Friday, August 24, 2012

Coping with the "Nothing Box"

One of my favorite YouTube videos is a clip from a humorous marriage seminar by Mark Gungor about men's brains versus women's brains. This video references one of the thorns in the side of my marriage: my husband's "Nothing Box."

Gungor describes the differences between men's and women's brains in terms of connectedness of thoughts. He interprets women's brains as "Internet Superhighways" in which everything is connected with everything. In contrast, he portrays men's brains as a collection of compartmentalized boxes. Each box contains one subject or activity, and men can only be in one box at a time.
And one of these boxes is empty. He calls this the "Nothing Box."

The Necessity of the "Nothing Box"
The concept of the "Nothing Box" has given my husband both an explanation and an excuse for an irritating behavior within our marriage. When he gets home from work, he almost always requests some time to decompress. What he means is that, as a man, he requires some time to do nothing.
After work, my super-connected brain runs through the list of chores I have to do, preparations necessary for the next day, problems I left at work, projects I'd like to start, things the baby is up to… the list goes on. And on. On the other hand, my husband is perfectly content to sit on the couch, zoning out, doing and thinking about nothing.
Now let me be clear: I respect my husband's need to be a "guy." If it is truly necessary for him to spend some time in his "Nothing Box" in order to function, then he should be entitled to that time. In fact, I probably ought to take a page out of his book from time to time in order to keep from going insane. But there has to be a limit. 

Something for Nothing (Box)

If there was no limit, I’m pretty sure my husband would gladly spend the entirety of every evening in his “Nothing Box” and get away with it. After all, this is his manly need. In the meantime, my Internet Superhighway and I would be forced, out of the necessity created by our never-ending stream of interconnected thought, to run the household.

And so, in order to cope, my husband and I have to be very literal. When my husband gets home, he asks for some “Nothing Box” time. On a good night, we set a limit for this “Nothing Box” time – fifteen minutes or so – and then we set a goal for each of us to accomplish that night. This way, my husband gets his relaxation time, followed by some time in one household-related box. And I get some relief for my incessant thoughts, knowing that I will have some help that night.

Whether or not Gungor’s description of men’s brains versus women’s brains is accurate, the “Nothing Box” concept seems to ring true in our marriage. While it may be true that Gungor has given my husband an excuse to do nothing – every woman’s pet peeve – I suppose it’s worth the wasted minutes if “Nothing Box” time will help him make room for another, more productive, box later.

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