Men are Unilateral Women are Bilateral

NUGGETS OF GOLD a monthly Blog by David Nofziger

Men are Unilateral Women are Bilateral

December 1, 2020

David Nofziger

     Most of you looking at this title are probably thinking, “What in the world does that mean?” I first heard this phrase over 20 years ago, and after many years of counseling married couples, I have often found the saying to be true.  This phrase defines one of the many differences between the sexes.  In general, men tend to be focused on self-reliance and personal well-being, while women, in general, tend to be more focused on caregiving and the well-being of others.  Notice, in both cases, that I have used the phrase “in general” because this is not always true, but is often the case.  Both of these traits are good and not to be judged as wrong.  They are merely common differences.
     Throughout the ages, men were the warriors, the hunters, and the providers.  God created them to be self-reliant to be able to survive.  Men desire to see themselves as conquerors and must not show weakness or vulnerability.  Self-reliance is imperative in battle or plowing through a dog-eat-dog world, which is key to success and victory.  But those same traits can be frustrating to wives who want their husbands to be strong leaders while also desiring a mate who can communicate feelings and be vulnerable.  It is hard for most men to master both of these skills – being tough and tender.
     Woman, throughout the ages, were the mothers, nurturers, and homemakers.  God created them to give birth, care for children, be sensitive to needs, and empathize with others’ feelings to bring harmony.  These traits are crucial for providing a safe home environment where children can confidently grow into healthy adults and navigate in a world with many challenges.  But those same traits can be frustrating to husbands who want their wives to be loving mothers but don’t want to be mothered themselves.  Men are often insensitive to their partner’s needs, and rather than empathizing, often focus more on trying to “fix” her problems.  This is frustrating to many wives and difficult for men to understand.  These differences are avenues of conflict in many marriages.
     Now we move from history into the present.  The twenty-first-century western culture tends to emphasize that there is no difference between men and women.  Please understand me; men and women are fully equal in the eyes of God and should be seen as fully equal in society.  In that sense, there is no difference between men and women as the Apostle Paul so eloquently stated over 2,000 years ago, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:38).  But even though we are fully equal, it does not imply that there are no differences.
     To help reduce conflict in marriage, we need to understand these differences so that married couples can begin working together better as a team.  Dr. John Gray, a relational psychologist, wrote the book, “Men are from Mars Women are from Venus.” He expounds on many differences between the sexes.  In the introduction, he writes a humorous but insightful guide to understand why they are different.  In the beginning, Men were from Mars.  They looked through their telescopes one day and caught a glimpse of the Venusians and liked what they saw. They sent a quick message to see if they could get together and meet.  The Venusians replied and suggested that they meet halfway.  At first, everything went well as they understood that they were from two different planets.  As the generations went by, they forgot that they were very different and started assuming that they were the same, and then the conflicts began.
     I would recommend this book to anyone who would desire to understand the opposite sex – especially your spouse.  However, I always give a critique of the book.  Do not use an understanding of the differences to justify your male or female behavior.  The book may help your spouse understand you better, which can help with conflict.  But to succeed in building a great marriage, you need to begin adjusting your behavior in a way that better meets your mate’s needs.
     Therefore, let me offer several adjustments that you can work on to help bridge the relationship gap between unilateral and bilateral thinking:
     Men who desire to be independent have to work hard at being interdependent with their mates.  As a husband, you have to learn essential skills, such as empathy and partnership.  Discover that you do not have to fix her problems; allow her to share and let her know that you understand how she feels.  Plus, as hard as it is to be vulnerable, this is a crucial skill needed to breed safety and communication in marriage.  Get in touch with your feelings and learn how to communicate them to your spouse.  A woman’s greatest need is to be loved because she naturally thinks in terms of the relationship (bilateral thinking).
     A wife who desires to build harmony in her marriage must work hard to communicate her needs to her husband in ways that show respect.  Even though your husband’s behavior may, at times, appear selfish to you, discover his strengths, and affirm him.  Be careful to seek partnership, and don’t assume you know your husband’s needs.  You may be intuitive, but communication is still the best way to understand another person.  It may be difficult for him to communicate his needs and feelings, so be patient.  Help him know that you value him.  A man’s greatest need is to be respected because he naturally thinks in terms of providing and protecting (unilateral thinking).
     The Apostle Paul once again said it very well in Ephesians 5:25 & 33,  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…and the wife must respect her husband.

Nuggets of Gold is a monthly Blog focused on Personal growth, Marriage Improvement, and Parenting Issues. Your comments can be entered below. They are always welcome and suggestions for future posts are appreciated. Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts with you.

David Nofziger has been the director and lead counselor at Hope Alive Counseling Services in Defiance since 1989 and author of “Brain Washed, Transforming Your Self-Image through the Amazing Love of God.” He and his wife, Sue, attend Family Christian Center in Defiance where they head up the church’s mission program. Visit for more information.

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BRAIN WASHED Transforming Your Self-Image Through the Amazing Love of God, by David Nofziger.

If you enjoy “Nuggets of Gold,” I would like to recommend this book to you which brings you an entire pot of gold. This pot of gold is not at the end of an imaginary rainbow but is found in the transforming power of the love of God.

The key to fulness of life is discovering who we are in Christ. Our self-image is one of the most important factors affecting our growth and wellbeing, and we need a Christ-Centered Self-Image. In this book, you will learn how to allow the truth of God’s love to penetrate deep into your heart and transform you in such a way that you take on the “Image of Christ.”

All profits from books that are sold through the Hope Alive Counseling Website go to counseling scholarships for clients with financial needs.

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