Hi, this is pastor Ken and this is my Monday marriage message…Differences That Divide – Part One

For the next several weeks the focus of this podcast is going to be a singular topic but because of its complexity and depth we will break it into three separate editions. So please stick with me until the end so that you can take in all that I have to share with you on the subject.

You may recall that in a previous podcast entitled It Takes Two I spoke of the physical differences between men and women and the fact that we really don’t have too much trouble celebrating those differences. I told you that I would be illuminating some other differences that are a little harder to celebrate and seem to cause couples a bit more trouble. Today we begin looking at the uncelebrated differences.

Spoiler alert: you and your spouse don’t see eye to eye on everything, but then you didn’t need me to tell you that. Why don’t you see everything the same way? There are so many elements to the answer of that question I would not be able to do so conclusively. Suffice it to say (and it is crucial to understand) the reasons you see things differently are as numerous as the stars, which on further review may be a slight overstatement.

Following is a list of a few of the contributing factors. I offer it only to help you both see the number of variables that go into each of your interpretations of anything that stimulates a reaction:

  • Family of origin
  • Past experiences
  • Consideration of intent
  • Present emotional state
  • Stress levels
  • Interpretation of body language
  • Expectations
  • Body and brain chemistry
  • Language use
  • He thinks compartmentally, she thinks relationally

You and your spouse are not supposed to see things eye to eye, be on the same page, have a meeting of the minds, or anything else pop-culture likes to call it. The first 9 examples from the list above are only a partial list, but give sufficient reason for a husband and wife, no matter how close they may be, to have difficulty viewing something exactly the same. The tenth reason listed is especially profound. It makes note of the fact that the two of you are not even wired to have the same process of thinking. You are in fact pre-programmed to think completely differently…about everything!

What is compartmental thinking? What is relational thinking? There have been many books written on the subject such as Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus authored by John Gray, Ph.D. and Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti by Bill and Pam Farrel, just to name two. There are others as well, and they all speak to the fact that these two different, and in many ways, opposite, lines of thought exist and one is found in men while the other is exhibited by women.

I believe, as these books do, that men are compartmentalized in their thinking and women are relational in their thinking. These are two distinct thought process patterns that will arrive at two entirely different conclusions given the same set of stimuli. As I hope is obvious by now, we as Christ followers, believe God to be the immutable, omnipotent, omniscient, infallible Creator. As such, He didn’t make any mistakes; we were created to think differently than our spouses on purpose, therefore, it is not something that needs to be corrected.  He was considering everything, and with supreme power He created all that was created with no need to change it…ever! He did it perfectly the first time! With that belief, I consider it to be divine determination made with intentionality that men and women would be created to have these differing processes of thought.

I have some analogies I like to use when explaining the ways the two thought processes operate. I liken compartmentalized thinking to a row of lockers in a school hallway. Every subject matter has its own locker. If a man is to think freely about any subject, he has to place his head in the appropriate locker. If he is required to think about another topic, he must remove himself from that locker and go find the necessary locker and place his head in it. As he does this, he is equally able to focus on the new subject. However, he can no longer think about the subject he was, just moments ago, engrossed in.

This process of thought has some strengths and it has some weaknesses. In the strength department are things like the ability for intense focus on a task. Compartmentalized thinking lends itself to that beautifully because it is not capable of thinking of peripheral things that would distract from the original goal at hand. A weakness of compartmentalization is difficulty in thinking all the way through an unknown process before it is begun. This can lead to some problems but has, at the same time, honed his ability to utilize trial and error processes without undue frustration. A failure to be able to continue is often seen not as a failure but as a new understanding leading to a successful solution. C.S. Lewis said “Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.”

The format of this podcast, specifically my desire to keep each edition less than 10 minutes places real limitations on how I must approach big ideas. Recognizing this to be one of those concepts too complex to reduce to a single podcast I will resume next week with a discussion of relational thinking and how it operates. I will then utilize a third entry to illustrate some of God’s purposes behind the created differences in how we think. As I stated before, God did this perfectly, it does not need to be corrected, as couples we simply need to learn to walk in it successfully. Psalm 19:7-10 read; The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgements of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

God’s decisions about how we should be created are not only right, they are to be sought after and desired as gold is desirable to the eyes and honey to the tongue. This difference between men and women, in fact, all of the differences between men and women, are by His perfect design. We do not need to understand why He does what He does, we need only understand that if it comes from a good God, it is good and we should be completely and totally accepting of it to the point of desiring for ourselves.

Questions to Answer:

  • Do you recognize this compartmentalized thinking? (in the Husband)
  • What are some examples you can each come up with of his compartmental thinking?
  • Husbands – What things do you think are personal strengths and perhaps weaknesses of your own compartmentalized thinking.
  • Wives – What things do you see that your husband does that are personal strengths and weaknesses of his specific compartmentalized thinking? (Be kind ladies, next week we will identify the strengths and weaknesses of your relational thinking!)

Actions to Take:

  • Thank God that He saw fit to give the husband compartmentalized his thinking. Ask Him to help each of you see it as a gift and not as something requiring change.

So now, accepting that you were designed to think differently than one another, and recognizing this must be a good thing if it came from God…and it did…Go be awesome!