The differences may drive us crazy, but it also builds our character
by Bill Farrel
“…in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Have you ever wondered what was on God’s mind when He created women? They can enhance and confuse our lives all at the same time. I believe most men have given up on the notion of fully understanding the women God has placed in their lives. We all ask, “What am I supposed to do with them?”
In so many ways, God made women different from us, even though both testosterone and estrogen affect every cell in our bodies. For instance, your brain is larger than your wife’s but the part of her brain that monitors verbal interaction is larger. Your daughter has more connections between the two sides of her brain than you do, so she uses both sides anytime she solves a problem.
You, on the other hand, use only one side of the wrinkled computer for any specific problem. Your female friends view most conversations as recreational activities rather than strategic pursuits. While you are busy trying to figure out the main point, she is simply having fun sharing what she thinks and feels, the fears that slow her down and the activities that make her happy. Her goal is to create a connection with you. Meanwhile, you are looking for the answer.
So, what can you do to help these relationships operate a little more smoothly? Look for the AHAW in all your relationships.
Choose an attitude of acceptance (Romans 15:7). Women are different than men, period. Adopt this thought: “She has no choice but to be this way. No matter how hard I may try to change this, it will never happen because this is the way God designed her. It is much smarter to learn how to adjust and how to work with this trait.” Everything will seem easier. You still won’t understand the way she processes life but you will enjoy her more.
Learn to listen with curiosity (James 1:19). Men tend to listen as investigators. We want to uncover the main point and identify the goal of the conversation. Once we know that, we want to heroically discover the best solution for the issue at hand.
She, however, isn’t looking for solutions most of the time. She is looking to share her life with those who are important to her. Therefore, if you are important to her she wants to connect as much of her life as she can with you. One of the main ways she does this is through conversation. When you solve the issues as they come up, you interrupt the process.
However, when you show interest and listen, the process kicks into gear. At some point, she will have connected enough of her life to you that her “trust switch” gets turned on. When this switch is activated, she finds it easy to trust you in just about every area of life.
To listen with curiosity, try these responses: When you are tempted to say, “I understand,” respond with “I want to hear more.” When she changes subjects quickly, ask her, “How did you do that?” She will probably ask, “What do you mean? How did I do what?” Reply, “How did you jump from one subject to another so quickly? That was amazing.” Your interest will impress her and most likely lead her to share more with you. Look for the word or phrases that are “different” from the rest of the conversation. When you notice an unusual phrase, ask about it with interest. For instance, I had the following conversation with Pam recently.
Pam: “Look at the clothes I got. My favourite company was having this great sale so I ordered a number of things. I got this one for $11. This one was only $16. I had a hunch I would look really good in this because it is one of my best colours and it has a v-neck. You remember I told you that my body type works best with clothes that have v’s. It is different than my sister. She looks best with ovals, which I think is funny since we have the same genes but we look best in different styles. I thought about her because I was a little afraid I might get in trouble with you if I bought these clothes even though they were on sale. I know her husband would have reacted poorly. Anyway, I am excited about the pictures we are going to be taking soon. I have lost weight so I am feeling pretty good about myself and I like the way these new clothes look on me.”
The phrase that stuck out to me was “I was a little afraid I might get in trouble with you.” Logically, I knew this was silly. She is a full adult. I have never micromanaged the way she spends money. She is free to make her own decisions. And yet, there was this statement that made it sound like a young girl being scolded by her father.
I gave it a try. “Really, you were afraid you would get in trouble?”
I was amazed at how quickly she opened up. “Yeah, I knew in my head that what I was doing was fine but I had this nagging feeling that you would be upset. I even know that you are very different than my dad, but he would have gotten mad every time. I don’t know why I can’t just get over this but it hangs around a lot.”
Express affection when you want to give answers. It would have been really easy for me to say to Pam, “I am not your dad and I am not like your dad. I have been showing you for 30 years that I will respect you as a full adult. Will this ever end?”
I would have been intellectually right but relationally wrong. What she needed at the time was reassurance, not reasons. She already knew it was silly; she didn’t need to be told. I have learned at moments of vulnerability like this, it is better just to give her a hug that lets her know I am with her in this.
Pray for wisdom everyday (James 1:5). The One who knows exactly how women are wired is God Himself and you need His help. You know how it is when you say to your daughter, “Honey, you look great. Is there a reason you are wearing the green sweater rather than the blue one?” You thought it was an innocent question until she erupts, “I knew I looked ugly in this one,” and then storms up the stairs.
This is the time to ask the Holy Spirit to be very active and share with you what you can say and do to work through this situation. It may happen through the Word of God or it may happen through a whisper. It may happen when a friend says something or you hear a message on the radio that seems to you as if God has just spoken. It may be as simple as a suggestion from your wife that you realize will work. Either way, God is active in our relationships and will help us if we are willing to listen.
The bottom line is that the pursuit is never over. God made women and men different, not to drive us crazy but to develop our character. Keep looking for the AHAW!
Pam and Bill Farrel are international speakers and best-selling authors of some 26 books including Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti. Bill is a communicator and pastor and a PK Canada favourite speaker.
The article above was featured in the May 2010 issue of SEVEN magazine.