“Gracie (that’s my nickname), men are like waffles and women…well, women are like spaghetti…”
It was an early Saturday morning years ago when I sat across from my dad at a local coffee shop diner listening to him ramble about this new book he had read called, “Men Are Like Waffles and Women Are Like Spaghetti.” Like most young, 20 something daughters who could care less about the importance of knowing why men and women act, think, and communicate differently, I zoned out. Maybe even rolled my eyes. But ten years later, and in the throes of infertility and not knowing why my husband acts or responds in the manner that he does when dealing with it, I am more interested now more than ever in this whole waffles and spaghetti concept. So interested in fact, I bought the book (shhh, don’t tell my dad). And let me just say, it is fascinating (don’t tell him that either, he might make me say he was right).
For the last two years I have often wondered the reason behind why my supportive, yet seemingly clueless husband just stares at me when I am crying about a friend announcing their “whoopsie” pregnancy. Doesn’t he have bitterness and jealousy issues too? Or when I get another negative pregnancy test, how come he is not on the floor ugly crying with me. Doesn’t he feel crushed? Or why is it that when I want to talk about our infertility struggle, he shuts down. Gets defensive. Or in my mind, completely irrational with his hope that “everything will be okay.” And why must he always try to solve everything? Can’t he just listen?! (I see you nodding your head in agreement.) But the truth is, he probably can’t.
And it’s because he is like a waffle. And me? I’m more like a plate of pasta…specifically, spaghetti noodles.
Ladies, have you ever looked at a plate of those long, skinny noodles? If you were to pick one and follow it closely, you would see that it touches, even connects to another one…and then another…and then another. They are all linked and intertwined. And much is the same with how we, as women, process life. Every emotion, every issue, and every conversation is connected together with other emotions, other issues, and other conversations. They all unite and interweave together. This is why when your best friend announces she is pregnant, it brings back the emotions you had three months ago of when you got a negative pregnancy test; which then reminds you of the feelings you had when you cried in the bathroom at a baby shower, that somehow leads to you imagining how the perfect idea you have pinned on pinterest to announce your own miracle pregnancy will never happen. You see, your friend’s pregnancy announcement, it’s not just a pregnancy announcement. If it were, you might be able to handle it. Instead, it’s one event touching another event which crosses over to a painful emotion that reminds you of the fears you have hidden and tucked away inside the secret places of your heart. And as a result of them meshing together, you process them together.
This is a stark contrast to our better half. Because like I said earlier, they are more like waffles.
I don’t mean our men folk are like waffles in the sense that they waffle with their decisions and are unstable and fickle with their emotions, although some might and are, but rather because they process life in boxes.
Let me see if I can explain without quoting the entire book. If you look at a waffle, you will see a collection of boxes separated by walls, right? These boxes help create convenient holding places for things such as butter and syrup. This is typically how a man processes life. Their thinking is divided up into boxes and they can only live in one box at a time. For instance, your husband has a work box and so when he is at work, he is at work. When he is fishing, he is fishing. When he is watching sports center, he is simply watching sports center. Ladies, this explains why your husband can be watching television and seem as though he is in a trance, unable to notice even a fire sweeping through the home.
In addition to our men folk compartmentalizing their life and responsibilities into cute little boxes (I like to picture them with pretty bows on top), they are also problem solvers by nature. Therefore when an issue arises, they take it, stick it in a box, size it up, and work immediately to find a solution. Sounds great, right? Well, sort of. The problem with this is they will only spend most of their time in boxes they know they can succeed in. And the ones that confuse or make them feel like a failure, they put on a shelf in the back part of their brain and ignore. This also holds true for communication. If they can’t solve it or understand it, they more than likely don’t want to talk about it.
(And I can hear all of the men quietly saying, aaaamen.)
But women? Oh, no! We like to talk. A lot. And we like to talk about everything, especially when dealing with a stressful issue, such as infertility and everything it entails. And here is why. When we feel our noodles are all in a jumble, all of our emotions, all of our issues and all of our conversations need to be processed and put into their proper place. And for women this “noodle filing” is usually done by talking about the issue from every possible angle (spiritual, relational, emotional, logical). It makes us feel better when we do even if the problem never gets solved.
Men on the other hand, don’t talk just to feel better.
For men, testosterone reduces stress and it’s stimulated through solving problems. Conversation about a problem that does not involve some sort of resolution will actually lower his testosterone levels, and he’ll start feeling uncomfortable and bored. Maybe even confused, stressed, defeated. And dare I say it? Worse for actually having the conversation.
Are things starting to make sense, ladies? Are you starting to understand why it is that when you try to talk to him about your struggles, he never seems to hear a word you say and when given the chance, he quickly changes the subject, or better yet, offers you simple band-aid solutions like, “It will all work out”? It’s not because he doesn’t care. But rather, because he does care. And he cares deeply and passionately. That’s why he has more than likely placed this issue, the issue of infertility, where it is. In a box, taped up, and on the top shelf in the very back of his brain. It hurts him too much to think about it. It hurts him too much to talk about it. And it hurts him in ways that are unimaginable each time he sees your heart aching. Each time you take the medicine, each time you are poked and prodded, each time you leave a doctor’s office in tears…he has to open up the box and look at the contents. And because he doesn’t know how to understand all of the feelings involved, and because he doesn’t know how to fix the issue at hand, he quickly closes the box, tapes it shut, and again, tucks it in the very back part of his brain.
As wives we need to understand these boxes because sometimes (not all of the time) we need to help him leave his infertility box where it is…on the top shelf, in the back. Does this mean you should never talk to them about your struggles? Your painful emotions? Or the bad days that rock you to the core? No. That’s not what I am saying at all. This is not a “get out of jail free card” per say. I am just suggesting that you don’t need to let him see you ugly cry (different than the normal cry) after every negative pregnancy test. Or complain to him every single time you see a pregnant woman in the grocery store or hear of yet another pregnancy announcement. (Perhaps save that for a girlfriend or your journal.) Or maybe if you do need to talk to him about it, you go ahead and let him think he is solving the problem and bandaging up your wounds with his band-aid words of hope instead of lashing out at him for being too optimistic.
I know that for me, I don’t talk to my husband every day, or even every week about our struggle. I don’t let him know when it’s ovulation time (how is he supposed to jump in his sex box if I just made him open up the infertility box too?). I also don’t let him know about the pregnancy announcement on Facebook that made me want to punch the computer screen. Or point out the pregnant woman who caused my womb to ache. Instead, I just find another plate of spaghetti…I find a friend. I confide in her. I spill my guts out to her. I cry on her shoulder and complain of how unfair all of this can be. And I know that because she intertwines her thoughts and emotions like I do, she gets it. She understands the pain in my heart and the frustrations that overwhelm my soul. This is why I feel so strongly about the need to attend an infertility support group and the benefits that can come from it. But in the event I can’t talk to my friend or attend a support group, I grab a blanket, a box of Kleenex, and my journal and process my noodles through writing it out on paper. I may not always find a solution when I do either of these things, but I always feel better when I am done.
Ladies, our husbands like to stay in the boxes that cause them satisfaction and bring success, so let’s help them. If we keep pulling out a box on a daily basis that does the opposite unnecessarily, science shows that their testosterone is going to be lowered and we are going to see them withdraw. Even crumble. And we might even start to see them resent us and our strong desire for a family. And again, it’s not because he doesn’t care. The fact is he cares so much it hurts.
* Disclaimer: This article is my opinion. The information I have given is based upon what I have gathered from reading the book, as well as from talking with my husband and other husbands who are also dealing with the struggles of infertility. I realize not all men will act, think, or respond in the same manner I have shared. Everyone is different. I would also like to emphasize once again that we still need to talk to our husbands about life’s struggles. This is not a “get out of jail card” for them. But at the same time, I believe we need to just be more mindful of when and how often we do.*
If you live in Southern Illinois and would like to join my once a month infertility support group (The Nest), I already have a seat saved for you! All you need to do is email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for directions and details!
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