Okay, I’m dying to know what went through your mind when you read that title. My brain didn’t quite know what to do with it when a client said it and attributed it to a Tony Robin's video during a recent support group session. Now I can’t get it out of my head! Nor can I stop thinking about another thing a group member said that day. At the end of this article, I would love to hear what you think about what she said. Here’s how it all started.
We were doing chapter seven in the group workbook. That’s a chapter women usually choose to skip because it’s about men’s brains and sex addiction, and most women are sick of reading about the guys’ side of things once they really get anchored in their own healing process. But this particular group wanted to process it, so we did. And that’s how we got on the topic of men and hairy women.
Among other things, chapter seven highlights some key differences between the way men and women think. Most of us don’t like these differences, but in most cases, they come with the territory, so we don’t get to vote. Let's talk about one of those differences because gaining understanding helps us understand how a truly good man can end up acting out sexually. The reality is that men’s brains are like waffles, whereas a woman’s brain is more like a plate of spaghetti. To many of you, that’s nothing new, but let’s tweeze it apart and talk about it for a few minutes.
Men tend to compartmentalize the areas of their lives
What does that mean, really? It means men don’t think like we do. For a woman, virtually everything in her life is interconnected. Making a change in one area will in some way effect other areas. If she goes back to work, managing the kid’s schedules will get a lot harder. If she has an affair, she will hurt her husband and possibly lose her marriage. It’s a no-brainer, right? Wrong; not if you are a guy, or so men tell me. Men often keep the compartments of their lives separate emotionally. Like the tiny squares on a waffle, each area has little dams around it, so if he’s busy in one square, it won’t damage another. A few years ago I asked my brother, Steve, about that.
Steve’s not a sex addict. If anything, he errs on the side of loyalty. But he is a guy, so he was the perfect one to help me get it as we cooked dinner together one evening.
“Sis,” he said, “men were created with brains that compartmentalize because they were also created to be protectors. What do you think would happen if a man had to go off to war to protect his family and country and he couldn’t compartmentalize as he walked away from his family? How could he shoot another human being if he couldn’t compartmentalize?”
Hmmm; I had to ponder that for a minute. And so did the women in my support group as we talked about this difference together.
“It’s hard to accept,” one woman said. “I didn’t know that. I can read it, but the waffle compartmentalizing thing evades me. I just don’t get it!”
“But my husband doesn’t understand the way my brain works either,” said another. He doesn’t get that everything is connected.”
I remember another woman’s painful processing after learning her husband had acted out again. When he tried to explain that it had nothing to do with her, she wailed, “How could he say that? I’m his wife. It has everything to do with me!”
Recovery is a learning and growing process, for both sides
As we continued to process chapter seven in that recent session, a group member asked: “How do you hold that truth and still leave your mind and heart open to a relationship with your husband?” It was then that I shared another thing my brother, Steve, said that night we had the waffle conversation in his kitchen.
“That doesn’t mean men don’t need to work and grow in their understanding of their wife’s thinking patterns and learn to meet her needs,” he said. So according to Steve, men can learn and grow…they need to learn and grow in their understanding of their wife’s needs.
Which leads me back to my group and chapter seven, because it was something one of the women said that day that still has me scratching my head. She posed this question: “If we expect them to understand how we think, isn’t it only fair that we learn to understand them?” In all honestly, no one has ever asked me that question before. And as she asked it, I became aware I had never asked it of myself. We (including me) want and expect our husbands to work to understand the way we think and work to meet our needs, but is it a two-way street? Could healing as a couple after betrayal come easier if both partners worked to understand the other’s brains and thinking patterns?
What do you think? Is that asking too much from a broken heart?