Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex - John Gray 1992
Introduction to the Paperback Edition
This book has truly helped millions of readers, myself included. It will probably assist you as well. Without these new insights I don’t think I would be happily married today or be such a dedicated father to my children. The same issues that would frustrate me twenty-three years ago in my relationship with my wife, Bonnie, are the same issues that occasionally come up today. The difference today is that I am more tolerant, accepting, and understanding. I can more correctly interpret her words and reactions and know better how to respond. I may be an expert about gender differences and communication, but Bonnie and my daughters are still sometimes a mystery to me. If anything, this book helps us to be more tolerant and forgiving when someone doesn’t respond the way we think he or she should. Fortunately perfection is not a requirement for creating great relationships.
Gender insight helps us to be more tolerant and forgiving when someone doesn’t respond the way we think he or she should.
With increasing stresses at work and with higher expectations of lasting romance at home, relationships today are challenging for almost everyone. Gaining a better understanding of where your partner is coming from will certainly make your relationships easier. Increasing tolerance for our differences does not mean passive acceptance of a problematic or passionless relationship. Instead, this healthy adaptation is based on real insight that helps us to understand our partners better and respond in ways that are more loving and will inspire the best in them.
You cannot, nor should you ever try to, change your partner. That is his or her job. Your job is to change the ways you communicate, react, and respond to your partner. With new insight, you have the added wisdom and power to adjust your approach. With better communication you can more effectively give the support you seek, and in return, you will be more successful in getting the support you want as well.
With new insight you have the added wisdom and power to change your approach rather than seeking to change your partner.
A few people misuse the concepts in this book. They use the examples and explanations to justify not making important adjustments that could make a relationship work better. For example, I point out that men often need to go to their cave to recharge from the day. This, however, doesn’t justify staying in the cave all the time. On the other hand, I also point out that women generally have a greater need to share feelings as a way of coping with stress. This doesn’t mean a woman can just go on and on or expect a man to stop and listen to whatever she has to say whenever she feels like it.
Unfortunately even good insights can be misused. But if you are seeking to use these insights to understand your partner better, to respect others in the ways that are important to them, and to communicate your needs in a way that they can understand, then this book can work for you.
If you are seeking to use these insights to respect others in the ways that are important to them, this book can work for you.
In my travels, while waiting for a plane or while signing books at an event, there is always some couple that will approach me with a similar story. They were previously divorced and after reading “the book” they are now happily remarried to each other. When I wrote Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, twelve years ago, I knew it would enrich relationships, and even save many on the brink of divorce, but I had no idea so many people would return to their partners after a divorce or breakup and then start over with each other and make their relationship work.
Certainly, there are some people who say it didn’t save a troubled relationship, but in most cases they go on to say they were better off without their partner. Many people report that reading this book after a failed relationship helped them to make sense of past relationships that didn’t work out. This then gave them the encouragement to move on and the skills to successfully find love.
Most people read this book simply to enrich the quality of their relationships. For certain, you will discover new insights to help you improve communication and be more successful in achieving your personal goals. Even if one idea helps you to understand and support your partner, friend, business associate, parent, or child, then it is certainly well worth your interest and investment of time. One small but significant change can have a lasting and dramatic impact.
Ironically the same ideas that enrich a healthy relationship will also assist couples in overcoming more challenging problems. This book does not directly address the challenges of a “dysfunctional relationship” but it does provide a new twist on the ways we communicate and interpret the other sex. With this insight, communication is automatically improved. With a sense of greater cooperation, hope increases, and then love is often reignited. With love and good communication most problems, even the “big problems,” can be solved and resolved. By first addressing the small problems, the bigger problems sometimes just vanish or are easily resolved.
The same ideas that enrich a healthy relationship will also assist couples in overcoming more challenging problems.
During the twenty years I have been teaching the ideas in this book, the delivery has evolved, but the basic ideas in this book are still the foundation. Instead of adding more chapters to this book, I went on to write more books building on these basic ideas. You can think of this book as a primer for understanding and communicating with the opposite sex. It can then be applied in practically all kinds of relationships and at all ages.
In my subsequent books I went on to apply the ideas of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus to different areas of life where gender understanding is essential.
· Regarding finding a date, dating, living together, and the engagement process, I wrote Mars and Venus on a Date.
· Regarding long-term relationships and marriage, I wrote Mars and Venus Together Forever.
· Regarding the secrets of great sex, I wrote Mars and Venus in the Bedroom.
· For individuals recovering from the loss of love, whether through breaking up, divorce, or a death, I wrote Mars and Venus Starting Over.
· For those in healthy relationships wishing to sustain those good feelings and grow in love, I wrote Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus Book of Days, a series of short essays for each day of the year.
· For couples experiencing more challenging problems like infidelity, violence, and addictions, I wrote Mars and Venus in Love.
· For parents wanting to communicate more effectively with their little Martians and Venusians, I wrote Children Are from Heaven.
· For those seeking to achieve a competitive edge through gender-based communication skills, I wrote How to Get What You Want at Work.
· For those suffering from serious illness and seeking empowerment through practical self-healing skills and techniques, I wrote Practical Miracles for Mars and Venus.
· For those seeking greater personal success, I wrote How to Get What You Want and Want What You Have.
· Finally, in response to recent research on our hormonal differences as well as differences in brain chemistry, I developed and wrote the Mars and Venus Diet and Exercise Solution. Gender insight also directly relates to our health, happiness, weight management, and ability to create and sustain the hormones of lasting romance.
Writing these different books has been an exciting journey for me, because as an expert on the differences between men and women, there is always so much more to learn. Not only are our styles of communicating different but our brains, hormones, stress reactions, nutritional requirements, and exercise requirements are different as well. With each passing year more studies are published that verify and help popularize these essential insights.
We are all conditioned to a great degree by small but consistent experiences of our partner.
Without an understanding that men and women are supposed to be different, it is such a temptation to think men shouldn’t be “that way” or women shouldn’t react “that way.” For some, it sounds fine to say men are women should be the same, but it is unrealistic and will actually make things worse. When we expect our partners to be more like us, we are automatically giving them the message that they are not good enough the way they are. “You are not good enough” is definitely not a loving message, even though you may be feeling very loving when you think it.
Women particularly feel a warmth, a love, while they are planning to improve their man. It is certainly true that a woman’s love will inspire a man to become all that he can be, but it is up to him to make that change. Her job is to communicate her love in a way that truly supports him. The same, of course, is true for men. It is not a man’s job to fix a woman. She doesn’t need “fixing.” Most of the time she just needs more understanding and affection and her heart will warm up again and her eyes will begin to sparkle.
Historically we have always known men and women are different, but until Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus was published, most people didn’t have a clear reference point to understand our differences in a positive light and in a manner that made sense. At this historic time, when men and women are working side by side for the first time and are expecting more romance and intimacy at home than in previous generations, this new insight is essential. Today, without a positive way to interpret our different reactions, we can easily blame our problems on our partners rather than our own approach. Expecting or demanding that men and women think, feel, react, and respond in the same way will only set you up for failure and disappointment in your relationships.
We too easily blame our problems on our partners rather than our own approach.
The various insights and examples from Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus help us to understand our common differences in a positive light. This doesn’t imply that all people experience these differences exactly as I point them out. Every person is certainly unique. But in certain ways many men share characteristics that most women just don’t understand, and women share certain characteristics that just don’t make sense to most men. Now we can understand each other better and also not be hard on our partners when they forget.
The differences I focus on are certainly common, but there are exceptions. Generally speaking, about 10 percent of women will relate more to being from Mars. This is often simply a result of being born with higher testosterone levels than most other women. Even when this is the case, these women still have all the female hormones for pregnancy and childbirth. For these women, this book is often a revelation that helps them identify their feminine needs and gives them more support and permission to nurture their female side. As we explore these differences together, keep in mind I am not describing how women and men should be. I am simply pointing out how and why men and women commonly misunderstand each other when and if these differences show up.
When men and women are single for a long time, the differences are sometimes not as defined. These common differences will generally show up the most after getting involved in an intimate relationship, having children together, or when we are under a lot of stress. In addition to gender differences, many of our differences have to do with our own unique personalities and temperaments, as well as the social influences of our families and of society. The differences I focus on between men and women are primarily caused by brain and hormonal differences.
Gender differences show up the most after getting involved in an intimate relationship, having children together, or when we are under a lot of stress.
This book does not address or provide solutions to all the different kinds of relationship issues. Certainly there are many problems in relationships that have nothing to do with understanding the opposite sex. Yet even these problems, like drug and alcohol addiction, affairs and infidelity, depression and sickness, along with seemingly irreconcilable differences and dysfunctional character defects, are all dramatically complicated by a lack of understanding of the opposite sex. Even with these big problems, by first focusing on solving the little problems with better communication and more consideration, our hearts begin to open and a positive and powerful transformation can occur.
Twenty years ago, when I began developing and teaching these ideas, they were very controversial, but today they have become widely accepted in our society and are referred to at all levels of education as well as in most spiritual traditions. I came to these conclusions after counseling thousands of men and women. Repeatedly, women would have the same complaints about men and their husbands. These common complaints were very different from the complaints men had. Men would often complain: She is making a big deal out of nothing; she is over-reacting; she is withholding sex; or she is unreasonable. And then when a man was considering divorce his common statement was: “No matter what I do it is not enough to make her happy.” Rarely did I hear women say this. Instead women would often complain: He doesn’t listen; he is inattentive; he is no longer romantic; he doesn’t complement me; he is less affectionate; or he is self-centered. When considering divorce, a woman would say, “I give and give, but I don’t get back. I have nothing left to give.” This is a far cry from a man’s basic frustration that his wife is just not happy and as a result he feels like giving up.
Men often complain, She is over-reacting and women complain, He doesn’t listen!
By remembering men are from Mars, women are from Venus at times of frustration, worry, or disappointment, instead of thinking something is wrong with your partner or your relationship, you may discover that you are misinterpreting the situation. With a more accurate interpretation you can then adjust your actions and responses so that you begin to get more of what you are wanting. For example, when a man is distant, rather than assuming he is not interested in her or imagining that he is mad at her, a woman can instead realize that he is just recuperating from a stressful day. With this insight she is free from worry and knows to give him space to be in his “cave” and eventually he will come out. Or when a woman is talking about the problems of her day, rather than assuming she is looking for solutions and giving solutions, a man can instead recognize that she is just needing to talk about her day and as a result she will feel better. With this insight, he is free to relax and listen without trying to interrupt with solutions. As in both of these examples, when we know what is really happening and what is required, relationships become so much easier.
This book has been so helpful to so many people because it simply helps us to correctly interpret the situation. After reading a few pages you will begin to laugh at your own mistakes. With this lighthearted reaction it becomes easier to relax and not take yourself or your partner’s mistakes so seriously. When we can lighten up it becomes easy to remember all the good times and the qualities and characteristics of someone rather than focusing on the negative. It is also a comfort to know that your issues are similar to others. So many people report that it seems I have been following them around and listening in on their conversations.
When we correctly interpret a situation it is never as bad as we thought.
Often on my travels, both men and women will come up to me and say, “Oh, you wrote the book.” It is “the book” because it is the book they refer to again and again. I hope that after you read this book you will refer back to it again and again. It is unrealistic to think that in a few days we can learn a completely different language. Likewise, it is unrealistic to assume that after one or two readings your partner or you will be able to remember the subtleties of our differences. Use this book to let yourself or your partner ease up on each other, and you will be using it to create more love in your life. Above all else, love is giving, compassionate, and forgiving. If these insights help you to keep your heart open, then they have served their purpose.
Twelve years after writing Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus it is a great pleasure to share how these ideas have helped millions of men and women around the world. On a lighter note, I feel like a proud father bragging about my children. But on a different note I feel greatly honored. Each day my life is enriched by the comments and appreciation of others who have read and benefited from these ideas. I am most grateful and I thank you for opening your heart to consider these ideas as a helpful guide in your journey to give and receive love. The world certainly needs it.
Thank you for letting me make a difference in your life and may you always grow in love and feel your greatness every day. You certainly deserve it.
June 12, 2003
Mill Valley, California
A week after our daughter Lauren was born, my wife, Bonnie, and I were completely exhausted. Each night Lauren kept waking us. Bonnie had been torn in the delivery and was taking painkillers. She could barely walk. After five days of staying home to help, I went back to work. She seemed to be getting better.
While I was away she ran out of pain pills. Instead of calling me at the office, she asked one of my brothers, who was visiting, to purchase more. My brother, however, did not return with the pills. Consequently, she spent the whole day in pain, taking care of a newborn.
I had no idea that her day had been so awful. When I returned home she was very upset. I misinterpreted the cause of her distress and thought she was blaming me.
She said, “I’ve been in pain all day… . I ran out of pills. I’ve been stranded in bed and nobody cares!”
I said defensively, “Why didn’t you call me?”
She said, “I asked your brother, but he forgot! I’ve been waiting for him to return all day. What am I supposed to do? I can barely walk. I feel so deserted!”
At this point I exploded. My fuse was also very short that day. I was angry that she hadn’t called me. I was furious that she was blaming me when I didn’t even know she was in pain. After exchanging a few harsh words, I headed for the door. I was tired, irritable, and had heard enough. We had both reached our limits.
Then something started to happen that would change my life.
Bonnie said, “Stop, please don’t leave. This is when I need you the most. I’m in pain. I haven’t slept in days. Please listen to me.”
I stopped for a moment to listen.
She said, “John Gray, you’re a fair-weather friend! As long as I’m sweet, loving Bonnie you are here for me, but as soon as I’m not, you walk right out that door.”
Then she paused, and her eyes filled up with tears. As her tone shifted she said, “Right now I’m in pain. I have nothing to give, this is when I need you the most. Please, come over here and hold me. You don’t have to say anything. I just need to feel your arms around me. Please don’t go.”
I walked over and silently held her. She wept in my arms. After a few minutes, she thanked me for not leaving. She told me that she just needed to feel me holding her.
At that moment I started to realize the real meaning of love—unconditional love. I had always thought of myself as a loving person. But she was right. I had been a fair-weather friend. As long as she was happy and nice, I loved back. But if she was unhappy or upset, I would feel blamed and then argue or distance myself.
That day, for the first time, I didn’t leave her. I stayed, and it felt great. I succeeded in giving to her when she really needed me. This felt like real love. Caring for another person. Trusting in our love. Being there at her hour of need. I marveled at how easy it was for me to support her when I was shown the way.
How had I missed this? She just needed me to go over and hold her. Another woman would have instinctively known what Bonnie needed. But as a man, I didn’t know that touching, holding, and listening were so important to her. By recognizing these differences I began to learn a new way of relating to my wife. I would have never believed we could resolve conflict so easily.
In my previous relationships, I had become indifferent and unloving at difficult times, simply because I didn’t know what else to do. As a result, my first marriage had been very painful and difficult. This incident with Bonnie revealed to me how I could change this pattern.
It inspired my seven years of research to help develop and refine the insights about men and women in this book. By learning in very practical and specific terms about how men and women are different, I suddenly began to realize that my marriage did not need to be such a struggle. With this new awareness of our differences Bonnie and I were able to improve dramatically our communication and enjoy each other more.
By continuing to recognize and explore our differences we have discovered new ways to improve all our relationships. We have learned about relationships in ways that our parents never knew and therefore could not have taught us. As I began sharing these insights with my counseling clients, their relationships were also enriched. Literally thousands of those who attended my weekend seminars saw their relationships dramatically transform overnight.
Seven years later individuals and couples still report successful benefits. I receive pictures of happy couples and their children, with letters thanking me for saving their marriage. Although their love saved their marriage, they would have divorced if they hadn’t gained a deeper understanding of the opposite sex.
Susan and Jim had been married nine years. Like most couples they started out loving each other, but after years of increasing frustration and disappointment they lost their passion and decided to give up. Before getting a divorce, however, they attended my weekend relationship seminar. Susan said, “We have tried everything to make this relationship work. We are just too different.”
During the seminar they were amazed to learn that their differences were not only normal but were to be expected. They were comforted that other couples had experienced the same patterns of relating. In just two days, Susan and Jim gained a totally new understanding of men and women.
They fell in love again. Their relationship miraculously changed. No longer heading toward a divorce, they looked forward to sharing the rest of their lives together. Jim said, “This information about our differences has given me back my wife. This is the greatest gift I could ever receive. We are loving each other again.”
Six years later, when they invited me to visit their new home and family, they were still loving each other. They were still thanking me for helping them to understand each other and stay married.
Although almost everyone would agree that men and women are different, how different is still undefined for most people. Many books in the last ten years have forged ahead, attempting to define these differences. Though important advances have been made, many books are one-sided and unfortunately reinforce mistrust and resentment toward the opposite sex. One sex is generally viewed as being victimized by the other. A definitive guide was needed for understanding how healthy men and women are different.
To improve relations between the sexes it is necessary to create an understanding of our differences that raises selfesteem and personal dignity while inspiring mutual trust, personal responsibility, increased cooperation, and greater love. As a result of questioning more than 25,000 participants in my relationship seminars I have been able to define in positive terms how men and women are different. As you explore these differences you will feel walls of resentment and mistrust melting down.
Opening the heart results in greater forgiveness and increased motivation to give and receive love and support. With this new awareness, you will, I hope, go beyond the suggestions in this book and continue to develop ways in which you can relate lovingly to the opposite sex.
All of the principles in this book have been tested and tried. At least 90 percent of the more than 25,000 individuals questioned have enthusiastically recognized themselves in these descriptions. If you find yourself nodding your head while reading this book, saying “Yes, yes this is me you’re talking about,” then you are definitely not alone. And just as others have benefited from applying the insights in this book, you can as well.
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus reveals new strategies for reducing tension in relationships and creating more love by first recognizing in great detail how men and women are different. It then offers practical suggestions about how to reduce frustration and disappointment and to create increasing happiness and intimacy. Relationships do not have to be such a struggle. Only when we do not understand one another is there tension, resentment, or conflict.
So many people are frustrated in their relationships. They love their partners, but when there is tension they do not know what to do to make things better. Through understanding how completely different men and women are, you will learn new ways for successfully relating with, listening to, and supporting the opposite sex. You will learn how to create the love you deserve. As you read this book you may wonder how anybody succeeds in having a successful relationship without it.
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus is a manual for loving relationships. It reveals how men and women differ in all areas of their lives. Not only do men and women communicate differently but they think, feel, perceive, react, respond, love, need, and appreciate differently. They almost seem to be from different planets, speaking different languages and needing different nourishment.
This expanded understanding of our differences helps resolve much of the frustration in dealing with and trying to understand the opposite sex. Misunderstandings can then be quickly dissipated or avoided. Incorrect expectations are easily corrected. When you remember that your partner is as different from you as someone from another planet, you can relax and cooperate with the differences instead of resisting or trying to change them.
Most important, throughout this book you will learn practical techniques for solving the problems that arise from our differences. This book is not just a theoretical analysis of psychological differences but also a practical manual for how to succeed in creating loving relationships.
The truth of these principles is self-evident and can be validated by your own experience as well as by common sense. Many examples will simply and concisely express what you have always intuitively known. This validation will assist you in being you and in not losing yourself in your relationships.
In response to these insights, men often say “This is exactly how I am. Have you been following me around? I no longer feel like something is wrong with me.”
Women often say “Finally my husband listens to me. I don’t have to fight to be validated. When you explain our differences, my husband understands. Thank you!”
These are but a few of the thousands of inspirational comments that people have shared after learning that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. The results of this new program for understanding the opposite sex are not only dramatic and immediate but also long lasting.
Certainly the journey of creating a loving relationship can be rocky at times. Problems are inevitable. But these problems either can be sources of resentment and rejection or can be opportunities for deepening intimacy and increasing love, caring, and trust. The insights of this book are not a “quick fix” to eliminate all problems. Instead they provide a new approach whereby your relationships can successfully support you in solving life’s problems as they arise. With this new awareness you will have the tools you need to get the love you deserve and to give your partner the love and support he or she deserves.
I make many generalizations about men and women in this book. Probably you will find some comments truer than others … after all, we are unique individuals with unique experiences. Sometimes in my seminar couples and individuals will share that they relate to the examples of men and women but in an opposite way. The man relates to my descriptions of women and the woman relates to my descriptions of men. I call this role reversal.
If you discover you are experiencing role reversal, I want to assure you that everything is all right. I suggest that when you do not relate to something in this book, either ignore it (moving on to something you do relate to) or look deeper inside yourself. Many men have denied some of their masculine attributes in order to become more loving and nurturing. Likewise many women have denied some of their feminine attributes in order to earn a living in a work force that rewards masculine attributes. If this is the case, then by applying the suggestions, strategies, and techniques in this book you not only will create more passion in your relationships but also will increasingly balance your masculine and feminine characteristics.
In this book I do not directly address the question of why men and women are different. This is a complex question to which there are many answers, ranging from biological differences, parental influence, education, and birth order to cultural conditioning by society, the media, and history. (These issues are explored in great depth in my book Men, Women and Relationships: Making Peace with the Opposite Sex.)
Although the benefits of applying the insights in this book are immediate, this book does not replace the need for therapy and counseling for troubled relationships or survivors of a dysfunctional family. Even healthy individuals may need therapy or counseling at challenging times. I believe strongly in the powerful and gradual transformation that occurs in therapy, marriage counseling, and twelve-step recovery groups.
Yet repeatedly I have heard people say that they have benefited more from this new understanding of relationships than from years of therapy. I however believe that their years of therapy or recovery work provided the groundwork that allowed them to apply these insights so successfully to their life and relationships.
If our past was dysfunctional, then even after years of therapy or attending recovery groups we still need a positive picture of healthy relationships. This book provides that vision. On the other hand, even if our past has been very loving and nurturing, times have changed, and a new approach to relationships between the sexes is still required. It is essential to learn new and healthy ways of relating and communicating.
I believe everyone can benefit from the insights in this book. The only negative response I hear from participants in my seminars and in the letters I receive is “I wish someone had told me this before.”
It is never too late to increase the love in your life. You only need to learn a new way. Whether you are in therapy or not, if you want to have more fulfilling relationships with the opposite sex, this book is for you.
It is a pleasure to share with you Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. May you always grow in wisdom and in love. May the frequency of divorce decrease and the number of happy marriages increase. Our children deserve a better world.
November 15, 1991
Mill Valley, California