Of Waffles and Spaghetti and Understanding Your Spouse

Early on in our marriage, my wife and I learned something that forever changed how we communicate and understand each other. The speakers who taught us, a couple that had been together for fifty plus years, presented an analogy that became the basis for our communication.

I realize there are some sweeping generalization and there are always exceptions to the rule, however; this has been such a powerful aid to my marriage that I want to share it.

Men are like waffles, and women are like spaghetti.



A waffle is made up of dozens of squares. Each square is its own little island and while some squares share borders, each is clearly distinct. Men have one big square in the middle, the sex square, that touches all the other squares. We are never more than one hop away from that square.

Men live lives of beautiful compartmentalization with little crossover. What happens in one square stays in that square. We don’t like to multitask. We don’t enjoy skipping from square to square to square. We go to one square and then move to another square. It’s why it’s such a bad idea to ask us for our opinion on dresses or drapes when we are watching the football game. We are in our football square. By the time we get back over to the ‘husband’ square, we’ve said something really inane. We don’t switch squares that fast, that easily or that well.

This compartmentalization can be a great asset to us. It allows us to really focus down, and helps us solve problems. By our nature, we are problem solvers. That’s actually a subject for another post altogether.

We tend to prefer boxes that make us feel powerful or successful. I think that’s why I keep running back to the gaming box when I struggle with writing. I’m good at gaming. It makes me feel successful (even if that success is largely illusionary, but my brain doesn’t care).


Women are this big plate of spaghetti. Noodles are all over the place, and everything is covered in sauce and cheese and spices. Nothing is distinct. It’s all just once big conglomeration.

Every topic and area of their lives overlays with all the others and what happens in one area can have an impact, good or bad, on all the others. I think it’s why women are better at multitasking than men (This is not just my opinion. The Mythbusters proved it).  It’s why you’ll be having a discussion with your wife about topic paying the bills and all of sudden she wants to talk about going over to your friends house. I want to stay in the square we were just in (especially if it’s that big square), but her noodles have overlapped.

When my wife wants to change subjects like this now, she will look at me and say “follow the noddle”. It’s a code phrase we developed to clue me in that I’m about to on a wild ride.

Where her noddles caused a major issue was in critical moments when I first come home from the day job. My wife would deluge me with a myriad of wildly varied topics. She’d jump for work to the kids to dinner to plans for the weekend.

Men don’t switch squares that fast, that easily or that well.

When my wife did that, I used to get annoyed, and angry. Then she would angry. It was a downhill spiral from there. Now she looks at me and says “Sorry, spaghetti.” I get it and we move on.


Understanding the metaphor helped my wife understand that she needs to give me a little time to change topics. It helped me understand what’s happening when she shifts topics in the middle of a conversation or wants an opinion on which dress to wear when I’m watching football.

As our communication and our understanding of how the other person thought and felt improved, we fought less and enjoyed our time together more. Our relationship and our time together became a ‘success’ square. I wanted to be there more often.

Does this metaphor ring true of your own relationship? Would it help you and your spouse understand each other better?


I later learned the speakers had based their own analogy on a book written by Bill and Pam Ferrel called “Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti : Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences” (http://www.amazon.com/Men-Like-Waffles-Women-Spaghetti-Understanding/dp/0736919619 – Amazon link. Not an affiliate link.)

Spathetti image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 Waffle image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net