February 15, 2018

Getting Better All the Time

Gary Thomas — 

[Note: the last two posts began a three-part series helping husbands and wives understand the way each other thinks. You can read those posts, Understanding the Mind of the Man You Married, and Mr. Fix It. All three posts are adapted from my newest book, Loving Him Well: Practical Advice for Influencing Your Husband (a substantial rewrite of Sacred Influence)]

The last two posts have discussed the differences between male and female brains and how these differences can impact a marriage. As this series comes to an end, let me ask couples to do much more than merely understand your spouse’s neurological differences. I want you to appreciate them and even try to learn from them.

It is God’s providential design that most of us will become the fullest, most mature person we can become by living in an intimate partnership with someone of the opposite sex. We must learn to understand and respect each other, and not arrogantly think our brain is superior. For most of human history, men have looked down on women as “the weaker sex.” For most of the past two decades, men have been portrayed as the troublesome (and sometimes even “toxic”) gender: vulgar, stupid, and clueless.

Neither attitude honors the God who created men and women to think differently and act differently. We need each other.

Husbands have much to learn from their wives and the way the female brain functions, and wives have much to learn from their husbands and the way a male brain functions. It is God’s wise plan that children be raised by two people with two different kinds of brains, thereby getting the best (and also, unfortunately, the worst) of both. The happiest of wives will be the ones who learn to respect their husbands’ brains and thank God for them, learning what she can, understanding why he does what he does and doesn’t do what he doesn’t do, and learning to cherish him in the midst of it. And vice versa.

Here’s what’s so astonishing: as we age, men’s and women’s brains begin to resemble each other’s more and more. Men gain more estrogen, and women more testosterone, and in this we become fuller and more well- rounded individuals. How astonishing it is that Jesus, while still so young (barely thirty when he started his public ministry), demonstrated the perfect balance of typical male and female strengths— courage and gentleness, forceful action and empathy, violent action (turning over the tables) and humility.

The fact that our brains evolve chemically leads to some very good news for marriages. It means that the best years of your marriage are likely still in front of you.

Wives, if you can learn to live with and appreciate your confusing male- brain husband through his twenties, thirties, and forties, there’s a surprising payoff in his late fifties and beyond: because older male brains produce less testosterone and vasopressin, the ratio of estrogen to testosterone increases, which means “hormonally the mature male brain is becoming more like the mature female brain.”*

Your husband is gradually growing into a person who will likely be more in tune with your emotions, more capable of making sound judgments, and more relational overall. If you divorce a man in his forties, you’ve likely lived with him through his most difficult relational years, and you may miss his most tuned-in, empathetic years.

This isn’t a promise—biology isn’t destiny, and though stereotypes tend to be true, they aren’t absolutely true. But the potential for your husband to become a person who is more aware of facial clues and more relationally in tune with you is high.

This explains in part, but of course doesn’t excuse, why older men are often able to date much younger women. It’s not just the money. A younger woman may well grow weary of a twenty- or thirtysomething male brain with its hypercompetitive, territorial, and sexually predatory nature and find it refreshing to have an older man who is more relationally aware. God’s ideal plan is that this man’s new awareness should be a gift to his wife who has been with him for three or four decades. When a man leaves his wife at this stage, it’s a double hit: she suffered while putting up with him in his more insensitive years, and then she misses out on what may well be his most relational years.

The younger woman’s devotion may be confusing to the original wife. The ex-wife may remember what this man was and thus not understand the new wife’s affection, while the new wife appreciates what he is and not understand the ex-wife’s rejection. This situation is terribly sad and goes against God’s creational design.

What a blessing to go through the early decades together, learn to understand each other, and then appreciate those golden years when your brains have gotten used to each other and you share decades of the same memories, the same children, and the same grandchildren.

If you value relational connectedness and understand the slow evolution of the male and female brain, it really is true that “things are getting better all the time.” A gentler, kinder, more relationally aware husband is likely on the way.



*Dr. Louann Brizendine, The Male Brain.

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7 responses to Getting Better All the Time

  1. Gary Thomas  — , thanks for the article post.Really thank you! Great.

  2. I have been married for 13 years, And feel like the last few years i have been married to myself. My husband has hipertension, diabetese and depression. Now i understand that all the medication and the conditionsl can cause him not to be interested in sex, but he sends emails, whatsapp messages to other women telling them how “horny” they make him and asking them to meet up to “Make Love” and asking them to send him naked photos of themselves. Now i haven’t caught him once or twice i’ve caught him at least 5 to 7 times. And it’s degrading for me and embarrasing. What should i do?

    • Sannie, I understand how rejected and degraded you feel, and I wouldn’t want to defend your husband’s actions; however, my suspicion is that it feels “safe” and “manly” to boast to these women because they will never know the truth about his impotence.

      You may already be providing your husband with a safe place of acceptance of him as a man in spite of his physical challenge, but if not, please do. This doesn’t mean you have to accept his flirtation with other women; however, it is worth reminding oneself that God is merciful to us when we “flirt” with the world, which breaks His heart. He understands how you feel!

      My husband also suffers from this side effect of medication, and I struggle with feeling rejected at times. Your story makes me grateful that he doesn’t cope with it in the same way. Instead, he spoke with his doctor about switching dosages and treatments to try to avoid the side effect (results are taking time, so don’t expect an instant change); if your husband believes that you still “want” him and want to offer yourself to him in the real world, he may find the courage to inquire about how to make that happen and not need the fantasy machismo.

      I will be praying for you!

  3. I love this Gary. Thanks for sharing. I tell my kids and the couples I am counseling all the time that the longer my wife and I are married, the more we know what real love is. And when I look at some of the couples around us who are married the longest and worked the most on their marriage, it causes us to aspire to experience the same!

    • Mark, I share the same sentiments…..especially if it;s a Christ-filled marriage….it can only get better with time. #goals

  4. WOW!!!! Just WOW!!! I would have NEVER thought of it like this! This explains ALOT, although i’ve only been married for 2 months. Thanks for the encouragement to go on with my husband until our golden years. I’ll definitely share this with him!

    Gary….I have a relative who is married (but apart to get divorce) to a much older guy, they’ve been married about 5yrs. She was 21yrs old and he was close to 60yrs old at the time of their marriage, however, they never truly connected or understand each other…..hence why they are now separated. Do you think he never truly understand her even though he was close to 60yrs old?

    • Z, with a gap of over 40 years between them, the issues could be legion. Sorry, but especially without knowing them, I wouldn’t even begin to try to understand this. I doubt it has much at all to do with brain science, however.