ONE

Construction Ahead

The Problem: We men need some fixing.


This is not a book a woman should read.

I'm going to say a number of things that might offend her. I just think it's necessary that you and I be very honest about the questions and dilemmas we men face as we travel the winding road to a woman's heart. Women have no idea how we think—or whether we think, for that matter. We are as much of a mystery to them as they are to us.

I think most women would say that men appear to be thickheaded, one-dimensional, and insensitive—and that we think about sex all the time. I guess they have us nailed pretty well, except that of course there are some sensitive men. There's one guy in Sioux Falls, Iowa, and another in Enid, Oklahoma. And as far as sex is concerned, I think Gary Smalley got us in trouble when he wrote that men think about sex every fifty seconds. I have no idea where he got that figure. I know from personal experience that Gary is way off. I've personally gone a minute and a half before, so what does he know?

My wife, Barb, and I do marriage seminars around the country, and I am often asked by someone in the audience if there is sex after sixty. What a ridiculous question. Of course there is sex after sixty I'm over sixty, so I know from personal experience. I think my favorite time is on the Fourth of July. Here it is almost Christmas, and the Fourth is approaching, and I'm excited.

A Completely Different Species

John Gray correctly pointed out in his book, Men Are from Mars, Woman Are from Venus, that women are a completely different species. That's why I have written this book—to help my fellow man understand a strange culture that inhabits the earth with us. I have already written a book to help women understand a man's mind and how he thinks. It's called Men: Some Assembly Required (Focus on the Family, 1995). Now here's a travel map for men—to help you find your way to the heart of your wife and learn what she feels. Notice I used the terms "mind" and "think" for a man in the Assembly book and "heart" and "feel" for a woman in this one. We'll be talking a lot about these different approaches to life for they are key to understanding and loving our wives in the special ways they need to be understood and loved.

I think it's essential that we men have what I call a "third party" to teach us how to meet a woman's needs. And in my opinion, that third party should be a man because we don't take instruction from women very well. Even the Bible says that a woman is not to be her husband's teacher as a habit of life. The reason is that we resist being told what to do by anyone—especially by a woman and superespecially by our wives. It's just the way we're wired, I'm afraid.

I've run across a few books written by a woman telling men what women need, but I really think it takes a man to interpret a woman for another man. It's almost like a cross-cultural experience in which a person who has dealt with the other species is needed to interpret for the party who wants to communicate with them. We all need someone who has actually gone through and learned lessons from real-life marriage problems and can relate as a peer as he shares what he has found out about women.

Well, when it comes to relating to a wife, I've made every mistake in the book and several that aren't in the book. Barb and I bill ourselves as the World's Most Opposite Couple. But we've worked through our differences, continue to work through them, and today our love for each other is deeper than ever. For years now, we've been talking with other couples about our struggles and the lessons we learned from them. So I won't be speaking to you from some pedestal or ivory tower, I speak from the front lines of personal experience. I've been where you are. And I'm still learning, still under construction. But I've learned a lot, too, so maybe I can be your third party like Gary Smalley was for me.

Making the Circle Stronger

I hope you don't take this wrong, but I sometimes feel like apologizing to women in general because they have to live with men. I'm not a traitor to my own gender. I just believe that most of the misery women experience is brought on by the men in their life—at least I have given Barb a lot of grief because of my ignorance of what she's needed. One of Ann Landers's readers said it pretty well when she proposed a definition of a dedicated husband: "A dedicated husband is a man who stands by his wife… through all the problems and trials…she wouldn't have had if she hadn't married him."

Does that bother you? Earlier in my marriage I might have been offended, but in hindsight I have to agree that I've been the cause of at least 95 percent of the problems Barb and I have experienced. Not because I am some beast, but simply because I, like most men, had never been taught how women are designed. But there is hope. I believe that men are teachable and open to learning what a woman needs and that most of us will gladly change our behavior once we learn how we can be more loving and understanding. Then, when our wives finally believe we really have changed and are trying to do things right, lo and behold, they respond to us and begin to meet more of our needs. Then the circle of our relationship starts to grow stronger and stronger.

As I said earlier, just because I'm writing this book does not mean I do everything right. In fact, Barb has teasingly expressed doubts that I really know the way to a woman's heart because of all the mistakes I've made over the years. But I really have learned some things about how to live with a woman, and I offer them to you as road signs you can use in your relationship with your own wife. None of us will ever be perfect, unfortunately, but that should not be an excuse for continuing wrong, insensitive behavior and attitudes. The first step is for us to commit to learning what God has written in His road map (the Bible) about how to find our way to a woman's heart. If you'll join me for the journey, I think you'll be delighted with the outcome.

As we begin, please pray with me.

Dear Lord, thank You for all of the lessons You have taught me concerning marriage and the ways of a man and woman. You have taught me the most through my mistakes. Thanks for giving me such a patient wife—one with so much wisdom and love for me in spite of those mistakes. You have been so patient with me, too, and I so appreciate Your grace and forgiveness. Sometimes You allow us to go through hard times so we can learn from them and give someone else the same comfort You gave us in the same situation. Our nature as humans is to want to get out of trials, but through Your Word You make it plain that it is only by going through our struggles that we can become valuable to someone else. Now please be with us as we begin our journey to a woman's heart. Help us to appreciate the incredible, lovable uniquenesses. You have built into our wives and to learn how we can be more sensitive and responsive to those needs. Amen.
 

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