Husbands and wives are often frustrating to each other.
We think differently, speak differently and approach such basic behaviors as affection differently. To make matters even more complicated, we don't even see the institution of marriage the same way.
Author Mark Gungor explains that women tend to see the relationship of marriage as a dynamic, something that develops and grows. But “men don't want to work on their marriages.” Indeed, men see marriage as a “work-free zone,” and they like it the way it is.
Researchers Patricia Love and Steven Stosny agree, explaining that “Men see relationship and marriage more as a place to relax than a dynamic interaction. It's a secure place to get their batteries recharged before the world takes another whack at them.”
This may explain why surveys of husbands and wives typically show that nearly 80 percent of married men would marry the same woman, if they had to do it all over again, but only about 50 percent of wives would marry the same man.
Gungor notes this difference in perspective starts early in the marriage.
When a man falls in love, Gungor explains, he typically thinks, “I love her just the way she is, and I hope she never changes.” When a woman falls in love, however, her thoughts are more along the line of, “I love him, he's great, but he really needs some work.”
This is not a criticism of either men or women. Men don't mind working. In fact, most enjoy a good challenge and the prospects of solving a problem or fixing something that's broken. But when they get married, start with the assumption that the marriage is fine. If it weren't, they wouldn't say “I do.”
As Gungor explains, men see “work” as something you do to earn money. “Relationships don't fit into a man's definition of work.”
And when a woman thinks her man needs work, Gungor notes “she is not trying to be negative or demeaning.” On the contrary, since women enjoy working on relationships and “marriage represents her greatest relationship,” she'll jump in and give it her all. In her mind, she is doing them both a favor.
This is where it gets tricky. The fact men don't want to “work” on their relationship doesn't mean they don't want to strengthen it. On the contrary, they want to form closer bonds with their wife. The problem is men want to form closer bonds in the way that men strengthen bonds with other men, while women want to get closer the way two women get closer.
Men form bonds with other men by solving problems or working on projects together. As they work side-by-side, they grow to appreciate and respect each other. The bonds they form are done silently or in their communication about the task at hand.
It's you and me against whatever we're against. It may be building a barn, fixing an old car or pulling out the stump of a tree. But as we work together, we get closer.
Women get closer by talking about the issues or helping each other. They work best when one is offering help, and they are talking at the same time. This is relationship heaven.
©2012, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan’s website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.