When Jeff and I first began doing marriage conferences, one church decided to schedule their fall event for eight hours on a Saturday. We gently tried to suggest a shorter timeframe (Fall is FOOTBALL SEASON y’all), but the organizers truly wanted all day. So we taught on what men and women need to know about each other, built in breaks for snacks and lunch, and tried to keep the energy up—but it is really hard for any human to maintain their attention that long. Especially a male human (and some female humans!) who would otherwise be engrossed in college football games all day.
During our final session, a Q&A, one woman raised her hand and stood up. “I have been taking careful notes all day on everything you’ve told us, especially about what each of us can do,” she said. “I want to know why you have given the women all the hard things to do and the men all the easy things to do.”
Whoosh. You could hear the oxygen being sucked out of the room. Every man’s head drooped. Jeff and I looked at each other. We knew we needed to call an audible.
“I’m guessing most of the men don’t see what we’ve suggested as ‘easy’ at all,” I responded. “First, it’s been a long day for everyone. But spending all day in a relationship conference is particularly not a guy’s natural habitat. But these men have done it because they love their wives. Second, when you look at what we’ve asked them to do, the reason those things seem easy to you is because they are already inside your head and feel like second nature to you. But they probably don’t feel natural to most of the guys. In fact, the guys probably feel like what we’ve suggested to their wives is pretty simple, but what we’ve asked of them is going to take some work and effort.”
Touchdown! The men sat up a little straighter in their chairs, as if they felt seen.
The woman’s question came from an honest place, and it points out a really important action step for anyone who is married. If we want to create a great relationship, we have to recognize that what is second-nature to us isn’t always second-nature to our spouse! Just as important, what they need probably doesn’t come naturally to us, either.
Four steps will help us connect on what is most crucial to each of us.