[VIEWPOINT]Mars versus Venus

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[VIEWPOINT]Mars versus Venus

Do men and women really understand each other? Do married couples grow to understand each other more the longer they live together?
I met with the president of a venture company some time ago. He said that the executives of his company, as well as himself, were used to finishing work after midnight. It probably would have been appropriate for me to show respect for hard-working people like him as the pillars of the Korean economy, but being the cranky person that I am, I said I was sure the wives of his executives were not happy about that and asked if the company had a high divorce rate.
He said no. He said the wives were happy because the company paid large bonuses for their husbands’ work. He added there probably weren’t any problems at home because his workers were working late, not doing anything wrong.
How strange that is.
I too have many friends whose husbands are slaves to their companies. The wives say that their husbands come home at around 11 o’clock at night on weekdays, and either sleep all day on weekends or go out to play golf. Their husbands bring home money, certainly, but they are more like boarders and the wives complain that they endure this unhappy married life because of the children.
I have heard that our country has a high divorce rate. People say that 140,000 couples each year and 381 couples each day go through divorce. Nowadays, almost everyone has a divorced member in their family or amongst their close friends. Our society has become a place where individuals from all walks of life blurt out their demands and it seems that the family unit has also become like that.
However, husbands do not seem to be aware of any crisis yet. Surveys on marriage satisfaction, both in Korea and abroad, show that husbands are more satisfied than are wives. In other words, while husbands think there is nothing wrong with the family unit and that everything is stable, wives have a lot to complain about. Therefore, husbands and wives live in a trance of misunderstanding each other as the disparity in the statistics shows.
I told the above-mentioned businessman about the life story of a younger friend of mine. Her story is one that should send out an alarm to husbands who provide their wives with their salary but always seem to be outside of their homes. It has become a legend among our friends. Her husband, a specialist and a “faithful head of the family,” only went back and forth between his home and his office, while making a lot of money. However, my friend asked her husband for a divorce. When he expressed his distress and asked what he had done wrong, my friend said, “You didn’t make me happy.”
The middle-aged company president was shocked. “Although he didn’t do anything wrong?” he asked, and I answered, “She wasn’t happy!”
After a short silence, he asked again, “So what happened?” I told him, “They got divorced. My friend met someone better later.” He asked, “And what about the husband?” I said, “I don’t know.”
When we were about to part, he asked me again, “Do you think the man got remarried too?” I guess he was really shocked. I am not sure whether he was shocked at the fact that a woman might pursue happiness in marriage over financial stability, or whether he sympathized more with the man who worked too much, like himself.
In any society, when a certain level of economic satisfaction is achieved, people are bound to discuss their quality of life and pursue psychological and mental satisfaction.
A man who is overly confident he satisfies his wife simply because he earns a lot of money is more likely to have problems communicating with his wife.
Man and woman. They definitely belong to different species. The way they communicate with each other is different and the way they approach things is also. We experience this difference in our everyday lives, even if we don’t talk about men being from Mars and women from Venus.
It may sound paradoxical in this day when equal rights for men and women are emphasized, but we have to be aware that men and women are different. By paying more attention to the delicate differences in gender, we might be able to co-exist more harmoniously.
There is no guarantee that what both want and expect from marriage is the same, just because the two eat at the same table, have children together and sleep in the same bed.
Just as an anthropologist who studies different races and different tribes, couples need to keep distance from each other purposely, thinking of each other as if they belonged to different species instead of as just husbands or wives, and try to guess what the other might be thinking. The saying that a married couple is one in mind and body sounds more anachronistic than ever these days.
Let’s always be aware what our spouses are thinking.

* The writer is an interpreter and TV personality. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff writer.

by Bae Yoo-jung
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