During my adolescent and college years, I bought into the popular arguments that men and women were basically the same and that we only became different under the influence of culture, environment and society. Then several events changed my tune.
First, I fell in love with my wife, Barb, when we were high school seniors, and I had to begin to learn firsthand the many differences between our brains.
Second, during college, Barb and I began to study the Bible together. Among the many things we learned was that God had created men and women uniquely different. Not only that, these divinely inspired differences are designed to strengthen our relationship with God and each other.
Third, during my years in medical practice, I became aware of the findings of dozens of scientists who had discovered innumerable innate differences between the brains of men and women.
Ultimately, Barb and I came to understand that the hormonal influence and hardwiring of each spouse is designed to complement and strengthen the other. As a man loves his wife and shows her affection, she is more able and willing to respect and admire him, which he’s designed to respond to by loving her all the more.
This is what love really looks like
Love is fostered and will proceed to flow out of a marriage that displays the attributes described in Philippians 2:3-7:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
That means Barb and I are both instructed to put aside our selfish desires by first serving our Creator and then by serving each other and providing for each other’s needs.
If you seek to meet your own needs or demand that your spouse meet your needs without first seeking to meet his or her needs, it will likely lead to disorder or the eventual destruction of your marriage. Our Creator, who designed the brains, roles, needs, strengths, weaknesses and blind spots of each sex, presents a different plan in the Bible: In marriage, the husband and the wife should “be subject to one another” (Ephesians 5:21, RSV).
He’s responsible for sacrificial love
The Bible tells husbands to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). I am to love Barb in the same way God loves me. I am to give myself in sacrificial love to Barb, as Christ sacrificed himself for me. The Bible also says, “Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:28-30). So I am to love my wife as my own body — for indeed she is one with me.
Job No. 1 for a husband is to sacrificially love his wife — above his work, children, recreation or hobbies. After our personal relationship with God, our wife should be our first priority. Is this easy? Nope. At times it can seem impossible (at least it is in our own power and strength). It requires God’s supernatural love acting in and through us.
She’s responsible for sacrificial respect
My wife, Barb, shares a woman’s perspective:
The Creator of the male brain makes our key role as wives absolutely clear when He instructs “Let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). While Walt is directed to sacrificially love me, I am to respect Walt sacrificially. According to the divine design, respecting her husband is a wife’s Job No. 1. This may seem impossible at times! Yet he cannot thrive without it.
A man is designed to respond positively to his wife’s sacrificial respect and admiration in the same way a woman is designed to respond to him when he loves, honors, nourishes and cherishes her. Part of the divine design for holy, joyful and contented marriages is for a wife, as a demonstration of her sacrificial respect for her husband, to encourage and enable him to provide leadership in marriage. It requires God’s supernatural love working in and through them.
They are divinely designed to complement each other
To be clear, wives need the respect and admiration of their husbands. The Bible teaches, “Husbands . . . treat [your wives] with respect” (1 Peter 3:7, NIV). And men need lots of love and affection from their wives. Scripture instructs women “to love their husbands” (Titus 2:4). But the basic and primary need of the male brain is to receive and respond to her respect and admiration. And the basic and primary need of the female brain is to receive and respond to his love.
A wife’s brain is designed to respond to her husband’s love. My job as a loving husband is to be my wife’s mirror — to reflect to her how lovely she is to me and to her Creator. I know she longs to hear these things not only in words but in romantic gestures as well — flowers, cards, calls, dates, dinners, time together, help with chores and conversation.
From Barb’s perspective:
My husband’s brain is created to respond when I say, “I admire and respect you. I trust you to lead our family. I appreciate all you do for me and the children. Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for loving me well.” He not only needs to hear me tell him these things, but he responds dramatically when he hears me telling others these things about him.
He feels great pleasure when he is respected and admired. When he knows I respect and admire him and that I appreciate that he knows my needs and expectations, he usually bends over backward to make me happy. And the more he loves me, the more I’m able to love him.
The secret of success when it comes to marital happiness and satisfaction is to accept the plan and assistance of our Creator who designed us, made us and instituted marriage in the first place.
God’s divine design — the fascinating interplay of a man’s brain and a woman’s brain loving and respecting each other and becoming one together — is the only design by which a man and a woman can come to a life and marriage that is rich and deeply satisfying.
Dr. Walt Larimore is a bestselling author and one of America’s best-known family physicians. Dr. Larimore co-wrote, with Barb, his childhood sweetheart and wife of more than 43 years, His Brain, Her Brain.