"Every woman is a science," said John Donne. And if we take the time to carefully study women’s needs and how they differ from us as men, we’ll discover some fairly universal principles. There are always exceptions to the rule, but here are some fundamental ways in which women are different from men.

Women are not as independent as we are.

Let’s face it; we love the mystique of the rugged "Marlboro Man" image. Sure, it’s cliché, but we can’t get over this tough-minded, lone cowboy who reports to nobody as he freely rides the range. Women, on the other hand, couldn’t give a can of beans about protecting their autonomy. They prize what Harvard’s Carol Gilligan calls "a web of connectedness." Just as we are threatened by a challenge to our independence, so are women threatened by a rupture in their relationships. So don’t expect women to fully understand and accept your "need for space." Don’t expect them to romanticize your independence. Instead, do yourself and your relationships with women a favor - bite the bullet and let them know you value the relationship even when you need to ride the range.

Women focus on the here-and-now more than we do.

Someone defined the future as a place where men spend most of their time. You and I both know that’s not exactly true, but it becomes more true in comparison to women. While we are scheming plans and solving problems for a better tomorrow, most women are asking, "What’s going on right now and how do I (and others) feel about it?" Women focus on current feelings and experiences because these build emotional bonds of connection between them. So while we men are more interested in the "report" of what has happened and where we are going, women are more interested on building "rapport" right now. The bottom line is that if you want to get down to the task of solving problems for the future with the women in your life, you must first take the time to explore their feelings about the present.

Women are not as competitive as we are.

As little kids growing up, boys play games in large groups with an emphasis on winning. Competition is the name of this male-gender game, literally. Little girls, on the other hand, play together in small, intimate groups, with an emphasis on minimizing hostility and maximizing cooperation. The same emphasis follows both genders into adulthood. As men, we still want to prove our point, keep score, and win the debate in conversation, while women are more likely to sacrifice superiority as the price for keeping peace. It’s not that one mode is necessarily better than the other; they both have their strengths and weaknesses. But if we want to build a healthy relationship with the women in our lives, we must honor their cooperative spirit and take care not to step on their toes.