a bit more context like, when did you start these surveys and has it been over 10 years and how many people have you done over time? Is it thousands?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah, I just added up recently and I'm like, "Seriously, wow." Yeah, we started this in 2001. So, it has been a long time now and I mean, for me that seems like a long time.
[Angel Donovan]: It is.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: And yeah, it is. And it's interesting, when you have you know 13 or 14 years’ worth of data built up, that itself gives you a pretty good baseline but, also we're close to 15,000 men and women that have provided that input, either interviews or surveys, focus groups and then, about 13,000 teenagers because, we've also done the research down into the teenage year. So, we've now interviewed and surveyed from age 15 up to 75.
[Angel Donovan]: Wow, great. Nice set of data.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: Is this going to continue? Is this something you're going to continue?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah, I mean we're always in the middle of one or more research projects. I've got two going on right now so...
[Angel Donovan]: Sounds like you found your passion.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah well, I'll tell you why it's a passion. It's a passion because, we see that it makes this massive difference in relationships. It's the kind of thing that torpedoes a relationship that doesn't have to be torpedoed. Whether that's a single or whether that's someone who's married or someone who's in a really significant partnership, there are so many things that cause relationship problems that didn't have to be there and I am really, really passionate about trying to save those relationships especially marriages. Once you've made that commitment, you have kids, that's a big deal.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, it causes more damage, a lot more damage when it blows up.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Exactly.
[Angel Donovan]: So, how would you compare your perspective that you've developed through these surveys compared to some many other things that we see? So, to give you an idea of some of things we've had on the show...I mean, there's mainstream culture whatever that is. Like on the TV, the films, all of that kind of stuff, there's a lot of evolutionary psychology out there which is quite popular. There's social science and there's the sex-positive community. How would say you're different to those or whatever, how would you describe your perspective?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: It's interesting. Basically, everything that we try to do in the research, it's all what we see in the research driven. So, you can say something is science-drive but, science can include anything. You know, for example, evolutionary psychology that you mentioned, the difference is that evolutionary psychology is theory-based because, you can't exactly replicate the conditions from evolution from however long ago.
So, what we're focused on is measuring what we can see today and that's...when we talk about something being scientific and science-based, that's what we mean. It is all entirely based on primary surveys that are measuring what can be quantified in sort of those inner needs and fears and desires and what lights somebody up, what can be quantified today. By the way, when we talk about sort of a scientific basis for this, it turns out that neuroscience has actually provided some reasons for some of the things that we've been seeing for the last 13 or 14 years that we didn't know why.
When we released "For Women Only" and "For Men Only" (those are the two book titles), when we released those two books back in 2004, 2005, 2006, we could say, "Hey, this is what 80% of men think. I have no idea why. You know, I can't tell you where this comes from but, this is what they think." Now, it's interesting. Brain science has developed enough that the neuroscientists have often identified the reason. There is literally a difference in the brain structure between men and women that causes a lot of these things. So, that's kind of the basis for what we do.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, yeah absolutely. I don't know if you've seen the work of Meredith Chivers, (Chivers, I never know how to say her name) where she's looking...? Have you seen that stuff?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: I've seen enough of that stuff that I haven't...
[Angel Donovan]: It's just interesting for me because, basically her work contradicts some of the survey-based data. So, a lot of scientists, including yourself are doing surveys and basing stuff on what people say and her work is based on physiological response and she's question in the them and then see what's going on with the body and be like, "Hmmmm."
So, I just wanted to bring that up and...as a context, I think there's a role for both. Surveys offer us a lot of information but, we also kind of have to look at the physiological thing because, some areas people, for some reason, they don't want to talk about even when it's anonymous because, all these surveys you're doing anonymous, right?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah, it's all anonymous. Now, here's the thing about what she said that's totally valid which is that when you are doing certain kinds of surveys, if you do them incorrectly, there is no way you're going to get good data. I haven't seen her work in detail but, I've seen others like it that has pulled out certain other surveys that have been done and I totally agree.
You know what, you call people on the phone and you ask them questions about their sex life, I question whether you're going to get really good reliable data, to be quite frank. You have to design it properly and one of the things that we have actually done that has been really helpful over the years is we've done different kinds of surveys and tested different groups or tested similar groups in different ways and we have seen some same things come out from completely independently done, very different methodology. When you have that and then you compare it and overlay it with the brain science where those are physiological responses to certain things, you kind of think, "You know, that's a three-fold reason why I should narrow down to thinking that some of these things are probably accurate." Now maybe not...
[Angel Donovan]: Right.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: ...all but...
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: ...but, you can get closer.
[Angel Donovan]: But, you've got cross checking in there. That's what you're saying.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah, exactly. Well, people are taking this stuff seriously. They're changing how they do relationship based on them and that's a huge responsibility and that's also one of the reasons...I guess that's a fourth cross-check, come to think of it because, it works.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, and your books have sold over two million copies?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yep, Mm-hmm.
[Angel Donovan]: Yes, we're talking about a lot of people doing this.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: And in 23 languages, that's the other thing and it's because, there's such ethnic diversity and such racial diversity and representation in the data. I think that's the other reason why they've been translated around the world is that, I actually have gotten calls from people in...it was funny, I had a friend who was doing some business in China and was doing agricultural way out in the middle of nowhere and they were talking about (kind of offline), they were talking about some relationship seminars or whatever and she mentioned some of my work, my research. They were like, "Can you bring her in so, such and such just stops happening?" I'm like, "This happens in the rice patties in China? This is pretty universal."
[Angel Donovan]: You know, it's a funny little story. I had a coaching company for women in Shanghai about eight years ago. It was funny because, we were going to the male market and they weren't as interested as the women. The women just started coming to our seminars. So, we're like, "Okay."
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Great yep, follow the business.
[Angel Donovan]: Exactly.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Exactly.
[Angel Donovan]: Cool so, let's talk about women a bit more. What did you find the biggest concerns are from the women's perspective in relationships, the things they think about most and focusing a bit more on the things that you think guys don't think that they're thinking about?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: The guys don't necessarily recognize. Well, the guys of course, they joke that that's everything. Like, "We don't know anything that women are thinking." Actually, that's one of the biggest misunderstandings to knock down is men (and I'm sorry here because you're a guy but, I'm going to kind of bust you a little bit) which is I hear privately, that men kind of think women are random. It's like you've got a machine and you pull the lever this day, you get this response and then you pull that same lever the next day, you get a totally different response.
[Angel Donovan]: We just had one of the guys in our coaching community, one of the clients, he was talking about this, big post about it. It's like, "I never know what they're going to do. It's random." It's very common. It's a very common complaint, yeah.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: It's a very common complaint for me and here's the problem with that, is that...first of all, it turns out, believe it or not, it's not true and I can...you know, that's one of those things that I can show you in the data but, it's a common perception. Here's the reality, is that...the funny way of putting is if you're getting a different response when you pull that same lever the next day, you're pulling it differently or you're pulling a different or something because...
[Angel Donovan]: ...or maybe there's different context?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: ...or there's a different context.1
[Angel Donovan]: Right, yeah.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Now, here's the thing, it turns out that if men and most boys from the time that boys are teenagers apparently, they start this thinking that women are somehow random. So therefore, there's always going to be some part of her responses that I'm just never going to understand and what that does is make guys more apt to assign something confusing to that category and just kind of give up like, "Well, that's one of those random things. I won't look any deeper."
As opposed to, if you assume there is a reason for every single thing that a woman does and says, just like there is for a man. So, if I look at it enough, I will find it and then, you learn a few things and you go, "Okay." So, next time there's something confusing, you say, "Okay Shaunti promised me there is a reason for this," and then, you look deeper. You don't give up, like you might have before. Look deeper and you say, "Oh, you know what? It was because of this."
Like, let's just say for the sake of argument that she bit your head off when you said something and you're like, "Hey, what did I say?" You might have been like, "It was just random. It was that time of the month. It was whatever." Then you say, "No, it's not random. Shaunti promised me. I'm going to look deeper," and you realize, "You know what? I actually said that same thing yesterday and that same thing the day before and maybe she's tired of being criticized and I wouldn't have thought of it as criticism but maybe that's it."
Then, you say, "I'm sorry. Did that come across as criticism?" and she says, "Yes," and you know, you have good conversation. I guarantee you something. The next time, you are tempted when she bites your head off or there's some weird reaction, the next time you're tempted to say, "That was random," you go, "You know what? It wasn't random last time. Let me look deeper."
Then, you find the reason, you start being incentivized to continue to look and you know what? That is exactly what women need. They need you push just a little bit more to figure out what's behind this and that is a huge thing that makes a woman feel loved.
[Angel Donovan]: That's nice because, it's a lot more empowering to think that you can figure something out then, you can.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yep.
[Angel Donovan]: I mean, it's a terrible thing. No, I believe everything is figuring out. It doesn't matter what we're talking about and certainly in relationships, that's what I've seen. That's a great point, just a mindset you should always be thinking.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Well and here's another thing, another one of the surprises, another one of the things that a lot of guys don't know about women, it turns that men have a tendency...because you know, you guys are performance-driven, "What can I do to show her love? What can I do to make her happy?" That's something that matters to guys.
Because of that, you have a tendency to go, you think, for the big things. So for example, (let's just say it's a married couple) he's thinking, "You know, I may not be very good with my words. I may not know how to say 'I love you' properly or make...have all the flowery terms but, you know what, I can provide. I can work 70 hours a week to provide for my family and that's the way I say 'I love you.'"
So, they're working hard. They're trying. They're doing these big things and it turns out that for most women...and again not all. It turns out this is about 70% of women that that's actually sometimes counterproductive because, it turns out for most women, it's those little day-to-day things and his presence that matters and the fact that he's present in their life and engaged with the wife or the family.
[Angel Donovan]: Could I just stop you for a second because, the topic of presence keeps coming up lately. It comes up in coaching. It's coming up in the guests like you. It seems like it's a hot topic right now. How would you describe presence? What is that?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: So, it turns out that presence is one of the greatest builders of friendship and friendship between a husband and wife, a boyfriend and girlfriend or whatever has got to be, at least in our culture, the key for a good relationship and I would argue in any culture. If you have a good relationship ultimately, you're friends first and foremost, right?
It turns out the greatest predictor of friendship, friendship in any context, is not what you think it is. If I were to ask you what's the greatest predictor of friendship, you'd probably say things like shared values or similar interest or similar temperaments that kind of fit together well. Turns out it's none of those things. Those are kind of important in the margins.
The greatest predictor of friendship is geographic proximity. You're the best friends of the people you see the most often and you spend the most time with. We all know that's true because, we've all had really, really, really close friends who've moved away and you still love each other.
[Angel Donovan]: I think I'm different. I'm sorry. I break the model. I'm a digital nomad...
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: You're like, "Hold up."
[Angel Donovan]: ...and I never stop moving and all my best friends are always doing the same. Actually, it's because I keep moving, it's difficult to establish that kind of relationship but, I agree for 99% of people.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Okay so, remember what I said about that 80/20.
[Angel Donovan]: Exactly.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Right? There have always been exceptions.
[Angel Donovan]: So, when you were talking about presence, I was just wondering if you'd look at all at the work of Olivia Fox Cobane?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: I don't think I have.
[Angel Donovan]: "The Charisma Myth" because, she talks about presence in a similar light to you so, I was just wondering, cross-checking there.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: No, and I'll confess something. I actually have found, because my primary role is as a primary researcher where I have to listen to the guy I'm sitting next to on the airplane and be completely unprejudiced by anything that I've read from somebody else, I actively avoid reading other people's studies because, I'm not a psychologist and that's actually one of my greatest skill sets. As just a straightforward analyst, I have to have that input without having some preconceived notions so, I can just hear it directly.
[Angel Donovan]: Absolutely yeah, that's really important.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Unfortunately, all the folks that you've mentioned, I've had to avoid reading a lot of their stuff because, I found that it really does mess with my mind.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, it's really good for that because, I mean that causes so many problems in science, just in science. I mean, there are so many examples of that where there's preconceived notions and studies don't get looked at properly in all of this stuff. So yeah, I really appreciate that you take that approach to it.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah so unfortunately, the answer is no. I haven't read her stuff. Unfortunately.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent. What else would you say in terms of women that we miss in general?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: So here's another thing. Let me conclude that thought with...that whole idea of presence, here's what confuses a guy because, he's like, "What does that mean?" That's part of problem is that we've heard things like, "Communication is important. Being present is important." What on earth does that mean?
So what we've...one of the other things that we found for a guy to really make a difference in how his wife or girlfriend views him is not just be present but, learning how to listen because obviously, you can be sitting in the same room together and that's nice but, for a woman, that sense of that he's listening and that he cares about what I have to say or that she's just getting a chance to get stuff off her chest. That's emotionally really important for women but, guys tend to think, "You know, I'm listening. I let her talk until she's run out of words. So, I'm listening."
Now, here is the thing that a lot of psychologist, I think, have focused on over the years, they talk about active listening. Reflecting back to her what she said and that's nice but, that's what I saw in the research as mattering the most to women. It's not like it's a bad thing but, what I saw mattering most was something completely different and that's that he doesn't listen to the problem that she's sharing so much as he listens to her feelings about the problem.
Guys tend to have a tendency when emotions come up, you tend to filter out all those dangling emotions so you can focus in on the problem so that you can help her solve it which is totally understandable and that's the way you're wired and that's good. There's nothing wrong with that but, the problem is, at least at the beginning, is all those dangling emotions you're trying to filter out, that's what she kind of most wants you to listen to.
So, it's going to sound really weird to any man listening this but, you kind of have to filter out the problem first. Ignore the problem because, otherwise you're going to go straight to a solution she's not going to feel listened to and you're going to hear that, "I don't want you to fix it. I just want you to listen" thing. Instead, ignore...
Like just say for example that she's got her best friend did something that embarrassed her in front of a group and she is so upset. Ignore that and how you fix it for the moment and instead, draw those feelings. "You know, I'm so sorry. What did you think people said...what did you feel when everybody started laughing? Did you think that that might cause a problem with those friends down the road." Like pull out those feelings and she's going to feel more heard and you'll see her relax and at that point, then you can deal with the actual issue but, she may or may not even need a fix at that point.
It's astounding if a guy learns this one thing and applies it, she is going feel so loved. I mean, that is a guy she will run through fire for.
[Angel Donovan]: That's a great point and would say that guys should not really listen to the words as much? I think they do listen but, I'm just like thinking how practically to kind of implement this because again, we hear this a lot. I often find that the guys are saying, "Well, she said this. She said that," and I'm like, "Well don't..."
You're always listening for the words and they'll even say like, "She lied to me," and these kind of accusations, because, they weren't listening to the emotional undertone of it. Like for instance...
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: ...she was sounding very hesitant. Like she says like, "Yea, I'd like to meet up..." Kind of obviously got a completely different value to her. It's basically saying, "For whatever reason, I'm very hesitant about meeting up" and you should expect that, "I'm probably going to like not...I'm going to call at the last minute," or something going to happen, right?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Let me give you an example for a guy who's wondering about that because, I imagine that's very common for guys to be like, "What on earth?" So, here's a quick primer. Guys' brains are wired to see actions. Women's brains are wired to see body language. This is obviously a huge generalization...
[Angel Donovan]: Generalization.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: ...but, in general, women will give subtle cues because, they would see those subtle cues with other women. If you're hesitant on the phone with another woman, the woman is going to pick up on that. Now, what is that woman going to do? She is going to ask the question.
Let's just say it's two women who were talking about whether or not to have a meeting. "Yeah, I think that's probably a good idea." Now, the woman who she's talking is going to pick up on that immediately and ask the question to say, "You know, you sound a little bit hesitant. Is there something I should know? Is there some other way that we should try to arrange this?" and the first is going to feel cared for in a way. Like she was putting out that hesitancy because, she was kind of hoping the other person would pick up on it.
Here's the problem, we women will do that with guys and then get mad that you don't pick up on it. Here's what I always tell guys is to recognize that she really does want you to dig a little bit. So if you pick up on anything, it is totally okay to say, "You know, you sound a little bit hesitant. Can we talk about that for a minute? You know, I'd really like to see you again. Is there something we can do that would maybe make this a little bit more fun? Like you know, maybe we don't do dinner. Let's just get together for coffee."
"Yeah, you know what, I was thinking you know, dinner was a little bit much but yeah, let's meet for coffee tomorrow?" "Would a different time be better?" "You know what, honestly, if I could get together at 8 before I go to work that would be so much..." "Great, let's meet at Starbucks" and you've just called out something that before you would have been confused by.
[Angel Donovan]: Great thanks for that.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: It's just one example.
[Angel Donovan]: So, one of the other ones I picked up from your book was, how easy is it for women to not feel loved?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah, this is a big deal for women that men often don't see because, women can look very together and you know, a lot of guys think, "Wow, she's way out of my league," or whatever. "She's very confident," and you know what, all of that is just a surface and I'd love to share that men have that surface thing too. We can get to that in a minute but, on the inside, women have this question that's basically, "Am I lovable? Am I special? Is anyone ever going to love me for who I am on the inside?"
And so, because of that, they're looking for signals, that "Am I lovable" kind of signal. So yeah, you can say some things but, if you send a signal like, let's just say you have a conflict and you're like, "I'm out of here," and you withdraw. You could be doing that because, you need some time to process. That's a guy thing a lot of women need to understand.
Guys need time to process but, when you say, "I'm out of here," she now as you walk away, it stirs this, "Ahhh, are we okay?" and because, it's like, "Am I lovable? Does he really care about me?" That's what's going on in her heart.
It makes it huge difference if this is a relationship that you want to preserve, it makes a huge difference if you will just say something like, "Look, I'm angry. I need to get some space to think about it but, I want you know, we're okay. I'm going to come back. We'll talk about this at some point but, I just can't think right but listen, we're okay. I'll talk to you later." That, whew, makes all the difference in the world.
[Angel Donovan]: Great, great, it seemed like also that this was a lot in the context of marriage when I was reading about it and one of the things I picked up on was you were talking about how when men get married, they can of consider it...it's kind of like a done deal versus the women are wondering day to day, "How's the relationship going?"
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yes exactly, I think you guys when you all get married, there's some sort of a thing that clicks in your head. You're like, "Okay, did that one. On with the next, on with the next thing to conquer." The reality for a woman because of that private question, that underground, "Am I lovable" question, she needs to know the answer to that question very day and will for the rest of her life.
You don't necessarily think, "Does she love me?" Like, once you get married, that's kind of out the door. You know, on to the next thing. She needs to know, "Does he love me? Would he choose me all over again?" every day. So, if you go into a marriage recognizing that, you'll be set up really, really well to answer that question well every day and not think that you can just take it for granted.
And it's really, truly little things that matter. It's not the big huge ones. I mean literally, you reach over, you take your hand when you're walking across a parking lot that says, "I would choose you all over again." That's what she needs to know.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, a great point, great point. So, what other big things have we missed?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Well, I'd love to talk about guys.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: And I'd love to, since we're running out of time, I'd love to talk about the what women need to know about men.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah cool so, is this stuff that men can do or...?"
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: You know this is all stuff that do you...is any of your audience women?
[Angel Donovan]: No, it's mostly men. I mean honestly, there are women...
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Mostly men.
[Angel Donovan]: ...there are women that contact me and listen to it a lot even though it's nearly all for men but, they get a lot out of it apparently.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Okay well, let me tell the men something. One of the seminars we recently did...Jeff and I do relationship seminars, conferences. One of the ones we recently did, which cracked me up and I think we're going to use this a lot more, was for men only and the title was "What You're Wife or Girlfriend Doesn't Know About You and You Don't Know About You Either."
It is really critical for guys to know some of the things that women have absolutely no clue about them. Let me tell you one of the main things that a lot of men told me as we started digging it out. That they would say things like, "You know, that is how I think but, I couldn't have put my finger on it."
So, here's one of the biggest things that we identified in the research about men. Men have a completely different primary emotional need than women do. You know that need that I talked about in women that is this "Am I lovable" kind of question. That's kind of the underlying question in a woman's heart.
Well, the question in a guy's heart is completely different. They're like, "Yeah, lovable schmovalbe. You know, whatever." But for a guy, the question is "Am I able. Am I adequate? Do I measure up in what I do?" and because of that, there is a self-doubt that guys have that is like a raw nerve and it's basically this kind of, "Do I measure up" kind of nerve.
Guys described it as feeling like...a lot of me described as the "imposter complex." Like, "I want to be great at what I do. If I'm a salesman, I want to be a fantastic salesman. If I'm a boyfriend, I want a fantastic boyfriend. If I'm a dad, I want to be a great dad, but I'm really not sure that I know exactly what I'm doing and I hope nobody finds out." You know, that imposter complex. Here's the thing that so many women don't know about you guys and I think guys don't necessarily put it into words either is that sense of insecurity, that vulnerability, that self-doubt, it's like a raw nerve and she can hit it without ever intending to.
So when, for example, she says, "Why did you...?" Like let's just say that you were supposed to be meeting at such and such a place and you changed your mind and she comes in and says, "Why are we meeting here?" You know, kind of giving the impression to you, "This dump. You know, why are we are this place?" And you kind of find yourself getting a little upset. Like, all it was was a question, "Why are we meeting here?" but, there's something in you that's a little bit angry.
It turns out, it's because she's hitting that nerve that like, "I want to make her really happy. I want to be her hero but, I doubt that I can be. Am I good enough for this gal?" Listen, that feeling it doesn't go away in men. It doesn't matter whether they've been married 50 years. The men in that group, still had that same kind of feeling.
"I want to be a great husband but, am I?" So, it turns out that one of the keys to a great relationship with a woman for you guys is to know that that anger that you have, that feeling of "Ouch," that that's a legitimate feeling and the problem is we women would never know it unless you tell us that. We women will never know that we will keep hitting that nerve, hurting your feelings, I mean, not that any of you guys ever say, "It hurts my feelings," but you know what I mean.
That kind of thing is so critical for you to say, "If I'm getting angry, it's probably because I've felt this sting of disrespect," and knowing that respect is a man's greatest emotional need and that is a legitimate thing that you guys can help us as women learn.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah so, in that situation, what would be the good response of the guy. She comes in, she's like, "What are we meeting for here?"
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah you know what, I'll tell you what Jeff has done that has made all the difference in the world. Now, it doesn't necessarily work if it's a really early stage relationship. Right, because you don't have that basis of friendship. You don't have any kind of mutual relationship to be able to say something.
But once you do, once you do have a little more of a friendship, once you've known each other for a few months, that's when you can do what my husband has started to do with me which is, he will stop and he'll say, "You know, I know you didn't mean to," and that's really important is to sort of recognize that this is something that we just don't know. You say, "I know you didn't mean to but, you know what, when you said that, it kind of makes me feel like, 'You idiot, you doe doe."
Usually, I'm like, "I'm so sorry. I had no idea." You know what reason that that's important, is because that builds my awareness and if I care about this guy, (which of course with my husband, I do) I try not to do that next time."
What I see in dating relationships, as I've been studying singles and dating relationships is that to a degree that a guy can say those kinds of things honestly and to the degree that she responds well instead of kind of blowing it off, that's the degree to which he knows that he really has a potentially good relationship here because, you don't want to be in a long-term relationship who really doesn't give a rip about what you think.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah exactly, this ability to communicate is definitely essential to relationships surviving. I guess. If you can't be direct about these kinds of things then...
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Well and it's essential to the woman. Let me tell you, this is the kind of thing that builds intimacy. It's the kind of thing that builds that sense that, "Okay, we've really got something here that's worth being real."
[Angel Donovan]: That's right.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: As opposed to something else that's just another surface relationship. Most of your audience, I'm assuming if they are singles, they are not looking for just another empty hook up. If they're watching something like this, they want a good long-term relationship and if that's the case, then being willing to be vulnerable enough to say, "Why is this upsetting me and if we've had this relationship for a few months and I can kind of say, 'I know you didn't mean it way but, can I tell you something? You've said a couple of times that actually hurts a little bit.'"
She's probably going to be like, "What?" "You know, every now and then, you say, 'Why did you do this?' and it's like...I know you didn't mean this way but for a guy, it kind of feels like you're saying 'You idiot. You know?'" You can laugh but, you're really conveying a serious message and say, "You know for men, our greatest need is to feel respected. I know that might seem silly but, it is. It's important to me and I'd like to see how we do as friends and I feel like friends should be able to share that." You know what, she's going to feel, "Wow, this guy, he's willing to talk about his feelings."
[Angel Donovan]: Right, which is a slightly risky behavior. That's what guys think?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Very.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, so you tend to stand out a lot and the worst thing to do is not say anything or well, the worst thing to do is get angry.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah.
[Angel Donovan]: You know, make a big emotional scene about it but, you know, the second worst thing is just be all quiet about it and maybe sulk whatever that means. Yes so definitely, just step in there and basically take control of it.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: I know it sounds funny. It seems like a big and it feels like a very, very big risk. I think once a guy tries it, he'll realize, "You know what? That was the best possible thing I could have done," and it will be a great incentive to have that kind of vulnerability next time.
[Angel Donovan]: We're running out of time however, I did want to just touch on marriage because, I know you've looked at the divorce rates and all this kind of stuff and you've got some interesting stuff that came out there. What would say the highlights are from that work?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: By far, the most important thing, especially for any audience of singles is to recognize that so much of what we believe about marriage being in trouble is complete hogwash. It turns out that we've built up this kind of conventional wisdom, this conventional understanding that there's a 50% divorce rate and it turns out...I wrote this book called "The Good News About Marriage" because, I had been looking at this for years and year and it took years and years to understand it enough to actually realize what I was seeing in the data.
It is really complicated but, a really simplified understanding that is true, that is accurate is that there never has been anything close to an actual 50% divorce rate ever. We've never gotten close to that number. Now, that number has been projected and if you see in the newspaper, "Researcher So and So from University Such and Such Project a 40 50% divorce rate" take a pen and circle the word projects.
It's always something that their thinking we're going to hit. We've never gotten close. I think we need to start revising our projections because, the divorce rate has actually been falling pretty substantially. It hit a peak in 1980 after no-fault divorce came in. It's come down 30% since then.
Now, there have been some people that sort of take issue with that number but, they have to do all sorts of modeling and all sorts of assumptions to take issue with that number and I look at the actual number and say, "No, the actual numbers have come down more than 30% and it's still falling."
[Angel Donovan]: Do you know where the rate is by some of these calculations?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Well, it depends on what you mean by the divorce rate but, let's just say the most simple one. What percentage of people have been divorced? That's the easiest one. It's about 30% of women and about 22% of men. It's a very low number compared to what we think it is.
[Angel Donovan]: I'm just in my head like wondering, is that because there are less women?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Well no, it's because, if you are married for 50 years, it's more likely that the men will pass away.
[Angel Donovan]: Oh Okay.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: And that women will get remarried.
[Angel Donovan]: That's not good news.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Sorry. Both men and women, if you look at it from a perspective of a couple perspective, the vast majority of marriages last a lifetime.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, so you've got a 4 in 5, for guys, you've got a 4 in 5 chance.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah, the vast majority of marriages last a lifetime. Now, that's the case for every marriage. There are certainly some high-risk factors. You know what, you get married as a teenager, those divorce rates do hit 50% but, that's like...it think it's 4.7% of the population or something gets married at 17, 18, 19 years old. It's a tiny percentage.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: So, just for your audience to be aware that the overall divorce rate looks so scary and they're not and the reality is that marriage is not something to be avoided because, you think there's not chance of making it. You've got to go into it assuming, "No statistically, we'll probably make it."
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, I know you got to go but, you also had some good news about remarriages if you do get divorced.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yes, I'm sure a lot of your audience is probably you know single again, right?
[Angel Donovan]: We've got a fair number of divorced guys. I know.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah, yeah exactly and the remarriage rates are pure urban...the divorce rates that you see. 60% of second marriages end in divorce. That is, turns out is a purely an urban legend. We tried to trace that and we traced every single source for years.
We tried to trace it back to find the actual study that said that and it turns out that all of those number, all of those books, television references, magazine articles, they all trace back to three sources, three citations that don't exist. It's a pure urban legend.
[Angel Donovan]: It's so funny how often that happens. I see that in a lot of research, yeah.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Well, you know what? At first, I started thinking, "This is hysterical." Then, I started to get mad because, people are giving up too quickly on their second marriages because they're going into it expecting that it's probably going to fail. So, they start protecting themselves, they have that separate bank account on the side. "Just in case because, I think I'd be stupid not to." It turns out those things actually build a wall that cause a lack of trust and they cause the problem.
[Angel Donovan]: Absolutely, yeah. You're basically planning for the end of it when you're starting to think like that.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: The reality is, about 71% of women are still married to their first spouse. Think about that number. About 65%, on second marriages, 65% are still married to their second spouse. Now, 35% aren't but, by the way, that includes people who are married for years and their spouse passed away. That includes death and divorce.
So, that's a 65%/35% and probably the divorce rate isn't 35% it's probably, with death maybe 30%. So the reality is, you'd actively unusual if your second marriage didn't make it. Most second marriages last a lifetime. People need to know that.
[Angel Donovan]: Yeah, that's important.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: And not avoid it out of fear.
[Angel Donovan]: Thank you, thank you very much for that. So, just a few quick questions. What are the best ways for people to connect with you and learn more about you and your work?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: The best way is www.Shaunti.com. My first name is spelled S-H-A-U-N-T-I. I know it's unusual but, www.Shaunti.com is kind of the think tank. It's where all of my resources and all the research can be accessed in one way or another.
[Angel Donovan]: Great, great thank you so much. Is there anyone besides yourself you'd recommend for high quality advice, anyone you've seen, looked up to?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Yeah I mean, John Gottman does fantastic work in the research arena and has identified some of the stuff about men needing respect and kind of that feeling of contempt is the thing that will push that button the most. There are all sorts of other good resources out there that oh, I love them.
One of them, www.Family.org is a fantastic resource, lots and lots of great articles. I mean, there's just a lot of good stuff out there once you start searching.
[Angel Donovan]: Great, great thank you. What would be your top three recommendations to guys starting from scratch? They don't really have any knowledge or experience in relationships, how would they improve that situation as fast as possible?
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: You know the top three tips honestly...well, let me just give you the top one.
[Angel Donovan]: Okay great.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Which is to become a student of relationships. I mean, just the same way that if you're trying to learn a new job, you'd study, you'd look at how people responded when you did such and such and you'd really be attentive. You'd never kind...at least people who cared about their job, they'd never just go on autopilot. Well, you know? Don't do that for your relationships either.
You know, become a student of what women think and in particular, if you've got a woman you're interested in, consider how she thinks and try to learn it and realize, she is probably wired very differently from you. That's the whole reason we wrote "For Men Only," right is because we wanted to quantify what most men would see in most women in some of these areas and be able to see if it applies to this woman or not. So, become a student. It'll really help.
[Angel Donovan]: Excellent advice. Thank you so much for your time, Shaunti. It's been a pleasure talking to you.
[Shaunti Feldhahn]: Sure thing, you too. Take care.
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