Gender differences may not be as glaring as they seem, according to marriage counselor and BYU Education Week speaker Lori K. Schade, who said most people want the same things in their marriage relationships.
Schade warned the audience to beware of the hype over gender differences. “We take these small differences in gender and we exaggerate them, making them a disunifying force instead of a unifying force in marriage,” she said. “Most people want to know they matter and that their partner puts them first and thinks they’re awesome.” She continued by saying in her time as a clinician, she has found there are certain female needs that show up regularly.
Men have many of the same needs: feeling supported, validated, knowing that they matter and feeling connected and accepted by their spouse.
One difference she found often was that men desire time to process feelings. She said that young boys can usually show only happiness and anger without being picked on in society, while girls have a large range of emotions that are considered acceptable. As men grow more comfortable in their feelings, they are more able to connect instead of withdraw.
She said society also exaggerates sexuality to men, while telling women, “they aren’t built like that.” The focus on sexuality for men is an exaggerated gender difference that often leads to pornography addiction and damage later on. “Pornography takes these gender differences and it makes them bigger. It says to females, ‘See, it doesn’t matter who it is, he gets what he wants.’ Women begin to withdraw,” Schade said. In reality, most men in Schade’s clinical experience aren’t that simple. She said most of the time they want an emotional connection, they love their wives and want to fix their relationships.
As Schade watched the proliferation of pornography, she said she grew concerned and bothered because too many people were sucked into a place of fear. “I thought to myself, Heavenly Father knew there would be Internet pornography. And he has a plan. I thought as long as we’re not using pornography, but we’re still terrified of it, Satan is winning,” she said. “We cannot allow pornography to take our marriages. We just can’t. As ubiquitous and widespread as it is, we have to believe in healing. We can’t allow that to disconnect us completely.”
Schade said there is a connection between physical intimacy and emotional intimacy. She said she sees a lot of sexually distressed marriages because there are a lot of people in pain who don’t know how to fix it, so it is reflected in physical intimacy. “I notice as people feel safe emotionally, they actually feel safer physically. If you feel like your partner is mean to you, you don’t want to let them in that close to you,” she said. “Connected partners can reveal vulnerabilities without fear of rejection.”
She concluded by referring to Moses 7:26 and connecting the chain in the scripture to pornography addiction, urging her audience to continue reading further to see the hope and joy offered in overcoming such darkness, specifically in Moses 7:62-67. “I think it is absolutely essential that Satan not disunify our marriages and that we are able to look ahead past the veil of darkness, and realize Heavenly Father has a plan and he cares about our marriages,” Schade said.