Gender Brain Differences and Relationships

We know that communication is important for relationships. But it’s not always easy! Right?

Let’s face it. Male and female brains can be very different from each other. Maybe taking a closer look at the differences may smooth our efforts to talk with one another. Can you believe one favorite analogy involves food? “Men are like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti” by Bill and Pam Farrel explains that men’s brains operate with small individual compartments keeping syrup – and thoughts – clear and separate. They say women’s brains, like spaghetti, connect every piece of spaghetti with every other piece on their way across the plate. Tongue in cheek, this means guys like to consider each separate subject, one at a time. No mixing or blending. In ladies brains, every thought and action is related to every other thought and action – and each connection must be discussed as it relates to all others. No wonder communication is challenging!

Mark Gungor, marriage workshop speaker, says men’s brains hold a collection of boxes, each focused on a separate topic. Only one of the boxes may be opened for discussion at any one time. So far, pretty similar, but Gungor goes further. The boxes aren’t even allowed to touch each other. A man’s favorite box is one that women simply cannot understand. It’s called the “Nothing Box”. They like to spend a great deal of time dealing with absolutely nothing. Fishing, for example. No talking, not even thinking. Yup, ladies, it’s really a “thing”. Guys really can do that! Women’s brains are so busy they sometimes can’t even shut down to go to sleep. Big problems – on both sides! With focused effort, we may be able to move together toward middle ground.

So what can couples do to communicate? Listening is key for both men and women.

Staying focused on what your lady is saying may be tough, but remember to listen – just listen as long as you can without offering suggestions. It may be tough to avoid trying to fix the problem she is telling you about. Please know she really isn’t asking for advice, just validation. She may need to talk it out, to hear herself consider options on the way to a solution. No need to fix it. Not everyone has the self-control to make it work at first, but it’s a gift you can give her that doesn’t cost a dime, just patience and love. It may pay big benefits!

Ladies, know that your guy needs to spend time in his “Nothing Box”. He goes there to decompress – hopefully not to live there. Find your own 3 C’s: Comfortable Couple Communication patterns. Do it quick before regular football season! When you need to tell him about something, try to cut to the chase. Girlfriends think like you do, so talk and listen to them about some of those things. Shop, craft, lunch, workouts, book clubs, study groups, whatever you can enjoy together and get a chance to process the issues that are bursting to get out. Your guy may have an under-developed listening “muscle” that tires easily. Find fun ways to work on it together.

Whenever two people interact, we have a crossover ‘Yin and Yang” exchange. One person expresses (masculine) while the other receives (female). Communicating becomes smoother when we can comfortably reverse roles. That may take some practice, maybe on a date night?

Everyone’s unique. Maybe your guy is a great listener, or you might be connected to a woman of few words. These characteristics aren’t mutually exclusive by gender. It is certainly worth figuring it out together.

If you’d like to hear more on this topic, please register for the Cardinal Community Learning Center Mental Health Summit on August 20 in Chippewa Falls from 8:00-1:30. Call 715-720-3749 for more
information including the list of workshops. Sandra Stanton will go into more detail about relationships and male and female brains during that event.  

For more from Sandra Stanton, visit

Picture of Sandra Stanton

Sandra Stanton

Sandra Sunquist Stanton NCC, LPC, BCC of Eau Claire WI is an author, speaker, and board-certified health and wellness and life coach. Sandra helps people of all ages make the most of their amazing brains through her business, Connections of the Heart LLC, and her website