The Differences Between Men and Women's Brains
When approaching the risqué topic of "The Differences Between Men and Women's Brains," we need to lay a few ground rules first.
- Men and women are different. Duh! However, the point here is that for a woman to expect a man to be able to think like a woman is ludicrous! Why? Because his biological wiring makes it physically impossible for him to do so! The same is true the opposite way. For a man to expect women to be able to think like a man is insane! Her biological wiring makes it physically impossible for her to do so! So when it comes to your partner, stop expecting them to think just like you! It isn’t that they don’t love or care about you: they simply cannot use their brain the same as you.
- Different does not mean better. I repeat: different does NOT mean better! It's easy to make broad-brush generalizations that “men are better at ‘ABC’” and “women are better at ‘XYZ.’” Although there may be some truth to these types of assertions, they are only true in certain circumstances. Therefore, there may be instances where a man’s wiring is more efficient to get ABC done than a woman’s, or where a woman’s wiring is more effective to see relationships between XYZ, but it does not mean that one is always superior to the other no matter how many instances in your own life that support those beliefs.
- The science is incomplete. We can look at anatomical differences in MRIs or functional differences on EEGs or PET scans, and so we know that these differences exist! However, we have to apply logical deduction to give meaning to these differences. So please bear in mind that the differences I am going to share may have significant value in helping men and women appreciate the differences between each other, leading to better communication and relationships. However, these deductions are not infallible absolutes.
Why Men and Women Think Differently
Ground rules out of the way, here we go on the differences between men and women's brains. Unless we understand that our partner IS NOT wired the same way that we are, we will always run into conflict. ... And even then we can't be perfect!
- The vast majority of brain structures are actually identical: 94%! So when it comes to the differences between men and women's brains, the only difference is a minimal 6%! Isn't that disappointing? That said, it's in the 6% that were can discover some significant differences.
- Men have bigger brains than women (even after adjusted for larger body size). However, there zero connection between brain size and intelligence/computational power. … In other words, when it comes to brains size does NOT matter.
- Women have a thicker cerebral cortex, which is the “thinking” part of the brain and is generally associated with higher IQ scores, higher emotional IQ scores, language, cognitive ability, and abstract reasoning (including the ability to make intuitive long term decisions).
- Men have bigger subcortical areas, which includes the hippocampus and the amygdala that are responsible for memory, emotions, spatial awareness, and present-time decision making.
- What actually matters most is the circuitry or “brain road map.” It is the way that nerves communicate with each other. To illustrate, a straight-line 8-lane motorway is way more efficient than a series of 8 indirect 1-lane back roads? Both circuits work, but they do not work the same!
- Women have thicker connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain (called commissures), which is associated with faster intuitive processing: i.e., having a gut feeling, or simply knowing that something is true BUT not being able to know why it is true.
- Men have thicker connections from the front to the back of the brain (called associations), which is associated with faster logical processing: i.e., being able to focus clearly and logically on a task-at-hand.
- More commissures are associated in being able to make connections among lots of different things. In other words, women are able to make mental connections between a variety of different things, but sometimes to their detriment if there is no actual connection between them! The flip of that is that men do not make mental connections between different things even when there really is a connection!
Making Sense of it All
Remember that because every individual’s brain wiring is different, the best that we can describe here are patterns that exist in the differences between men and women's brains … and those patterns are not absolute!
I think you can appreciate already some of the potential sources of conflict between men and women given differences simply in how our brains are wired! It is NOT that our spouse is an inattentive idiot or that he/she is an illogical mess - and it certainly it is NOT because they do not love and appreciate us.
It is that their brains are not wired the same as ours, and thus they cannot do things that we can! Nor can we physically do things that they can!
- Women are better at making connections between lots of different things, which is ideal for making long-term decisions and forming relationships (in part based on intuition). The trade-off is that these connections are not always linear. They can also be based on false interpretations if a woman is not careful, which confuses men, who cannot see the logical connection between them.
- Men are better at getting things done by focusing on a solitary task in a logical manner. In fact, by NOT multitasking they are generally more efficient than women at getting stuff done (see this video on Switchtasking to demonstrate: Watch Video The tradeoff is that they often miss connections to other things in life that are occurring simultaneously, making them seem aloof to women, who simply can’t understand why he doesn’t remember what she said even 2 minutes ago.
- Both men and women are emotionally sensitive! The difference is that women are more highly developed in having the language skills to express them. The issue comes up if women expect men to express their emotions by talking about their feelings, or if a man expects women to express their emotions by solving a problem. A lighthearted way that illustrates this difference is in a video “It's not about the Nail.” Watch Video
To women, it is not about the nail! To men, it is all about the nail! Now let’s put this to good use to help you in your relationship with your spouse. Even though I can lay out some of the science for you on the differences between men and women's brains, I am still just a guy (duh), which means that I can only describe things from a guy’s point of view.
I’ve therefore decided that I’ll cover the one section of this article, and I will hand over the reins to Natalie in the other … and neither of us will edit each other’s stuff for true authenticity! Our relationship isn’t perfect either, and in fairness, we’ve been married only 5 years!
Compared to a couple who has been married for 25 years, our experience is pretty quaint. Nevertheless, I hope this exercise will be of benefit to you, and I’m sure it will be valuable for us. Moreover, if you have additional insights you’d like to share please do! So, let’s see what we come up with
Thots from Jeffrey on the Differences between Men and Women's Brains
- Above all, women need to feel that they are safe and secure. I know that isn’t politically correct, but that is the essential biological wiring. It is impossible to make a woman happy just by doing things! The sooner you realize it, the easier your life becomes. I may advise Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages to get a better appreciation of what I mean.
- Designate sacred time for the woman in your life. I know that you justify your hard work as providing for your spouse … and you’re tired at the end of the day. That said, suck it up buttercup! If you have designated time for work, you also need to have designated time for your wife. Even if just for an hour at a time, to give her your full focus like when you used to date - without mobile phones or other interruptions … and here’s the hard part: WITHOUT expectation of anything in return - that will be one of the most valuable things that you can do for your relationship.
- Pay attention to the small details as best as you possibly can. That's names, details, colors, places, etc. Its making connections among all the small details that a woman perceives as listening - even if things don’t fully make sense to you why!
- Men need to feel like a knight. They need to feel that you need and appreciate them for who they are what they do. “To-do lists” or barking orders robs him of his masculinity. However, to get the same outcome without harming his self-esteem is relatively simple. It goes like this, “Honey, I need your help with something.” Watch the knight appear!
- Just don’t abuse it! There needs to be a clear objective and outcome for any task. If you finish one thing but then immediately jump to,” Oh, and can you do just one more thing?” you can sabotage the entire effort right there! Also, you cannot expect him to instantly drop what he is doing. If you give him the opportunity to do it - and if he knows that it is something that "you need his help with because you can't do it on your own" (even if you can) because you asked him at the right time that he is aware how important it is for you, he will get it done.
- Let it be known that just because he isn’t doing anything (physically) doesn’t mean he isn’t doing anything (mentally). Saying it over and over, or saying it louder will not get you what you want! So just because you say something - even if he responds - he may not be mentally processing what you say. Not because he doesn’t care about you, but because his mind is working on something else. If you need to take his attention from something, give him a few minutes (not moments) to completely shift gears so that he can provide his full attention.
Thots from Natalie on the Differences between Men and Women's Brains
- Don't get stuck in your own stories (read "Loving What Is" by Byron Katie).
- Don't nag them. Give them space in their cave. Love and appreciate them for who they are.
- Women need to feel safe and secure. When she says things, she has her reasons. They don't always make sense, but before you make any judgments you have to find out why she's saying or needing what she does.
- He needs to be able to communicate. Men aren't natural talkers, but he has to find away. Sometimes that means just listening - being present - just to let her get it off her chest ("It is not about the nail.")
- He has to be the leader, to be decisive, like "We're going to do this!" without chopping or changing your mind. That way she can support you. I know that sounds old fashioned, but it's still the way that we are
Relationship Resources Recommended by Jeffrey & Natalie
- Wake Up, Warrior! Podcast by Garret J White (including the Date your Wife Podcast, Adult Language)
- Women Wanting More Podcast by Karen Osburn (Adult Language)
- The 5 Love Languages - Gary Chapman
- Loving What Is - Byron Katie
Citations for the Differences between Men and Women's Brains
- Price M. Study finds some significant differences in the brains of men and women. http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/study-finds-some-significant-differences-brains-men-and-women. 11 April 2017. Accessed 23 January 2018
- Collier Cool L. Are Male and Female Brains Different? https://www.webmd.com/brain/features/how-male-female-brains-differ#1. Accessed 23 January 2018.
- Connor S. The hardwired difference between male and female brains could explain why men are ‘better at map reading’ and why women are 'better at remembering a conversation.’ Indylife. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/the-hardwired-difference-between-male-and-female-brains-could-explain-why-men-are-better-at-map-8978248.html. 3 December 2013. Accessed 23 January 2018.