Before Leslie and I (Les) developed a deep knowledge of the scientifically proven differences between men and women, we butted heads on a regular basis. The disagreements surrounded things like what to pack for vacation, communication styles and timing, and romance. But they could have been avoided if we’d had a deeper understanding of where they were coming from.
It’s true that at times, men and women seem to have come from different planets. Luckily, understanding and appreciating the fundamental differences that exist between the sexes simplifies these misunderstandings. Here are four ways you and your spouse can bridge the “gender gap” in your own marriage.
1. Realize that you and your spouse are inherently different.
Men and women have inborn differences on psychological, biological, emotional, and professional levels. We’re driven by different internal motivators and have our own specific sets of strengths and weaknesses. And while all of these qualities aren’t concrete for either gender, there’s a fairly consistent pattern of similarities among each.
- Psychologically, men gravitate toward finding their identity in solitude, while women lean on relationships to mold their sense of self
- Biologically, women are stronger verbal communicators; men’s aptitudes lean toward abstract reasoning and the mental rotation of objects in space
- Emotionally, men believe in the practical value of their current goals and activities (i.e., “What will this accomplish in the future?”); meanwhile, women are more focused on the feelings and emotions of the moment
- Professionally, women tend to focus on the processes that allow us to achieve goals; in contrast, men play a “long game” when it comes to their goal-setting
When we’re not actively aware of our differences, it’s easy for us to slip into an assumption that our spouses should be thinking, processing, and behaving just as we do. What we need instead is a healthy dose of understanding that the differences exist. Once we’re aware, we’re less likely to clash.
2. Accept and respect your differences, even if you don’t understand them.
The differences between men and women can create a conflict, but when they’re properly understood, they actually serve to bring balance to your relationship. Marriage is the epitome of completeness, in part, because partners in this most intimate of relationships tend to make up for one another’s weaknesses. It’s a unique give-and-take born out of those inherent differences that lead us to frustration so often.
It makes no sense for me to waste energy over how many outfits Leslie wants to take on vacation, or for Leslie to criticize my decision to carry my laptop in case I need or want to use it. Instead, why not respect that we each have our own preferences–and go with them? We don’t have to know why our spouse prefers a certain thing; we just need to respect it.
One of the biggest missteps you can make in your marriage is to assume that “what’s good for me is good for them” in regards to your spouse. The truth is, it’s not. Developing respect and appreciation for your spouse’s differences will pay dividends toward deeper intimacy, love, and harmony in your home.
3. Learn the basic needs of men and women.
Generally speaking, there are predictable differences between men and women (obviously, there are exceptions to this rule). A summary statement we prefer to use is, “Men focus on achievement, women focus on relationships.” But it’s a little more complex than that–and marriage tends to reveal our differences in ways that dating did not.
We can’t meet our spouse’s basic needs in marriage by doing what we need ourselves, so it’s important to learn what those needs are:
- Wives need to be cherished, known, and respected
- Husbands need to be admired, to have autonomy, and to enjoy shared activities
Once you understand these fundamental differences and needs, you and your spouse can begin meeting them for one another in unique ways that honor one another’s individuality.
4. Dig deeper to get to know your spouse on a more intimate level.
Now that you’re armed with general information about what men and women need, you can work together to learn the nuances in these needs that each of you experience on an individual level. It’s equally important to identify whether some of these needs don’t apply to one of you. And, in some cases, a few of them may be switched..
It’s possible for a wife’s dominant need to match up with the “husband” list, or vice versa. Take time to communicate with one another about any similarities or differences that crop up, then be open about what things would help each of you feel that those deep needs are being met. Be willing to be vulnerable enough to share additional needs that may not appear on our lists, too.
Have you and your spouse bridged the gender gap in your marriage? How did you do it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.