Fortunately perfection is not a requirement for creating great relationships.
- John Gray, Ph.D.
Since my parents are going through a tough patch in their lifetime, I began to wonder “what would make a couple loving and respecting for a long period of time?” And then I came across one of the most sold books on relationships: Mens are from Mars and Women are from Venus. From my experience of growing up and seeing my parents not being satisfied with their relationship, I think I was quite passive and reliant on my past partner -- for example, my ex-girlfriend; according to the book, my passive attitude means I saw my parents’ dysfunctional relationship that I suppress my feelings only to make a relationship working in my partner’s favor. If you ask me whether I agree with such a point of view, I would say “yes, it sounds about right.”
From time to time, we wonder how some couple would stay together happy for such a long time but some would not. It almost seems unfair in life that only a few of us get to enjoy their healthy relationships. And I bet those of us who make their relationships work are the ones who constantly seek tips and advice from books like this one. So on that note, without further ado, let me introduce you to what I have learned from this book.
The reason why the author chose such a name for the book is quite obvious even to people who do not understand how a relationship works. Men and Women are different as if they came from different planets. What men and women speak is different in its essence. Although it may sound like we are speaking in the same tongue, what it refers to is a completely different matter. So the book starts with acknowledging how different we are in general. “Fair enough,” I say; that seems to be wide-spread wisdom even to my parents. But the way he puts it in an explanatory manner will surprise you. In chapter one, he says ‘Martians (men) value power, competency, efficiency, and achievement. They are always doing things to prove themselves and develop their power and skills. … Everything on Mars is a reflection of these values. Even their dress is designed to reflect their skills and competence. Police officers, soldiers, businessmen, scientists, cab drivers, technicians, and chefs all wear uniforms or at least hats to reflect their competence and power. … They are interested in the news, weather, and sports and couldn’t care less about romance novels and self-help books. … They are more interested in “objects” and “things” rather than people and feelings. … Because handing his problems on his own, a Martian rarely talks about his problems unless he needs expert advice. … Talking about a problem on Mars is an invitation for advice. He puts on his Mr. Fix-It hat and begins giving advice. … Venusians (women) have different values. They value love, communication, beauty, and relationships. … Everything on Venus reflects these values. Rather than building highways and tall buildings, the Venusians are more concerned with living together in harmony, community, and loving cooperation. … They do not wear uniforms like the Martians. … On the contrary, they enjoy wearing a different outfit everyday, according to how they are feeling. … Communication is of primary importance. … On Venus, everyone studies psychology and has at least a master’s degree in counseling. … Because proving competence is not as important to a Venusian, offering help is not offensive, and needing help is not a sign of weakness. … On Venus it is a sign of caring to give advice and suggestions.’
Just like that, from this elaborate story about Mars and Venus, now there is solid, essential understanding about the difference in sexes. I deem that story “powerful.” One main difference in sexes that the author pointed out in the story is that men get offensive when given advice without consent; on the other hand, women provide advice as a sign of caring. Oppositely, when women share her problems only for the sake of sharing, men start to take that opportunity to hand out solutions just because that’s how Martians operate. And that will make women dissatisfied from the conversation. We can easily learn from this example how an argument can spring up between a man and woman.
As the story gives us a memorable lesson, throughout this book, the author gives us many examples of how we can communicate better with our better halves. I hope you read this book to get those examples into use. So let me touch on a few more of the main points from the book. Men like his independence. When they find problems or struggle in life, they retreat back to their “caves.” It’s their way of processing changes or things that is happening in general. But women go into deep “wells”. They are emotional beings that have their mood fluctuate like a beeping monitor in a hospital. Now and then they will face their emotions and memories from the past, which will bring them down to their deep wells. Thus, it is very important to observe what is needed for our partners. When men go into their caves, they want to be let alone. On the other hand, when women go into their wells, they need to be reassured of your love and cared for like she is back in Venus again. As much as dealing with this wintery, dark times is important, learning how to motivate each other is equally important. Author points out that ‘men are motivated and empowered when they feel needed. … Women are motivated and empowered when they feel cherished.’ Yes, men need to feel needed and women need to be loved and cared for by their other halves. One more thing to note on that point is that men and women count the score differently. If there is a scoreboard for both of the sexes, men only look for big things, such as earning more money to bring his wife to a luxurious vacation. And he counts that as 60 points, for example. But women count that as one point, and equally one more point if he brings her flowers or does something for her without being asked. Keeping scores is a very childish thing, as we know it, but we do it anyways. Thus, it is important to remember how we keep the score differently.
It was very impressive reading him addressing the psychological factor behind the way we interact or fight with our partners. One thing I remember from my parents’ fights is that they fought not only because of the current, pressing issue, but because of the resentments and hurt feelings accumulated over time. Whether that is innate feelings deep inside them from their childhood or resentments piled up over their marriage, all the complex set of feelings make them fight even more harder. In my perspective, from reading this book, learning how to deal with difficult feelings was the most important thing. Thankfully, the author suggested writing “love letters.” It is not as cheesy as it sounds. There are five emotions needed in a love letter: Anger, Sadness, Fear, Regret, and Love. For each of the emotions, you start with why do you feel each of the emotions. And then reflect on how you feel about them. It’s the most recommended and powerful when shared, but it is equally powerful just to write it for your own sanity. In the last chapter, he talks about how we can preserve our love over time. Just like the four seasons we have in the most northern hemisphere countries, our love won’t be like spring all the time. We'll have uncomfortably hot or cold days ahead. But what I took from this chapter is that we don’t stop loving our partners over night and start fighting like an old couple. Because of old emotions and memories that remind us of those emotions, we project them on our partners. And without knowing what we are so upset about or feeling stuck from, we begin to blame or attack our partners. Read this paragraph from the book: ‘It is a paradox: because you feel safe with your partner, your deepest fears have a chance to resurface. When they surface you become afraid and are unable to share what you feel. Your fear may even make you numb. When this happens the feelings that are coming up get stuck.’ As it is recommended, write love letters to know what is at the core of your difficult feelings. Like a guidepost, using love letters will help us move toward the right direction.
This book is filled with realistic examples from authors’ seminars and therapy sessions. If you are married or having a serious relationship, for the sake of your mental health, please review them all. I, for one, do not have a girlfriend currently, but reflecting on my parents, I needed some kind of book to reassure me that I can prevent what had happened to their relationship. Just to get back my control over what my possible relationship can become, I went through this book with a sense of purpose. Now I’m more convinced that my marriage will be better than the one that my mom and dad had.