--By Mark R. Littleton

         What astonishes me almost daily are the built-in differences between men & women. Before I got married, I thought that women were basically the same as men, except packaged differently. But after some years of marriage, I have to admit I am still constantly amazed at the differences--physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually. Women do not think, reason, react, feel, or choose like men. They often have different priorities, values, convictions, hopes, & fears, & it is all because of the way God made them. They are helpmates, soulmates, & first mates, but also mates of a different feather. They are as different as a fork is from a spoon, even though they go together perfectly. Thus when you get a man & a woman in a lifelong commitment to love, honour, & support one another, there are bound to be differences.
         Yet, there is a real joy in this. One day I watched my wife, Valerie, making coffee for breakfast. One moment it was a kind word for our daughter Nicole; at another, she picked her up & gave her a kiss. Next she prepared Nicole's cereal, cut up the peaches, & told a story to her as she did it. She even named the peach!
         Now why is it, when I give Nicole breakfast, I push the bowl over, fill it up, & say, "Here." Somehow it goes down better with all the frills.--The womanly frills!
         I am convinced that if we husbands will study our wives to learn those things about her God-given makeup as a woman, the profit will be immense. We will begin to see what it really means to be made together in the image of God.
         In one of his books, "Straight Talk to Men & Their Wives", Dr. James Dobson lists several characteristics he finds unique to women. They are:
         1. "A greater appreciation for stability, security, & enduring human relationships." Because of their concern for children & the family, women tend to be less willing to risk all in a daring business venture, or to take any step that might lead to losing a house or one's basic physical security.
         2. Her "emotional investment in her home...usually exceeds that of her husband." When we first got married, Valerie moved into my apartment. Immediately, she began getting rid of all sorts of furniture & things I had lying about. It took her a while, but finally she got things the way she wanted them. I asked why she didn't like it the way I had it. "Nothing matched," she said. "You had dust all over everything. In a word, it was junky."
         Look, give me a sofa, a bed, & a table to eat from, & I'm content. In fact, you don't even have to keep the plates clean. Just pull one out of the sink & wash it off. But not a wife. She sees things much differently.
         3. A basic "noncompetitive spirit." When we played the game "Trivial Pursuit" with some friends, they were not doing so well, & Val began giving them hints on the answers. Soon they were catching up to us. And I was getting mad. "Stop helping them get the answers," I said.
         Val answered, "Come on. It makes it more fun when it's closer."
         "I don't want it to be closer."
         She laughed, & continued to give the hints despite my grumbling. Obviously, she saw the game as a chance to fellowship & have fun. I saw it as an opportunity to conquer!
         4. "In how they develop their self-esteem." Dobson suggests that men get their sense of worth from their job, being respected & successful in business. Women, however, & especially homemakers, "depend primarily on the romantic relationship with their husbands for ego support."
         5. "The maternal instinct." Dobson suggests that this differs among women, but men are usually the ones who want to remain unattached & who fight the impulse to settle down. Most women want children & family sometime.
         6. Finally, Dobson says that "the most dramatic differences between males & females are evident in their contrasting sexual preferences." Men tend to be more visual. Women, however, find their attraction to a particular man "with whom she has entered into an emotional relationship."

         Yet, these are not all the elements that make men different from women. Here are a few more I have noted.
Feeling-oriented. Although there are always exceptions to the rule, I've noted that women tend to be more concerned about feelings & thoughts than actions. This isn't a criticism. It is just a totally different orientation for men. Male friends have said to me, "I don't understand it. I see a problem, I want to fix it. But my wife wants me to talk about it, to let out my feelings. Forget feelings; let's get moving!" But a wife often wants you to understand her feelings before you move!
         Because you are a man, you're problem-oriented, not feeling-oriented. When you see a problem, you fix it. When your wife sees a problem, she is more inclined to offer the person involved comfort, a pat, a word of encouragement, instead of an immediate solution.
A sense of drama. In general, men can get along fairly well with the humdrum, run-of-the-mill duties, getting the job done efficiently. The fewer the problems, the better, because he already has enough problems. That is not to say he does not enjoy excitement, but most of us would like to get a job done pronto & move on to the next without interruption.
         I have noticed, though, that women like variety & change in life. This is not derogatory toward women. Frankly, it adds a lot. I know that I would probably settle down into the dust & never move again if my wife didn't stir things up now & then.
Verbal. For years, scores on college entrance exams & the like have indicated that males do better on the mathematics part, but females consistently do better on the verbal. Many books on marriage mention the same thought, wives tend to want to talk about a situation--their ideas, feelings & concerns.
         I do not know how many times a husband has told me, "My wife's always saying I never talk to her any more! I can't figure it out." Before the wedding, he was full of sweet nothings, tender words, great expectations, & hefty promises. But suddenly, after a few years, he seems to have run out of words. A man who seeks to understand his wife will graciously seek to meet this need.
Sensitive. A wife's so-called "sensitivity" has gotten a bad reputation. I have heard numerous times from many husbands that their wives are too sensitive. Somehow I doubt it. I think it's more likely that the husbands are too insensitive.
         A wife asks her husband as she models a new dress, "How do you like it?"
         He looks up from the paper & says, "It's okay."
         Suddenly, her smile fades. She leaves the room in a little huff, a little hurt.
         The husband sits there & wonders, "Now what did I do?"
         The way you respond to her efforts at beauty & looking attractive to you is
important. If you show indifference, is it any wonder she's upset? She is not being sensitive, as so many husbands claim. No, you are just as sensitive--about the things that are important to you.

         When Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of Great Britain, his marriage was considered one of the best examples in England of true loyalty & love. Often, when he gave a speech in the House of Commons, he would not begin until he had received a sign from her.
         Later in his life, someone interviewed Mr. Churchill & asked, "If you could live again, what would you want to be?"
         With a twinkle in his eye, Mr. Churchill replied, "Mrs. Churchill's next husband."
         What a benediction on a marriage! And what a monumental compliment for one's wife. Ask yourself for a moment: Would you say the same thing about your wife?

         It all started with a slice of pepperoni pizza. I had been praying for several days that the Lord would teach me to love my wife as Christ loved the Church. I had not seen much action yet. (I guess I was waiting for the
Lord to do something.) Valerie & I had decided on a quiet evening of intimate talk, a little television, & pizza. A local service dropped the food by, & as Val prepared some soft drinks in the kitchen, I carved out two slices & put them on our plates. Then, as I listened to the news, I suddenly noticed her slice had three more pepperonis than mine.
         I gazed hungrily at that hearty slice teeming with pepperonis & listened for her in the kitchen. She was still getting the drinks. Suddenly, I made my choice & quickly made an exchange. "She'll never know," I told myself.
         Then the Lord hit me. "What was that request about your wife you were praying this week?"
         Instant conviction. "But my wife's not into pepperonis, Lord!"
         I tried to shake it off, but the Lord was absolutely persistent. Finally, I decided to make another switch. When she came in & sat down, she had no idea that a battle had just been fought. And won!
         Somehow I felt good & clean inside. I felt that I had made real strides in learning to love my wife as Christ loved the Church.
         Well, maybe not strides, but baby steps anyway!
         It was an important lesson. I did not expect the Lord to answer the way He did. I tend to think that sacrifices for my wife involve things like asking to be shot in her place when the terrorists come by the house. Or, getting run over by the car as I leap to knock her out of the way while crossing the street. At least, that is the way I had always imagined it.--Something with drama! Flair! Something stupendous! Not giving up a slice of pepperoni pizza!
         Yet, I am finding that sacrifice--realistic, consistent "giving yourself up for her"--involves the little things much more than any incredible act of courage.
         That is nearly so obvious one tends to smile. "You mean, you didn't know that?"
         Frankly, no. Yet, it is the essence of the submissive man's outlook. If we are to love our wives as Christ loved the Church, we must begin to "give ourselves up" for them.
         Ask yourself each day, "How can I do something special for my wife today?" It takes discipline, but I find that it is a habit which pays high dividends. I have been trying to do one special thing for my wife every day. It takes a conscious effort. But it adds a special glow to my day, & also warms an embrace. What kind of things?--
         An extra long kiss & hug.
         A note hidden in the cupboard.
         Her favourite snack wrapped with a bow.
         A special word of encouragement.
         A card for no reason but that you love her.
         Volunteering to wash the dishes, vacuum the floor, or do some other task she might not like.
         A special evening with a special show & my arm over her shoulder.
         Volunteer to make some popcorn.
         A special time of prayer or Bible study.
         A walk, hand in hand.
         Use your creativity. There are multitudes of things! All it takes is some prayer, some thought, & a determination to follow through.
         Start doing those things that come to mind. This is an obvious point, but often missed. You can't just
think about what you'll do. You have to do it! It is too easy to lie around & chuckle to yourself about some scheme, & then never actually do it.
         On the other hand, making the effort to accomplish your actions inundates a home with joy.
         One of the best Christmas gifts a friend ever gave his wife was an idea he got from an article he found in "Reader's Digest" written by Taylor Caldwell. She spoke of how her husband, with the greatest of secrecy, hid himself away in a room & made her a special gift. It was a bottle full of little pieces of coloured paper. When she opened them, one said, "This good for one stint by me at the sink washing dishes." Another, "This good for one movie." Another, "This good for one night out."
         Because our wives are our own bodies, we will not neglect them. We will spend time with them, meet their needs, & make their happiness our priority. Abraham Lincoln once wrote, "Whatever woman may cast her lot with mine, should any ever do so, it is my intention to do all in my power to make her happy & contented; & there is nothing I can imagine that would make me more unhappy than to fail in the effort."
         An artist, while painting the portrait of William Jennings Bryan, asked why he wore his hair over his ears. Bryan explained, "There is a romance connected with that. When I began courting Mrs. Bryan, she objected to the way my ears stood out. So to please her, I let my hair grow to cover them."
         "But that was many years ago," the artist said. "Why don't you have your hair cut now?"
         "Because," Bryan said with a wink, "the romance is still going on."
         One who loves his wife as his own body will not neglect her. He will find out what her needs are & strive to meet them with all his might.

         I was sure I had the snappy & certain solution to my wife's problem. Rapidly I spelled out the details. But Val only zoomed into further frustration. Finally, she blurted, "Can't I just express my feelings without you going off on a speech?"
         At first, such a response amazed me. But as my marriage grows & I learn more about husbands relating to wives & vice versa, I am astonished at how hard it is to hear what a wife is saying. When it comes to problems, feelings, & circumstances, men often look at things very differently from women.
         You show me a broken wagon, & I can give you four steps to fixing the thing. Show my wife a broken wagon & she wants to take the child's hand, sit down, & say, "I bet you're upset. Tell me all about it."
         Or, perhaps someone at church or home is getting on your nerves. My reaction is to consider how to get back on the right wavelength. But a wife might not be interested, initially, in finding a solution. Her response might be, "It's not right for them to treat me like that. Don't you agree?" Most often, she wants her husband to
listen, not analyse.--Certainly not disagree or offer logic!
         It is a hard lesson for many of us. Others may swagger in, hear their wife's pained remarks about something, & then proceed to tell her how to realign the Universe. But often, sitting down together on the couch, good eye contact, & a kiss & hug are what she wants.--And needs.
         Frankly, it still amazes me. A wife wants a little kindness. Men want action! She longs for a listening ear. We hear three words, & we're ready to haul it into the shop & tinker with it! She seeks understanding, tenderness, intimacy. Our response is, "Let's not get all lovey-dovey about this. Let's fix the thing!"
         Men & women regard communication differently. It is part of the way God made us. If we were exactly alike, one of us would not be necessary. But it can create conflict. That's why this is entitled, "Do you hear what she's saying?" Many husbands hear their wives'
words, but not their undercurrents.
         One man I know maintains that few people today listen at all. To prove his point, he shook hands with the hostess at a party & said, "I'm sorry I'm late, but it took me longer to strangle my aunt than I expected." The hostess simply beamed back at him, saying, "Yes, indeed, I'm so happy you made it anyway."
         Talk is important to a woman. Talk builds intimacy even more than sex, travel, a beautiful home, going to restaurants, diamonds--anything else you can name. She wants to feel that she knows her man through & through. More importantly, she wants to know what he thinks about. Some men go for months, even years, without an intimate word.
         One night my wife & I were watching television. She had expressed a need to "talk more" & suddenly I had an idea. I suggested, "How about a quick Bible study?" She wasn't feeling up to it at the moment; I was upset. I said, "Well, you wanted me to talk more, & now here's a chance, but you don't want to do it." She replied, "If we study some verses, we'll just talk about the Bible." I went on, "But we're sitting here watching television. We're not talking at all. If we study a passage, at least we'll be talking to one another." She replied, "But we wouldn't be talking about
         Bells rang in my head. So that's it, I thought. It's not just
talking that is important. It is talking about "us".
         That was the hammerblow of awakening. I had never thought about that before. There is a difference between talking about what happened at work, what happened at home, who called, or even a Bible study--& talking about "us".

         "If thine enemy wrong thee, buy each of his children a drum." So says an old Chinese proverb. I remember why my brother bought his first drum set; to play in a band. But my parents were convinced this was the revenge of the Banshee!
         Getting revenge seems to be ingrained in us. People, Christians included, find remarkable means of getting even with those who hurt, offend, & cross them. In particular, husbands & wives are known to become embroiled in push, slash, & mash battles that last decades.
         But revenge is neither cute, good-natured, or sane. It is often carefully conceived & plotted, but brings neither joy nor happiness to either party. Avoid it as you would a deadly disease!

         Certain things about your wife may be unchangeable. They are part of the package. You must accept them. Even more, you may need to go far beyond that & choose to make that quality a reason for greater love & compassion. I remember Charles Swindoll speaking at a chapel program I attended. He referred to a friend of his who had a large, splotchy birthmark on his face. Since that friend never showed any embarrassment or constraint about his condition, Dr. Swindoll asked him about it. The friend replied that when he was young, his father told him that that birthmark was where the Angel kissed him, & it was God's way of making him His child. The friend said, "I got so that I felt bad for anyone who didn't have a birthmark like mine!"
         Imagine if all husbands regarded those unchangeable things about their wives as marks of special love & identification! Irritation would give way to intimacy & unity.
Comparing. Some husbands find it easy to point out to their wives all the ways they ought to be like so-&-so. But comparisons are unfair to everyone concerned. It is the ultimate rejection. What you are saying is that the other woman is better than your wife, & you prefer her.
         If a husband has an honest complaint, it should never be expressed in the phraseology of comparison. "Why don't you keep house like Mary? Now she really knows how to make things comfortable." He needs to convey his feelings in a positive, encouraging way. "I appreciate it when you have the house looking good when I get home. It makes me feel more comfortable."

         Mstislav Rostropovich, famed conductor & orchestral genius, was asked on a talk show if it was true he had married his wife just four days after they met. He replied, "Regretfully, yes, I lost four days."
         About 300 years ago, a man lost his job in a customs house. He went home, broken-hearted, to tell his wife, Sophia. To his astonishment, she only beamed at him. "Now you can write your book!" He answered, "Yes, & what will we live on while I'm writing?" Sophia quickly went to a drawer & took out a cache of money. "I've always known that you were a man of genius," she said, "I knew that someday you would write an immortal masterpiece. So every week out of the money you have given me for housekeeping, I have saved something. Here is enough to last us one whole year."
         That amazed husband went to his study & began writing. His name was Nathaniel Hawthorne. His book was the famous story, "The Scarlet Letter."
         It is my prayer that every husband & wife who reads this book will make a new commitment to work on the principles outlined in it, to discover the joy of mutual submission. Those wonderful women we chose to be our life's partners deserve our love, leadership, & loyalty.
         Submission: The willing acceptance of another's authority. It's not just for wives. It's for husbands, too!