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Not Wrong, Just Different: Men vs. Women

Not Wrong, Just Different: Men vs. Women

Communicating with your spouse is as easy as pink and blue
Written by : Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

One of the most popular analogies we use at our Love and Respect Conferences describes the differences between men and women in terms of pink and blue. Women look at the world through pink sunglasses, while men look at that same world through blue sunglasses—and, believe me, they do not necessarily see the same thing!

For example, I have often heard the generalization that women go to movies to excite their emotions and men go to movies to escape their emotions. In other words, even though they may have careers, because most women are relationally oriented, they enjoy chick flicks that appeal to their love of romance or their heart for families. Women can be scientists or engineers, but they still have this bent toward the family due to their nurturing nature.

And because most men are career- and achievement-oriented, they enjoy action movies that enable them to block out what happened today at work. Men can be great husbands and fathers who are quite capable of loving and nurturing, but they still have their "guy" side that likes watching the honorable gladiator defeat his despicable enemy.

Pink and blue perceptions not only affect seeing; they affect hearing as well. My work with husbands and wives tells me that women hear with pink hearing aids and men hear with blue hearing aids. And perhaps even more important to understand as you and your spouse seek to gain better communication is that you two can hear the very same words, but each of you will hear different messages.

My favorite illustration of this is when a wife says, "I have nothing to wear." She means she has nothing new to wear. When her husband says, “I have nothing to wear," he means he has nothing clean to wear. Each uses the same words but means something different based on pink and blue views! Or consider the words excess oil. Two women discussing excess oil are concerned about their skin. Two men discussing excess oil are concerned with machinery or perhaps a slippery garage floor.

But the difference between male and female goes far beyond pink and blue sunglasses and hearing aids. Husband and wife are "wired” differently. That different wiring usually causes husband and wife to be interested in different things. And these different interests can sometimes lead to miscommunication that results in tension (i.e., the Crazy Cycle).

A wife wants to talk and connect emotionally, but her husband says, "I'm tired." Is he reporting the facts, or is he rejecting her? Because a wife usually requests to talk more than her husband requests to talk (she feels this need in her femaleness), his words are interpreted as rejection. Yet, to him the day has been exhausting, and he wants to disengage by watching TV.

On the other side of the equation, is a wife reporting the facts or rejecting her husband when a husband wants to be sexually intimate but his wife says, "I'm tired"? Because a husband usually pushes for sexual intimacy more than his wife pushes for sexual intimacy (he feels this need in his maleness), her words are interpreted as rejection. Yet, to her the day has been very tiring, and she wants to bathe, wash her hair, and go to bed early. Not wrong; just different! Yet, these differences between Pink and Blue negatively affect communication and sometimes cause one spouse to accuse the other of being wrong when he or she is just different.

Just a Few Words Can Make All the Difference

In so many dialogues between Pink and Blue, the Crazy Cycle may threaten to start up, but it can be stopped with just a few words that make all the difference. Fortunately, a humble "I'm sorry" can keep the Crazy Cycle from spinning.

I could relate many examples of how Pink has one thing on her mind and Blue has another. The following story is representative of the kind I hear all the time. Michael and Tom, who work together as mechanical engineers and are the best of friends, went on a three-day hunting trip. When they returned to their homes, Tom’s conversation with his wife, Dawn, went something like this:
"How was your time with Michael?"
"What did you talk about?"
"Well, we mostly hunted ... . We did talk some about the infant incubator we're designing. It could save the lives of hundreds of kids each year.” "You mean you were out there for three days together and you never once talked about how Katelyn is feeling since becoming pregnant? It's her first child. I can't believe at least one of you didn't bring it up."

To which Tom responded blankly, "Is Katelyn pregnant?"

I will spare you details about what Dawn said next, but it had to do with how uncaring, insensitive, and unloving Tom was for not once asking Michael how his pregnant wife was doing. Nor will I share how Tom came back at Dawn, wondering how she could be so judgmental because his conversations with his hunting buddy did not touch on pregnancies.

Husbands like Tom write to tell me of such incidents—how it puts them on the Crazy Cycle for a couple of days—and ask me, "What is the best way to avoid similar situations?" When I write back, the first thing I point out is that a major reason for conversations like these is because of the way God made male and female. The Lord made Pink and Blue with differences, and He expects us to recognize and deal with those differences in a loving and respectful way.

If you want to understand your spouse better; if you want to communicate more effectively, hold firm to this fact: neither of you is wrong. You are just very different—as different as Pink and Blue.

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