That Helps Explain It




In the last of this short series of how men and women are genetically hardwired differently, I want to look at some other aspects of those differences. As I do so (just as in the other two posts), please remember this is to help our understanding of how our Creator designed us, but it is not to decide one of us is better than the other. The exact opposite is true. It shows we were designed to work together and strengthen one another.


When I spoke about how a woman looks at the overview of a problem and a man breaks it apart in pieces and goes step by step, I see that clearly between my husband and me. I love my overview and really don’t want to often get bogged down in the step-by-step details. I am one of the gals who really don’t want to read the manual on a new gadget that will do just that! BUT, I need that in so many areas because my “big picture” overview can often miss some things.


My patience has grown over the course of our relationship because of this very aspect of my husband. I do a bit better within myself trying to do it, but he is very much ahead of me in this and I LOVE that he is. It’s how God hardwired and designed him!


Norm Wright and Gary Oliver also note that another area of difference is how we relate to the world and define ourselves as men and women (whether we are professional women or stay-at-home gals).


At the core of a woman is the tendency to be concerned for others and their needs, to look outward, to often be caregivers. As such, we tend to define ourselves through our relationships. That alone can help give us insight about why this area can be challenging, messy, heart breaking, wounding, and wonderful for us.


Our sweet husbands tend to be genetically made to be concerned with themselves first and others second. He also needs to see the value of relationships that are more give than take.


Then there is something else Wright and Oliver state:


“Women talk their way through things and men think their way through things. Talking is something you do with somebody. Thinking isn’t. It stands to reason that women are going to spend more time with others when they have something important to deal with. Women lighten their load by sharing the weight. We men tend to think it’s the manly thing to do to carry all the weight ourselves.”


I am guessing that we have seen more than a few examples of that as a common difference without realizing it is a part of our genetic makeup.


The areas of closeness and intimacy are near and dear to the hearts of most of us as women. Despite challenges in trust, many times we look for opportunities to share ourselves in many ways and think emotional expression is positive and healthy. That stems from the fact that the portion of the brain associated with emotions is larger in women than men. We can tend to experience a feeling and go with it as a result.


Our beloved men are sensitive, but may have more difficulty expressing those emotions as a result of that difference in brain structure. Men tend to think about what they feel and then take action to do something about it. That is one of the ways they can be helpful to us when we feel overwhelmed with our emotions about something.


We need them to hear us first, not try to fix us, but this difference about sorting out how to move forward can be a real help many times. We need to be patient and remember it is in his DNA to try to fix things when there’s a problem so how we communicate what we need and want is crucial.


If a man can remember to ask his wife what she would like—to be listened to, to be held, IMG_1656to be given advice—and then to remember that it may be different each time, it will go a long way to the sense of understanding what they both desire.


What each of us needs to remember is that we both can change. When a man discovers and recognizes something isn’t working, it is easier for him to change. That goes with the tendency to act in response to a feeling. It also relates to a value he has not to be seen as failing in his role with us.


As women, we tend to find change easier after we have been able to share our feelings, thoughts, and wishes without a fear of being invalidated. We want to feel as though we are not abandoned in the midst of what is going on within us and around us. The tricky part is that sometimes if we have not matured with our emotions and communication, that man who loves us so much can fear the flood of our feelings and words will engulf him.


Wright and Oliver’s book, How to Change Your Spouse Without Ruining Your Marriage, is chocked full of good information. If you want to check it out, you will likely need to look in the used book areas of your booksellers since it has been out of print.


Even though some of the points and information in this series may not have been new to you, I hope it will be helpful to recall that many of our differences were genetically designed to be different, that our brains are physically different as well. That doesn’t give any of us an excuse, but it can lead to greater understanding and acceptance. Certainly, the Lord has a reason for the design and perhaps it is about dependence on Him to bring oneness into our relationship.


“Yes, differences abound. Learning about them, learning to accept them, learning to work with them will help you discover what can be changed, what can be modified a bit, and what can’t.”   H. Norman Wright and Gary Oliver










































What Else Do I Wish I Had Known?




I promised you on Monday there were some more things I was going to share about the genetic differences in how a man and a woman’s brain are wired. I wish so much I would have known some of these before I was married. Of course Norm Wright and Gary Oliver’s book was written twenty years later. Even so, they were helpful!!


How often have you said that the man in your life isn’t listening? (I know! I know!)


Well, it turns out he might be, but he’s not ready to respond. Now there can certainly be many reasons, but here is a genetic one as well. When he looks at the problem the two of you are talking about, he is taking the issue apart piece by piece, one step at a time, to sort out his suggestion for a solution. He wants to structure the problem, take it by the numbers, while we are looking at the overview.


In the process, he will tend to exclude all the information he thinks is nonessential and focus on what he sees as the key. In the process his brain will shut out other possibilities and use a lot of his energy to stay in the position he has determined is key to the solution.


One of the things that can add to the time to reach a solution is the tendency of our female brain genetics to jump in and out of different topics that we might (or might not) think are related to the problem. It can be as easy as rolling off a log for us because you remember we are using both sides of our brain at once. We are not only looking at the tree, but also the forest!


Even though we both use both sides of our brains, each of us tends to prefer one side or the other and obviously believe it is better because it works best for us. As a result, we tend to approach everything that way, life and also work. We also determine those preferences fairly early in our lives and then do not change them throughout our lifetime even though we can develop skills for the less-preferred side.


I mentioned about our men using energy to dissect a problem or thing and for us jumping in and out of topics takes little energy. Well, energy is another area where our genetic makeup is different. Women have more energy than men, BUT men have more startup energy. You might say we can be more like “Energizer bunnies” while men use their startup energy and then need to recharge.


Wright and Oliver tell it this way about how our men recharge:


“A man goes on a personal retreat by taking a nap, resting, reading, or watching TV. He needs aloneness to recover his energy whereas women are capable of rebuilding energy while carrying on their normal activities.”


 Well, that explains a lot!


The truth is it relates to the genetic metabolic differences between men and women and how we use (or don’t use) our fat reserves.


Let me give you an example to help you see this even more clearly.


Let’s say that the two of you know that you need to clean out the garage. You’ve been putting it off because neither of you really want to do it. You finally set a date and time. Your husband will be looking at it and the various steps and pieces of it and actually looking at how long it will take and the energy needed to do it. We will just be looking at getting it done.


The day and time arrives and you might even let him give the direction and you both start in. The problem comes when you discover a set of lights for the lawn that are still in the box that you had wanted him to put out LAST year. In the middle of the project, you suggest to clean that spot out that he go ahead and do the lights. Sounds perfect to me, but not for him. It wasn’t on his radar screen and he wants to simply do the garage and then head for the couch to watch the game.


Sound familiar with maybe different details?


This business of his focusing on one-thing points to another thing we ladies miss. It is one of those things we need to know because of the impact it has on our relationship.


Since he focuses on one thing at a time while we may be doing several things at once, if we are doing several things at once and he wants to talk with us about something he will believe we are not listening if we are doing that or not looking at him. We may very well be able to listen to him while we make dinner or sort or fold laundry, but that isn’t the way his brain is wired.


Now just imagine how all this makes even more of an impact when the problem or job is difficult AND as we age. Research shows that men lose their physical strength and flexibility faster than women. How much? At age sixty, men will have 60% of those physical qualities they did at age 20, but women of that age will tend to have 90%.


Are you beginning to understand why I might wonder if God had a sense of humor in His design to pull us toward Him?


The next time I’ll share about differences about our needs for closeness and intimacy, relationships, emotions and a bit more.





What Makes Marriage So Challenging?



I have often said in my counseling office that the Lord has unique ways to help us grow up and set aside our selfishness and self-focus that linger well into adulthood.


What are they?


The first is marriage and the second is parenting.


In the close confines of a home where two people are seeking to build a life together, the possibility of chuckholes, breakdowns, side trips, detours, and more seem endless.


Of course we fell in love and we seemed to get along well, had so much in common after what seemed like endless hours of talking. How hard could it be?


Clearly, we all had so much to learn!


If we are serious about making our union solid and sound, we can attend workshops and retreats or read any number of GREAT Christian books on marriage where we learn so many skills we will need. We learn about the differences in love languages and how we each view love and respect. We can put almost any topic or issue we face in a search engine and find resources a plenty. I know. I have some of the very best on my bookshelves from my 51 years of marriage and nearly 30 years as a Marriage and Family Therapist.


It seems many of them have some particular nugget I add to my toolbox as a wife (and formerly a counselor and mentor). Of course, the idea is to use them, right?


More than twenty years ago I came across one of those gems in a book written by H. Norman Wright and Gary J. Oliver. They have been around a bit and those who are not under a certain age have likely heard of them. I have been blessed to see and hear them in person on multiple occasions at conferences and workshops. They are real Christian men who have not only written great resources, but also needed to walk out what they knew as each have experienced great challenges and losses including death of a spouse, death of a child, and cancer as only a few.


In their book (How to Change Your Spouse Without Ruining Your Marriage) two chapters were unlike anything I had seen elsewhere. As I read them I could not help but think the Lord surely has a sense of humor because of how different He made us as men and women.



There is NO WAY this can work without His help!   


I want to share some of these differences with you in case you have not come across them. Even if you have not yet married, tune in because you will be way ahead of the game if you understand them. They will actually be helpful in any relationship with the opposite sex!


For a marriage to survive and thrive, the differences need to be understood, accepted, honored, and respected.


What we might miss is how many differences there are beyond anatomy and personality! Much of that starts with the differences in the brain!


We have all likely heard about left brain/right brain things, but I wonder if you are aware of some nuances of that that have an effect on our marriage.


As a review Wright and Oliver remind us:


“The thinking pattern of the left side of your brain is positive, analytic, linear, explicit, sequential, verbal, concrete, rational, and goal-oriented. The right side is intuitive, spontaneous, emotional, nonverbal, visual, artistic, playful, holistic, and physical.”


Before you start determining who is who in the relationship, keep reading…


We ALL shift back and forth between the two sides of our brain as we carry on our daily activities. BUT there are some genetic differences between men and women.


Curious? Here are some of the ways Wright and Oliver give us a glimpse of.


The brain of a man is organized and has a high level of lateralization and as a result they tend to shift farther left or right than we do as women. The brain of a woman is not as specialized and operates more holistically than a man. Even though our sweet man is able to give more focused attention to what he is doing, we as women use both sides of our brain simultaneously to work on a problem.


That always makes me wonder how much that affects our “discussions” when we try to do problem-solving together.


Surprisingly to some, women are genetically left-brain oriented and not so surprisingly tend to be more verbally skilled. A woman’s left-brain develops earlier and this appears to give her more of an edge in writing and reading.


For that man of ours, the right brain develops faster than ours as women and through his lifetime he will use that side of his brain to be more skillful in spatial areas. The downside for him is that a lack of socialization will many times result in the emotional intuitive side of him being more limited. (Remember this…. he is hardwired this way from the very beginning. It is his genetic makeup.)


The way the female brain has been designed by the Lord and how He has designed it to work (not as specialized) can give her an advantage and result in her being more perceptive about people than men do many times. Her brain works a lot like a computer that integrates a number of things at one time including reason and intuition.


Her other asset because of the design of the female brain is that how it works causes her to pick up more information through her sensitivities such as hearing, seeing, sense of taste and smell. (I sometimes wonder about that, as my husband’s sense of fragrances seems better than my own.)


How does all this get in the mix of problem solving? I am sure you are getting a sense it probably does. You might even be thinking of examples!


Over the next few posts, I want to share a little more about the differences in our brain and energy levels as part of our original design. It can take away some of the tendency to personalize or blame our spouse.


That also causes me to wonder at the Lord’s potential sense of humor since these differences can certainly impact us!











One More Look at Friendship




There have been seasons of my life when I have felt alone and without friends; but as I look at my landscape of friends, I am blessed to see that I DO have old friends as well as new. I also have always had and deeply enjoyed friends who are older than I even as I have enjoyed the energy and new things younger friends brought to my life. Together they form a veritable garden of different fragrances and hues.


How does your garden grow?


A wise woman will cultivate the landscape of her life and plant a variety of both new and old.


So it was with gratefulness and joy, I smiled as I considered the beauty and variety in the precious women who enriched my life and I connected with in the short span of ten days and yet so many others came to mind. I was trying to catch up with many as I prepare to spend time helping my daughter when my granddaughter has surgery.


There was the widowed, retired schoolteacher who lives in assisted living. She will celebrate 91 years of life soon. Despite her recent hip replacement, she served me “friendship tea” as she always has since I first sat in her kitchen visiting her as a young mother. Her gentle spirit, sweet smile, and wisdom have added to my life for more than forty years.


There was also my widowed cousin who is more of a friend who also turns 91 soon. She lives independently, drives, and still enjoys gardening. It was inspiring to hear about her active life. She volunteers at the local library once a week after retiring years ago as a school librarian. She plays the piano for the local senior citizens choir and was also preparing two piano duets to play at her church in the summer months. Add visiting those who are “old”, catching up with grandchildren and great-grandchildren and scrapbooking and I could not stop grinning.


An 81-year-old friend of no more than twenty years was recovering from heart surgery and we took several hours to enjoy each other’s company on her front porch. Her love language has always been acts of service. She was the one to show up on my doorstep with a roast beef dinner after a car had struck me in an accident. She was the one who gifted me by wrapping my Christmas gifts as we chatted year after year.


The days also included a friend, 43, who is my personal trainer that I have known well for not quite ten years. Her encouragement and care for me, her belief in me, her passion for life, and all things healthy are a great blessing. Her children and my grandchildren are about the same ages and there is always something to catch up on as she puts me through my paces.

IMG_1546 (1)

Another 43 year old, spent time over coffee with me at a favorite place while she reminded me of a computer skill I needed to review. We have known each other 12 years now. Her courage and strength have been a great testimony of the Lord’s grace and mercy. (She also designed my website.)


Are you getting the idea?


During that same time period, I had lunch with a precious friend I have known for nearly twenty years who is 61. It is with her that I enter into talks about our calling, our passion, the latest books we have read. How and when we met was wholly a God thing! My love and passion for her goes deep even as the Lord has knitted us together.


Another newer friend just a few years older than I shared about the ways the Lord seems to be using us at this season and then there was another friend my husband and I were able to celebrate as she turned 77. We have been friends for more than 40 years.


One more, a young 47 year old, met me at “our” favorite coffee shop where we caught up with our lives, what the Lord has been doing, how her counseling practice is growing, and how we can pray for each other.


These near to me remind me of how much I miss times with a very close friend whom I met in graduate school who moved after retirement and I see far less often than I like with 300 miles between us. And there is also the friend and spiritual sister who died ten years ago from cancer.


Thank you, Lord, for each one!


“Friendship is, of course, another word for love, love of varying intensity. The need for friendship, for love, and its maintenance is never ending.”   Ashley Montagu


The poet is so wise!


 Yes, make new friends, but keep the old.



Wisdom From An Old Poet



Many years ago while I was a Brownie and then a Girl Scout, I learned valuable lessons (along with having fun) that I really did not fully appreciate at the time. Age and lived experience have shone a different light on some of those things.


If you were in scouting, the first few lines of one song likely quickly come to mind. Until recently, I had forgotten the others.



Make new friends, but keep the old;

Those are silver, these are gold.

New-made friendships, like new wine,

Age will mellow and refine.


Friendships that have stood the test-

Time and change-are surely best;

Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray;

Friendship never knows decay.


For ‘mid old friends, tried and true,

Once more we our youth renew.

But old friends, alas! may die;

New friends must their place supply.


Cherish friendship in your breast-

New is good, but old is best;

Make new friends, but keep the old;

Those are silver, these are gold.


The song came from a poem written by Joseph Parry who was born in 1841 and died in 1903. I am not aware of when the Girl Scouts began to use the words in the song I came to know or how often they altered all but the first stanza.


After several weeks of visiting some of my older friends, the words easily floated back into my mind and as I looked up the poem to recall the stanzas following the very familiar first stanza. I was struck by the truth of the poet’s words.


As a young girl learning the song, I could not have known or recognized how many seasons of life there would be and how those very seasons would give those words more impact. Back then, we girls made promises of being best friends forever, but we soon learned “forever” might look differently than we expected.


It would not take long before insecurity, jealousy, trying to feel accepted and a long list of things would separate those “forever” friendships. How fickle and immature we could be and for some of us that habit perhaps remained far longer than fit our actual age.


As we got older, we discovered there were other things that could bring about separation of friendships. Someone moved. Someone got sick or even died.


Later still, someone married and their whole circle of relationships and their location changed or someone went off to war and never returned or came back in ways we did not recognize them.


Of course, changes like this simply depict the normal patterns and cycles of all of our lives. No matter what the season or the cause; a change in a friendship is never easy.


Perhaps that is why the poet so wisely wrote as he did. He recognized we would be constantly meeting new people. Some of them would remain acquaintances even though we often call them “friends”. Some would become friends but due to a move, change of job, children, and so many other things, we might lose touch with them in the way we had known.


Realizing that, the poet reminds us of the value of friendship. New friends are silver. Old friends are gold. Perhaps old friends are gold because they have been refined by the challenges we faced together and still remained friends. Perhaps old friends became more mature and set aside those silly things that can separate us when we are younger.


“Friendship is never established as an understood relation. It is a miracle, which requires constant proofs. It is an exercise of the purest imagination and of the rarest faith!”

                                                                                   Henry David Thoreau


Savannah Morning