Waffles and Spaghetti.

Basically, these two words represent the typical way men and women process their surroundings and their lives. Men are more compartmentalized. This is not to say simple or easy, but each aspect of their life goes into a a box. Men enter these boxes one at a time, size up a problem (if any), and seek to solve it immediately. Men are problem solvers by nature. They have work, children, wives/partners, dogs, hobbies, chores…all in separate “boxes.”

In their book “Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti”, Bill and Pam Farrel assert that men have boxes with no words, just images/memories. They also have boxes with no words and no images…just blank boxes. (Not making this up…straight from the book and confirmed by many of us men.) A man’s mind will often stick close to the boxes that make them feel like successes, feel good about themselves. They tend to avoid the boxes that make them feel like failures.

We do not mean that men “waffle” on all decisions and are generally unstable. What we mean is that men process life in boxes. If you look down at a waffle, you see a collection of boxes separated by walls. The boxes are all separate from each other and make convenient holding places. That is typically how a man processes life. Our thinking is divided up into boxes that have room for one issue and one issue only. The first issue of life goes in the first box, the second goes in the second box and so on. The typical man lives in one box at a time and one box only. When a man is at work, he is at work. When he is in the garage tinkering  around, he is in the garage tinkering. When he is watching TV, he is simply watching TV. That is why he looks as though he is in a trance and can ignore everything else going on around him. Social scientists call this “compartmentalizing”- that is, putting life and responsibilities into different compartments. As a result, men are problem solvers by nature. They enter a box, size up the “problem; and formulate a solution. (p.11)

Women, on the other hand, are very different. They process everything by it touching everything else. It’s much more of a process. Everything is connected. While at work, women can think of home or shopping. They tend to be more relational, and can tend to be much better at multi-tasking as a result of out ability to process this way. They will often catch guys in one of their “blank boxes” and ask them, “What are you thinking?” The blank stare they get is sometimes the truth!

In contrast to men’s waffle-like approach, women process life more like a plate of pasta. If you look at a plate of spaghetti, you notice that there are lots of individual noodles that all touch one another. If you attempted to follow one noodle around the plate. you would intersect a lot of other noodles, and you might even -switch to another noodle seamlessly. That is bow women face life. Every thought and issue is connected to every other thought and issue in some way. Life is much more of a process for women than it is for men. (p.13)

Communication, as you can imagine, between the two is challenging. A woman will come home from work, and when asked about her day, she can say, “It went fine. I got an email from Susan….the cancer’s back. Oh, we need to go to the grocery store and get shampoo and conditioner. Did you pick up David from practice? We should send a thank-you letter to the Johnsons for dinner last night, too.”

The man begins scrambling from box to box. Trying to enter the friend box, then the grocery box, then the children box….it’s a mess. Often, if a man feels like the communication box with their significant other is too challenging, they avoid it. (Which is why many women are the pursuers in relationships while men are the retreaters.) You might hear a man saying, “What’s the point of this conversation? Where is this going?” The woman is doing their thing, processing to the point (that they usually do have), taking their own path. The man would prefer the woman to say, “Can we talk [insert subject] now?” Then they enter the box and both people are on the same wavelength.

For many couples I work with on this concept it is usually a time when “lightbulbs” come on and each person in the relationship is saying, “YES! This is exactly how I feel!”

Question: Guys, have you ever felt like you were scrambling to catch up? Women, ever feel like you’re almost better off talking to yourselves? Does this ring true for you?