Men want to hunt, kill and bring meat. Women nest. These are not absolutes, but they are a good starting point. This is not about misogyny or gender roles or dominance and submission. This is about trying to build an analog that you can use to see how two completely divergent perspectives can operate in the same place at the same time while both are correct and both are wrong.
For men, even when we are bad at something we want to believe we are really good at it and show off (usually, proceeded immediately with a phrase like “hold my beer and watch this…”). Women want security and stability (“Oh, but he told me he loved me…how could this have really happened?!?!?!”).
A man will travel to the proverbial forest, hunt with great alacrity, and then kill adroitly. Simultaneously, the “keeper of his cave” will be preparing, cleaning and organizing her kingdom. The man will return to “the cave” and cast the demonstration of his majesty, conquest and significance into perfectly fitting surroundings: the bloody carcass will land in the center of the spotlessly clean and shiny kitchen floor.
The penultimate celebration of his success will culminate in his mud-marred passage to the throne (read: easy chair) to await praise and consume libations. He knows the ultimate celebration will occur late that evening – all he needs to do is wait and receive.
This is where the story begins to confuse, confound and enrage everyone…
“She who must be obeyed” returns to find that all of her work has been disregarded: mud covers every horizontal surface and the enormous punctuation mark of her “master’s contempt” (those words should be read dripping with scorn and sarcasm) rests, eyes glassy, in the middle of her sacred chamber.
She falls to her knees, overwhelmed with grief and sadness, crying in agony. Self-pity quickly gives way to her relentless urge to return things to order. The source of the stench, and ever growing pool of fluids, is remanded to the great outdoors with little concern. It was covered in mud, so return it to the mub. Why not?
His majesty, “the great hunter,” returns for more libations only to find that his gift has been rejected and, as such, he has been disrespected.
Now the shouting starts. He gets offended because it should have been perfectly obvious that he meant well and that he really worked hard. She gets offended because she really worked hard and he ruined everything without regard for her feelings. Blah.
Use your imagination and transpose the last fight you had with your spouse (or friend) on to this seen. Try to find where each of you failed to interpret what the other was conveying. Stop! You’re missing the point if you use this device just to see how the other side misinterpreted you!
CAVEAT: In no way am I talking about abuse, mental illness, or any other situation that removes dignity or human sovereignty. This is ONLY a discussion of normal conflict. All of this is null and void when someone is trying to justify the irrational (i.e. “I committed adultery because you wouldn’t do what I wanted!”) or subvert another’s sovereignty.
I can’t count the number of times I have said or done something I thought was reasonable or even meaningful only then to be marked as having committed some atrocity. And, I would lose my mind if I tried to catalog every time I allowed myself to be offended because I misinterpreted what someone else intended.
All of that is only interesting because both parties are simultaneously completely right and completely wrong. That is what causes the conflict: From our perspective we are correct. From our perspective their action is offensive. The problem is that our perspective is no more or less valid than their perspective.
Back to our story: Love is dressing the carcass, storing it properly and mopping up your muddy boot prints. Respect is seeing majesty in a freezer full of meat, neatly wrapped in butcher paper.
Change your perspective!
The burden of dressing the carcass and mopping the floor may seem silly if you’re a man. However, if you choose to see it as the gift that it is, you will show love in a way that your wife will never refuse. Women, if you see the provision of the carcass as not just a necessity, but as the culmination of all that your man is, he will go to the ends of the earth and kill dragons for you. True story.
This is a useful working model, but it doesn’t handle the anomalies as effectively as it needs to… From the man’s perspective: What if you lost your job, should your wife berate and disrespect you? Let’s make it more intense. You do something stupid and lose your job, should your wife hate you? From the woman’s perspective: What if you just had a baby and intimacy sounds almost as appealing as using a knitting needle to perform your own episiotomy, should you “submit”? What if you become ill and can no longer function in your former capacity, are you to be discarded?
Let me give you three things that fit together like puzzle pieces:
First, Jesus is always here for all of us. Every effort in this world is a mess and no situation is above that. Sometimes we must just rest in God’s grace and ride the storm. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Second, we are here to carry one another and that supersedes all other perspectives except placing God first. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Third, we tend to draw a little circle and stand inside it. All of the worries and problems of this world then take up residence outside this tiny circle. Even when we get married, we leave our spouse outside the circle – leaving them as “part of the problem.” The fun only begins when you bring your spouse inside the circle and you both wage resistance together against all of the stress and distress of the world around you: even when one of you brings more than your “fair share” of problems into the immediate vicinity. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
Mmmmm. Let the games begin! Women, where’s my sam’ich?!