What’s the Diff?
While everyone experiences love uniquely, some clear gender patterns have emerged through relationship research. In one study, when given the option between the negative choices of being ‘alone and unloved in all the world’ or ‘inadequate and disrespected by everyone’, 74% of men preferred be alone and unloved, compared to only minority of women.*
Further enquiry suggest that this gender patter is relevant to how men and women experience love and connection. Women appear to primarily experience love and connection through the expression of ‘cherishment’; gestures of care and tenderness, intimate conversation, attentiveness, personal affection and closeness, selfless acts of service, protectiveness. On the other hand, men have a bias towards love expressed as ‘respect’: admiration, deference, valuing of his opinion, giving him the benefit of the doubt, following his lead. Obviously women want respect also… just as men want to be loved.
However the important insight here is that, while both are important to both men and women, one is usually more important than the other; that is men and women generally have different, dominant ways of experiencing love… a bit like being left or right handed. The construction of the research question is also instructive in providing a further insight: the subjects were not asked if they preferred to be ‘respected’ or ‘cherished’; they were asked which was preferable between the two negative options of ‘abandonment’ or ‘disrespect’.
Understanding Men and Women
In other words, the gender bias is clearly evident in the absence of these expressions of love. This understanding is really helpful for married couples. Happiness in marriage is not simply about loving bigger and more generously in any haphazard way. It requires us to thoughtfully eliminate the biggest ‘love busters’; those behaviours that kill the joy and sense of connection for our spouse. For men, disrespect* from his wife is a massive love buster. It drains his energy and crushes his confidence in relationship.
For women, abandonment (either emotional or physical) is more likely to top the list of love busters; the absence of acts that indicate he ‘cherishes’ her can lead her to question her value and to feel antagonistic towards her husband. Of course, this is not a new insight. Almost 2000 years ago, a certain St Paul was giving the similar advice: “Each one of you must love [i.e., cherish] his wife as he loves himself; and let every wife respect her husband”. Eph 5:33
Ref: *Shaunti Feldhahn, www.4-womenonly.com ** It is important to note ‘respect’ does not mean agreement