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Timestamp: 2010-01-15 01:34:22 UTC
Congrats to Thena! Email me your address, Thena, and I will pop the book in the mail to you!
Tell me about your ministry and writing for husbands and wives. How did you get into that?
Both of us have a very unusual background for people who write relationship books. Neither of us started out this way. We’re not psychologists, we’re not counselors, we’re not marriage therapists. We both have analytical backgrounds. I’m an analyst by training, Jeff is a lawyer. We met at Harvard and then moved to New York and I worked on Wall Street for the New York Fed and Jeff worked at a big law firm. We eventually knew we had to move from New York, because Manhattan is not conducive to having a family, and we moved down to Atlanta in 1998. What we have found is that unexpectedly being tossed into this world of relationships, we realized that the analytical background that we have is an entirely new and very, very important way of looking at relationships. It equipped us to be able to investigate and dig into the things that most of us really miss about each other. It’s the things that the average husband and wife – the average non-psychologist couple! – really gets tripped up by because we just don’t understand what the opposite sex is thinking, what our husband or our wife is thinking.
Basically, if you’re a woman there’s a lot you don’t know about what your man is thinking and vice versa for the men. We found that this analytical background was so important for us to be able to do surveys and be able to quantify it and prove it to people.
That’s so interesting. Because my husband is an engineer and he is a logical thinker. That gives you a lot of credibility for someone like him.
It started when I was doing the research for my last novel. One of the main characters in the novel was a man who is having a struggle with pornography but he’s a good, decent, Christian husband and father. While writing it, I realized that I had to put thoughts in his head, and I had no idea what a man would be thinking in some really personal situations with his wife or his colleagues or whoever. That’s how this whole thing started, because I would grab a couple of my male friends and my husband and say “Here’s the scene in this book I’m writing. If you were this character, what would you be thinking?”
So with your husband, was that not threatening?
No! And actually what it seemed to do is free up Jeff and these other men to tell me what they were really thinking because it wasn’t them; it was the character, what would a guy be thinking in this situation. My eyes were just blown open and I was shocked at what I was hearing. And I was particularly shocked that as I did more and more of these interviews, the stuff I was hearing was really actually very surprising and really foundational. It wasn’t stuff that comes up every few months. It was every day. “No, I think that every day.” And I had been married 8 years and I thought “Why have I not heard this before?” And it opened my eyes to this whole other world that’s going on inside the lives of men. Because they have an inner life that’s very difficult for them to articulate and because of that, many of their wives really doesn’t know that’s what’s going on inside of them.
That’s when I realized very quickly that I couldn’t just stop with creating this character in this novel. So as soon as the book was finished, I started a much more comprehensive research project because I realized I have to test and see if I had just interviewed the 100 weirdest men on the planet. And I had to not only test it but prove it. Because women aren’t going to believe me. So God made an amazing way for me to hire a professional survey company to do a national scientific survey of men. It’s a whole new approach but I think it’s imperative.
I had no idea – I just thought this was another book about sex and relationships!
We cover tons of subjects in the books. It’s basically me as a woman being a tour guide for other women into the inner recesses of his mind and the stuff he wishes he could figure out how to tell you. For example, one of my huge surprises is that men and women have an entirely different primary need in the romantic relationship. We women most want to feel that he loves us – that’s the whole point of a relationship, right? For men, it’s not that at all. Three out of four men said they would actually give up feeling that their wife loved them if they could just feel that she respected them and trusted them. And that difference is a huge thing, and men don’t always know what’s bugging them.
That’s interesting, because that’s what Ephesians tells us to do.
And I had never really grasped before that in that whole passage, never once does God say, “Wives, love your husbands.” He knows we’ll love them naturally; we’re really good at that. But we can say “Honey I love you” and do all these loving things, but at the same time, without recognizing it, we can be criticizing him a lot or questioning his decisions all the time or teasing him in public or doing things that make the average man feel “she just doesn’t respect me.” And we don’t recognize that is his worst, most painful feeling. One of the main signals you can catch that your man is feeling that you’ve sent him a signal that you don’t respect him is if he gets angry or withdraws. Anger and withdrawal are basically a man’s signals of pain. But most of them aren’t able to articulate “This is why I’m feeling angry.”
So I can help you get inside his head and show you all the stuff that he wouldn’t necessarily have been able to say. And it’s only because I’ve interviewed & surveyed thousands of men.
And on the reverse side, when Jeff & I tackled the “For Men Only”, we did it together but it’s in Jeff’s voice so that he’s the tour guide to the men: “Let’s get inside her head. And no, it’s not as scary as you think it is!” Women can be understood. Men have all these assumptions that we can’t ever be really understood.
We did the same thing with the teenagers. And I thought it would be a very short process since I’d already done the adult version. But there were so many unique things that the girls had to know about the boys. The survey had to be completely redone.
There are 5 books: For Men Only and For Women Only on the adult side, and For Young Men Only and For Young Women Only on the teenager side,, and then there’s one more which is For Parents Only, to help parents understand what’s privately going on inside the head of their teenagers.
This is great! I had no clue. I’d seen your stuff but thought it was just another book about what someone thought about relationships.
Nope; it’s cost me well over $100,000 to do the research on these books, and it is worth every penny, because I hope it’s established that all that effort and work, and the fact that I have a relatively unique background to be able to do it this way – because not everyone could or should have done it this way; There are other people who are far more capable than I am of doing, for example, the book on “what do you do about it?” I’m not a psychologist. There’s no way that I could counsel a couple that “Now you understand it, go take it in depth” How you deal with it when your husband has an addiction to pornography or how do you deal with it when your wife has some deep hurts from childhood and is reacting a certain way – that’s not me. My little piece of the world though, of opening people’s eyes to these things, I’m very much hoping it will stand the test of time through the years and that all that money and effort will end up being around awhile.
In a nutshell, what is the gist of the girls' and boys' books?
On the girls' side, what they need to know about the young boys, is the primacy of respect, but what it looks like in a teenage version is totally different. But here’s the issue – one of the things that’s the most interesting to girls is that the teenage boys are way, way more vulnerable and tender and insecure inside than they look. And they will never let on, you will never see it, but it is there. And every girl wants to establish a good relationship if there’s a guy she’s interested in or even just friends with. Bu there’s a tendency to view someone on the outside and think that’s how they are on the inside, as opposed to realizing that they look tough but they are very tender. And we girls, when we are teenagers, so want to get to know these guys and have them open up to us. But the guys see how girls treat each other, they see the mean girls thing, and they think “I will flirt with her and talk with her, but I will never let her into my life, because I am not letting that near this tender heart.” So we showed the girls that 2/3 or so of guys said “I do not share my inner thoughts with most of the girls I know because I do not trust them to handle it with care.” And that’s a big deal for the girls to know.
How did you get the guys to even admit any of this?
You know, with teenage boys, you get them in a room and lock the door and give them lots of pizza and Dr. Pepper, and it’s amazing what they tell you! When they’re promised anonymity, wow, they had some very honest comments. And they really wanted the girls to understand them, especially on the visual issue. “Look if you are going to show it to us, we will enjoy it, but let me tell you what else is going on.” These boys – 85% – said “if she is dressing that way, I am going to be tempted to picture her naked. If she is going to show me the body in the clothes, I am going to picture the body under the clothes.” Girls are horrified at that! They think “It’s none of his business what I’m wearing! He shouldn’t be looking!” But we don’t realize that they can’t NOT notice; it’s how they’re wired.
And on the boys’ side, and this is going to sound sort of funny: the subtitle is “a guy’s guide to the alien gender. “ One of the overarching things that have to be debunked is guys think girls are random. And they think girls will never be understood. But we’re proving that’s not true. If the boys will look at behavior that confuses them, instead of saying “I don’t get that, she’s just random”, if they look at it and say “they showed me statistically that she’s not random and there’s a logical reason for everything she says and does, and if her feelings have changed, there’s a reason for that, too” eventually they will figure it out. Maybe it’s something the guy did and he doesn’t realize it. Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with him – she’s having a bad day with one of her girlfriends! We’re telling the guys to look for a reason and they’ll find it. And then the next time, you’ll look for the reason and find it. And pretty soon you have built up a skill set in understanding women that most men would kill for!
So what do you do when they find the reason, but think the reason is illogical and should be different?
That’s where the rest of the book comes in, because it shows them that this is the way women’s brains are created. It shows them that 80% or 90% of girls are doing it; it’s logical from a girl’s perspective. We’re different; we’re not the same creatures. But it does help the logical, engineer-minded boys when they think “That’s just Katie being Katie” and then discover 80% of girls are just like Katie.
It’s also helpful if mom or dad or the youth pastor reads it; it gives them ammunition that they can say “I know I’ve said this a million times, and I don’t know if you believe me, but you don’t have to believe me. Look at what these boys said. This is what all these teenage boys across the nation are saying.”
So do you have anything else in the works now?
The book I’m working on now is the one I’ve wanted to write ever since I started the research on For Women Only ages ago, and that’s the corporate application of it. Because there are things we don’t get about our man, we do things we would never want to and it’s the same thing in the workplace. There are things we do as women that diminish our effectiveness without us ever intending to. And that will be out in January.
Shaunti has a wonderful website where you can find out more information about her and each of her books, watch TV interviews and read magazine articles about or by Shaunti, participate in reader forums and much more!
Tomorrow I will feature her new book, The Male Factor, along with a giveaway. But hang on, because I have a giveaway today, too! Shaunti and Random House/Multnomah Books have graciously provided an autographed copy of For Women Only for me to give to one of you. Leave a comment on this post by 6:00 pm Thursday (1/14/10) and I will choose a winner via Random.org. US Residents only, please.
Be sure to come back tomorrow to find out more about The Male Factor and another giveaway!
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