My husband and I are about to celebrate our thirty-seventh wedding anniversary. Thirty-seven years! When my parents celebrated their twenty-fifth, I figured they were approaching the end of the line. There was nothing to do but wait for the end. But here we are, way beyond twenty-five years, and we’re still pretty much alive. Which proves that most of the stuff I knew in my twenties turned out not to be true.
You’d expect that a woman my age who has been married this long would have pearls of wisdom to share, and I do. There’s not room here to share them all, so I’ll focus on the fact that – hold on to your seat – men and women are different. I mean fundamentally and irrevocably different.
The idea that men are from Mars and women are from Venus is absolutely true. We are different species from different planets. One planet is not better than the other planet. They’re just . . . different. This is what makes marriage simultaneously exciting and exasperating. We have to learn interplanetary understanding and communication, which takes a lifetime. Or at least thirty-seven years.
For one thing, men and women are never the same temperature. Never ever. For thirty-seven years, our usual nighttime scenario has been that one of us is wrapped in a blanket while the other one is sweating bullets. For years I was the shivering one, and my husband was throwing off blankets. Eventually my internal thermostat reset itself, and now I’m the one who’s too warm, and my husband is too cold. Except for when I’m too cold. Then he’s too warm. I don’t expect this to be resolved in our lifetimes.
Let’s move on to detail awareness. If my husband is telling me about some new person he met, I always want to know what they look like. Are they tall or short? He’ll look off into the distance, think awhile, and say, “Kind of medium.” Hair color? “I didn’t notice.” And so on. Long ago I realized with horror that if I was ever missing, he wouldn’t be able to describe me to the police. The following is an actual conversation between us, after I’d shown him a photo of some cousins at a family reunion:
Me: “Didn’t so-and-so look nice?”
Me: “Didn’t her hair look lovely?”
Me: “You didn’t notice her hair, did you?”
Him: “I’d notice if it was orange or purple. Or if she didn’t have any hair. I’d notice that.”
Well, there you go.
Here’s another huge difference. When my husband asks me what I’m thinking, I have trouble choosing one thought from the hundreds that are occupying my mind all at once. A woman’s mind has a lot of drawers, and they’re all stuffed. I flutter around my overflowing drawers like a hummingbird on uppers. But if you ask a man what he’s thinking, and he says, “Oh, nothing,” you should believe him. Because a man’s mind has a lot of drawers, too, but one is empty. And when he says, “Oh, nothing,” he’s opened his empty drawer and his mind is blissfully at rest. This isn’t disparaging to men. On the contrary, it’s a gift, a wonderful coping mechanism. I long for an empty drawer of my own. My husband has very few sleepless nights, even though he has a ton of responsibilities. He climbs into his empty drawer and goes to sleep. Oh, to be a man.
Why did God make men and women so different from each other, and then give us the drive to commit ourselves to each other, and expect us to make a relationship work? Is he kidding?
A big chunk of the answer is found in Genesis 2:18. After God created Adam as the apex of his work, he wasn’t quite finished. Someone was still missing. “It’s not good for the man to be alone,” God said. “I will make a helper suitable for him.” Adam wasn’t complete without Eve. He needed a companion, a counterpart, a partner in the God-given task of gardening. The world needs both men and women in it.
When you marry, you form a team. Team members are equal without being identical. Sometimes you’re totally mad at your other team members, but then you remember that you have a responsibility to them. God made men and women wonderfully and frustratingly different so they will learn from each other, blend their strengths, give grace for one another’s weaknesses, depend on each other, and learn to work as one. At the best of times it’s loads of fun, and at the worst of times you ask for forgiveness and start over.
In spite of our huge differences, my husband and I have learned to be a team. I’m signing on for another thirty-seven years. Venus and Mars, together, is a wonderful thing.