Monday, January 5, 2015

Differences Can Be Good

I think we are all guilty of expecting our spouse to act or think like us at one time or another.  I know that I am.  I often forget that my husband grew up differently than I did.  I also forget that our life experiences that shape us are even different.  Logically, there is no way that my husband will experience the same event the same way I will.  His and my separate experiences in our lives prevent this. 

I often wonder why I make these assumptions about him and others.  Maybe, it’s a control issues, but that’s entirely different concern.

After reading a little from Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus I have gathered an entirely new insight on the differences between men and women.  The book pointed out that the best way to deal with the natural conflicts that arise in marriages, due to the opposites of the sexes, is to respect these differences. 

What a simple answer, but difficult one to implement.  At least for myself, I find it a little difficult to remember that our differences are a good thing.  I think it’s due to my naïve desire for my husband to be like me.  Really it makes complete sense to respect these obvious and not so obvious differences, so that conflict becomes manageable instead of overwhelming and confusing.

So what are some common differences among men and women that might affect marriage? 

I think a BIG one is that men on average want to fix things.  If there’s a problem men tend to pride themselves in figuring out a solution.  Women on the other hand, on average, like to nurture and improve others.  If someone’s experiencing a problem, women tend to listen to their problem to help them.

One situation that explains this difference is: a wife complains to her husband that she had the worst day at work today; the husband might tell her to quit or find a better job.  The wife doesn’t want to quit and likes her job for the most part, so she ignores either response.  She actually felt better after saying her thoughts aloud.  The husband might feel the opposite way after his wife ignores his advice and feel a bit worse than before. 

The breakdown of this scenario is that women on average like to talk their problems aloud to help them feel better.  The wife really only wanted her husband to listen to her and empathize as she complained.  Men like to feel needed, respected, and trusted, so when this husband offered advice his wives rejection and ignoring of his advice hurt his feelings. 

The problem being that the husband assumed that his wife wanted a solution to her problem, when really all she wanted was him to hear her out and support her.  The solution would be that the husband just listen to his wife complain and agree that it sounds like the worst. 

The difference in men and women speaking their problems is that men on average want advice and women want to be listened to.  The husband assumed that his wife, a woman, wanted what he did, a man. 

An alternate situation might involve: the husband coming home from work giving his wife a quick kiss and going straight to the couch to watch some TV.  The stay at home wife follows her husband to the couch and asks him how his day went.  He tells her it was okay, but he knows that it was a stressful day.  His short answer isn’t enough for her, because she can sense that he’s upset.  She asks further to find out why he is upset, but he reassures her that he’s okay.  She then proceeds to tell him that he should tell her, so that he can feel better.  He remains silent.  At this point she is a little upset that he doesn’t want to talk to her, when she has been waiting for him to get home so that she could talk to him.

The breakdown of this scenario is that men on average like to keep their struggles to themselves, unless assistance is needed.  This is the opposite for women, who share their struggles with others and are open to their input.  On average, women feel better after talking about it and men feel better after pondering about their problem or forgetting it by distracting themselves with something else.  For this example the husband watched TV to forget about his stressful day at work and needed sometime alone to feel better.

The problem is that the wife assumed that her husband would feel better if he just opened up and started talking about it.  Along with giving him advice, when he didn’t ask for it.  Her advice made him feel incompetent and it wasn’t what he wanted. She just wanted to have a conversation with him when he got home and for him to tell her what was wrong.  He on the other hand preferred to keep inside and handle it on his own, since he knew how.  The wife was upset with her husband for doing something that is a natural process for men.

The difference again comes down to women on average feeling better once they’ve spoken what bothered them and men feeling better after they’ve cooled down through distraction or thinking things through in their mind.  On average men keep it in and women prefer to let it out. Men also don’t appreciate suggestions when they haven’t asked for them, because they like to feel like they can figure it out and do it on their own.

If we could only remember these differences the next time we find ourselves getting upset when our spouse does something different from what we would have done.  We could save ourselves and our marriage a world of frustration and hurt feelings.  Aside from understanding these differences we need to respect them. 

We need to appreciate the innate differences between men and women; these differences complement one another when the timing is right. 

Ultimately we need to expect these differences to come up and correct our thinking.  Before we start thinking that there is something wrong with ourselves or our spouse lets first determine if it could be due to differences.  Remember that your spouse and you think, act, and want differently and that this is the way it is meant to be.  Try and communicate what you want from your spouse, especially when you feel like they are not responding in a manner that you want.  Bringing these differences to their attention from the get go can help you achieve the results you want that much quicker.  Lastly, keep in mind that your spouse’s efforts, effective or not, are good intentions.

My suggestion to Husbands is the next time your wife is sharing her problem with you ask her, “Do you want my empathetic response?” or “Do you want my advice?”  It sounds dumb, but at least you can catch yourself before you respond to her the way you would expect to respond and be wrong – or- meet her need to be listened to.

My suggestion to Wives is the next time you feel like offering advice ask your husband, “Do you want my advice?” This way you don’t make him feel incompetent.  If you want to nurture him, and then possibly ask him, “Do you want my empathetic response?”, so that he has the option to just think about it on his own terms and in his own way to meet his need to be independent.

*For more information on this subject check out Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.


With your spouse practice saying the following question, “Would you like me to listen right now or are you looking for possible solutions?”

By Tawnya