4 Minutes 4 Marriage – Windows & Pop Ups

Welcome back to 4 Minutes 4 Marriage. Did last week’s post about women’s desire for emotional security and men’s double burden of financial responsibility and secret sense of inadequacy spark any good discussions? I hope so.

This week we return to the Feldhahn s’ books to talk about windows and pop ups. Remind you of your computer? We’ll use the computer analogy to better understand our partners.

First, the windows:

Men surveyed by Shaunti Feldhahn were surprised to learn that, unlike their own linear thinking, women tend to balance many thoughts and emotions at the same time. Like having many windows open on your computer and “alt-tabbing” back and forth between them.

Generally women are more adept at multi-tasking than men. In a typical minute a woman may be primarily focusing on her work, but also assessing whether her children are safe, calculating whether she’ll be able to finish the tasks of the day, considering what to have for dinner tonight, conscious that her coworker is in a bad mood, all the while feeling uneasy because she is worried about whether her husband left without a kiss this morning because something is bothering him. About half of all women might add to this list a vulnerability to “pop ups” of emotion from past experiences that seem to come out of nowhere. Women find it very difficult to compartmentalize thoughts or turn off emotions until a later time. And if their primary relationship is troubled, everything else is affected.

An awareness of how emotions pervade a woman’s thoughts can help men be better listeners. Men tend to want to fix things—much to a woman’s dismay—when what she wants is to be listened to. You see, for women the problem IS the emotion involved, more so than the situation that led to it. Men make tremendous strides in a relationship when they learn to listen to the feeling that is expressed, even more than the words. Then acknowledge the emotion. Words like, “That must have been frustrating,” or “That would have made me mad, too” are much more satisfying than, “Why didn’t you…” or “You should have….”

Of course, if she’s saying, “The sink is plugged,” she’s probably looking for you to fix it, not empathize. Or if you see that she can’t settle into a conversation because she’s distracted by worrying about the noise the kids are making in the next room, fix it by going to check on them yourself. But when she is talking to you and her voice is tight with emotion, her feelings are the message you should be tracking. If you aren’t sure how to respond, ask her. “Do you want advice, or just to be heard?”

Men also have pop up thoughts to deal with, but of a completely different kind. Women have accepted that men tend to be visual beings. To us that might simply mean we dress attractively to hold their attention. To men, though, it goes far beyond that. When a man sees an appealing woman, her unbidden image replays in his mind, possibly for years afterwards. Throw in movie love scenes, bra ads, jeans commercials, provocatively dressed teens walking past, a coworker’s fitted skirt, the Playboy cover he glimpsed at the grocery store, cheerleaders at the game, or a waitress’s cleavage. Our culture assails him with a barrage of enticing images that pop up more often than he cares to admit.

Notice I said unbidden. These visual replays have nothing to do with a roving eye, nor a dissatisfaction or lack of love for his wife. Many men would choose to turn off this temptation if they could. They are simply part of his gender’s makeup. He’s been struggling with these images since he was a teen. He can’t avoid wanting to look at a beautiful woman, though with effort he can choose not to. Still, he will be intensely aware of the woman he avoids watching. Of course, some men are more or less visual than others and will be more or less distracted by provocative scenes, but the sensual mental images seem to be a rather universal male experience.

Even Job of the Bible, whom God called, “the finest man in all the earth” (Job 1:8) knew temptation. He says, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.” (Job 31: 1)

Shaunti Feldhahn points out to men that they have choices:

  • For every man, sensual images and thoughts arrive involuntarily.
  • Every man’s involuntary physical impulse is to enjoy the feelings associated with these thoughts.
  • But every man can make a choice—to dwell on the images and thoughts, or to dismiss them. Men honor their wives when they resist their desire to visually consume an attractive woman.


Ladies, how do we help our husband once we realize how temptations surround and bombard him? First, set aside our natural tendency to feel resentful or insecure when we notice him noticing another woman. We can show him we appreciate the effort he makes to redirect his attention to us, with a simple smile or a thank you. Remember, our husbands need our encouragement and support, not our judgment. Shaunti quotes one man, “The more I can reveal my weaknesses without being judged or accused, or without a major crisis in our relationship resulting from my transparency, the more I know I am loved for who I am, not for who she wants me to be.”

Second, make a point of examining what inadvertent temptation we might cause by how we dress, as well as what we teach out daughters about modesty. (Shaunti has written a book called, For Young Women Only.)

In summary, women are distracted in their multi-tasking by emotions that intrude and hold on until they are resolved. Men are distracted by the countless sensual images that our society surrounds them with. It’s as difficult for a woman to turn off her emotions as it is for men to turn off their mental images. As hard for men to ignore sensuality as it is for women to forget an argument.

How will knowing this enhance our relationships? Might make a great conversation starter…

Let’s pray for all marriages this week.

I’ll be praying for yours,

Betty Arrigotti

TO READ MORE (Note: These are also available on CDs which make them easy to listen to during a commute.):

Feldhahn, Shaunti (2004). For Women Only: What you need to know about the inner lives of men, Multnomah Books.

Feldhahn, Shaunti & Rice, Lisa A. (2006). For Young Women Only: What you need to know about how guys think, Multnomah Books.

Feldhahn, Shaunti & Jeff (2006). For Men Only: A straightforward guide to the inner lives of women. Multnomah Books.

WordPress Themes