Episode 71: The Science Behind Our Differences

by | Last updated: Apr 23, 2024 | Podcast

If you understand this, your marriage will automatically become so much easier…

The differences between males and females in relationship starts with the brain – and it starts before we’re even born.

In this episode, we’re digging into the science behind our natural differences, plus how our different brain development impacts our male/female relationships as adults – based on Dr. Louann Brizendine’s research, laid out in her book: The Female Brain.

You’ll discover the neurological reasons behind our distinct ways of communication and emotional processing, plus how this shapes our marriage relationships and male/female interactions.

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

3:37 – Our differences begin before we’re even born
7:58 – Baby girls are born knowing how to “read the room”
10:55 – The physiological differences in male/female communication
13:23 – Why women are the 1st to notice disharmony in relationships
18:40 – Why your marriage *feels* different to you… than to your husband

Featured On The Science Behind Our Differences

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Struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you’re serious about finding that answer?

Book a Truth & Clarity Session with a member of my team. We’ll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there’s a fit for you and I to work together so you can make - and execute - the RIGHT decision for YOU and your marriage.

Welcome to the Loving Truth Podcast, where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now your host relationship expert and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope. This is Sharon Pope and this is the Loving Truth. Today I wanna talk about the science behind some of the differences that we have between men and women. You see,

I feel like, well first of all, there are so many differences between men and women, but I genuinely feel like if we can understand what those differences are at a very granular level, then it makes it easier for us to be in relationship with each other. Because just because we're human beings does not mean that we operate the same way, or that we experience the world in the same way.

And there are lots of different ways in which we were brought up where the nurture part of our experience is very, very different. And little girls grow into young women who grow into becoming mature women. Little boys grow up and they become young men who grow into becoming mature men. But there's really no rite of passage, if you will. There's no class you have to go through that you graduate,

and now, now you're an adult. Now you know all the things that you're gonna need in order to adult. Well, we don't really have that. So a lot of the stuff that we learn from a nurture perspective, and of course all the things that are still there from a nature perspective, the physiological differences between us, those things we just carry into adulthood.

And so that's why sometimes as adults, we're literally operating from our childhood experiences or our child mind, if you will, because we've never really released the things that we learned or were socialized to pick up on as we grew up and made some conscious choices about do I wanna keep that as an adult? Is it serving me? Is this belief or perspective of what I learned growing up,

going to help me achieve the goals that I want to achieve as an adult? We never really go through that sort of conscious awareness to figure out what it is that we really want to do with all the nature and nurture stuff as an adult until we have to. So I'm gonna share with you three things, and all of these came from the book,

the Female Brain, by Dr. Luann Brisendine. If you've not read this book, it is fantastic. I have to get her on the podcast, help me get her on the podcast. I'm gonna work on that. So she is an md, and so she's looking at it from a physiological perspective of what are the differences between men and women. She also has another book called The Male Brain,

where she compares and contrasts these differences between the male experience and the female experience, of which there are many. And it starts to give you some insight into why we see things so differently, and therefore why it makes our relationship experience sometimes more difficult than we think it should be. So today, what I wanna share with you are three pieces. I'm gonna call 'em science based data points that will help you make sense of these differences between men and women.

But we're gonna go all the way back to our childhood, and I'm gonna show you how these differences don't just come about as adults. Our differences literally start in utero, okay? So, and I'm gonna extrapolate that and share with you how that shows up in our adult mature relationships. Okay? So the first thing that I wanna share with you is that the female,

so the brain of a fetus is always XX chromosome, which essentially just means it is the default brain is a female brain until we hit week eight in utero. Here's what happens at week eight, if it is a little boy in utero, he gets a flood of testosterone, this huge surge of testosterone at week eight for a boy brain. And what happens when that brain gets flooded with testosterone is that it literally kills off some of the cells in the communication centers of the brain,

and then it starts growing more cells in the sex and aggression centers of the brain. So you can already start to see how the differences between men and women show up or begin way before you ever thought they began. Like this is before the child is even born, that those differences start to show up. So this is one of the reasons why women have more brain cells that are devoted towards communication,

towards reading other people's emotions and feelings, social nuance, responsiveness, and nurturing skills, right? We, because of the hormonal cocktail in the female brain, we just have more brain cells dedicated to those functions. Now, this does not mean that women are smarter. It does not mean that women have more brain cells. That is not what I am saying.

I'm saying we have more brain cells dedicated to, we'll call it the communication and nurturing centers of the brain. Now, to give you an idea of how this might show up, I remember this was probably a few years ago, a client had said to me, she was complaining about something that was happening with her husband. He had walked into the room,

I think it was a family function or something like that. And the room was pretty somber because someone was talking about a hardship that they were going through, and he sort of entered into the room and entered into the conversation, but was real joking and jovial and lighthearted and all of that. And she got really irritated at her husband about his behavior. And the way she described it is she said,

read the room, dude. And I started laughing when she said that, because I know that reading a room that's a female thing, like we can walk into a situation and inside of a few seconds, get a vibe for what's the temperature in the room, and we can adjust and accommodate to that. We pay attention to that. We're paying attention to other people's feelings all the time.

That's not something that the male brain just does. So that's why I kind of giggled when she said, read the room, because that's not something that men do. It's not a part of their makeup. But we think because we do it and we do it so very easily that everyone should be able to do it. And isn't that the way with almost everything,

like the things that we're really good at or the things that come very naturally for us, we don't really place a high importance on it, and we think it should be easy for everyone when that's not the case, particularly when you start comparing the differences between men and women. Alright? So literally before we are even born little girls start building up more brain cells in the communication centers of the brain,

and little boys start building up more brain cells in the aggression and sex centers of the brain. Alright, now let's go to the second point that I wanted to share with you. And this is all around emotional expression. And now this is when we're talking about little girls. So think you know, infant toddler, maybe up to early middle school range.

Little girls come out of the womb reading faces, studying, faces your facial expression, and they'll make far more eye contact than little boys will. They're literally reading, like if you've ever seen a little baby girl, she sometimes she'll just stare at your face as you're holding her, right? And what she's doing is she's studying to understand. So the first three months,

listen to this, the first three months girls' skill as it relates to eye contact and mutual gazing will improve by 400% in the first three months of her life. Little boys, their gazing skills will not improve at all during this time. So that's already a huge distinction, and I want you to realize that little girls are driving meaning from what they see in other people's faces and who are the other people in their lives,

but their parents. And so they're reading faces from your reactions, from whether you're paying attention to them or not, whether you're looking them in the eyes, whether you're reacting with a smile or you're, you're sort of stoic. They're interpreting emotionless faces as though they've done something wrong. And so then by the time they're a toddler, they know based upon your reaction to them and your facial expression,

they're, they're creating meaning about that. So if they feel like they've done something wrong, then they'll try to do something right or funny or silly to try to get a good response from you because little girls are built for that connection. They will literally, I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but a little girl will know if you're listening to her or not,

because she's paying attention to whether or not you're making eye contact with her. If you're in your phone, don't be surprised if a little girl says to you, daddy, look at me or Mommy, do you see me? Do you see me? Because what they're going for is that mutual gazing, and they want to see, they want to get their,

your approval of them just by reading your face. So this is something that happens at such a young age. Now, how does that extrapolate into our adult mature relationships? We are still reading faces, right? So when, when we are having, let's say, a very difficult conversation with our spouse, let's just say that we're sharing a hardship about our day,

something happened in our day that we are upset about, and we're wanting to share that with our spouse. If our spouse is not making eye contact with us, we automatically assume he's not interested. He doesn't care. We might even make that mean he doesn't love us. We might make it mean he's so selfish. All he cares about is his, is himself,

right? We might go so far as to make it mean that we might, if he's, let's say that he's making eye contact, but his face is very flat, like there's no expression, and he's not saying any words. We might think that he's tuned out, and then we might make that tuning out mean that he doesn't even care about what's happening to us,

or that he doesn't care and he doesn't love us. Like it, it all comes back to a similar sort of storyline, if you will, because we give that meaning just like little girls created, meaning what they were figuring out at that very young age is, do I matter to you? Am I worthy? Am I worthy of love? Am I worthy of belonging?

Am I acceptable to you? Like they're picking up on that at a very young age. And this is why sometimes when, let's say like moms might go through postpartum depression, well, they, they're not feeling great, of course, right? And so they, they might be feeling really depressed or really out of sorts, and that can have an impact on the child,

especially if it's a little girl who's trying to read faces and read expressions to make some meaning about her, her value, her worthiness, her lovability, right? All right, the last thing I wanna share with you, and like I said, there are, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of differences, but I would say at least a hundred or or a hundred ish meaningful differences between men and women that we can trace back to both nature and nurture that are meaningful as it relates to our relationships,

right? There's probably thousands of differences between men and women, but as it relates to our relationships, there's some things that we need to pay attention to. Okay? The third thing, since we're going all the way back to childhood with where all these differences begin, is girls are built for social connection and having harmonious relationships, right? They want their relationships to feel good,

to feel connected, to feel loving. This is why I, as women, we pay really close attention to how our relationships feel, particularly how our most intimate relationship feels. This is why women will notice typically before men will, when the marriage starts to feel a little bit disconnected, this is also why women will be the first to usually go out and try to find what is a solution to this problem that we have.

So little girls, when they lose their best friend, let's say they get in a fight with their best friend, and now they're no longer best friends. Doesn't that consume her? It takes up all of her focus and her awareness, and she's super sad. The reason for that is because the worst thing that can happen in a little girl's life is a break or a disconnection in a relationship,

and it starts very young, and we carry that into adulthood. So little girls will demonstrate a need to stay connected to their friends and their family, and the people that they love. They want to gain approval. I'm gonna tell you something. We learn how to people, please, at a very young age, think about just the, the innocence of this and how this happens,

right? When we do the things that our parents or our teachers want us to do, as a little kid, we get some version of love pointed at us. We get acceptance, we get approval, we get love, we get, you know, it's like standing in the sun. That's what it feels like, right? It's like you are a good girl,

you're doing a great job, you're worthy. Like, that's what little girls get. And when they're acting out or doing something that parents or teachers don't want them to be doing, then they get the frowny face and they get looks or expressions of disapproval, right? And so girls are built for gaining approval, and we learn at a very young age,

oh, I know how to gain approval. Just do all the things that the big people want me to do. So we learn how to people, please, at a very young age, if I do all the things that everyone else wants me to do, then I'll get their love in return, right? It's all just a cry for love. It's a cry for,

am I lovable? Am I worthy? And so we learn at a young age that if I just please everyone else, then I'll be loved, right? So it comes from such a pure innocent place, but it doesn't always serve us in our lives because now, you know, as adults, people pleasing can be really soul sucking because you lose yourself in that process.

Now, the other thing is that we learn as little girls to nurture. It's why little girls will play with dolls and will take care of dolls. They'll play house, they'll play babysitter. They'll, you know, like they, they play family. So they're nurturing from a young age. And that's not, that's not all things that they were taught.

That's literally from the hormonal cocktail that they're marinating in the higher level of estrogen, the lower level of testosterone that makes them more nurturing. Okay? So boys are far less concerned with conflict in their relationships. As a matter of fact, competition between little boys is part of their makeup, right? They come out playing competitive games, you know, they're playing soccer or Frisbee or,

you know, whatever at a really young age, and they learn to compete. And that testosterone makes it feel very, very natural for them to be competitive. It's just part of their makeup. Now, you'll also notice that little girls will use more collaborative language than little boys will use. So little girls might say, let's play house. Okay? Right?

They'll form it as a question, or they'll say, let's do this. That's that collaborative language. Now, it's not that little boys don't know how to do that, to use that collaborative language. They just often don't because it's easier. It's a more direct path to just, I want this to say what they want, to take what they want.

And they're not afraid of that conflict. So they approach relationships very differently, starting at a very young age. And then the last thing I will say is that little girls will also take turns 20 times more frequently than little boys will. And that is all about creating harmony and connection in relationships. So if you've ever wondered like why you are thinking, why,

why do I feel so disconnected in my marriage, but my husband's over here and he's fine. He thinks the marriage is great. How can we possibly have two very, very different experiences? This is the reason why, right? If you think about the makeup that we come into this world with, women are built for that connection, and they're built for that nurturing and our relationships.

And the, the harmony and connection inside those relationships is literally like the top of the food chain for us. It's how we view our lives. If our relationships are doing well, we probably feel pretty good about our lives, but when our relationships aren't doing well, we can feel like everything is crumbling around us. So relationships are incredibly important for little girls who grow into young women who grow into mature women,

right? And they're just not as important for little boys that grow into young men that grow into mature men, right? And that competition doesn't bother them. That disconnection doesn't register as that something's gone wrong. And so, for so many reasons, men and women have a very different way of experiencing the world, and therefore they show up very differently inside of their intimate relationships and carry very different expectations of what that relationship should be and what it should feel like.

So you might be thinking, well, why am I telling you all this? And how is this relevant? So hopefully I've built that bridge between your childhood and your adulthood and how some of the same stuff that was there as a kid, it's still there inside of us, inside of our hormonal cocktail. Whether you're 50 years old or you're five years old,

like there's some things that just you carry with you. And you know how at the beginning of this, I said, if we can understand these differences, we can be in relationship in a better way, in a, in an easier way, in a simpler way. This is one of those things that instead of judging our spouse for not seeing the relationship in the exact same way that we do,

or feeling about the relationship the way that we do, if we can understand that their experience is very different, look, we can rage against it all we want, we can not like that answer. We, we could think, you know what, men and women should have the exact same hormonal cocktail so that we will all be equally concerned with the health and happiness of our most intimate relationships.

Like you can want that all you want, but that doesn't make it true, right? I sometimes joke that I wanna look like Beyonce, but that doesn't actually make it true, does it? So anytime you rail against reality, you're going to lose and you're going to suffer. And so I don't want you to suffer. I want you to understand what's happening in this way,

at least at a minimum. You're not gonna judge your partner for not seeing it the way you see it. And you're gonna be able to operate and begin from a place of, look, I know we, we experience our marriage differently, and even that we have different expectations for how it should fulfill us in our lives. But I'd love to explain my experience to you so that you can see how important this relationship genuinely is to me.

You're gonna get so much further starting a conversation about your relationship with your husband, starting it like that than you are. What's wrong with you? And it's not fine. And how in the world can you think that we're doing fine right now? We need to go to therapy, we need to hire a coach. Like you're gonna get so much further in that conversation if you start from a place of understanding one another's experience,

all right? I hope that that gave you something to think about and to chew on so that you can hold your relationships with a bit more levity, a bit more lightness, knowing that we're just very, very different creatures, bumbling around, bumping into each other on this planet, doing the best we can, and sometimes screwing it up more often than we'd like to admit.

All right? But you're doing great and you're trying to reach for a relationship that feels intimate and connected and loving and soulful, and there's nothing wrong with that. I don't want you to give up on that at all. But when you understand your partner's experience, you might approach getting your needs met a little bit differently. All right? Until next time,

take really good care. If you're listening to this podcast because you're struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your marriage and you're serious about finding that answer, it's time to book a Truth and Clarity session with a member of my team on the call. We'll discuss where you are in your marriage and explore if there's a fit for you and I to work together so you can make and execute the right decision for you and your marriage.

Go to clarity for my marriage.com to fill out an application now that's clarity for my marriage.com.

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