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Understanding and Valuing Our Differences

January 5, 2011

The poet Ogden Nash once said, “Marriage is the alliance of two people, one of whom never remembers birthdays and the other never forgets them.” His quote humorously demonstrates the simple fact that we can count on being very different from our partner. We are not only different physically and emotionally, but we are also often dissimilar in personality, values and lifestyle. We saw a lifestyle difference illustrated this month by our bloggers’ accounts of men shopping for their wives at the grocery store. In both cases, the wife requested the purchase of a very specific item, and when it was difficult to find, a substitution was made—ground cinnamon for stick cinnamon and blended yogurt for natural yogurt. Both realized the consequences of this difference when he arrived home with the wrong item. Each husband realized that the value his wife placed on receiving that particular item was different from the value he placed on it.

This begs the question: how are we to understand such differences and maintain harmony in our marriages? Bill and Pam Farrel continue our food theme and help us get the picture in their book Men Are Like Waffles Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences.

Men Are Like Waffles

Men process life in boxes. If you look at a waffle, it is a collection of boxes separated by walls. These boxes are separate from each other and make convenient holding places. This is typically how men process life. Their thinking is divided up into boxes that have room for one issue at a time—one issue only. A man compartmentalizes, putting life and responsibilities into different boxes. He will strategically organize his life in these boxes and spend the most time in the areas in which he can succeed. Success is such a strong motivation for him that he will seek out boxes that work and ignore boxes that make him feel like a failure. This is why men find it so easy to develop hobbies that consume their time. This also explains why men who are often good at building and fixing things will attempt to solve all problems rather than patiently listen to the explanation of the problem. He prefers to do what he is best at and ignore that which makes him feel deficient.

Women Are Like Spaghetti

Women process life more like a plate of pasta. If you look at a plate of spaghetti, you notice lots of individual noodles that all touch one another. If you attempt to follow one noodle around the plate, you will find that it intersects with other noodles. Women process life in this way. Every thought and issue is connected to every other thought and issue in some way. Life is much more of a process for women, and this is why women are typically better at multitasking than men. They are able to connect life’s dots relationally and they solve problems in a much different way than men.

Men and women think differently, process emotions differently, make decisions differently and learn differently. They even view the purchasing of groceries differently!  Dr. John Van Epp, author of How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk, says “Differences provide fulfillment for where each of you is lacking. This is why opposites attract. It is our differences that make us more than we would have ever been on our own.” The art of marriage is learning how to blend these differences in positive, healthy and gainful ways.


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