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Balancing Gender Differences in Your Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

Air Date 03/09/2018

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Robert and Pamela Crosby help married couples understand and celebrate their gender differences so that they can enjoy a stronger bond and deeper intimacy. Our guests offer practical tips for improved communication, successful conflict resolution and offering affirmation to your spouse. (Part 2 of 2)

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Episode Transcript


John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, we’ll examine how gender differences can affect your marriage. Here’s Dr. Robert Crosby with some perspective about that:


Dr. Robert Crosby: So part of it, men, generally speaking, because of their propensity for the will, struggle with their egos. We struggle with our egos. Uh, Pamela would share with you that women, because of their focus on security and partnership and wanting that, struggle with their expectations. So you have ego and expectation going after one another instead of understanding one another. So part of what I had to realize is the gifts, the graces, the propensities that Pamela has are not put there to compete with me but to complement me.

End of Excerpt

Jim Daly: We had a great conversation last time with Robert and his wife Pamela about how our differences as husbands and wives can cause some friction and tension and I know all of you just said, amen! (chuckling) It’s true! There’s a handful, I know you guys are great and doing well. Jean and I have experienced that and I’m sure, John, you and Dena have a little bit too, right? (chuckling)

John: Within the past 24-48 hours, I think so, yeah.

Jim: Well, the Crosbys shared some great insights and stories about their own challenges which they also captured in their book, The Will of a Man & The Way of a Woman. We’re gonna hear more from them today. But if you missed the discussion last time, get the download or get the CD. There was so much practical stuff in there that I know is going to help you improve communication and understanding in your relationships.

John: And that is why Focus on the Family is here, to help you have a better marriage. And we’re gonna have details about the Crosby’s book and other resources for you at or call 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

And now here’s the second part of our conversation with Robert and Pamela Crosby on Focus on the Family.


Jim: You mention in the book that love is the ultimate power tool. I love that idea. But describe it more fully for us — love being the ultimate power tool.

Robert: Yeah. We underestimate love. You know, we look at the words of Jesus that are certainly inspired. But I also believe there’s a lot to be said for the works of Jesus, to look at the gospels, look at how he carried himself, look at what he did and did not do, look at what he said and look at what he did not say in different moments.So part of it is learning to live this out, you know, to live it out of our hearts, to live out this action of love.

So we honor one another, learning how to live, Peter says, in the understanding way. It doesn’t happen overnight. And for young couples that are listening and you think, oh, we really want to be able to master this, we would tell you, we have not mastered it. We’re learning. We’re growing. But it is a journey that is so well worth it. You know, a year ago, Time Magazine did an article on marriage. And in it, they cited recent research that showed that couples that live to their older years find a renewing of the joy that they had in their early years of marriage.

Jim: It’s called empty nest. (LAUGHTER)

Robert: That’s part of it. That’s part of it, yeah. Hey, there you go. But Cornell University did a study on 700 couples. And they said that the No. 1 joy of their life - as they look at the whole of their life - was unquestionably their marriage relationship. One hundred percent reported that.

Jim: And when you think about what you’re saying, it makes so much sense that God creates us for a relationship, that we learn selflessness in relationship. There’s no other way to do it.

Robert: Yeah.

Jim: But then you look at, you know, you look at the breakdown of the family and how late people are getting married, those kinds of things and the me-ism of the culture, it all fits together, what’s happening. It’s a focus on self. And it’s very anti-God...

Robert: It is.

Jim: ...In terms of what he created.

Pamela Crosby: And it’s so sad because it comes across as this mentality that I am, you know, everything...

Jim: Self-sufficient.

Pamela: ...Yes. And that I have everything that I need within myself to, you know, fulfill my own life.

And what you said a little while ago about the plan, I totally agree. I believe with all my heart that it is our differences that make life so beautiful.

Jim: But we don’t celebrate them. We...

Pamela: No, we don’t.

Jim: ...Let them antagonize us.

Pamela: We - if we could look at our differences instead of looking at the differences - a husband’s difference to a wife’s difference - as the enemy, because that’s how we laugh about it, that’s how we communicate it, that it’s the enemy, it’s against what I want. But if instead we could look at it as wow, your difference really balances me. Your difference adds strength to where I might be a little bit more weak. And that’s the beauty of the oneness because when you are able to look at each other’s differences as something that complements the other...

Jim: It fills the gap.

Pamela: ...It does. And it brings that oneness that we’re all in search of.

Jim: Wasn’t that Rocky Balboa? She’s got gaps. I’ve got gaps. We all got gaps (laughter).

Pamela: It’s true.

Jim: That’s kind of his version of it. But Pamela, I’m going to press you a little bit because you also talk about surrendering your power. Ooh, that goes against everybody’s will. I don’t want to surrender my power. What was that about?

Pamela: Well, I - I - it takes me back to, you know, what we were just saying and that is recognizing that I don’t have all that is necessary for, let’s say, my children. I’ll never forget the moment - um - we have four children, three daughters, one son. And he’s - Rob’s sort of in the middle, he’s child No. 3.And Rob and I share a lot of similarities. And so - um - and we spent a lot of time together when - during seasons of home schooling and things. So when Robert would go to, you know, reprimand him or whatever, I would be the first one to speak up and say you don’t understand.

Rob was about 12 years old. And it was this moment. And they were having an argument. And I was getting ready to intercede (laughter) and, um - and to help out in the situation with Rob. And I - all of a sudden, I felt this impression of back off.

Jim: Wow.

Pamela: Back off. He’s becoming a young man. These are two men. They understand this language that you think, as a mom, is so harsh, so rough, so crude. But I all of a sudden saw that Rob got it, and he understood what his dad was saying. And if I were to interject, if I were to get involved thinking that I had the answers to this child, that I would really be interfering in a process of growth for my son.

Jim: Pamela, you are onto it there in so many different ways, but particularly in parenting. And this can be one of the greatest difficulties in marriage relationships because you parent from a different perspective.

But I need to ask you. Um, how does a woman, a mom, get to the point where she has the wisdom to know when to let Dad do what Dad needs to do? And I - I’m saying that partly out of experience, but partly out of fear. I think Eve tends to fear the future, has a hard time letting go. And Dad instinctively, I think, knows he’s got to engage here in order to shape that young man’s will in his life. But it’s hard for women to trust, to trust that their husband actually knows what he’s doing.

Pamela: Yes. That’s huge.

Jim: Because they won’t understand maybe…

Pamela: That’s huge.

Jim: …Something in the moment.

Pamela: Yes.

Jim: And I can just say, there’s a lot of that cry for help that comes to Focus on the Family in this regard. And women, wives, moms struggle to see that this is actually critical. They’ve got to trust that their husband actually can do it.

Pamela:I have seen so many times where he will make a decision, and I’ll be like, oh, that’s going to fall apart. That is the worst decision. And yet I will just say, OK. I’m going to support him, you know, in front of the kids. I’m going to honor him. I’m going to support him. And, man, if the Lord doesn’t somehow make it work out. That’s what - how I feel. I really believe that if we do what is right for us to do as women, if we want oneness in our marriage, then we need to respond like that, even maybe if it’s not coming back to us. And we need to respond in that way and then watch what happens. Watch the positive.

Jim: Now, let me - let me tease it out a little bit, because it’s always good when Robert’s decisions have gone correctly.

Pamela: Yes. (LAUGHTER)

Jim: But obviously, where we learn - I’m sorry. I feel like the naysayer all the time. Don’t I, John? But where we learn is where it didn’t work out. How do you bridle your tongue from saying, Robert, I told you that would not work out. I was right. You were wrong. But I want to hear in your own words.

Pamela: You find moments to do that. You find the right place to do that. If I...

Jim: And without so much a critical spirit?

Pamela: Yes.

Jim: Maybe hey...

Pamela: If I do that in front of my kids, or if, you know, we’re - find ourselves with a flat tire or whatever, and I’m like, see? See what happens? (Laughter) See? You know. And I know, as a mom...

Jim: (Laughter) She had to bring that one up! (LAUGHTER)

Pamela: I know, as a mom, I could probably clear the room.

Jim: Without a doubt.

Pamela: If I want to get - if I want to really berate my husband, I can - I can make every kid go to their room without asking them to.

Jim: Yeah.

Pamela: I have that kind of power.Um, and I do believe that women need to recognize that they have incredible influence and power. But it’s all in how we want to use it. And that has a lot to do with what type of marriage we want, what type of home-style and what type of atmosphere we want to raise our children in.

Jim: Yeah. That’s good.You have a couple of lists. I want to get to some practical advice too. Let me - just hit a few, and you can elaborate on them. But you have what wives need to know, uh, about their husband obviously. Here’s a couple of those bullets. Your husband doesn’t understand emotions like you do. Do you want to - you got a little thing there?

Robert: Yeah. You know, just recently, I read an article, Stanford Medical, recent research, you know, how more and more we’re learning that the male brain and the female brain are neurologically different.

Jim: Shazam! (LAUGHTER)

Robert: They are so different.

Jim: Wow.

Robert: The irony is...

Jim: We had to spend billions of dollars to figure this out.

Robert: The irony is that for years, you know, scientists have assumed that it is all social influence, cultural influence. But now they’re learning so clearly that there are marked differences. One is the dynamic related to processing emotions.

Men tend to process tasks more than emotions. So the understanding of your husband emotionally, the understanding of your wife emotionally, is a big part of a marriage relationship. Uh, just because he responds a certain way doesn’t always mean that he’s out to create a negative experience. Some of it just comes out of how men are designed.

Jim: Yeah. That’s so true. I’m going to hit a couple more on that topic of what wives need to know. Another one, you say, is your husband craves your affirmation and admiration. I think we all know what that means. Just stroke his ego a little. (Laughter) Your husband communicates differently than you do. That’s a good one. And it’s not what you say, but the way you say it. I want to just spend a moment here.

Robert: Yeah.

Jim: I don’t think wives understand this. Uh, in fact we did a show a while back, John, where, uh, this was really an epiphany. And I talked to Jean about it in fact, because being a mom of two teenage boys. When Mom comes down on a boy, he retreats. He feels like I didn’t measure up. And he backs away from the relationship.

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: Uh, that author, uh, really spoke to my heart in that, because I could see that when that happens. When Mom’s critical of her little boy, the little boy doesn’t want to talk about it like, maybe, her little girl might. Little boy just takes it as shame, takes it as an arrow piercing his heart. Um, speak to the little boy in all of us men that when your wife is speaking to you in a way that makes you feel small, what does it do to us?

Robert: Yeah you know, the principles ofThe Will of a Man & the Way of a Woman,Jim,are effective in parenting as well as in marriage. So this whole idea of Ephesians, it says be angry and sin not. There are things in life and there are things in marriage that are going to make us angry.

So it’s not just what you say, but it’s the way you say it. Recently we were sitting over a meal and two of our children, who will go unnamed, were sitting next to us, but they’re adult children. So one of them proceeded to say to the other I don’t know if you know it, but something that you’ve been doing is very irritating to one of our siblings. And all of a sudden I thought all right, the next 30 seconds is going to determine the tone of this. And the other sibling paused. And I can say she because I have three daughters. And she said you know, you’re probably right. I really need to think about that. And I’m sorry.I looked at Pam (Laughter) and I say this is a moment...

Jim: Home run.

John: Remember this one.

Robert: ...This is a moment. And I said I got to tell you guys, this is like the stellar moment of confrontation in our family history. I’m going to celebrate this. (Laughter) I’m going to draw a circle around it because you know what you did? You spoke the truth and love. You did it in a loving way. You didn’t just say, you know, hey, I love you, but I have to tell you something and nail them to the wall, you know. You did it in a loving way. And then to the responder, I said you responded well.

Jim: Now, that is good. You got - hey, mom and dad, pat yourself on the back. You arrived. (Laughter) Let’s hit some of the points about where husbands need to know how to interact with their wives. We’ve hit the other side.But your wife wants to know you love her. Boy, loving your wife is so critical. Your wife desires security. Your wife desires protection. Your wife wants intimacy. Let’s park on the intimacy side because when men hear that, they hear something different, don’t they, Pam?

Pamela: Yes (laughter).

Jim: (Laughter) But describe that difference and for us men to better understand. And I’d say most men, if we’re honest, for the most part we’re all guilty of not knowing intimacy from the viewpoint of our wives the way we need to. So help teach us.

Pamela: The big awakening moment for me came - um - when we were, actually, talking about writing this book when I realized even though he had said it many times, I realized, really for the first time, how being loved was different for me than what it was for my husband. And the more we started to have focus groups on those types of questions - um - and hearing from a number of women of all ages in different parts of the nation, I started to realize it even more. That when we ladies talk about, you know, feeling loved, that it looks completely different than men when they say ‘feeling loved’, which they use the word ‘admiration.’That to them, that is love. So it was difficult for me in that - as I learned that then how do I begin to love differently? Um, and I believe we are all guilty of endeavoring to love others by the way we are most loved.

And so going back even to the topic of trust - your word on trust - it is very difficult for women to trust men, especially if in any part of the history of that marriage the trust has been broken, either through, you know, another relationship, maybe financial issues, maybe something wrong, a mistake that a husband made.

Jim: It can predate the marriage, too...

Pamela: Yes.

Jim: ...A woman who has a bad experience.

Pamela: Yes. Yes. It can be something from a father or something that came before the marriage.

So the trust issue, I think, is probably the bigger piece of that, the heart of the loving issue. And when women want to be loved and when women want intimacy and when women are looking for security - um - they have to remember that their husband is as human as they are. That’s my belief.

Jim: Does that scare them or encourage them?

Pamela: Um, I - I I don’t know...

Jim: (Laughter) You know what I mean by the question?

Pamela: ...At time, yes, I think it could scare us, definitely.

Jim: Because women have a great ability to know their heart. I think, in many ways, better than men. They have that introspection that is God-given. And I’m just curious. I had never thought about it that way. But if women know their husbands, does that scare them, that they can be thinking the way I think as a women?

Pamela: Oh, yes. Yes because as - and then the longer you’re married, the more you see their weaknesses or the more you see the areas that...

Jim: Need help.

Pamela: ...Yes. (Laughter) That they don’t think about it the way you do or they’re not looking ahead like you’re looking ahead. I remember when we were early in our marriage and I was actually working with a young wife who was ready to, you know...

Jim: Leave.

Pamela: ...Leave and leave her marriage. And I said, you know, I can’t help but remember how, when I was getting ready for the wedding, I kept having this vision, you know, being raised in the Disney, you know, Snow White, Cinderella, my knight in shining armor was going to come on the white horse and he was going to scoop me up and put me on the back and we were going to take off to, you know, oneness land.(Laughter) And that was my big fairy tale.

And it was like, all of a sudden, somewhere along that journey, I picked up the mask of this, you know, shining, metal knight and I picked up the mask and noticed there was just a man inside.

Jim: And that was disappointing. (Laughter)

Pamela: And I had to realize that I was just a woman and that we were two - in some respects - two broken people coming into this marriage with a lot of weaknesses and our own hurts and pains and we were trying to get the other one to take care of those broken pieces and that hurt and pain. And I do believe that’s again where that expectation and reality and you have stress in between is a constant growing enemy in our marriages.

Jim: And Pamela, and certainly, Robert, I want you to weigh in here too. That distinction is critical because and I don’t know, you know, it’ll be either spouse. It doesn’t have to be necessarily a woman’s attitude to her husband. I think generally, that’s more applicable where the husband’s not measuring up. I had different expectations.It’s almost this desire for perfection.

Pamela: Uh-hm, yes.

Jim: And that’s, I think, a very normal conversation in a lot of Christian marriages. We have to, at some point, look into the mask like you just described and say, well guess what, the person here is not perfect. But how do you actually embrace that? And how does a wife embrace the fact that her husband won’t be perfect. And how does he try to do better? But that realization that we’re broken people, like you said, and that God’s grace is what covers us and that we can rest in Him, that we can find peace in Him, even in our brokenness.

Pamela: I’ll never forget the morning when Robert came to me and said, I would like us to start every morning in prayer together.

Jim: Hm.

Pamela: You know, if it’s five minutes, if it’s 10 minutes, if it’s 15 minutes, he will never - I could cry talking about it. He will never know what that meant to me, as a wife. That had a way of filling in the cracks and the gaps in the weaknesses and the areas where I struggle with trust because together we were able to trust someone who is much greater than us and sees way beyond our path and what we can see and to be able to, as a wife, feel that protection and feel that security and even in those moments where we’re able to actually tell each other look, I’m really struggling with this, you know, I don’t know what to do. I, you know, I’m dealing with this issue at work or I’m dealing with this issue in our finances and it scares me. You know, hearing that from my husband, I don’t know if he ever used the word ‘scares me’ but...

Jim: We would never use that word.

Pamela: No, I know. That’s not a man’s word. (Laughter)

Jim: That’s man code!

John: It concerns us. (Laughter)

Pamela: I could feel immediately him, in his head, saying I didn’t say that. (LAUGHTER)

Jim: So could I!

Pamela: But to hear, you know, to just be able to share at that level of how can we help each other. I’m going to need you to help me through this time. I think it is a real gift to a wife.

Robert: Yeah, you know, part of it too, to go back to something that Pamela mentioned earlier that when your expectations are way up like at the level of the top of your head, your realities are low. The difference between the two is stress. So the only way to reduce the stress is to either lower your expectations or to change your reality. Often, it’s a little bit of both. We do a little bit of both.But there is a beauty and, in an age when so many people are trying to remove the differences of gender, and to try to dissolve it, we believe that it is time to celebrate the beauty of being male and being female.And I will tell you one of the most beautiful moments that was just recent.

Just a couple of months ago, my father passed away. 91. We were in the room with him in the last few hours. And it was amazing because we really believe one of the things we talk about in Teaming Life is drawing circles of honor. And I learned this from the late Gary Smalley, you know? Where he did the whole (gasp) it’s you. (Laughter) You know? And celebrating your children, your wife.

And I never forgot it. But the beauty of drawing circles of honor. We sort of naturally, around my father’s bed rotated me, Pamela, my brother, his wife and their children, and my son. Qe rotated. And just told my dad what he meant to us.

Well, when Pam went up to him, it just about ripped my heart out. My mother is elderly and because of senility issues was not able to be at the hospital with my dad in those latter hours, which was very tough. But when Pamela went up to my father, knowing me, she put her hand on his brow, just began to rub it and say, you know, dad, mom loves you so much. You’ve been such a great husband to her. You have loved her and her family so well. And I just began to weep. But she would have never been able to do that if we did not have the marriage that by the grace of God we have. And we still have our arguments and moments. But - but there’s a bond that God brings when two become one that has rewards that I’m learning about. They come at even latter seasons of life that you never anticipate.

Jim: Well, that is so, so good and so true. That’s what we need to work toward. Robert and Pam, you really have laid it out what the goal of marriage is about, that long - lifelong commitment and the rewards of it and what God provides in that regard.


Jim: For those couples that are struggling and they’re troubled and they don’t know which way to go, you have really provided some wonderful, practical advice out of your bookThe Will of a Man & The Way of a Woman. And I think this is some revolutionary thinking. It’s probably as old as the Old Testament. (Laughter) But you’ve been able to mine it and to put it in a modern language that husbands and wives can understand for today.

And I hope, if you’re in that spot, that you will get a copy of the book. That’s why Focus is here. That’s why we have wonderful guests like Robert and Pamela join us so you can hear insights - biblical insights - of how to think of your relationship as a married couple. And ultimately, the goal here is to draw you closer to Christ so you can honor the Lord in your relationship. And I really don’t know of any couple that can’t do just a little better in that regard because of our humanness. We’re always going to be working toward better.

And this is a resource that can help you do that.For a gift of any amount, we’ll provide this book to you as our way of saying thank you for investing in marriages here at Focus on the Family.

John: Yeah, it’s a great kind of a tune-up tool for you to walk through some of what we’ve talked about today and much, much more. And you can find the book and you might even get a CD or download of this program and just listen to it together as a couple, you’ll find these and other helps at And of course, donate generously when you’re there. Or call 1-800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.

If you’re just really starting to think through some of the matters of where am I in this relationship, where are we, we’ve got a free marriage assessment for you. It’s a great little survey. I think, Jim, 250,000 people have taken that.

Jim: Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s a good tool to know where your strengths and your areas of improvement are (laughter).

John: Yeah, it’s pretty quick. We’ll link over to that from the website as well.

Jim: Robert and Pamela, thanks again for being with us.

Pamela: Thank you.

Jim: Great insights. I really appreciate how God has used you to kind of help us better understand the mission of marriage (laughter). Thanks.

Robert: Real good to be with you. And if I could just say that Focus over the years has meant so much to us and our family.

Jim: Well, that’s a blessing to hear. Thank you for that.

John: And it’s our prayer that you’ve really been touched by what you’ve heard these past couple of days with Robert and Pamela Crosby. Well, we hope you have a great weekend with your family and then join us again on Monday with a look at anger in motherhood and how to cope with it.


Wendy Speake: And I realized, wow, this journey that I’ve been on away from this angry, reactionary parenting in the problem is actually not just my problem. It’s something that thousands of people are struggling with and now we have a safe place to talk about it.

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Robert and Pamela Crosby

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Robert and Pamela Crosby are the co-founders of Teaming Life, which helps leaders and organizations evaluate their levels of connection and collaboration so that their teams can thrive. Pamela is a certified Life Coach, and Robert is completing a Ph.D. in organizational leadership at Regent University. He is a contributing writer to Outreach, Christianity Today and Leadership Journal, and his books include The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration and The One Jesus Loves. Together, Robert and Pamela have written The Will of a Man and the Way of a Woman. Learn more about the Crosbys by visiting