January 27, 2009

I Am A Waffle

The other day my wife asked me to sign a couple of Thank You cards we needed to deliver to some friends later in the morning. Kindly, she put them on my dresser so I wouldn't forget. A few minutes later, as requested, I signed the cards and went ahead and closed up the envelopes. Then I left them on the dresser.

Thirty minutes later after we were well on our way to visit our friends, my wife asked, "You brought the cards, right?" Um, no. Why would I have brought them? All you asked me to do was sign them. I quickly apologized, saying, "I'm sorry...you asked me to sign them, so I signed them and left them on the dresser."

What could have easily been an argument along the lines of Why would I need to ask you to bring them when you knew that we were on our way out the door? Why can't you just think about these things? did not turn into that because my wife understands something extremely important about me:

I am a waffle.

Another one of my favorite relationship books that has been a huge help to my wife and me in our marriage is called Men Are Like Waffles – Women Are Like Spaghetti by Steve and Pam Farrel. Over the next couple of posts I'd like to highlight some of the concepts in that book. If what I mention interests you at all, I strongly suggest ordering yourself a copy. It is a light-hearted and humorous read with some very, very true principles that will help you both be "understanding and delighted in your differences."

Men Are Like Waffles

We men process life in boxes, much like the little boxes that make up a waffle. And we can really only effectively spend time in one box at a time. We have a box for work, a box for family, a box for listening, a box for signing thank you cards, etc. Our thinking is divided up into boxes that have room for one issue, and one issue only. It's why we can get so caught up fixing things. It's why we get a little nervous when you ask, "Did you miss me today while you were at work?"

From the book:
"When he's at work he's at work. When he's in the garage tinkering around, he's in the garage tinkering. When he's watching TV, he's simply watching TV. That's why he can look like he's in a trance and ignore everything else going on around him. Social scientists call this 'compartmentalizing'—putting life and responsibilities into different compartments."
This fact of man is exactly why we can answer the question, "What are you thinking about?" with, "Nothing" and mean it. There is a Nothing Box, and we enjoy spending time in it often. Women have a hard time believing this, but it's true.

This is exactly why I forgot the Thank You cards the other morning. She asked me to sign my name, I did, and I felt good that I did what she asked. I jumped in that box, fixed the problem, and moved on. This is extremely frustrating for some women to understand, and it's extremely frustrating for some men who can't quite explain the way they tick in a way that makes sense to their women.

It is very important that both the men and women realize that this isn't an excuse, it's simply an explanation. If the wives can come to terms with the fact that this is how her husband was designed, she will keep herself from getting overly upset about mishaps and will not take these misunderstandings personally. If the husband can understand that this is how his brain works, then he can try extra hard to teach himself how to ask, "Now, is there anything else I could do besides what I was asked to?" after he has dealt with the issue in his current box.

So that's just a little bit about men and waffles. Next time I'll talk about how women are like spaghetti, and then after that we'll talk about how waffles and spaghetti are supposed to get along on the same plate.



  1. I LOVE this book too!! Bill Farrel was my pastor growing up, and he and Pam are truly an amazing couple!!

  2. I forwarded this to my wife. Her response: "so so so true!" I am curious to learn how women are like spaghetti.

  3. This is an interesting concept, but I would challenge husbands AND wives to stop acting according to what they "are" (as told by whom, exactly? Someone you don't even know?) and start taking more responsibility to "be." We can all BE more thoughtful, BE more proactive, BE more intuitive, etc.

    My partner (actually, now my fiancee!) and I have often joked that I am The Secretary of our Company. I keep track of birthdates, social engagements, who's sick, who's pregnant, who just got a promotion, and I act accordingly. I don't know if I do this because I'm a woman and it's sort of expected, or if it's because in my professional life I actually AM an administrative assistant and it just carries over into my personal life. The thing is, it was really starting to get on my nerves that it wasn't more of a team effort, especially when it was HIS friends and family I was buying cards for, etc. We've now accepted that I am likely to always BE the secretary, but he can choose to BE more of a participant in the process, and he has been. I'll buy the cards, he'll sign them and drop them in the mail, etc.

    I understand there are some basic character traits that may be more applicable to men vs women or vice versa, but I'd much rather take responsibility than let a character trait determine these things for me.

  4. Was it you who posted a link to a video a while back about a comedian guy explaining the difference between men and women by saying that men put everything in boxes and women... well they're a different story?

    If not, I wish I could remember what they guy's name is because what he was saying really fits with what you just wrote.

    Great post btw!

  5. Kelly, I appreciate your comment, and I want to point out that I totally agree with you. Read carefully through what I wrote here (and through all of my articles, actually) and you will find that I am very much pro-changing. Like I wrote here, "It is very important that both the men and women realize that this isn't an excuse, it's simply an explanation." In understanding how we are and how are spouses are naturally, we can be aware of how to be better.

    Peter, I actually saw that video series years after I read the book. It's very much the same concept with different examples. His video series covers all different areas of marriage however, while this book relates specifically to this concept. His name is Mark Gungor, and if you search for him on YouTube you'll find several funny clips.

  6. Hi husband! Oh no worries - Obviously I'm a fan and agree with pretty much everything you post or I wouldn't be reading these :) My comment wasn't necessarily directed toward you as it was a commentary on the whole personality profile-ish industry. And it's not to say that I don't "smell what they're steppin' in" as my Southern cousin would say - there's a lot of "Ah HA!" moments to be had in reading those books. I just think many people DO stop with the explanation and forget that they could improve on their situations by being a little more proactive.

  7. I love the waffles v. spaghetti model. It is certainly true in my marriage!