Ask any women to describe a perfect husband and what do you think she describes?
Recently, I did just that with my client, Emily, while husband Nick was sitting beside her. When we listed all the qualities/behaviors she aspired for the perfect husband, I read them back to both.
What do you think she described? Yep, you guessed it… another woman.
“So what’s wrong with that,” asked Emily?
Unfortunately, Emily wanting “that” sets her up for unrealistic expectations and a lot of heartache and disappointments.
Nick can’t seem to remember to close dresser draws or turn lights out after leaving a room. Emily asked, “Why does he intentionally do that if he really cares about me?” “He’s just trying to tick me off!” I look at Nick and asked, “Are you intentionally trying to tick her off?” Nick says, “No way, I swear, I just forget!”
Emily is not alone in her frustration with her husband’s “seemingly” lack of caring enough to remember to do what she sees as a mediocre task.
Brain–imaging studies indicate that men’s brain size is bigger; a woman’s hippocampus, critical to learning and memory, is larger than a man’s. Thus, women retain stronger memories of emotional events than men do. The two hemispheres of women’s brains talk to each other more than a man’s. Men's brains tend to perform tasks predominantly with the left side, which is the logical/rational side of the brain. Not one being better or smarter than the other.
In a 2014 study, University of Pennsylvania researchers imaged the brains of 428 males and 521 female youths — an uncharacteristically huge sample — and found that the females’ brains consistently showed more strongly coordinated activity between hemispheres, while the males’ brain activity was more tightly coordinated within local brain regions.
Men often become overly focused on tasks because their brains are hardwired to focus on one thing at a time…they have an uncanny ability to focus solely on one thing, and one thing alone.
While this single-minded awareness can make men incredibly determined and efficient, it can also make them oblivious to the needs of others.
How is it that my husband of nearly 45 years can’t remember that trash night is, and always has been, Wednesday night? Or he can walk right past a load of folded laundry that needs to go upstairs and claim he didn’t see it? Remembering to put the toilet seat down is not a biggie for me, I grew up with 10 brothers. I thought the toilet seat up was “normal.”
This happens because men are wired differently when it comes to motivation. He is genetically designed to narrowly focus his attention on the most important "mission" at hand. If that mission is to get to work, or complete a work project, fix the lawn mower, or watch the World Series, that is his focus… or the “box” is brain is in.
Meanwhile, his emotional state carries this command: "Reduce distractions and focus on taking care of the problem that has come up." And the key here is this; the "problem that has come up" most likely has nothing to do with his wife.
Emily takes Nick’s lack of remembering to close dresser drawers personal. In her mind, he is “intentionally trying to tick her off.” Frankly, Nick is not even thinking about the drawers or Emily… he said most of the time he is thinking about the fact he’s running late for work, worrying about the traffic, or getting the kids to school when it is his turn. He said most of the time he doesn’t realize he left them open… AGAIN… until he comes home and he gets “the look” from Emily. Nick says it embarrasses him and he gets disappointed in himself, which then leads to defensiveness when Emily brings it up. We all know the dance.
Emily wonders why a man can’t be more like a woman…her perfect husband list sure sounded like one. But Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady sings, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”
It has been said that a woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn’t. A man marries a woman expecting that she won’t change and she does.
Expectations are disappointment waiting to happen. We should watch what we focus on. If we constantly focus on what he/she is NOT doing, we miss out on what he/she IS doing. Most women perceive his lack of forgetting detail as a lack of love. Once they understand it’s more of a “brain” thing…it becomes not so personal.
I asked Emily to tell me good things about Nick. That list was actually longer than her perfect husband list. We did a high-five!
I reinforced for Nick he wasn’t off the hook just because he was brain-damaged… Emily liked that. He needed to make more of an effort to remember what’s important to Emily. It shows he cares. And believe it or not guys… for her, it’s a bit of foreplay. Making himself a sticky-note on the dresser, or adding to his “to-do list,” or even asking Siri or Alexa to remind him. Since these artificial intelligence devices are women…they’ll remember.
Every man wants to make his wife happy. According to Shaunti Feldhahn’s survey for The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, that is one of THE motivating factors for the vast majority of men.
Here are some great resources to further understand the differences.
Mark Gungor: The Tale of Two Brains is one of my favorite. If you haven’t seen the video, check out the link below. It’s great to watch together…probably in two parts.
Mark explains that men’s brains are made up of little boxes and they have a box for everything… and the boxes don’t touch. A woman’s brain is made up of a big ball of wire and everything is connected to everything…It’s like the Internet super highway, and it’s all driven by energy that we call emotion.
John Gray: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. As suggested by the title, the book asserts the notion that men and women are as different as “beings from other planets.” One example is men's complaint that if they offer solutions to problems that women bring up in conversation, the women are not necessarily interested in solving those problems, but mainly want to talk about them. The book asserts each sex can be understood in terms of distinct ways they respond to stress and stressful situations.
Bill and Pam Farrel: Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti.
When we say that men are like waffles, we do not mean that men "waffle" on all decisions and are generally unstable. What we mean is that men process life in boxes. If you look at a waffle, you see a collection of boxes — all separate from each other — that make convenient holding places. That is typically how men process life.
If you look at a plate of spaghetti, you notice that there are lots of individual noodles that all touch one another. If you attempt to follow one noodle around the plate, you would intersect a lot of other noodles, and you might even seamlessly switch to another noodle. That is how women face life. Every thought and issue is connected to every other thought and issue in some way
Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn: For Men Only, For Women Only. I love these books for premarital couples, but they are also great for “tenured” couples.
You’ll find insights from the latest brain research plus a chapter that shows what’s going on when he seems to “check out.” the latest scientific research to explain the fabulous female brain plus a chapter that shows how to decode her most baffling behavior.