marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

LDS Doctrine or Cultural Myth: Men and Women Can Never Understand Each Other

This statement can seem very true, especially if you’re in the middle of an intractable difference, whether it comes to sexuality or some other aspect of marriage. Books such as ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ capitalized on this general feeling in our culture. 

Don’t get me wrong, Dr. John Gray has done wonders for helping couples communicate. However, while it is true that men and women often have very different methods of reasoning, reacting, defining or experiencing life based on their unique gender and sub-cultural viewpoints, this statement is ultimately a myth when it comes to the gospel and our marriages.

Sheri Dew, a former Relief Society General Presidency member, said:
 “Lucifer is determined to devour marriages and families, because their demise threatens the salvation of all involved and the vitality of the Lord’s kingdom itself. Thus, Satan seeks to confuse us about our stewardships and distinctive natures as men and women.
He bombards us with bizarre messages about gender, marriage, family, and all male-female relationships. He would have us believe men and women are so alike that our unique gifts are not necessary, or so different we can never hope to understand each other. Neither is true.”[i]
Believing the myth that men and women too alien to each other can tempt us to give up; to say that we’re never going to understand each other, so why try? It can become a wedge between a married couple that can limit their happiness and sexual fulfillment with each other. It can lead a marriage partner to seek out others with whom he or she feels more of a kinship, and then perhaps avoid the work that needs to be done to make their relationship a success.

Abandoning all hope that, as husband and wife, you will never understand each other, can also lead to a never-ending cycle of dependence on your spouse for your happiness. The trap here is, you can never actually find happiness, because you either cannot fill your own void or feel you are just too different to every truly understand each other.

In his book “Passionate Marriage” Dr. David Schnarch taught
 “When poorly differentiated people (differentiated means to be independent emotionally. To be able to emotionally validate yourself and not be dependent on others to “make you happy”) feel the tug of their fusion, (fusion means to seek emotional validation from another person and to be dependent on another person’s ability to “make you happy” or your happiness is dependent on your ability to “make him/her happy”) they start trying to increase physical or emotional distance to make themselves feel better.

Differentiation involved the ability to maintain who you are while you’re close to people important to you. ‘I-got-to-be-me-by-getting-away-from-you’ isn’t differentiation because the person is unable to choose to get closer.”(1997,59)
Learning to get along with a person who thinks and reasons or defines "love" differently than you do and successfully bear and raise a family together presents undeniable challenges. Sometimes those challenges may seem never-ending.

However, using the gospel tools we’re given to take on those challenges tends to lead to a sweetness of life over time. Our eternal marriages, and our sexual relationships, are not meant to end at death. Indeed, any work we do in this life to learn to communicate with and understand our spouse will only give us that much more of an advantage in the eternities. (D&C 130:19)

Understanding our temporal and eternal roles as men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers anchors us and helps us better understand and respect each other. Conversely devaluing, avoiding or ignoring those roles can lead to confusion and creates a wedge between us as men and women - instead of bringing us together. 

Richard G. Scott said:
“Our Heavenly Father endowed His sons and daughters with unique traits especially fitted for their individual responsibilities as they fulfill His plan.
To follow His plan requires that you do those things He expects of you as a son or daughter, husband or wife. Those roles are different, but entirely compatible. In the Lord’s plan, it takes two—a man and a woman—to form a whole. Indeed, a husband and wife are not two identical halves, but a wondrous, divinely determined combination of complementary capacities and characteristics.
“Marriage allows these different characteristics to come together in oneness—in unity—to bless a husband and wife, their children and grandchildren. For the greatest happiness and productivity in life, both husband and wife are needed.
 Their efforts interlock and are complementary. Each has individual traits that best fit the role the Lord has defined for happiness as a man or woman. When used as the Lord intends, those capacities allow a married couple to think, act, and rejoice as one—to face challenges together and overcome them as one, to grow in love and understanding, and through temple ordinances to be bound together as one whole, eternally. That is the plan.”[ii]
Some of the ways a husband and wife can learn to understand each other can be found here in my blog by learning about our cultural, biological, mental and sexual differences. Other ways include having regular date nights together, learning each other’s love languages,[iii]watching Mark Gungor’s “Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage[iv], and listening to the wonderful podcasts by LDS sex therapist Laura M Brotherson at, just to name a few.

What books, videos or websites do you feel have helped you better understand (not become exactly like) your spouse?

[i] Dew, Sheri L. “It is Not Good for Man or Woman to Be Alone”. Ensign. Nov. 2001.

[ii] Scott, Richard G. “The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness”. Ensign, Nov. 1996.
 [iii] Chapman, Gary, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, Northfield Publishing; 1St Edition edition (January 1, 2015)
 [iv]Gungor, Mark: Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, Studio: Crown Comedy ,  DVD Release Date: January 12, 2009