Equally Different

Dr. R.B. Ouellette

One of the greatest modern myths is that there are no essential differences between men and women. This is unbiblical, unreasonable, and dangerous to your marriage. God made men and women different, both physically and emotionally, and He commanded husbands to take note: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). We may not understand why our spouses think and feel the way they do, but we should understand that they think and feel certain ways. The material in this article has been gleaned over the years from several different sources, and much of it is based on scientific research. Of course, you are free to disregard science and obligated only to obey Scripture.

Nevertheless, I think that these statements will resonate with most couples. And I trust it will be helpful in understanding the person God has given you to be your life’s partner.

Think Different

From the very early stages of development, the brains of men and women develop differently. Women get a heavy dose of estrogen which develops a more nurturing and caring nature. Weeks after conception, men receive a huge dose of testosterone and later a biochemical bath that severs much of the connection between the left and right brain. This promotes competitiveness and focus at the cost of multitasking.

The result is a very different way of thinking for men and women. Men are analytical with a laser-like focus, while women are much more intuitive and are able to juggle many tasks at the same time. There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to both.

A man can usually tell you exactly why he believes something. If he doesn’t trust someone, he would tell you he caught the person in a lie or saw him keep back money that wasn’t his. In math terms, he can “show his work.” He may still be wrong, but he can give you good reasons for being wrong. Women don’t “show their work” but often come to the right conclusion by intuition—their brain working faster than they can explain.

To see the difference in focus, watch one spouse have a phone conversation while the other is listening. The wife is perfectly capable of talking to one person on the phone and getting feedback from her husband next to her. The husband cannot. If his wife asks him to ask a question, he has to put the person on hold, turn to his wife and ask, “What did you want me to ask him?”

Feel Different

Because of the way God made them, men base their significance upon their achievements, while women are more centered on relationships. Ask a couple about a road trip, the wife will talk about the wonderful coffee shop they discovered. The husband will glow with pride because he shaved thirty minutes off the road time compared to last year.

Men like to solve problems alone; women like to help others solve problems. It’s supportive, encouraging, uplifting, and helpful for one woman to give another woman advice. Men just need encouragement to “stick with it.” Men tend only to ask for advice under two circumstances: when they are looking for a solution and when they want someone to blame.

Affirmation & Solutions

After reading the differences between how men and women think and feel, you can see conflict coming like an oncoming train—predictable and unrelenting. The different thinking patterns and behaviors are ripe for misunderstandings and unmet expectations.

Primarily, men want to fix problems, and women want to affirm people. When the wife shares a problem, the husband assumes she is telling him because she wants him to fix the problem—that’s why he would share a problem. Really, she just wants sympathy and encouragement, and she will prolong the conversation until she gets it. It’s not even a conscious decision, but she may reject her husbands solutions because she isn’t done talking about the problem yet. If this continues—the wife subconsciously rejecting solutions to continue the conversation—the husband will feel rejected and the wife won’t find the reassurance she was looking for from her husband.

Women have their own expectation to “improve” their husbands. Their desire to redecorate the house and add certain touches to meals carries over to the relationship with their husbands. A wife may give small advice on how to drive, how to dress, and generally “mother” her husband. But stable men don’t feel romantically inclined toward their mothers.

How have your efforts to “improve” and “fix” each other worked so far? Maybe it’s time to quit trying to change each other and decide to love and accept.

Sayings & Meanings

Figuring out what to say is a challenge for men and women. Knowing how to say it is the next obstacle.

“You never talk to me,” she says.

“I’m talking to you right now,” he replies.

“But you never spend time with me,” she tries to elaborate.

“I’m with you now.”

“But I feel like you’re someplace else.” There, she said it! That’s what she really wanted to say.

“What do you mean I’m someplace else? I’m standing right here!” What the wife is trying to say is, “I wish we could talk more. I need you in my life. I appreciate you. I wish you would give me more attention.” Women speak more from their emotions, while men speak in literal facts.

The gap between men and women is wide, but not impassible. Here are a few tips for men and women to better live, communicate, and express their appreciation for each other.

Marriage Advice: For Men

  • Listen. Try to listen to your wife with empathy. Try to understand what she is feeling and put yourself in her place and on her side.

  • Notice the details. Do many small things for your wife, not just a few big things. A man may feel like the grand gesture will be most effective, but women appreciate small but frequent reminders of your love and affection—a phone call, a book she might enjoy, a bouquet of flowers.

  • Ask her counsel. Your wife may not always be able to give you a reason for her opinion, but her advice is highly valuable. The husband, under God, bears the responsibility to make the final decision, but he would be wise to hear what she has to say.

  • Appreciate her motives. Even when you can’t appreciate her message, appreciate her motives. When your wife complains about your heavy workload, she’s really saying that she would like you to be home more. This is good! She wants you around! Would you rather she suggested you get a second job, work 100 hours a week, and never see her?

  • Offer support. Before offering solutions, listen. It is more important to her that you listen before trying to fix the problem.

  • Accept her as she is. Do not try to adjust her to what you wish she was.

Marriage Advice: For Women

  • Do not give unsolicited advice. Trust me. If you followed this single piece of advice, your husband would be giddy. Partially because of our ego, we don’t take helpful advice as a sign of love and care.

  • Don’t make him talk. Do not try to make your husband talk when he withdraws from you. He needs time. He doesn’t know what to do about it yet, so he’s waiting. If you try to make him talk now, the results will be unpleasant. I read an old proverb, “Don’t follow your husband when he goes into the cave. Otherwise, the dragon that lives in the cave may breathe fire on you.”

  • Be clear. Make it clear you do not blame your husband for the problem you are describing. My dear wife will often say to me, “I know this is not your fault. I know you cannot do anything about this. But…” She then proceeds to share with me her concern. I recognize then that she is looking for sympathy, understanding, and support, and she is not blaming me for the difficulty.

  • Condense it. Make requests short, direct, and non-manipulative. For example, you will find better results if you say to your husband, “Sweetheart, would you be willing to take out the garbage tonight?” as opposed to saying, “Honey, do you think you could please take out the garbage this week? It has been four weeks since our garbage has been taken out. The garage is full of trash. It stinks to high heaven, and I don’t know why in the world we haven’t gotten it out to the curb before now!”

  • Give perspective. Put things in perspective for your spouse. When you are telling him of some difficulties, be sure to let him know that you are, by and large, happy, satisfied, and encouraged in your marriage.

Whether you accept all of the scientific and sociological concepts of this article, we must agree that the Scripture requires men particularly to dwell with their wives according to knowledge. One of the greatest secrets to success in marriage is to stop trying to get your partner to understand you and start trying to understand your partner.