A famous feminist maxim of yesteryear asserted that “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” While possibly serving to stimulate a long overdue review of some of the inequities between the sexes, the axiom may have overstretched the point a tad.
Women do “need” men. And men “need” women. We were created for each other. Certainly, this reality is inscribed in the way our bodies are designed to fit each other, in spite of how strange we may find each other. A woman does not need a man “like” a fish needs a bicycle. Unlike the needs of fish, woman’s need for man (and his need for her) are of an entirely realistic order.
Understanding and Loving our Differences
Someone once said that the emotions of men are like a finely-tuned solo horn. The emotions of women, on the other hand are more like an orchestra. Both are beautiful in their own way but very, very different.
Our emotions have a certain ebb and flow, as every woman has experienced. Sometimes they’re overpowering, like surging waves. When we’re struggling under their power, the assistance of a man who is not engulfed by emotions can help to us to brook the undertow.
This “design”, and this need, is not only a physiological fact; it also pertains to the peculiar psyches of men and women as well. Men tend to operate more closely to their faculties of reason, and most women tend to be more emotionally in touch.
Men seem to have a set of mental “cupboards” in which they stash different experiences and stores of information. They can compartmentalize work, relationships, money, leisure, in a way that we cannot. This may drive us crazy, but it really is a gift.
Women can be less able to compartmentalize. Their lives and their feelings are all out in the living room of their minds. There is one hallway closet where they stuff everything they can’t deal with right now. And woe betide the person who accidentally bumps the door of that bulging closet! Under the ensuing avalanche, he wonders, “What was that?!”
How Complementarity Benefits Men and Women Emotionally
Call it the blues, the teary days; the days when we have one nerve left and someone is on it. They are no fun.
If we’re wise, we know that the monthly calendar might have something to do with it, and we’re gentle with ourselves. Either way, there is nothing like a reasonable man (whether it’s a dad or a husband) to throw us a lifesaver, to brush away the tears, give us a hug (or shrug) to bring us back to reality. A few days later, we’ve forgotten the darkness.
What do we do with our girlfriends? We wallow. Now, I’m not against the occasional wallow; the occasional extra glass of wine or chocolate bar. But my point is, a good man helps us not to get stuck in the ditch with our emotions. If we only had girlfriends—well, wallowing could become a way of life. So thank God for men!
Some men are more emotionally aware than others, but most are rather limited in their grasp of “what’s going on.” For all their rationality, men often miss the emotional content of an encounter and have no idea “what just happened there.” Thank God for the sensitivity that women bring to the party.
A woman, witnessing the very same encounter, can be totally aware of layers and layers of information to which the man has no access. She is sensitive to all kinds of non-verbal cues. She can explain the situation to the man in a way that he would be helpless to understand on his own. Thank God for women!
We are Created to Need Each Other
As much as it is the case that the sexes struggle to understand each other, it is also the case that we don’t entirely understand ourselves. We spend so much of our lives trying to decipher the gaps in our grasp of our humanity and its limitations.
This strange complementarity of our mutual giftings can provide a mirror by which to maneuver our way along, however dimly. Surely, God has created us to need each other more than fish need bicycles. Thank God!