A Harsh Word Out of the Larger Context

For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of  WomenFor Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women by Shaunti Feldhahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I reread this book recently, as a kind of refresher for myself. The first time I read it, I had just started dating the woman who is now my wife, almost four years ago. At the time, I had also read “For Women Only,” the counterpart to this book, in an effort to offer notes and comments on it for my then-girlfriend’s benefit.

Now, I am somewhat distanced from that companion reading, and I can see some flaws in this book as a stand-alone product.

Let me start off with the positives: It is an excellent book. It addresses an important need, and it offers research and statistics to do it. (Not being a researcher, I can’t speak to the reliability of their research, but from what I do know, it’s not so weak as to be discounted out of hand.) There are few other books in this same vein, although there are many which attempt to show men how women think; I have read even fewer which succeed even remotely.

This book manages to accomplish that, because it’s not afraid to quote from the horse’s mouth, as they say. Instead of philosophizing, psychologizing, or otherwise intellectualizing, the Feldhahns work with real women with real opinions saying things that – for some reason – they can’t just say to their husbands/boyfriends.

That being the case, though, this book has some shortcomings. Almost all of these shortcomings fade, however, when this book is read in conjunction with its counterpart. When read alone, “For Men Only” is a pretty harsh condemnation of male behavior. Granted, some male behavior needs to change, but not all of it can be.

For example, when discussing the female multi-tasking, multi-thinking mind, the Feldhahns spend a great deal of time discussing feminine emotions. At several points, male emotions come into play – but these are discarded as ignorant, irrelevant, or unimportant. In short, from the perspective of this book alone, men must cater to and coddle the emotions of their wives, but if they ever have an emotional response to something, it should be dropped like a hot potato.

This sort of heavy-handed blame-game lurks throughout the book, and makes it upsetting, offensive, even unbearable to man forced to read it by itself. Only when you read both this book and its counterpart (which is pretty heavy-handed against women for their flaws) does everything fall into place as a mutual effort to improve the marriage and each other.

So, a note to any women who want their man to read this book: don’t take the titles literally, and make sure he reads the one for you, too. It’s important context.

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