What’s wrong with number 4?

Shaunti Feldhahn again. This is the women who recently discovered that, YEAH!, the divorce rate is a little lower than we thought. She posits that getting the word out would stop many more divorces because divorces are happening when folks are demoralized by the number of divorces they are told have been happening. Kinda like encouraging smoking because you had a 4 pack a day uncle that lived to 100.

The research for her newest book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, found some spouse specific marriage rules of thumb she condenses for men and for women. Her website describes it like this:

Shaunti spent three years interviewing and surveying 1,000 couples to uncover the most important habits of the most happily married couples – what are they doing differently, that they may not even realize is making them so happy, that others can replicate?
I have not read the book. But today I was linked to a Family Life article about it where they paraphrase the lists of common actions men and women can take to create happy marriages.
  • Take her by the hand.
  • Leave her a voice mail message, text message, or email to tell her you love her and are thinking about her.
  • Put your arm around her, or your hand on her knee when you’re sitting next to her (especially when you’re in public).
  • Sincerely tell her she’s beautiful.
  • Pull yourself out of a funk.


  • Notice his effort and sincerely thanks [sic] him for it.
  • Say, “You did a great job at __________.”
  • Mention in front of others something he did well.
  • Show him that you desire him sexually, and he pleases you sexually.
  • Make it clear to him that he makes you happy.

These lists thingies are too clever by half. My mother in law, for example, overtly, sometimes physically, shirks my FILs efforts at innocent sweet affection. It is troubling to watch. Whenever he is strident about it and they are stuck seated together on a sofa, she stiffly and awkwardly if he uses his hand to touch her anywhere on her body. I’ve seen this enough elsewhere, though not a majority, to lead me to conclude that it doesn’t belong on a list unless it has qualifiers. As is, it is stated as universal advice.

The notes and cards and letters idea is ubiquitous, and in my opinion, banal. The sentiment, and various modes of expressing it, OK. Telling her she is beautiful is solid advice. It is a mine field of disingenuous potential however. If your wife grows slovenly and obese, and you tow the line that it is her inner beauty blah blah etc., you are an enabler, not a husband complimenting his wife. Finally, if a man is in a funk, of course he should pull himself out of it. I have, in the past,  resembled that remark so to speak. It is crucial though that if his funk is from her endless toxic nagging and such, the cause be exposed as well. A man needn’t be endlessly put upon to pull out of a funk of his wife’s creation. My anecdotal experience is that most men go into a funk over provision or work related things, or relational wife related things. Within that set, it skews to the wife related things.

They offer better advice to the women. They address respect and sex, thus nailing it. Then the writer has to add a qualifier that reduces the value of the comprehensive list. He writes:

Oh, if you’re thinking that #4 is the most important thing on a guy’s list, think again. It’s #5. Almost 90 percent of men said knowing that they make their wife highly happy is what makes them highly happy.

There is something right about this and something wrong about this. It is correct that men genuinely want their wives to be happy. In fact this could use more emphasis because its not clear that women actually subscribe to this. If women truly understood the drive men have to see their wives happy they would perhaps back off on trying to micromanage and control things in order to create their own happy space.

Apologizing for men’s sex drive is never right, but very common.

It’s interesting how the claim that it isn’t the most important thing is derived. Above the quote form the book’s author’s website says she interviewed 1000 couples as research for this book. If they were interviewed together, as couples, that goes a long way towards explaining the bias that would lead to the claim that devalues the sexual aspect for men, removing it from the number one spot. Simple. Husbands will not answer the relevant questions about sex honestly if the wife is present. Period.

Recall that Willard Harley surveyed over 40,000 couples for his book His Needs Her Needs. He then compiled lists of the top needs by gender. Sex was number one for men. Number one by a lot. I sat through the two week seminar offered at my church in the mid 1990’s. There I encountered the explanation for men not being honest if questioned in front of their wives. As we went need by need, one per session, when we reached the need for sex, several of the wives went apoplectic. One went so far as to say that it was not even a legitimate thing to have listed in the context of needs. The discussion of sex took several sessions with primarily the wife of the seminar giving couple fielding the objections lest the poor fellow end up castrated. I could offer countless examples that affirm the reasons for the bias. In typical fashion, the author from FL was very concerned that the women reading may get” the wrong idea”. Especially from a male writer. Pastors do likewise, both fearing the women and simultaneously chasing The lift that the women will give back.

If Feldhahn likewise disclaims the primacy of sex as a male need, then she is as wrong on that as she is on her take down of the divorce rate. I once had her in the good-hand category. She is out.


8 thoughts on “What’s wrong with number 4?

  1. re: “They offer better advice to the women.”

    Indeed. In fact, if the women did as advised, then the women wouldn’t be sitting stiffly, dismayed as their husbands stroke their knees. If the women did as advised, then and only then would the men’s advice *work*. And even more importantly, if the women did as advised, then the *women*’s feelings would improve so that men wouldn’t even have to do anything.

    Shorter version: the man cannot make the woman happy, period, but the woman can choose to make them both happy.

  2. I actually find this really depressing. It’s like reading about the fall of Singapore in WWII. factors and possibilities avoided while pursuing a dream. These books never seem to discuss major shifts in the economy, education or social paradigms. They don’t deal with the fact that feminism teaches women to hate the male sex drive and men to be ashamed of it.

    Ive often noticed that when discussing such subjects women seem to have two gears: you go girl and you suck girl. So it’s like women are not able, in this paradigm to accept the notion that they bear significant responsibility for how relationships.

  3. Here’s a snarky example of the women’s advice in practice:
    1. “I noticed you finally put the forks upside down in the dishwasher the way I’ve told you a thousand times, so thank you!”
    2. “You did a great job of doing what I told you.”
    3. Facebook post: “DH finally did what I’ve been telling him! Here’s a pic for proof.”
    4. —
    5. “I’m so happy, I’m going to let YOU pick the restaurant that you pay for, tonight. Without much takeback, alternate restaurant demands by me, backtalk, Indian giving (pc warriors take note!), and guff.”

  4. Speaking of “good hands” I’ve been listening to Nancy Lee DeMoss lately and liking what I am hearing. I was thinking about doing a positive blog review for a change.

  5. This is weird coincidence. Just yesterday I was trying to quantify how I would breakdown my wife’s value to me if something should happen to her. She’s back to work recently and working every weekend so I have the house and kids to myself for those two days. It has reinforced to me how I basically accomplish all non-trivial and nearly all trivial tasks around the house, and that I’m actually the superior parent/caregiver as well. I came up with @ 85% of her value to me is how she looks and how much quality sex we are having. 10% is her income generation (though she makes almost as much as I do with the weekend bonus) and 5% she’s a “state approved” caregiver to our children. Now the last 15% is basically static. The extra money is quite nice, but we were getting along fine on my 90+k a year (house is paid off). Summer is the main childcare issue, but I could afford a nanny 10 weeks a year for the next 7-8 years if I cut back a little in some other areas. So , really if I was just getting appropriate quality/quantity of 4 our relationship I be OK. The other things are nice, but really good cake doesn’t need icing and gerat steak doesn’t need sauce.

  6. In a blunt mood today.
    A competent man can cook food, clean floors, wash dishes and clothing, as well as repair plumbing / wiring / heating. He can cook his own omelet, but he can’t fellate himself[*]. Yet women insist on putting everyting else – cooking, “companionship” and so forth waaaay ahead of sexual intimacy. They thus denegrate themselves by downgrading the magical charm of male / female interdependence to some sort of utilitarian service.

    [*]Nitpickers who know gymnastic autofellators are invited to go pound sand.

  7. Sex is also the way for most men to affection and intimacy that are not whimsical and fleeting. It’s the gateway. Friendly companionship you can get from other men too, probably more easily.

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