You may have heard the analogy that men are like waffles, women like spaghetti. Neuroscientists have found that typically the male brain focuses on one thing at a time while females tend to mentally juggle multiple thoughts. For example, when a man is doing the dishes, he's thinking about...the dishes. When a woman is doing the dishes, she might be thinking about the grocery list, that salad for the picnic on Saturday, the dentist appointment tomorrow, and that she needs to call her parents to see how they're doing. All this mental and emotional work is invisible, but it can be exhausting.
Janine: One evening Ken asked if I wanted to watch a movie. I was appalled at his suggestion. Couldn't he see everything that needed to be done? I did NOT have time to sit and watch a movie.
One discovery we've made is the value of simple communication and understanding the fundamental difference in how our brains are wired. Not only can Ken NOT read my mind, I now understand he doesn't think like I think. He doesn't keep a running list of To-do's flowing through his brain like I do.
When I simply say, "Ken, I could us some help with ______," (without any attitude of superiority, resentment or sarcasm) it leads to a peaceable conversation about how to get things done as a team.
Ken: I couldn't understand why Janine often seemed grouchy or mad at me. I didn't think I'd done anything wrong! Gradually, I recognized that Janine was carrying the load for most of the planning and implementation of meals, housework, schedules, etc. I felt a little guilty, but still wanted to do "my stuff" (as if household management was not OUR stuff).
I decided to start simply asking Janine what's on our agenda. This allows her to unpack the mental load she's carrying. I can see the stress lines fade from her forehead each time we have one of these conversations. When I pitch in to help get things done, our interactions became much more pleasant. This is especially evident when I take care of things without being asked. Let's just say, I finally understand the saying, "Sex begins in the kitchen."
Janine: Talking through my mental list with Ken lightens the proverbial load - regardless of whether he helps me with any of it. His asking about our agenda helps me feel appreciated and shows me he cares. And sometimes he does talk me into letting some of the work wait until tomorrow, so I CAN sit down and watch a movie with him. 😘
Ken: Taking care of Janine isn't just about bringing home a paycheck. Because I love my wife, I need to focus less on myself and more on her needs- physical and emotional. Yes, this takes effort, but the payoff in our relationship is more than worth it.