QUESTION: You've discussed briefly some of the physiological and emotional differences between the sexes. Could you list other physical characteristics unique to males and females?

ANSWER: Men and women differ in countless ways, many of which they aren't even conscious of. Here are just a few:

1. A woman has greater constitutional vitality, perhaps because of her unique chromosomal pattern. In the United States, she'll normally outlive a man by three or four years. Females simply have a stronger hold on life than males.

2. Men have a higher incidence of death from almost every disease except disorders related to female reproduction and breast cancer.

3. The sexes differ in skeletal structure, women having a shorter head, broader face, less protruding chin, shorter legs and longer trunk. The first finger of a woman's hand is usually longer than the third; with men the reverse is true. Men's teeth last longer than do those of women.

4. Women have a larger stomach, kidneys, liver and appendix, and smaller lungs than men.

5. Women have three very important physiological functions totally absent in men - menstruation, pregnancy and lactation. Each of these mechanisms influences behavior and feelings significantly. Female hormonal patterns are more complex and varied. The glands work differently in the two sexes.

For example, a woman's thyroid is larger and more active; it enlarges during menstruation and pregnancy, which makes her more prone to goiter, provides resistance to cold, is associated with the smooth skin, relatively hairless body and the thin layer of subcutaneous fat that are important elements in the concept of personal beauty.

6. Women's blood contains more water (20 percent fewer red cells). Since these supply oxygen to the body, she tires more easily and is more prone to faint. Her constitutional viability is therefore strictly a long-range matter. When the working day in British factories, under wartime conditions, was increased from 10 to 12 hours, accidents caused by women increased 150 percent - but not at all by men.

7. Men are stronger than women in brute strength.

8. Women's hearts beat more rapidly than those of men (80 beats per minute vs. 72); their blood pressure (10 points lower than men) varies more from minute to minute; but they have much less tendency to have high blood pressure - at least until after menopause.

9. Women can withstand higher temperatures better than men due to a difference in their metabolism.

10. Men and women differ in every cell of their bodies because they carry a differing chromosomal pattern. The implications of those genetic components range from obvious to extremely subtle.

Who can estimate how many other sex-related influences lie below the level of consciousness?

QUESTION: My wife and I sometimes get into fights when neither of us really wants to argue. I'm not even sure how it happens. We just find ourselves locking horns and then feeling bad about it later. Why can't we get along even when we want to?

DR. DOBSON: To answer the question I would need to know more about the circumstances that set off the two of you. The best I can do is describe one of the most common sources of conflict between people who are committed to each other. I call it experiencing "differing assumptions."

When husbands and wives engage one another in angry combat they often feel hurt, rejected and assaulted by the other person. But when these battles are analyzed objectively, we often see that neither side really meant to wound the other. The pain resulted not from intentional insults, but from the natural consequences of seeing things from a different angle.

For example, a man might assume that Saturday is his day to play golf or watch a game on television because he worked hard all week and deserved a day off. Who could blame him? But his wife might justifiably assume that he should take the kids off her hands for a few hours because she's been wiping runny noses and changing diapers all week long. She deserved a break today and expected him to give it to her. Again, it's a pretty reasonable assumption. When these unique perspectives collide, about 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, the sparks start to fly.

How can you avoid the stresses of differing assumptions at home? By making sure that you and your wife get no surprises. Most of us can cope with anything if we see it coming in time.

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