When women and men’s brains were hooked up to a computer to measure their internal response after they heard a sad story, almost six times as many neurons were affected in women’s brains as compared to men’s. That scientific fact can help your marriage.
God made women with neurons that respond to emotional situations. Think about how you understand your children and your friends. We often bash our husbands because “they don’t get it” and that they don’t have feelings like they “should”. (Again, only 80% of couples are like this and 20% are opposite, so no worries if your marriage is in the 20% and you are the unemotional one.)
In general, God created men to respond less strongly to emotional stimuli. If your husband doesn’t understand how important something emotional is to you, it’s because he has one sixth less neurons firing about the same event. How that helps us give him a break! How that helps us not be disappointed that he does not understand and respond with the intensity we feel the situation deserves. And it makes us see that just as we have to teach children the multiplication facts, we have to teach our husbands how to understand our emotional natures.
When you feel yourself becoming disappointed because of his less than perfect emotional response to a situation, remember that you appreciate the way he can be logical about many decisions that impact your family. I have learned that when I am stirred up by my twirly-swirly female thought life, my fewer-neurons-flaring husband can often bring clarity to the situation that I, at first, miss.
When a husband doesn’t emotionally respond like a wife does, wise women adopt another perspective on the situation. First, these women focus on what is good about their husband (by re-reading their TJ lists). They tell their husbands that they appreciate “how he knows how long things will take, that he understands if the logistics are right, or that he understands the manpower needed to sustain a long-term goal”. They tell their husbands how they appreciate the “less-emotional” brain because he can often see through what is clouded by her emotions. God made men and women to balance each other in this area. They each pull the other one to a more sane norm.
Of course, since we are all self-deceived sinners, we think our way is the right way (husbands and wives both think this). We think he is a dope for thinking like he does and he thinks we are ridiculously emotional. (Just a warning here: If you treat a man like you think he’s a dope, I can guarantee that he will soon want out of the marriage. He may be trapped or he may have Christian values that won’t let him escape, but I am telling you that he will want out. No man can tolerate a woman that makes him feel stupid.)
Your husband will not get some pretty important emotional feelings that you have (feelings about relationships, children, the home, etc.). Over time, you can gently teach him that this is how women respond. Be prepared for him to not get it for a looonnnngggg time. Tell him again, gently, and then, probably twenty to fifty to a hundred more times. In marriage, it’s okay for us to take years to deeply understand each other.
One young girl told me that when she explained to her husband how she felt about one of her issues, the husband said, “I don’t think you should feel that way. After all, it was only x, not y. Shouldn’t you give it to the Lord and let it be over? How often are we going to have to talk about this?”
She explained to me the utter disappointment in that this was the man that she was given to love, and how he completely didn’t get her heart. One of the main expectations we have from our husbands is to be understood, right? And when his 5/6 less neurons don’t flare like ours do, we feel totally misunderstood. And unloved. And unhappy.
A friend’s husband recently wrote her a poem on her fiftieth birthday. The poem had five stanzas, one for each major concern in her life: her children, her health, her work, her ministry, etc. In the humorous poem, though, was the deep understanding that he knew who she was and how she felt. She told me that he could not have written this poem ten years ago, much less twenty. He “gets” her now at this deep level, because she has persevered with teaching him how she feels, never bashing him. Because she has his open heart, and has had it for years, eventually he understood her. Young wives, right now your husband is nothing like he will be after years of you treating him with understanding, the 8 A’s, and a godly spirit. He will eventually get you, even if he has 1/6 as many neurons flying as you. You just have to stay in the game, keep attempting to teach him without anger or disgust, and keep playing the playbook. Love never fails.
On a side note, men do love and appreciate the way women can feel deeply. Men think your childlike emotions are adorable, as long as they are positive and sweet. The way you are tender with little children, the way you are kind to old people, the way you are sad about a dead puppy…it is all very womanly and beautiful. It’s the negative, upset, cross words that come from negative emotions that slay a husband.
Not too many things are more satisfying than a marriage where you feel understood, loved, and protected. But as you smart students in Wife School now know, most men don’t come into the marriage knowing how to do any of that. A wise woman builds her house, and she has the long-sightedness to build her marriage with great relational skills and great character. She knows that Season 1 is for sowing and Season 2 is for reaping. She records her husband’s sweetness, and becomes very grateful for all he does get right, while she continues to persevere in teaching him her heart. Beautiful, absolutely, beautiful results happen down the road!