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How to Structure Your Marriage

My wife N'omi is often asked if she doesn't believe in equality for women, because some of the things she says sound odd to the modern ear. But she always replies:

"Why should I give up superiority for mere equality? I have worked at developing my feminine traits and my human abilities. So as a woman, I am superior. But as a man, I'm a failure.

"Why waste my time trying to be something I'm not? I can compete well with men in terms of some of my human abilities. But just as men can never compete with women in terms of feminine traits, I can never compete with men in terms of masculine traits.

"And since I used to counsel a group of gay and lesbian people, I can say with authority that if you knew what female impersonators or sex-change people went through mentally, emotionally, and physically, you wouldn't think it was so easy for men to compete with women at being female.

"I'll never be as strong as most men-they generally have 300% the upper-body strength of most women! And I'll never have the masterful presence of a man, no matter how powerful a presence I present as a woman.

"During the many years before I met Joel, I functioned as father and mother to five of my children. I was only able to fulfill the father role by telling my children stories of how wonderful their father was, and how much he loved them, and was proud of them. But I couldn't BE a father to them; only a faithful mom.

"Physically, beyond the obvious gender differences, men are jointed differently from women, which enables them to excel at certain activities that women find more difficult-though a woman's special jointing enables her to do things well that a man finds more difficult.

"Which makes my point: Each gender has gender-specific qualities, as well as human attributes.

"In fact, if a pathologist finds a single human bone, he can tell whether it was from a male or a female. A geneticist examining a single human cell can tell whether it is male or a female.

"So I believe in being the best of what I can be. That includes my feminine qualities, and it includes my human qualities. For this reason, I am a very strong woman, emotionally and mentally. I am not in conflict with myself or with the people around me.

"I am busy being me, and getting happier and more fulfilled with each passing year."

N'omi is really that wonderful woman, powerful and focused on fulfilling her potential-in her own life, and in our life together.

So what do N'omi and I have? Are we equal? No, because equal means the same. Men and women are not the same.

The only way in which all people are "created equal" is that we all have the same 24 hours a day in which to make decisions about who we have decided to be.

Marriage is not 1 + 1 = 2. That would be equality. Marriage is a partnership, to which each partner brings a different assortment of qualities: character traits, aptitudes, attributes, opinions, beliefs, and other accumulated stuff that makes them who they are.

In fact, this means that no two humans, regardless of gender, are really "equal" when they meet.

But in marriage, you are joining two very different sets of qualities, and adding gender qualities to the equation. This is a volatile mix because marriage is a partnership of unequals, not an equality of two identical parties.

We need to discard the idea that "unequal" means one is superior and one inferior. That's NOT what it means. "Unequal" just means "not the same," or "different." And anyone can see that every human is different from every other human.

Furthermore, many studies-psychological and physiological-show that men have many traits in common with each other that they don't share with women.

And many similar studies show that women have many traits in common with each other that they don't share with men.

Bottom Line: Marriage is a partnership, but not an equality. As a partnership, it consists of two very different people who bring different qualities to the relationship.

These qualities are of two kinds: Personal and gender. personal qualities are individual and not gender-specific. But there are gender-specific qualities that exist and must be recognized for what they are before true partnership can blossom.

Remember: Men and women are two races that share the same planet, but not much else! To get along happily, they have to learn about what's unchangeable-in their own and in their mate's nature-and what can be modified.

Then they will stop blaming, and start working together. That's partnership!

About the author: 'Dr. Joel Orr, "The Marriage Fixer," is a world-renowned consultant, speaker, and author on computer technology for engineers and architects. He and his wife, N'omi, have been counseling and coaching married couples for over 25 years.

He summarizes his learnings in his recent book of practical tips for marriage, "Every Man a Hero, Every Woman a Coach" ( 'hi

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