Doing Life Together

couple-168191_1920It’s an age-old problem, but not one we may not recognize. Gender matters when it comes to marriage. Needs differ in terms of their priorities and focus. Take a recent situation with Julie and Ray who have been married for 6 years. Julie is upset that her boss overlooked her for a promotion. She wants to talk to her husband, Ray, and be comforted. When she opens her heart to Ray, he begins to give her sexual attention. In his mind, physical intimacy will help Julie feel better and loved. But Julie does not want a sexual encounter. All she wants is a little hand holding with open and honest conversation.

Willard Harley, in his book, His Needs, Her Needs, conducted a survey with couples regarding their most important martial needs by gender. The survey results confirm the conflict in our story above. Women listed affection and conversation as top needs, followed by honesty and openness, financial support and family commitment. And the women did not define affection as attention leading to sex, rather intimate time together, talking about life and dreams. Women described a more Ephesians 5:29 type of affection that refers more to the need to be cherished by their husbands.

The men who took the survey had very different priorities. The womens’ number one need of affection and conversation didn’t even make their list. Instead, number one for men was sexual fulfillment. And this was an overwhelmingly popular first need, followed by the need for recreational companionship, having an attractive spouse, domestic support and being admired.

Yes, the lists do not match up! As you can see, they are very different.

The issue is to understand each other. One is not better or right. Our goal is not to get our spouse to think or act like we do. Rather, the goal is to understand that we come at things differently based on our gender. Much of this has to do with the differences in the wiring of brains along gender lines. Women have more nerve fibers connecting the verbal and emotional portions of the brain than do men. They often want to enjoy the journey of good conversation, whereas men want to get to the point. Men require much fewer words in a day, one reason women complain that they don’t get enough conversation.

So, rather than highlight our differences, let’s understand, communicate those differences to each other and negotiate ways to respond in order to meet each other’s needs. Hopefully, our heart is to meet the needs of the other. When this is our focus, we can ask, “What do you need right now from me?”

When Julie told Ray that she simply needed to talk for a few minutes about how upset she was at her boss. All she needed was Ray to be a good listener, hold her and tell her that he understands how upset she must have felt, all was good. Later, when they settled in for the night, Julie felt close to husband and initiated physically intimacy. Both felt the day produced a closeness they needed.





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