A friend of mine says that God made men like file cabinets. A man opens one file drawer at a time, thinks about one thing at a time, tackles one problem at a time, and strives for one goal at a time. He is driven to meet the specific challenges he encounters in each drawer. And he prefers to spend his time in the drawers that are going well because he feels validated as a man when he is successful. Generally, he thinks compartmentally, relates to others objectively, and feels good about himself when he’s performing well.
On the contrary, women are more like walk-in-closets. Everything is on display at the same time. All that is beautiful and orderly shares the stage with that which is dated and two sizes too small. Since a woman doesn’t compartmentalize like a man does, she doesn’t look at her heels with satisfaction because they sit next to the garden boots which reminds her that there’s weeding to be done. She doesn’t look at her folded socks and smile with a sense of accomplishment because her nightgowns look dingy and she wonders if it’s a reflection of the spark in her marriage. This life is complicated and beset with problems, therefore every time she looks in her closet, she will find something out of place. But because she is not inherently performance driven in the way a man is, she is not undone by problems. They are, in fact, opportunities for her to experience what makes her happy. Feeling connected with and important to others makes her feel validated as a woman, so she gladly welcomes others into her closet and shares her life and heart with them. Generally, she thinks holistically, relates empathetically, and feels good about herself when she is wanted, connected, and esteemed.
God designed these differences to serve as complementary gifts to the sexes. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to take gifts and turn them into idols. Sometimes this happens when a man buys into the lie that it’s his job to make his wife happy and, if she believes the same lie, things get really hairy. You’ve seen it a thousand times. A man draws upon his strengths as a problem solver to come through for his wife. He jumps through any hoop he thinks will secure her satisfaction and his success whether it be making money, buying gifts, or romancing her with his charm and wit. His efforts might produce good results because he makes her feel pursued and important to him, but it won’t usually end well. Placing our sense of worth in the loving, but limited, hands of one another person is a recipe for disaster.
My husband and I fell into this trap in our younger years. My sweet husband tried everything to make me happy, shooting aimlessly at moving targets, earnestly trying to please me. Unfortunately, his success was short-lived, primarily because it was never enough. He simply couldn’t offer me the things I most desperately needed, things like purpose, unconditional love, identity, and security. Only God was equipped for that job. And because my relationship with God was so anemic, I was too starved emotionally and spiritually to respond to my husband’s gestures with gratitude and appreciation. Naturally, after a few short years, he grew weary and, in one way or fifty, checked out and moved on to other more rewarding pursuits. I became resentful of him, thinking he either didn’t understand me or he didn’t care. He felt like a failure and I felt alone.
Fortunately, failure taught us a very valuable lesson. We learned to release each other from the obligation to answer each other’s deepest soul needs. We learned to shed the habit of managing each other’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In other words, we learned to engage one another in a way that was honest, intimate, and empathetic, but not co-dependent. My husband learned that marriage wasn’t about performance, but partnership. He had to get his validation from God, allow me the freedom to express a vast array of emotions, and not try to fix them. I learned that he can be my friend, partner, and lover, but never my source. I had to repent for idolizing my husband and give my heart needs to God instead.
All idols disappoint, but God does not. By releasing my husband and learning to cling to Jesus, I discovered One who is far more available, far more relational, far more insightful and overwhelmingly validating than any husband can be. Only then did I begin to truly appreciate the gift my husband was intended to be.