(LifeWire) -- As Walter Christensen, a 53-year-old physics professor from Pomona, California, discovered, when it comes to cuddling, women know what they want. When he and his lover spend the night together, he's usually awoken around 3 a.m. with a familiar request.
"She calls out, 'Spoon, spoon!'" he says. He willingly obliges with front-to-back cuddling -- even though he admits he probably wouldn't do so without being asked.
"I like the feeling of her wanting to do that," he says, "so I do it out of a sense of responsibility."
His lover, 32-year-old art-history scholar Natalie Valle, appreciates the attention.
While the differences between the sexes drive some couples to distraction, being aware of them enhances relationships, as Christensen and Valle can attest. Is there hope for the rest of us? Researchers have found that science can be used to explain a lot of behavior that widens the gender gap, and in so doing may help couples understand each other better. Watch Headlines' Robin Meade read your e-mails on opposite sex »
1. Women want to cuddle
What you think: Women love to cuddle after sex, whereas men just want to fall asleep.
What the experts say: "During sexual intercourse, oxytocin is released in both men and women, and that encourages bonding within the couple," says Dr. Marianne J. Legato, founder of the Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University and author of "Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget."
Oxytocin is a hormone often associated with love because its levels increase during intimate acts like hugging, kissing and intercourse. However, "testosterone neutralizes the effect of oxytocin, so men are less likely to want to prolong contact after orgasm."
2. Men hate shopping
What you think: Men hate to go shopping with their mate because they think it's a waste of time.
What the experts say: Men do enjoy shopping when they get to "hunt" for a specific item, whereas women enjoy "grazing" for items. This goes back to our hunting and gathering days, when losing focus could mean losing the week's meal.
"Men are much more task-oriented," says Robert Schwarz, a psychologist and director of the Mars and Venus Counseling and Wellness Center in Haverford, Pennsylvania. "They hunt it, they kill it, they buy it and they go out."
In the aptly titled 2007 study "Men Buy, Women Shop," University of Pennsylvania researchers found that factors having to do with speed and convenience were the most important for men. Of the 1,250 male and female shoppers surveyed by phone, finding parking near the store or mall entrance was the No. 1 problem men said they encountered when shopping (29 percent of respondents), whereas women cited "lack of help" as their chief complaint (also 29 percent).
3. Women make mountains out of molehills
What you think: Women obsess about every little thing; men seem to have it all under control.
What the experts say: Men are problem-solvers and tend to bring up a problem only in order to search for its solution, says Schwarz. The "eureka" moment of problem-solving increases the level of dopamine, a pleasure-inducing chemical, in the brain. (This also explains why men will wait until it's absolutely necessary to stop and ask for directions.)
Women relieve stress by talking and relating their problems to others, which produces serotonin, said to enhance moods and ward off depression.
4. Men are impervious to cold
What you think: Men are content to freeze, while women always want to turn up the thermostat.
What the experts say: According to the Mayo Clinic, women are more sensitive to cold than men are, but not because they like to feel warm and cozy. Because women on average are smaller than men, their metabolic rate tends to be lower. This means their bodies generate less heat. They also tend to have less fat, which acts as insulation, on their upper bodies and around their waists, as well as less muscle mass, which also helps keep the body warm.
5. Women Love 'chick flicks'
What you think: Women prefer romantic movies (aka "chick flicks") while men like action and adventure.
What the experts say: Women may like romantic movies better than men, but in a 2007 study at Kansas State University, men rated romantic movies "higher than most people would have guessed," says psychology professor Richard Harris, who led the survey of 265 Kansas State students. On a scale of 1 to 7, men gave the movies a 4.8, while women rated them a 6.
However, "we found that when seeing the film on a date ... if one party makes the decision, then they stay true to those stereotypes, with guys choosing to go to a violent film and women choosing a romantic film," Harris told the Reuters news agency in January.
Jose Ferraro can relate. He spent New Year's Day at the theater, dozing through the romantic drama "Atonement" with his wife, Kyle.
"She tricked me into going," says the 44-year-old engineer from Yorba Linda, California.
His wife, Kyle, a 49-year-old fitness instructor, fesses up: "I said there was some fighting in it," she admits.
LifeWire provides original and syndicated lifestyle content to Web publishers. Joy Hepp is a freelance journalist from Los Angeles. She writes about relationships, travel, culture and environmental issues for various online and print publications.
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