For several dark decades last century, the god of political correctness demanded that we speak, think and act as though men and women were essentially identical. Thankfully, common sense has prevailed and it is now more acceptable to speak of gender differences. In fact, most of the best comedic literature on heterosexual relationships draw their humour from the deep well of gender difference and desire discrepancy between men and women.
Truly, men and women have many physical, emotional, mental and spiritual differences that can be scientifically demonstrated to be gender aligned. Yet despite the humorous anecdotes, most people approach gender differences with ambivalence. While we may well laugh at our differences, they also cause us a lot of pain. Misunderstanding, confusion and misfired attempts to please leave many of us in despair of ever understanding the other sex.
So wide is the gap between us, it seems sometimes that the other sex must surely belong to another species! Consequently, tolerance has become the catchcry of the gender difference platform. Woman are told, don’t expect him to talk with you the way your girl-friends do, he’s just not wired for it. Men hear: she just isn’t into sex the way you are – get used to it. The message of tolerance is really a message of low expectations and a reductionistic view of marriage.
An alternative view is one that sees our differences as complementary. One of the reasons why opposites attract is because our differences make life richer, fuller, more expansive. Instead of ‘settling’ in marriage as the ‘tolerance’ message suggests, complementarity calls both husbands and wives to foster an attitude of reverence and curiosity toward their spouse. When we do this, our differences become a means to extend ourselves: for example, his heightened sex drive and her overactive ‘talk’ drive calls us to think about how we express and experience intimacy – one is not better than the other, simply different.
When both are accommodated, the spouses are drawn out of themselves and out of their blinkered view of how the relationship functions. So instead of merely tolerating your differences, celebrate them!