Man and Woman (part 2)

· author: Thomas · reading time: ca. 7 min.

Men and women have different emotional needs, as studies by Shaunti Feldhahn show. The Bible can help us develop a better understanding of the opposite sex. Their common faith in Jesus is of help for Christian married couples.

This article is part of the series “Man and Woman”. Currently, there is one other article on this topic: Man and Woman (part 1).

If you follow the news these days, at least here in Germany, there seems to be a lot of discussion about the sexes and how they treat each other. The Bible makes a few clear statements about how man and woman (should) relate to each other. But how do these fit into our time today?


As some know, I already have a child without having been married. In this context, I have also had many conversations with others who have been in dire family separation situations. I had the impression that in some places there really is a war raging between husband and wife.

Particularly when it comes to children, who by their very nature cannot be divided up, one of the two parents – or even both – quickly feels disadvantaged, and arguments are raised as to where politics would unfairly favor or discriminate against one gender or the other.

Statistics are then readily quoted according to which men die more often in accidents at work than women, or women receive less pension than men, and so on. But as a Christian, I ask myself above all: How can we best shape our personal relationships with one another?

The Bible

In the Bible, we find mainly in Ephesians chapter 5 an overview of the advice on how Christian men and their wives should relate to each other. The apostle Paul wrote the following there, originally addressed to the Christian church in Ephesus:

Submit yourselves to one another in the reverence of Christ:
Wives to their own husbands, as to the Lord,
for the husband is the head of the wife
as Christ is the head of the church.

After explaining this comparison, Paul goes on to write:

Husbands, love the wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her.

(Further reading: Ephesians 5:21-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7)

How can we understand and apply these verses today? Are wives to become mere receivers of their husbands’ commands? Are men to give up their own ideas and do everything according to their wives? And how do these two statements even fit together?

A change of perspective

At this point I found it helpful to shift the perspective from a structural view (who is above or below whom) to the emotional level. What is the emotional effect on the partner when we behave as Paul describes?

The two books For Women Only and its counterpart For Men Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and her husband Jeff were a great help to me.

The two books point out characteristic patterns of thinking and behavior of men and women, and then give tips for the opposite sex on how to deal with them.

The findings presented there are essentially based on representative surveys in the U.S., which Dr. Chuck Cowan, who previously managed the development of surveys at the U.S. Census Bureau, also helped to conduct.

Within the scope of this blog article, I obviously cannot reproduce the books in their entirety, but I will pick out three key examples to illustrate the emotional perspective behind Paul’s biblical advice.

Men …

A key, surprising finding in Shaunti’s book about men is that men (at least in the statistical majority) feel loved above all when they feel respected.

For men, respect equates to love. Some of the men even had trouble answering the surveys correctly when it came to distinguishing respect from love.

Men, for example, said it was especially important to figure things out for themselves – such as building the bookshelf without the instruction manual. If his wife is not aware that there is an emotional need for freedom and adventure behind this, she may tease him because it takes him more time because of that.

According to the surveys, men often react to such disdain with anger – for them, it’s like telling a woman in public that she’s gained five pounds.

This means that a woman will primarily experience a harmonious relationship with her husband if she makes him feel respected. And here I see a parallel with Paul’s advice: holding a “leadership position” usually goes hand in hand with respect.

I would theorize that the emotional aspect of this is essential: if a man is formally the head of the family, but his wife makes fun of him behind closed doors, that marriage will not end well.

In contrast, a man can survive unscathed losing an important, socially recognized position if his wife has his back emotionally and still desires him. It can already make a big difference if a wife praises her husband among her acquaintances for small things he has recently mastered in the family, in the household or at work.

… and Women

Jeff writes in the book about women that men tend to look at marriage like a transaction that is complete in itself: Now the man has finally managed to conquer the woman of his dreams and can relax.

Women, on the other hand, according to the surveys, even if they are happily married per se, are permanently preoccupied with the question of how their relationship with their husband is going, and they constantly harbor doubts within themselves as to whether he really (still) loves them.

While women cope with their emotional problems mainly by talking to others, men have a tendency to withdraw and think about their problems in peace.

This can result in critical situations, such as when an argument ensues in which the woman brings up her insecurities about marriage and the man wants to withdraw to reflect on the problems. The wife experiences the situation as even more problematic because of the husband’s (emotional) absence if he cannot make her feel loved despite the argument.

Paul writes about this that husbands should love their wives “as Christ loves the church”. How does Jesus love? Most certainly, God does not withdraw to reflect when we come to Him with our concerns. God is always available in prayer. As Christians, we know that God loves us even in difficult situations.

Men should take these qualities as an example: King David, for example, repeatedly picks up the motif of the “safe fortress” in the Psalms. For him, God is like a refuge where he can always seek shelter.

In the same way, husbands are supposed to be a safe place for their wives, offering them above all emotional support in their stormy lives. Small gestures and words within everyday life are particularly important in this regard, he says, in order to revitalize the relationship again and again.

The “little” things

Another example from the book is the incident with the fireplace lighter: Jeff and Shaunti were invited to dinner at the home of another couple with whom they were friends. The children are still playing. Next to the fireplace in the living room is an electric lighter, the flame of which could be dangerous for the children.

Men often manage to simply block out such things that are “small” from their point of view: In this situation, the man thinks the lighter is safe because the children don’t have enough strength yet to operate it anyway, and they start eating.

But according to the studies, women’s brains work differently on this point: women are statistically more likely to deal with small and large thoughts from the immediate or even more distant past that they can’t easily ignore. (Jeff compares it to annoying advertising pop-ups on the computer).

This is followed by the tip to take such emotional requests from the wife seriously, even if they seem “objectively” unimportant. In this situation, the solution was to put the lighter out of the children’s reach, so that everyone could enjoy the meal.

Here, too, I see a parallel to the love of God: God is not above taking care of the “small” concerns of people. As the creator of the world, he could also just as well stay up in heaven and think to himself: What do I care about my creation of yesterday?

But God is different: He sacrificed Himself in Jesus to solve the problem of mankind. God descended to mankind – we need such a humble attitude in our dealings with each other, too, in order to maintain peace between man and woman.


Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn make no secret of the fact that they are Christians themselves. However, their books are written in a worldview-neutral way. They essentially limit themselves to objective results and practical tips so that even non-Christians can benefit from them.

With regard to Christian married couples, that Paul addresses in the Letter to the Ephesians, there is, however, another aspect: Jesus is the head of the Christian church – and thus also of the individual spouses. Thus, a Christian marriage then basically consists of three persons – not only husband and wife, but also God.

As we have seen from the examples, men and women have different needs on an emotional level. Neither man nor woman have better starting conditions in this regard – both must first understand and accept each other’s differences so that they can act accordingly.

So neither partner is perfect and both need the support of the other. As Christians, we have the hope that we are not on our own in this endeavor, but that God Himself gives us the strength to do so.

If both spouses direct not only their personal lives towards Jesus, but also their marriage, then He also becomes the goal and at the same time the source of strength for their life together. He gives marriage a meaning that goes beyond just being together.