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Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti

Bill and Pam Farrell

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At the very beginning of history God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness . . . . So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27) It was in God's plan to make us different from each other from the moment He imagined us. We can make these God-given differences work for us in relationships if we have an appreciation for the differences.

Here's how we like to describe the basic differences: Men are like Waffles. Men process life in boxes. If you look down at a waffle, you see a collection of boxes separated by walls. The boxes are all separated from each other and make convenient holding places. That is typically how a man processes life. Our thinking is divided up into boxes that have room for one issue and one issue only. The first issue of life goes in the first box; the second goes in the second box and so on. The typical man then spends time in one box at a time and one box only. When a man is at work, he is at work. When he is in the garage tinkering around, he is in the garage tinkering. When he is watching TV, he is simply watching TV. That is why he looks like he is in a trance and can ignore everything else going on around him. Social scientists call this "compartmentalizing" - - i.e.: putting life and responsibilities into different compartments.

As a result of thinking through life in boxes, men are by nature problem solvers. They enter a box, size up the "problem" that exists and formulate a solution. A man will strategically organize his life in boxes and then spend most of his time in the boxes he can succeed in. This is such a strong motivation that he will seek out the boxes that work, and he will ignore the boxes that confuse him or make him feel like a failure.

The success drive is also why men find it so easy to develop hobbies that consume their time. If a man finds something he is good at, it makes him feel good about himself and about his life. Since men tend to be good with mechanical and spatial activities, they get emotionally attached to building, fixing, and chasing things. Yard projects become expressions of their personalities. Cars can become their signature possession. Fishing becomes an all-consuming pursuit of the right equipment, the right fishing spot, and the right friends. The computer ceases to be a tool of work as it transforms into an educational, entertaining, or even intimate friend. The bottom line with men is this: they feel best about themselves when they are solving problems. They, therefore, spend most of their time doing what they are best at while they attempt to ignore the things they are deficient at.

Women are like Spaghetti. In contrast to men's waffle-like approach, women process life more like a plate of spaghetti. If you look at a plate of spaghetti, you notice that there are individual noodles all touching one another. If you attempted to follow one noodle around the plate, you would intersect a lot of other noodles and you might even switch to another noodle seamlessly. That is how women face life. Every thought and issue is connected to every other thought and issue in some way. Life is much more a process for women than it is for men.

This is why women are typically better at multi-tasking than men. She can talk on the phone, prepare a meal, make a shopping list, work on the planning for tomorrow's business meeting, give instructions to her children as they are going out to play, and close the door with her foot without skipping a beat. Since all her thoughts, emotions, and convictions are connected she is able to process more information and keep track of more activities.

As a result, most women are in a pursuit of connecting life together. They solve problems but from a different perspective from men. Women consistently sense the need to talk things through. In conversation, she can link together the logical, emotional, relational, and spiritual aspects of the issue. The links come to her naturally so that the conversation is effortless for her. If she is able to connect all the issues together, the answer to the question at hand bubbles to the surface and is readily accepted.

We Relate Differently
This creates significant stress for couples because while the woman is making all the connections, the man is frantically jumping boxes trying to keep up with the conversation. The man's eyes are rolling back in his head while the tidal wave of information is swallowing him up. When the woman is done, she feels better, but he is overwhelmed. The conversation might look something like this:

Joan gets home and begins, "Honey, how was your day. I had a good day today. We just committed to a new educational wing at the university, and I have been asked to oversee the budget. I am so excited that they didn't rule me out because I am a woman. You know women have been fighting for a place in society for decades, and it is good to see so much progress being made. I think it is neat that you treat the women who work for you with so much respect. Our daughter is so lucky to have you for a dad. Did you remember that Susie has a soccer game tonight? I think it is important we are there because the Johnsons are going to be there, and I really want you to meet them. Susie and Bethany are getting to be good friends, and I think we should get to know her parents as well."

As Joan is exploring this conversation, Dan is getting lost. He has no idea what the budget at the university has to do with their daughter's soccer game and their need to have a friendship with the Johnsons. He admires her ability to connect seemingly unrelated thoughts, but he just can't seem to understand how she does it.

We Relax Differently
The other characteristic that creates havoc in male-female interaction is the fact that most men have boxes in their waffle that have no words. There are thoughts in these boxes about the past, their work and pleasant experiences, but the thoughts do not turn into words. Not all of the wordless boxes have thoughts, however. There are actually boxes in the average man's waffle that contain no words and no thoughts. These boxes are just as blank as a white sheet of paper. They are EMPTY! To help relieve stress in his life, he will park in these boxes to relax. Amazingly, his wife seems to always notice when he is in park. She notices his blank look and the relaxed posture he has taken on the couch. She assumes this is a good time to talk since he is so relaxed and so she invariably asks, "What are you thinking, sweetheart?"

He immediately panics because he knows if he tells the truth, she will think he is lying. She cannot imagine a moment without words in her mind. Not wanting to disappoint his wife, his eyes start darting back and forth hoping to find some box in close proximity that has words in it. This is the way he has been his whole life, but she cannot imagine it.

When stress hits, a man likes to escape to some favorite box to recharge. But God helped women out here - - most of these escapes are actually shaped like boxes: the newspaper, TV, computer screen, racquetball, tennis, and basketball courts - - even football fields, refrigerators, and the bed - - all have a boxlike shape to them. (Sleep and sex are two of men's favorite de-stressors!) These escapes are all shaped like boxes and function like battery rechargers for men.

When a woman is stressed, she likes to talk her way through the situation, making emotional connections. So when stress hits a relationship, you may find the man is looking for an easy box to relax in and recharge, while the woman wants to talk things out. I have found with Bill that if I allow Bill to recharge in one of his easy boxes, he is a much better listener when he returns. I also have found if I journal or pray through my feelings before God, Bill is not hit with the whole tsunam

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