This week, Life Training Online is reviewing Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex, by John Gray Ph.D., the twenty-sixth of fifty-two books in the 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks series.
Men Are from Mars Women Are from Venus
Right at the outset of his book, Gray explores the fundamental differences between men and women. To develop his ideas, Gray uses the metaphor in which men and women are descendants of two separate races which originated from two vastly different planets: men from Mars and women from Venus.
It is the clash of the two cultures that is the source of conflict between the Martians and the Venusians, and resolution can only come by learning to understand, respect and adapt to these differences.
Mr. Fix-It and the Home-Improvement Committee
According to Gray, the most frequent complaint that women have about men is that they don’t listen. Either he completely ignores her when she’s speaking or he listens for a few moments, figures out what’s bothering her and immediately puts on his “Mr. Fix-It” hat — offering a solution to make her feel better. She wants empathy, but he thinks she wants solutions.
What it really comes down to is that when men hear that there’s a problem they naturally want to fix it. However, men need to understand that women don’t want their problems ‘fixed’ they want their problems to be acknowledged.
For men, their most frequent complaint of women is that they are always trying to change them. She forms a “Home-Improvement Committee”, with him as her primary focus. She feels responsible for his growth and no matter how much he resists, she looks for any opportunity to help him or tell him what to do. She thinks she’s nurturing him, but he feels controlled and only wants her acceptance.
Men don’t like their problems addressed unless they solicit for help themselves. When a women offers a man unsolicited advice, he assumes she thinks he doesn’t know what to do or that he can’t do it himself.
Men Go to Their Caves and Women Talk
One of the major points of Gray’s book is the difference in the way men and women react under stress. He believes that many men become focused and withdrawn, retreating to their “cave” where they can find a solution to the problem. Women, on the other hand, deal with stress by talking about the problem. Talk, for women, creates intimacy.
This difference leads to the the dynamic of the man retreating as the woman constantly tries to grow closer. As a result,this becomes a huge source of unnecessary tension in a relationship.
When the two begin to understand and accept each other’s differences, this tension will be released. Women will see that when a man goes into his cave, it is not a sign that he doesn’t love her. He’s just dealing with stress. Men will realize that when a woman is talking about her problems, it is not because he is failing her in some way, but that she just needs that release and will soon be back to normal when she feels she’s been heard.
How to Motivate the Opposite Sex
Men feel motivated when they feel needed. Women feel motivated when they feel cherished.
If in a relationship, when a man doesn’t feel needed, he gradually becomes passive and less energized. As the days go on he feels he has less and less to offer. On the flip side, when he feels he can fulfill her needs and is appreciated for his efforts, he becomes empowered and has more to give.
Women, love to feel cherished. If she does not feel this way, she becomes compulsively responsible and exhausted from giving too much. On the other hand, when she feels cared for and respected, she is fulfilled and has more to give as well.
Speaking Different Languages
Gray claims that the communication styles between Martians and Venusians is just as different as their individual needs.
Women for example express feelings when they communicate and men tend to express information. When a woman says, “We never go out” a man typically takes this literally, thinking that he has in some way failed. Because of that, he may respond saying, “What are you talking about? We went out last week!” But what she really is doing is expressing more of a feeling than a fact. Instead, it should be interpreted as, “I feel like going out and doing something together. We always have such a fun time, and I love being with you. What do you think? It has been a few days since we went out.”
One of the biggest challenges for men is to correctly interpret and support a woman when she is talking about her feelings. On the other hand, a woman’s biggest challenge is to correctly interpret and support a man when he isn’t talking.
According to Gray, most women misinterpret a man’s silence. Depending on how her mood is, just because he is silent she may begin to imagine that he hates her or doesn’t lover her and so on. In addition, she mistakingly thinks that if she asks him lots of questions about how he is feeling, being a good listener, then he will feel better. This only upsets men all the more.
Both men and women need to stop offering the method of caring they would prefer and instead begin to learn the different ways their partners think, react, and feel.
Consider these differences in communication that Gray outlines:
- Both men and women talk to convey or gather information but for men this is generally the only reason they talk.
- A woman talks to discover what she wants to say while a man stops talking to figure out inside what wants to say.
- If upset, a woman feels better and more centered when she can talk about it. A man will stop talking when he is upset. This gives him time to cool off.
- A woman will talk to create intimacy. By sharing her inner feelings she is able to know herself again. A man will stop talking to find himself. Too much intimacy, he fears, will rob him of himself.
Men Are Like Rubber Bands
Gray explains that a rubber band is the perfect metaphor to understand the male intimacy cycle. This cycle he’s referring to is the process of getting close, pulling away, and then getting close again.
Most women do not understand this because when women pull away it is usually because she has been hurt and is afraid of getting hurt again, or when he has done something wrong and has disappointed her.
While men do pull away for the same reasons, he will also pull away even if she hasn’t done anything wrong. Men pull away to fulfill their need for independence or autonomy. When he feels fully stretched, in other words when he feels fully separated, then he will begin to feel his need for love and intimacy again and he’ll spring back.
The problem arises when women try to get close and men are in the process of pulling away, preventing the man in stretching to his full distance and springing back. When a woman feels a man distance himself, her natural reaction is to run after him. This only prevents him from ever feeling that he needs her and as a result he never gets the chance to feel his strong desire to be close.
When women understand that this pulling away is a natural process for men and that he’ll be back, it will instill in them a greater measure of confidence in their relationship.
Women Are Like Waves
To understand women better, Gray uses the metaphor that women are like waves. When she feels loved, her self-esteem rises and falls in a wave-like motion. At the peak of the wave, she is feeling really good, but suddenly her mood may change and her wave will come crashing down. This crash is temporary. After she hits bottom, her mood will shift again and she will again feel good about herself. Her wave rises up again and the cycle continues.
When the wave is high, women feel they have an abundance of love to give, but when it falls she feels empty inside and needs to be filled up with love to set the wave on the up-slope.
The problem that the wave causes in male-female relationships is that men interpret the sudden change of emotion as something they caused. As a result he tries to fix it, which only makes matters worse. Instead he should simply be there for her emotionally. The way to buoey her back up is by listening to her with caring, warmth, and empathy.
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus is the twenty-sixth of fifty-two books in Life Training – Online’s series 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks.