Sometime between our third and fourth anniversary, I realized my husband and I made decisions from entirely different paradigms. This realization didn’t distress me, but it made me curious. I knew that men’s brains and women’s brains were wired for different functions, but I had hoped there might be crossover. Some common ground where our brains could pause and at least hold hands periodically.
I no longer think this is possible.
I have observed that my husband, when asked a simple question that demands an opinion or a preference, spends an inordinate amount of time pondering before answering. When he finally answers, it is usually tempered with a disclaimer. Talk about irritating.
I have watched his mood change from mellow to tense if forced to make a knee-jerk decision. He does not like it. More comfortable with 24 hours or so to think. Sometimes I attempt to understand why and how he arrives at decisions. This is frustrating, an exercise in futility, and usually I am forced to short-circuit the conversation. Call it sensory self-preservation.
For instance, today I asked him questions as an experiment, and here are his honest-to-God, unedited answers:
Me: What is your favorite color?
Husband’s response: Quizzical, thoughtful look. Hand drifts to chin. “I’d have to think about it. When I was younger, it was purple, but now I have to think about what color the things are that I’ve seen lately that have made me happy.
Me: “Really? You can’t just pull out of your gut your favorite color? Like blue or red?”
Husband: Thoughtful pause. “Maybe it’s blue. Or red.”
Me: How do you decide on a restaurant?
Husband’s response: “The food. It’s all about the food.”
Me: (Thinking to myself, when it comes to food, his opinions are immediate. This reaction is probably common to all men, which causes the question to be relegated to the moot pile. Quick, think of another question.)
Husband: Generously elaborating on his decision-making premise: “When I answer a question, I am thinking at a higher level than everyone.”
Me: You are? Seriously? I have been married to you for five years, and I cannot believe it! Wait – define ‘higher’.
Husband: Okay, maybe ‘higher’ is not the right word. But before I answer a question, I try to take what the person is saying and apply how it affects me, how it affects others, and how it affects the world.
Husband: “Because I factor in data. I must have data in order to answer a question. That is why it takes me a while to analyze a question. It’s ingrained.”
Me: “AHH! Interesting. Because when I make a decision it is based on sensory and emotional perceptions. I base a restaurant choice on the atmosphere, not the food! I can pull a favorite color out with no problem, because it never changes. It’s magenta, and always has been. Like flowers, for instance. I love flowers because they not only look beautiful and smell good, they elicit a feeling of romance in me.”
Me: Thinking the analyst in him will probably never understand the romantic in me. I pull out my favorite conversation-that-I-do-not-enjoy-or-understand short circuit strategy. “You do know it’s all about the woman, right?”
Husband: Closes eyes. Nods.
End of discussion.