February 24, 2009

How To Enjoy A Plate Of Waffles And Spaghetti

This is the final post in a three-part series. Part I is here. Part II is here.

In our first post we talked about how men live their lives in one box at a time, much like the squares of a waffle. Life is compartmentalized. There is a box for TV watching. There is a box for playing with the kids. There is a box for working in the garage. And there is a box for romance and sex. Actually, those are two different boxes. Typically, these issues all stay organized in their boxes and do not fraternize with the issues from the other boxes. A man jumps in one box, deals with the situation, and moves on.

In our second post, however, we discussed how women process life much like a plate of spaghetti. Every thought and feeling and is connected to every other thought and feeling in life. This is why women multi-task better. This is why women can change gears so quickly. A woman can be at work and be thinking of you at the same time. A woman can be getting the kids in the car and finishing up the grocery list at the same time.

If you're married, you are well aware of how these differences can cause friction in your relationship. A husband can get very frustrated with his wife for "jumping boxes" too quickly and leaving him feeling lost. He can also feel tricked into an argument because his wife may have accidentally read too much into a straying comment he made earlier in the day.

Women, on the other hand, can get very upset that their husbands seem so zoned out. It drives them crazy how he can't get his mind off something. How is that he may respond when he's sitting in front of the TV, but his brain's not involved. Why can't he see the little things that need attended to (like a crying child in the middle of his path) just because his mind is on something else.

In short, we as human beings can get very frustrated when someone doesn't see things in the same way we do. And often we assume that a person does understand how we're feeling, but that they just don't care. Ninety-nine percent of the time this is not true.

Instead of staying frustrated with these differences, we really must embrace them. When we seek to understand our spouse's point of view, love will not be hindered by our own interpretation of why he or she is doing the things that they do.

Below are some practical ways we can use this information as tools in our every day lives together. (My wife helped me come up with the list for the wives.)

For The Wives
1.  Ask your husband to help with chores around the house. If he isn't helping, don't assume that he doesn't care. He's just in a different box. Even if it's just TV watching, that's what he's "working on" and he is giving it his all. In nine out of ten situations, he doesn't realize you need help. Understand that he needs you to tell him what you'd like done.

2.  Give him time to change boxes. If you know there are several errands you want to get done while the two of you are out, make sure you've communicated those ahead of time instead of springing them on him last minute. He will have a better idea of the game plan and won't have his boxes crushed when he's wanting to get home in time for kickoff and you have "two more quick stops" in mind. Tell him ahead of time if a plan changes and give him a few minutes to climb into a different box.

3.  Connected to that is just the idea of communicating what box you'd be in if you were in a box. For example, "Let's go to the mall" means different things to men and women. To a man it means, "Let's go to the mall and get some specific thing." To a woman it may mean that, or it may mean, "Let's just go spend time together at the mall." Let your husband in on the plan, and it will be easier for him to be there with you. Tell him, "I'd like to go look for some new jeans, and I'd like for you to help me pick them out." Done. He can be there for you. If you just want to browse, let him know: "I think I'm just going to look around for a while." Just hearing that your plan is no plan at all helps us feel better. We won't be as quick to get frustrated with you not buying anything because you let us know what you were thinking and we didn't have to guess.

For The Husbands
1.  Chores around the house often go unnoticed. If you didn't know, there are two different thought processes happening when you are driving home with your wife at the end of a long day Christmas shopping. You are thinking how nice it will be to lay down on the couch and veg the rest of the night. You are planning to be in a Nothing Box until bed time. Your wife, on the other hand, is not feeling relaxed yet. She is planning dinner, remembering the wet clothes in the washing machine, and feeling like a bad mother because she's debating on letting the kids go another day without washing their hair. She also remembers that it's your mother's birthday next week and neither of you have signed that card yet. Oh and the bedroom is a mess. Though we do process life in boxes, we must learn to jump boxes quickly, and develop new boxes to help us in our marriage relationship. For example, develop the "What Can I Help With?" box for every time you arrive home. If you get into the habit of being in that box immediately when you get home, then you won't be disappointed if your wife asks you to do something. And, even though you may not see everything that needs to be done the way your wife does, she'll know that you want to. Also, when you are in the habit of jumping into that box as soon as you get home, you will actually learn to see those opportunities you may have otherwise not noticed.

2.  Ask your wife questions so that you can choose which box to be in. One time my wife and I went to the mall and she was just browsing through a bunch of shirts. Instead of looking at my watch and sighing loudly, I simply asked nicely, "What are you looking for?" She told me she was looking for a black sweater and described it a little. Done. I got into the box of hunting for black sweaters and was on the case. Instead of just wondering what your wife is thinking, ask. That will help you and your box-mentality immensely.

3.  If you've ever been in those talks where she gets mad at you for trying to fix all her problems, than this one's for you. In those conversations where you feel lost as to what she wants to hear from you, just kindly ask, "What is it that you need from me right now." If your wife is up to speed on your thought process (have her read these posts), she can let you know. "Oh, I don't know, I'm just venting right now." Or, "I want to know what you think I should do."

4.  Lastly, remember that romance and sex are always connected. If you can work on combining these two waffle squares, your marriage will change indescribably.

I hope you are seeing the power that understanding our differences has in these situations. Sure we could get stuck on how "I shouldn't have to tell him" or complain and say "I just never know what she wants from me," but that gets us nowhere. When we understand these differences, it teaches us to still be in love because we aren't letting ourselves be distracted by the little things.

If you have enjoyed these posts, I strongly recommend you head on over to Amazon.com and order the book Men Are Like Waffles — Women Are Like Spaghetti by Jim and Pam Farrel. I promise that you and and your wife will not be disappointed. It's a fairly quick read, is pretty humorous, and just might change your relationship forever.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, this helps me understand my own thought processes a little bit better. I'm anatomically female with an apparently androgynous brain, but the rest of my family is female with normal female brains, so it's been hard to figure out why I keep getting lost. I'll have "grocery store then dinner at a nearby restaurant then video games" boxes all lined up in a row, whereas the spaghetti string leads to "bank then grocery store then car wash then dinner at home then laundry with maybe a small video game in between folding clothes", and my family wonders how I could get frustrated and disoriented while I've got my video game.
    I know it's kind of a stupid and sexist sentiment, but the primary reason I'm glad I was born with this gender is so I won't ever have to figure out a wife. It sounds very stressful.
    I'm sorry if that turned into whining. I realize it isn't even what the post was supposed to be about.

    ~Violet Black